Kiwis can't fly, right? In this blog post, I want to show that not only can they fly but they can soar. I am a former 'Oz Kiwi' (New Zealand citizen living in Australia) and back home as a 'Kiwi'. Some people have asked me if I'm Australian, even though I don't think I picked up the accent too much.
I want to avoid mention of advocacy and political stuff as much as possible after this blog post (I'm allergic to politics). I had typed yet not published some stuff, so I figured I may as well use some of what I'd processed this past month in this blog post.
It's not well-known that the main advocacy group to bring about major reform, Oz Kiwi, was founded by a disabled woman, who did not personally benefit from it.
In April 2023, I made the decision to stop advocacy. My 15-year advocacy journey has included mental health, disabilities, autism, trauma and even immigration (the last one, was especially unexpected). I don't want to keep harping on about my story but this blog post intends to sum up some of my advocacy journey and how a small voice with a vision resulted in a big change, considered to be the biggest reform in a generation.
Just after my decision, there was a big announcement, making it into international news (I've added some headlines at end of this blog post), affecting hundreds of thousands of people plus their descendents. So potentially, millions of people.
Founder of Oz Kiwi
Although it is not widely known, I founded the advocacy group, Oz Kiwi in 2013, before I legally changed my name. Despite loathing politics, I founded it because I felt vulnerable after learning that I was on an unprotected Visa. So was my son. This meant we could live in Australia as New Zealand citizens but there were no protections if things went wrong. And wrong they did - much worse than I could ever imagine.
Most New Zealand citizens were not aware they were on unprotected Visas if they first arrived into Australia after 2001. Even after years of living in Australia, paying taxes, still no pathways to protections of Australian citizenship for most. As law changes had been made over the years by the Australian government but these weren't made clear to those moving over to Australia of their vulnerabilty. Pay taxes but effectively are migrant workers with no protections. Oz Kiwi uncovered a loophole that allowed some to apply for permanent residency then citizenship but a few hundred thousand people were still vulnerable.
I recall, shortly after founding Oz Kiwi, starting off as an awareness campaign, that the Australian Government updated their immigration website with more transparency about this. People needed to know the risks of moving over to the 'lucky country' that was only lucky if all was going well.
Most of the early stuff has been deleted from Oz Kiwi, but I found a few receipts that still exist, including the banner I designed on a shoe-string budget. (I refused to accept donations without accountability and this was one of the reasons I stepped away as so many people were demanding way more than I had capacity to deal with).
I would have turned the kiwi and kangaroo signs facing away from each other as this was what was happening with the situation (symbolism with everything, for me). Conflict between former allies. A kiwi on a road sign became the first logo. I built the first website on with self-taught skills and the domain name I chose is still used today. It was since updated to a professionally designed logo and website, with the early content updated or deleted.
The first website was actually on a free platform to test it out if there was any interest. There was huge interest, very fast. My early contributions were choosing the name, asking for collaboration from volunteers (that was intense but why it grew so fast, as combining skills), building the first website with blog, designing the very amateur online marketing materials, purchasing the domain name. Plus attempting to stabilise the whole thing with ethics before I stepping away when it was getting too political for my tolerance. I don't like managing others and I don't like politics.
Others had attempted something similar but they had made it about themselves with angry activism and they didn't have easy to remember 'brand' names. Of course, they wanted to take control of Oz Kiwi and did battle and try to introduce their activism agendas which nearly destroyed it. When it became about egos and agendas, it was at risk of derailing, as then it's political, with people either for or against a 'leader' rather than a group cause. At this stage, some were accusing it of being a hate group. I actually renounced it and wished I had never started it, as that was not my vision.
I stayed behind the scenes because 1. I didn't like to be the centre of attention and it was a collaborative effort with volunteers scattered around Australia 2. Safety for myself, the volunteers and their families as there was so much aggressive opposition and suspicion about it. So, we started to our first names only when writing an admin post. 3. I didn't want for it to be a cult of personality (and I have never been interested in trying to be popular anyway). 4. I was managing diagnoses of depression and anxiety, while also trying to run a part-time business and also being the main caregiver of my son. 5. I can't stand politics and wasn't intending to stay in it long after launch (I was actively involved for the first 3 months) and was pushed out.
Unfortunately, after I stepped away from it, there was a heap of drama and the whole thing was nearly wrecked, just months after it began, after someone lied about founding it and attempted to make it into activism which angered Australians. There were actually several activists trying to gain control of it - a power struggle. One day, I might write about the drama that happened, but I will likely avoid using reference of the name, Oz Kiwi, in future (to avoid more drama, which actually included death threats of me). Oz Kiwi grew fast quick and it was always a collaboration that helped it to succeed (and almost fail).
I am not going to rehash all my story here. In a nutshell, I ended up in a psychiatric ward with a mental health crisis after the stress of a marriage breakup and trauma. I was facing homelessness. Centrelink would not help me because of my New Zealand citzenship status. I could not stay in Australia and my mother flew over from New Zealand and collected me from the psychiatric ward, very unwell and traumatised.
I flew into Australia as by birth name then and flew out as Xanthe, a name I chose for myself. My legal name change certificate, changing my full name, came through when I was in the psychiatric ward for an extended time. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
It's taken years for me to be able to write, think or say my former name (or even acknowledge as part of me) because of the trauma. I deliberately don't mention my former last name to give my son privacy. I even try avoid mention of my former first name. Trying to move on from the past.
It's been very hard to move on from traumatic experiences.
The traumatic experiences had such a huge impact, that I used them in my storytelling in my books, as memoir and a semiautobiographical novel. My psychiatrist was shocked that I finally completed Pet Purpose, with severe cognitive impairments. It took me 7 years, but I got there in the end. I developed my own ways of organising the information, which included painting metaphorical visual mind maps. I didn't want to focus on the trauma itself but rather trying to cope.
I'd decided just before the big announcements, to move on from Bipolar Courage to Soar Purpose. Use what energy I have for my creative expression and ditch the advocacy and all the toxic stuff that goes with it. I've been in the process of doing so and will leave up my unpaid work as a resource. I didn't accept 1 cent in donations for the 15 years of advocacy. Advocacy can be so corrupted now.
I've been back in New Zealand 8 years now, after living in Australia for 8 years.
I am on a low income with disabilities. But I still have vision. I am still creative. I have a unique perspective, gained from my hardships. I have inspired others. I have my passion and my goals.
Disabled people all to often are not recognised for their contributions. I am banned from the Oz Kiwi Facebook page I started. The name I chose is trademarked by someone else, in a different state of Australia to where I lived. Under a weird category that has nothing to do with advocacy.
Regardless, after the drama from all the egos with agendas trying to take control of it, Oz Kiwi did end up being very influential. I have no idea how many volunteers in the end but I would see Oz Kiwi in media in all formats from time to time.
It's rather ironic as I don't like politics and I don't like working in groups. I have had autism spectrum features since childhood, was mute as a child and wouldn't take part in group discussions or stand up in front of the class to speak.
Ten years after its inception, Oz Kiwi was recognised by official leaders of two countries for its advocacy to bring about major reform, which New Zealand Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins called 'historic' and 'the biggest in a generation.' (See transcripts below).
It's not an option for me to go back to Australia, with my circumstances, but I just want to say that a small voice and vision can multiply. It took many people over a long time to bring about this change. But it happened.
Transcripts from official leaders
I typed up the transcripts weeks ago, so may as well include them. They are from a video I saw embedded into Stuff Nation, from a joint statement by the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand.
Anthony Albanese, Australian Prime Minister:
“From the 1st of July, New Zealand citizens living in Australia who hold a Special Category Visa, will be able to apply directly for Australian citizenship, without going through a permanent residency provision first. Provided that they meet the four year residence and other normal citizenship legibility requirements.
Any child born in Australia from the 1st of July 2022 to a parent who holds a Special Category Visa, and is a permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth, will automatically acquire Australian citizenship, at birth.
Now we know that many New Zealanders are here on a Special Category Visa while raising families, working and building their lives in Australia. So I am very pleased to provide the benefits that citizenship provides.
Welcoming our new Australian citizens will just strengthen the bonds between our great nations.
Chris Hipkins, New Zealand Prime Minister:
“We acknowledge that the situation in Australia for many New Zealanders has been challenging. New Zealand has long sought a fair go for them and arrangements that are reciprocal to what is offered to Australian living in New Zealand.
As I’m pleased to be here today to mark a significant step that Australia has taken to make the pathway to citizenship much easier for New Zealanders who choose to work and live here.
As I noted in my remarks at the ceremony, I do want to particularly acknowledge you, Prime Minister Albonese, and your leadership of these changes. I also want to acknowledge the members of your government who have supported our Oz Kiwi advocates here in Australia over a long period of time. These changes are historic. They’re the biggest in a generation and they will make an enormous difference to the lives of so many people, making Australia home.
I am not intending to write more political or advocacy posts on this blog. Advocacy still has politics, I've found. I find politics to be exhausting and toxic because of the abuse of power. It's been a long process to move past the cyberbullying I experienced during advocacy as Bipolar Courage. I want to reduce the risk of being targeted for cyberbullying. One of the biggest ways is to discontinue with advocacy.
My vision now is my passionate hobbies for me (that others might still be inspired by). Sharing some of my creative expression - paintings, writing etc. Speaking of which, I have woven some of my experiences from this immigration stuff into my novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice. I gave the main character the same priority diagnoses as me (bipolar disorder and PTSD). The characters are composites for disguise, efficiency and creativity, yet many parts are pretty much memoir, such as this extract:
Local and international media Headlines
Prime Minister of Australia, Media Release, 22 Apr 2023 (Government website)