Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Hikoi in Australia to call for greater rights for Kiwi expats

The hikoi will draw attention to the lack of rights for Kiwis living in Australia on "non-protected" visas. Photo / Getty
The hikoi will draw attention to the lack of rights for Kiwis living in Australia on "non-protected" visas. Photo / Getty

A large hikoi around Australia will take place to call for greater rights for Kiwi expats.

The Iwi n Aus Foundation-organised protest will begin in Sydney on March 16 and will take about 41 days -- including visits to detention centres where New Zealanders are held while they fight deportation.

Full details of the itinerary will be announced on Waitangi Day, Iwi n Aus founder Erina Anderson-Morunga said in an email to supporters, but it would be on a "grand scale".

The hikoi will finish in New Zealand on April 25 -- Anzac Day. It aims to highlight the recent detention and deportation of New Zealanders from Australia.

But it will also draw attention to the lack of rights for an estimated 250,000 to 350,000 Kiwis living in Australia on "non-protected" visas, including few welfare safety nets and no automatic path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Both Labour and National-led governments have been lobbying for change since Kiwis' rights were greatly reduced in February 2001 by John Howard's Liberal Government.

In November, Labour leader Andrew Little appeared before Parliamentary committees in Canberra to argue for greater support for New Zealanders living in Australia.

Mr Key has said that he feels progress could be made, after conversations with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. That could be around providing New Zealanders with a clearer path to Australian citizenship.

The detention of New Zealanders is also of continuing concern to Iwi n Aus, and the planned hikoi will include detention centres, including Villawood in Sydney.

A new law in Australia, introduced in December, enables the deportation of non-Australians who are sentenced cumulatively to a year or more in prison, or who are judged to fail character tests.

Riots at the Christmas Island detention centre and the arrival of criminals in New Zealand, including on the so-called "Con Air" flight in November, have made the deportations a major political issue in New Zealand -- but the policy has support from both the Australian Government and Labor opposition.

As of December 30 last year, there were 183 New Zealanders held in detention centres, including 158 men and 25 women.

- NZ Herald

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