Edward McHugh had no idea he wasn’t an Australian citizen until he was about to be deported.
He was raised in Australia, lived in Indigenous communities, is recognised as an Aboriginal Australian by community elders, has a Queensland birth certificate and was issued an Australian passport listing his nationality as Australian.
But Mr McHugh was born in the Cook Islands as a New Zealand citizen. He never knew his father and was abandoned by his mother shortly after his birth.
Kevin and Maryanne McHugh brought him to Australia when he was six and officially adopted him at seven. He had no idea they weren’t his birth parents until 2013. He was 45.
He was blindsided in 2018 when he learned his visa had been cancelled on character grounds, and that he’d be deported to New Zealand, a place he’d never lived and where he had no connection.
He asked the immigration minister to overturn the visa cancellation.
It was noted that most of the offending that led to Mr McHugh’s visa being cancelled was “minor and due to poor decision making and unfortunate circumstances”, but his application was refused.
So he went to the Federal Court.
Justice Stewart Anderson on Thursday ruled the refusal legally unreasonable, and ordered the decision be sent back to the minister for a fresh decision.
Alan Tudge is acting as immigration minister while David Coleman is on personal leave.
Justice Anderson found the minister’s decision not to revoke the visa cancellation “failed to consider the applicant’s clear and significant representations that he was an Australian citizen”.
Mr McHugh was subject to an “absorbed person visa”. His adoption in 1976 pre-dated legislation that automatically conferred Australian citizenship on those who are adopted.
Court documents reveal Mr McHugh was sent a letter in late 2013 saying his visa might be cancelled, and another in 2014 confirming that it wouldn’t be.
He said he was living rough and didn’t receive those letters.
His passport was made void in February 2018 and two months later his visa was cancelled. He is currently in immigration detention.
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