An Australian family is back together after a year-long separation caused by COVID-19, which kept them on opposite sides of the world.
Greg Lowe had been living in South Africa with his wife and three young boys when he lost his job with Cape Town City Football Club due to the global pandemic last year.
Without an income, Mr Lowe decided to return to the Hunter in NSW, where he was born and raised, to find a new job - the plan was for his wife, who is an Australian citizen, and sons to follow.
But the plan came unstuck after Mr Lowe arrived home, when the family began having trouble getting Australian passports arranged for their young sons. Mr Lowe said all the necessary offices to register his two youngest children as Australian citizens - and to get passports for all three boys - were closed until September.
But when they re-opened, he said, officials wanted his wife to take the boys on the long journey from their home at Mossel Bay in South Africa, to be interviewed at the Australian consulate in Pretoria before passports would be issued.
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"We were just having huge problems. They wanted us to travel 1200km when there were no planes going across the pandemic-ridden country, which is not exactly the safest country anyway, otherwise they wouldn't process our passport applications," he said.
"It just left us in an awful situation. Imagine having to drive [1200km] in the middle of a pandemic, where there are 8000 to 10,000 new cases a day."
Mr Lowe said he reached out to Shortland MP Pat Conroy in the hope of getting some "common sense", and the federal Labor member soon knocked on the right doors and helped the family get their hands on temporary passports so they could travel to Australia.
Mr Lowe thanked Mr Conroy yesterday, only hours before he was re-united with his family in Sydney, where they have been in hotel quarantine for the past fortnight.
"We're not trying to put attention onto us but we know there are families like us who are struggling to get home," he said. "A process that should have taken a few months has taken a year."
Mr Conroy said he was "in awe of the strength and resilience" of the family.