“She had a disability and unfortunately she caught COVID. It just knocked her for six and she went into hospital and never came out again,” Mr Dew told 9News.com.au.
“Being an only child, I need to be there to organise the funeral and deal with everything that comes with a person passing away.”
Mr Dew is one of two million temporary visa holders in Australia who are still required to get a travel exemption in order to regain entry to Australia after flying overseas.
The travel restriction, which applies even to the fully vaccinated, has angered Australia’s temporary residents who say it is “discriminatory”.
Mr Dew moved to Sydney in July 2018 with his partner, Fern Jackson, who is studying to be an early childhood educator. He is living here on a def acto student visa.
He works as a consultant in a nursing agency which has helped place nurses in hospitals and aged cares homes across NSW during the pandemic.
Mr Dew said he had applied for two travel exemptions to be allowed to return to Sydney after the funeral but both had been rejected.
Under current government rules, temporary visa holders can only be granted an exemption if they have a “strong compassionate or compelling reason” to leave Australia and are doing essential work.
Mr Dew’s first application, made under compassionate grounds, was rejected. Although he met the compassionate criteria, it was found he had no reason to return to Australia.
His second application, made under the critical skills criteria, was rejected because he was working less than 24 hours a week. His current visa conditions only allow him to work 20 hours per week.
Mr Dew said it was frustrating to see Australians planning trips to Bali or Fiji when he was being forced to choose between his home and saying goodbye to his mother.
“It really angers me that citizens and permanent residents can come and go as they please – they can go for a jolly up in Bali if they like.”
It also hurt that the needs of Australia’s temporary residents were now being placed after tourists, he said.
Australia’s travel bubble with New Zealand resumed on November 1, and a travel bubble with Singapore is due to start on November 21.
“Why should people from Singapore and New Zealand come over here as tourists for a holiday and enjoy the sun and I can’t go home and say goodbye to my mum?” Mr Dew said.
“Temporary residents put a lot of money into the economy. Being a uni student costs tens of thousands of dollars. My partner and I both work and pay taxes.
“We have got a two-bedroom apartment here with a years’ lease on it still. We have both got jobs and a car. I have got a nine-month-old puppy.
“We are committed to being here.
“The thing that pains us temporary visa holders the most is that we are being torn, forced to choose between the lives that we have created here and our family back home.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at firstname.lastname@example.org.