“People may come to this with black and white views about immigration,” says Joseph Maxwell, head of documentaries at SBS. “But this series is not about taking a political position. What I hope is that people will ask, ‘Who are we – and who do we want to be – as Australians?'”
A lot of people take for granted how easy it is to go through the immigration process.
Satinder, a participant in the new SBS series Who Gets to Stay in Australia?
In the past, spousal visa applications were usually processed within six to 12 months but now, the wait time may be closer to two years. Those in breach of certain visa conditions face even longer delays. “Being stuck in limbo is what causes so much stress,” Maxwell says. “That’s a theme throughout the series and even now, not all the cases have been resolved.”
At one point, while a camera crew was in Satinder’s house, she tried to take her own life. A producer called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital, where a long-term mental health plan was initiated, including weekly home visits from two professional counsellors.
“The depression meant I couldn’t see the support I had around me,” Satinder says. “I would like to tell people in a similar situation to go hard and not give up. There’s help available and it’s really important you seek it out if you need it … that support really helped me.”
The producers’ first priority was to give Satinder enough time and space to recover, regularly checking to ensure she received the assistance she needed. Ten weeks later, they met with her to discuss which parts of her story she’d be comfortable to include in the series – or whether she’d prefer to remove herself entirely.
“That consent was really important to us,” Maxwell says. “As a public broadcaster, we wanted to show the human face of what is a very difficult set of decisions that ministers, governments and departments have to make.”
Though the series finished filming in December, an update on each participant’s case will be inserted at the end of each episode.
“I think a lot of people take for granted how easy it is to go through the immigration process but it’s incredibly complicated,” Satinder says.
“I thought that if I shared my story, it might help other people and motivate them to find the right support they may need.”
Support is available: Lifeline 13 11 14; beyondblue 1300 22 4636; Embrace Multicultural Mental Health embracementalhealth.org.au
Who Gets to Stay in Australia? airs 8.30pm July 1 on SBS.