Out-of-work Kiwis living on the Gold Coast say they feel insulted and angry at being told "it's time to go home" by acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.
Of the 50,000 New Zealanders across the city, thousands are not eligible for the JobSeeker payment because of visa restrictions, while only those in permanent, full-time or part-time work are eligible to get the JobKeeper payment.
Tudge this month said: "New Zealanders should consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support".
But according to Helena Rivers, Kiwis are not asking for a "free ride. We moved here to work hard and moved for the lifestyle, we are just asking for a little bit of help at this strange time".
"Have we just got to find the money to get back to New Zealand, leave our homes, full of our belongings, our car that are paying off, leave our outstanding power, water and phone bills to get a minimal benefit in New Zealand when most of us have left to make a better life for ourselves?"
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Julia Lang-Malone said it was not as simple as just packing up her life and "leaving at the drop of a hat. This makes me feel sick".
Gold Coast grandmother Helen Heard has two daughters and a son who have children with an Australian citizen and questioned how it was feasible for them to move back.
"Should they abandon their children, and in one case a husband, and return to New Zealand? They have been here since about 2005 and have worked or been stay-at-home parents the whole time. To say 'go home' is insulting and just not practical in many cases.
Hairdresser Kayla Urwin has lived between New Zealand and Australia for the past 16 years and was working full-time as a casual for the past four years before losing her job because of the coronavirus.
"I was so angry (at being told to go home)," she said. "I thought it's easy for him to say that, but half of us can't go home or don't have support at home.
"We have chosen to make the Gold Coast our home and don't want to just leave. We Kiwis are so hardworking. If we wanted to be on welfare we'd be at home doing it."
Urwin, 25, has taken her financial future into her own hands by setting up a home salon in her Pimpama garage. Now the breadwinner of the household, and with two preschoolers to support, she is determined to keep working and help her fellow Kiwis with affordable prices.
Kayla'z Kut'z was recently featured on the GC Kiwis United Facebook page; a group set up by Gold Coast sisters Marama, Awhi and Piri Gray to link struggling Kiwis who facing hardship with little or no assistance to essential services. (edited)
"We watched as many of our people started losing jobs and had many uncertainties from how to provide food for their families and a roof over their heads. We started creating food boxes and what started with on whanau (family) quickly doubled with people wanting to help," Marama Gray said.
GC Kiwis United offers free links to exercise programs, meditation videos, cooking tutorials as well as activities for tamariki (children) such as homemade play dough - a Go Fund Me page has also be set up.
Gray said she was aware of a spike in domestic violence and she knew that for some children, home wasn't always a safe place.
"If anyone wants to send us a personal message through our group we'll do our best to help families at risk and find ways to link them up with mental health, financial and budgeting advice. While we're about supporting Kiwis first, we'd never turn down anyone else who needed our help," she said.
"Let's face it, things are not going to get any easier in a hurry, so any donation that comes in will be most gratefully accepted. We have a long road ahead in all aspects in our new way of living – let's lift up one another as we are all in this together."
- Gold Coast Bulletin