FILIPINO Rex Flores faced being forced to leave Australia next week until the same extraordinary community spirit that helped save his life last year convinced the federal government to grant him permanent residency.
Mr Flores, 31, was granted permanent residency last Thursday, two weeks before his Section 457 work visa was due to expire.
The visa could not be extended because health risks associated with a kidney transplant mean Mr Flores can no longer be employed as a meat worker at Teys’ Bomen abattoir.
“I am really happy, really blessed and I can’t ask for any more,” Mr Flores said as he came to grips with the government’s decision.
“This is the start of my dreams.”
An illness that crippled Mr Flores’ kidneys after he came to Australia in 2012 forced him onto dialysis and threatened his life.
Ineligible for Medicare benefits, Mr Flores faced a grim future until the Wagga Rotary Club heard of his plight and took up his cause.
It rallied financial and other support from the Wagga community and the state government and organised for Mr Flores’ brother to come to Australia so he could donate a kidney last March.
With the health crisis over, Mr Flores faced having to return to the Philippines where almost certainly he would not be able to find $A1000 a month to pay for anti-rejection drugs.
Wagga Rotary’s community service director, Graeme Callander, stepped up again and helped Mr Flores apply for permanent residency.
The campaign was boosted by letters of support, including from Wagga mayor Rod Kendall, and assistance from the office of member for Riverina Michael McCormack, especially immigration expert Doris Bertollo.
“It just shows Australia’s compassionate side and where there is community support and care by groups such as Rotary what wonderful things can be done,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr Callander said Mr Flores was deserving of help.
“Anyone who meets him can’t help but like and respect him,” he said.
Mr Flores said the kidney transplant and permanent residency would not have happened without Mr Callander.
“He is a great man; I will never forget him,” Mr Flores said.
He said his next big ambition was citizenship in four years.
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