Monday, May 30, 2005

Coarse and Harried

About a year ago - hell wow it WAs a year ago - anna finally got Permanent residency! this menat that she could receive centrelink benefits, study in australia, and also travel independeently of me. It also menat that our 4 years of DIMIA scrutiny were over.

I've included the boring bureaucractive details of our file - to show just how uch crap we had to gather, and also as a guildeline for anyone else shagging someone foreign!

Attention: (I've kept them anonymous)
Contact Officer, 801 Team. (don't you love that Tema word?)
Residence Section,
Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

File No: thought I'd keeps this one blank

18th May 2004.

Dear Kind Buereaucrat

Please accept enormous bribe of multiple unctuous goodies.

Thank you for your letter regarding the application for permanent residency for my better half, which we lodged on 2nd April 2002.

We are still in an ongoing and committed relationship and wish the Department to grant Anna the Visa subclass 814, Interdependent Relationship.

To that end we have enclosed the following documents as requested. These are enclosed in the dossier attached to this letter:

1. Form 1101. Awaiting return from AFP. Posted on _06_/03/04. this was a delight - we wiated 3 months for a police clearance1 apprently they were held up by the war on terror.
2. Form 80 – Personal Particulars for character Assessment
3. Form 1221 – Additional Personal Particulars information
4. Applicant Statutory Declaration: what she said
5. Nominator Statutory Declaration: see below
6. Form 888: my mother
7. Form 888: our friend whowe didn't lose in the past 4 years
8. Recent Evidence of continuing and genuine spouse relationship.

We can both usually be reached in the evenings, and often during the day on our landline Otherwise you can reach us on our mobile phones. We are happy to arrange a perosnal liason in basement books in order to disucss any arrangements which mya expedite our case.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours Sincerely

Recent Evidence of our continuing and genuine interdependent relationship.

Please find certified copies of the following documents:

a) Financial Commitments: (i) Joint Bank Account statements - not too hard in Australia - but impossible in France - we went and saw our bank and got them to put an account in both our names.
(ii) Receipts for joint purchases
getting this incolved kjeppeing EVERY SINGLE RECIEPT of purchases we made and getting the average illiterate retialer to write both our names on anything we bought. the hard bit was actually going into shops as we do our shopping at Paddys or the food coop, or delis in marrickville. OSmeimte sI splurge on second hand books. We find funriture, kitchen ware & clothes in dumptsers.

Folder Two:

b) Evidence of Living together:
(i) Anna’s Lease,
(ii) Margaret’s Lease

c) Joint receipts for household utilities:
(i) Telstra Bills

d) Letters & invitations addressed jointly to us
(i) Envelopes of letters addressed to us both
(ii) Invitations addressed to us both
Like we use snail mail really often. but we got enought.

e) Envelopes of letters to each of us at our current address.

f) Photographs of us together (i) Dinner with friends, (March 2003)
(ii) Our housewarming (July 2003) held especially to get photos
(iii) Exhibition opening (September 2003)
(iv) Christmas with Anna’s Family (December 2003),
(v) Paris in Wedding Gear (December 2003) held especially to get photos
(vi) Holiday in London with friends (January 2004)
(vii) Blue Mountains with friends (March 2004)

g) Evidence of out commitment to supporting one another:
(i) Wills nominating each other as beneficiaries
(ii) Appointment of Enduring Guardianship

h) Evidence of joint travel and holidays
(i) Airline travel to Paris and Vietnam
(ii) Bus tickets to London
(iii) Boat Tickets to Bell Ile on Mer
That was the other fun bit. We HATE going on holidays together and fight even more than when we are arranging a perfomrance together. for the above purposes we had to book all our holidays together, and take them. Vietnam - being a catholic homophobic hell bhole was really fun for trying to get hotel recipts for double rooms in both or names too..

i) Joint involvement in cultural activities and membership of groups.
(i)Advertisement for group exhibitions
(ii) Membership receipt for GLITF
the folder suggested rotayr, church gorups, sporting groups - yeah great!

Nominator Statement:

This is what I wrote a year ago -to our dear beloved commonwealth officers about why Anna's Temporary Residency whould be changed to a permanent residency.

Anna’s receipt of a temporary residence visa was firstly an enormous relief. The process of applying for the visa was, I consider, the most stressful experience I’ve ever had. So much of our futures depended on our relationship being recognised, that it felt that we’d had kept our lives on hold until we had some guarantee of legal recognition of our relationship within Australia. For me personally I guess the period of working to support both of us in a demanding, difficult and unreliable occupation like life modelling forced me to grow up. Life modelling was the only job I could do that would enable me to support Anna and yet continue with a serious studio practice as a professional artist. Looking back, I guess this was the time where I really put myself on the line, and social labels such as “artist” and “lesbian” were really things I earned through sheer hard work!

Once Anna’s tourist visa expired, and her temporary residency visa came through, the pressure for me as the sole income earner in Australia was largely eased, although I was frustrated that Anna didn’t rush out and find the first crap full time job that came her way! From May, Anna started to do casual life modelling at TAFEs and the NAS where I worked, and we purchased her a mobile phone so she could obtain more work at short notice.

Anna started working on a translation from English into French of a novel that a friend had given me for my birthday, so she kept herself busy as always. This translation took over 12 months to complete and is finally in the stages of being accepted for publication.

In July 2002, Anna was offered some casual work at the Alliance Francaise as a tutor. Initially Anna was working 4 hours a week for the first 2 months, however this was in her chosen field and the remuneration was the same as working 2 days of modelling. Through the Alliance, Anna was able to gain a network of French speaking friends and colleagues in Australia. Her confidence as a language tutor increased, and she began to have private students as well. It was good to see Anna initiate and participate in social circles that weren’t based around my activities, friends or interests. Anna’s friends and colleagues from the Alliance welcomed me into their social networks as well and this improved my own confidence with speaking French.

In March 2003, I held an exhibition at the Alliance Francaise of paintings completed in France, and this was largely due to the encouragement of Anna that I approached the organization. Although the exhibition was itself a success, my negotiations with the director of the Alliance were not very pleasant and I was able to gain a sense of the unprofessionalism of the organization and bullying tactics of its French appointed administrators. This culture of bullying and unprofessionalism later lead to Anna being dismissed at the end of 2003, for which she negotiated and won a settlement through the industrial relations tribunal. Anna’s experience with the Alliance Francaise, gave her some important experience in negotiating workplace relations as well as negotiating the industrial culture of her newly adopted country. I was and am impressed still with Anna’s diplomacy and eloquence in English in being able to negotiate such complicated aspects of her life here.

In August 2002, as a first Anniversary wedding present, our very close friends Maeve and Natalie offered us their old car, which they had replaced with a newer model bought from Natalie’s uncle. We had gone camping with Maeve and Nat in their older car and so it had a lot of nostalgic value for us as well as them. Their older car needed a lot of bodywork repairs, but was fine mechanically. Armed with a sculptors knowledge of panel beating and large amounts of elbow grease, Anna and I spent 2 weeks preparing the car to be reregistered in October, which went through without a hitch. Anna has had her driving licence since she was a teenager in France, but I have never progressed beyond my L’s, so the car is still largely her domain.

Anna and I had become increasingly frustrated at sharing a bedroom in a four-bedroom household with sympathetic but largely incompatible flatmates. Fortunately a vacancy appeared in another household in the same housing cooperative, and Anna, was able to move in. Shortly afterwards, the remaining flatmate also decided to move out, and I was able to move my room over to the new household. Since September 2002 we have lived in the new household of No.7 with a space for each of us as well as home filled with books and artworks.

Anna’s own relationship with the Cooperative has greatly improved since she gained the status of a resident and member of the Cooperative. Anna participates in the weekly sketch club, has participated in and helped organise exhibitions in the Cooperative gallery and is also an active member of the Management Committee. Other residents now see Anna as far more than my partner, but as a valuable member of the Cooperative in her own right.

I guess overall 2002 was a huge year of adjustment. This was really the year when Anna began to find her feet as a resident of Australia and someone inserted into Australian society through her workplace and where we are both living. Throughout 2002, I finally realised with relief and later panic that I was not ‘in control’ of Anna and our relationship as I had felt, when I was her only connection to Australia. I had to accept that Anna was free to work in whatever occupation she felt, and to work as much or as little as she chose, and that I myself was also more freed of the responsibility of supporting us both and could have more choice in what I actually wanted to do with my life. For this reason I decided to return to study and to complete my honours Art history and Theory. At first I simply wanted to gain some structured intellectual stimulation and catch up on all of the reading and writing I had missed while working and travelling, however I did so well in honours that I have received a grant to do a PhD. While I’m still getting used to the idea of a career path as an academic, my stipend means that we have a guaranteed income source which is adequate enough to support us both for the next few years.

Between us things changed a great deal in 2002 and 2003, as our financial positions were reversed. Anna had previously had a large amount of unstructured time and no independent means of support beyond her savings brought from France. As she obtained more teaching work at the Alliance she became the breadwinner of our household as I did less modelling work and concentrated more on my work in the studio. Anna provided a great deal of moral support but also financial support for my exhibitions in 2002, and 2003. Due to Anna’s frugal habits and hard work, our bank balance steadily increased, and she was able to fund most of our travel and still enure that there was enough left in the bank account when we returned for us to feel at ease in case anything happened. For us, financial security means that we have enough money in the bank to return to France in case of a family emergency or for both of us to survive if either of us became incapacitated and couldn’t work. Anna’s lack of access to social security has meant that our independent financial security within Australia has been a priority.

While I was studying in 2003, I was able to support myself through study and part time work, and I was able to save some funds to buy a computer and contribute to a joint holiday overseas at the end of the year. When I look at my tax returns for the previous years and realised how little funds we have needed for us to feel financially secure I am amazed, particularly when friends in similar financial situations whinge about not being able to pay their bills or their rent. Since our return to Australia in January this year, Anna has supported herself through tutoring and life modelling and I have been the main breadwinnner, through my stipend and part time teaching work. The main effect this has on our wellbeing is a sense of security. Our habits are naturally frugal and we trust each other’s financial judgement implicitly.

The concern for financial security has been the major preoccupation of Anna and I over the past five years, but I would say that in general that we are not particularly materialistic, not in the acquisitive or consumerist sense anyway. We don’t go to nightclubs, cafe’s, or mainstream films, and spending money on makeup, hairdressers or fashion is completely alien to our way of life as is gambling. This means that our lives are fairly simple and our financial priorities are quite straightforward. Our car maintenance costs are less than the cost of buying a travelpass every week, and thanks to the housing cooperative our rent is only 25% of our incomes. I think we both like eating out, but both of us prefer picnics to restaurants. I guess we have adopted many of the frugal habits of Anna’s parents who never go to restaurants but are obsessive about procuring and preparing fine foods at home. We have a few consumerist vices; I love buying books and art magazines and Anna loves to collect good wines, and we sometimes buy art at friend’s exhibitions. When we go out, it is mainly to free events, like cinema screenings at the Art Gallery of NSW or to art openings. Otherwise we meet up with friends, for dinner or at the Pub.

Our lives seem to be very busy and full. Aside from my study, the work that we both do is casual, often last minute and during the evenings as well as during the day. The unpredictable nature of our casual work means that a 17-20 working week may actually seem much longer, due to travel times and having to work on evenings and weekends. I have run a drawing class at the Housing Cooperative every Sunday for the past two years – which Anna attends and often helps at, and almost every week, we have one or two openings of exhibitions of artist friends. Consequently we haven’t been involved in any organizations or clubs beyond the small circles where we live and work. We also don’t have a huge amount of quality time to spend with each other. We struggle to keep at least one day or one evening per week just for us alone but it is difficult, and we are usually exhausted. The best times together are often when we have lunch or dinner at home alone, or when in the company of one or two close friends. I usually find that it is in the company of others that Anna’s own attraction to me is reflected and magnified. I am reminded of her intelligence, wit, charm and amazing wealth of knowledge, stories and observations, which are still a strong attraction for me.

Over the past two years we have been on a couple of holidays, but they have become less frequent as our work commitments have come to dominate our lives more. Mum has mainly visited us in Sydney, rather than us visiting her in the country, and it has been good to house her a guest in our own home. We went camping at Dunn’s swamp with friends in Easter 2002, and drove along the Great Ocean Road in December 2002. During this holiday we stopped in Melbourne and stayed with some friends as well as in Canberra on the way back.

At the end of 2003 we both travelled to France. Anna left 3 weeks earlier than me to attend a cinema festival, while I completed my thesis. Our vacation in France was far too brief, but really pleasant and warm. Visiting France now feels to me like “going back” because we return to see family and friends and places that are familiar, instead of discovering something new. However during this trip we also spent a week in London, visiting friends and art galleries, as well as 3 days in Vietnam together. Anna had planned to return early, expecting to be teaching in the first term at the Alliance Francaise. When she heard new of her dismissal it was too late to change her ticket, so I spent 10 days in Vietnam, travelling alone, and wishing I could have shared my experiences with her. We are hoping at the end of this year to host Anna’s parents in Australia, and if not then to maybe travel to Tasmania or New Zealand over the summer. We often visit friends in the Blue Mountains, and occasionally further afield, but not as often as we would like.

Our major travel destination is France. Anna’s parents are getting old and her extended family is very close knit. The more I understand French, the more I appreciate just how painful and difficult it is for Anna to live so far from her family and friends. I would like to be able to spend more time in France with Anna, up to a year if possible, and am aiming for a residency in order to do this. It is frustrating for us both to return there and have no means of support or no activities beyond her family and I think it would be good if we could spend some time there together working or studying.

For the foreseeable future our plans are centred in Australia. We have a home and a community in which we are both intensely involved. Anna now has a studio space and would like to pursue art further, and she is also planning to gain NAATI accreditation so she can work as a translator. I still feel that her life is slightly on hold here, until she can be assured of a permanent position from which she can base her professional development. While we have reasonable financial security for the present we are still both largely focussed on day to day existence, rather than being in a position to know where we’ll be in 5 or 10 years time. I still like to dream of us with a mortgage and a dog somewhere outside of Sydney, but it doesn’t look very likely at the moment. Anna may end up doing a doctorate in French literature, or we may end up having children even, we still don’t really know. What we do know, is that the future is definitely a “we”. I have gained enormously from the emotional stability provided by Anna’s presence in Australia, and I don’t see how it would have been possible for me to do as much as I have without her. While I am seriously pursuing my professional development at present, I could not continue this unless I knew that Anna would be able and willing to remain with me. Our relationship is still the most important thing in my life. This is the foundation for my emotional stability and emotional development and I cannot see how anyone else could possibly replace the role that Anna has in supporting, comforting and also challenging me in my daily existence. If something happened whereby Anna had to return to France, then I would follow her. It is as simple as that. She comes before my work, my studies and my connections here. I would hate to think of us living apart for any extended period and would hate to think of the affect of a separation on her as well as me. If something happened to Anna’s family, I would want to be in France to support her and them. I feel as much as part of their lives as she is of mine here.

Our daily life is not always a bed of roses. Our standards of household cleanliness are vastly different, and Anna is a physically far more active person than I am. When I have a migraine I need to be left alone and Anna still finds this painful. I find Anna’s stoicism and continued activity when she is exhausted or sick completely bewildering and worrying as well. Actually it seems that the more time we spend together, and the more we understand each other’s languages, the more we realise us how unlike we are in so many ways. This can and does cause tension, but it is a great source of stimulation and excitement within our relationship. After nearly six years I can honestly say that Anna is someone I am still discovering. I know a lot about her, but every day I learn something more, and she challenges me in my complacent habits of being able to ‘see through’ or judge peoples character quickly. My familiarity with Anna, her family, her language and culture only increases my curiosity to know and understand more. I guess my “life’s work” is involved with being a painter and a writer, but most importantly it is involved with my relationship with Anna. We have both changed and changed each other while in this relationship in ways which have allowed us both to fully develop into more sensitive and fulfilled people.

It actually means absolutely nothing - except if I
were a french bureaucrat I could ask for a transer to
the same department as my pacs partner.

In terms of french immigration - the categories are
married, divorced, widowed and celibate.

As much as a have a very storng critique of the white
picket fence mevement in the gay and lesbian scene -
I'd be desperate and drunk and lonely as hell if it
wasn't for those nice middle class men at Gay and
Lesbian Immigration Task Force. Australia's extremely
difficult and problematic and limited gay and lesbian
immigration loophole has brought me an enormous amount
of happiness - so I'm kind of stuck in an awful bind
between what I believe in and what I need.

Given we are in a reactionary social culture - I think
it is important to support all movements forward -
however arriere garde they may be. Anything which
promotes a public forum of tolerance, acceptance of
queer lifestyles has my support - we've got our own
social gatherings to corrupt and detourne within the
scene! (he! he!)

Having said that - I'm not about to buy a bunch of
freedom rings and join New Mardis Gras. I allso think
what Glen and others do in biversity - which is a
Queer, non monogamous, polymorphously perverse space -
is really wonderful in terms of promoting a
pluralistic and supportive space for queers. - but I
do supporting Gay and Lesbian marraige rights,
superannuatino rights and immigration rights. etc.

Families are fucking dodgy and fucked up - but they
are also the only social unit reognised by our scarily
molecular society - so i think it is importabt to
expand that definition up as much as possible.........

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