‘I can’t fail my son’: fighting to stay in school – and in the country

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By , 18/06/2019 11:16

Sebastian Skrynnik asks his parents most Fridays if he’ll be going to school the next morning.

“He’s always upset when I tell him no and asks how come he’s not at school,” his mother, Alexandra Pyatetskaya, said.

“It’s such a joy for him – it’s nothing but a pleasure. The holidays are hardest because he’s not learning and achieving and he feels he should be.

“Heloves reading and being with other children and is very protective of the younger kids.”

Butit appeared the cricket-mad six-year-old would never rejoin his year one classmates at Newcastle East Public School.

After a series of misfortunes associated with their visa, Sebastian’s Russian-raised parents have had to apply for a tourist visa, which does not allow them to work. The tourist visa expires in June. Ms Pyatetskaya is sweating on an invitation to apply for the Skilled Independent visa and thena bridging visa.

If that invitation doesn’t come soon, the family may have to return to Russia, a terrifying prospect for them.

“I can’t imagine what his (Sebastian’s)reaction would be like going to Russia and settling in, because it will break him,” Ms Pyatetskaya said.

And although Sebastian was born in , he is not a permanent resident and does not have a right to access public education, leaving his parents facing a school bill of $300 a week.

“I was homeschooling him, but the school realised we were still living in zone and asked us whether we would be bringing him back,” Ms Pyatetskaya said.

“I told them we just can’t pay it, we’re barely surviving. He’s an Aussie kid who has no rights and can’t be protected by society, he’s just on his own.”

At the same time, Ms Pyatetskaya’s husband Yury Skrynnik had run into mothers including Meaghan McGregor and lawyer Kath Fielden and explained the family’s situation.

Within less than three hours of Ms Fielden meeting the family on Friday, February 9, she rallied a small group of parents to provide a loan of $2700 to cover Sebastian’s term one fees. Ms McGregor said the Department of Education’s immigration team worked over the weekend to process the paperwork to allow Sebastian to return school on Monday, February 12.

“There is a strong legacy of helping others at Newcastle East Public School, regardless of where they are from,” she said.

Ms McGregor and Ms Fielden are now turning to the wider school community to raise$4500 which will helpthe small group of parents who provided the initial loan, and pay fees for part of term two and other education costs.

“The day I told him he was going back to school he was running around the house screaming ‘I’m free, I’m going back!’” Ms Pyatetskaya said.“He loves the community, but I never thought he would get that kind of love back.

“I was gobsmacked –I can’t express how appreciative we are.Knowing you’ve got the community behind you is life changing. Not just from a financial perspective but mentally knowing you’re not on your own, after all these years trying to push and nothing happening.

“You reach the point where you’re defeated, but now we feel like we can fight.

“As much as we were trying to float on the surface it felt like we were drowning.

“Now we’ve been lifted back up by the community. They’ve given us wings.”

“was the ultimate dream” for both Ms Pyatetskaya and Mr Skrynnik.

After receiving a scholarship as a 15-year-old to attend a school in the United States, Ms Pyatetskaya said she could “never have considered myself living in Russia full time”.

“If something happens to you, you’re on your own,” she said.

“If you don’t have family or money saved, there is nothing that will back you up.

“People are also not allowed to express opinions – you have to keep quiet if you disagree.”

Mr Skrynnik was a professional athlete who competedat the national level in modern pentathlon before suffering a career-ending injury.

The couple met in 2002, saw Mr Skrynnik survive a car crash in 2004 and married in 2007.

Ms Pyatetskaya, a qualified English, French and English as a Second Language teacher,researched a Skilled Independent visa 189, which allows someone to live and work in as a permanent resident.

She realised further study was one way she could boost her required points score.

She arrived in in February, 2010, on a Higher Education Sector visa 573 and enrolled in a Masters of Applied Linguistics, during which she was told it wouldn’t be hard to find a job.Just two weeks later, the points system changed. Ms Pyatetskaya applied for a Postgraduate Research Sector Visa 574 and enrolled in a second degree to gain points, a Masters of Communication Disorders, which was later discontinued and for which she is pursuing Macquarie University for a refund.

Mr Skrynnik, who had visited twice on a tourist visa, joined her in .

They welcomed Sebastian in May, 2011, but full-time work was hard to find.

“We know we’ve got the skills and knowledge to contribute,” she said.

“We’re happy to go where the work is and both of us want to contribute to the community, to be employed and part of society. We were never thinking of not working, but we don’t know how to get through the system to get employed.”

She said she gained limited work in child care and tutoring and was told once she received a teaching accreditation number she’d be considered for employment.

“I was ready to work in any capacity but could hardly find any work with my degree.

“I was hoping I’d get casual employment somewhere [in the Department of Education] to get a foot in the door but was told I was not needed in NSW, which was very very disheartening.

“The Department of Education, the university and TAFE do not sponsor.”

Meanwhile Mr Skrynnik – who had run businesses in both St Petersburg and Moscow – worked on his English, attended free skill-development courses and searched for jobs in his expertise of sports coaching, massage and aqua aerobics.

But even his applications to stock supermarket shelves went unanswered and he relied on occasional work as a manual labourer in gardening and landscaping.

When Ms Pyatetskaya did find a company to sponsor her Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa, it collapsed before it could help her apply for permanent residency.

“We’ve hit rock bottom,” she said. “I did not think permanent residency would be on a silver platter, there are steps and protocol.

“But we’ve followed those – we’ve never had gaps or been here illegally. We were ready mentally and financially but never thought we’d be in a situation where we’re holding on trying to stay, trying not to fall apart.”

She spent the past year studying and sat the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s academic test five times.She passed in October and applied for her Skills Assessment Certificate.She lodged an expression of interest in February to apply for the Skilled Independent visa.

Her temporary work visa ran out in December so she applied for a tourist visa, to June 22. If she receives an invitation to apply for the Skilled Independent visa, she can apply for a bridging visa. But it could take up to two years to receive an invitation.

“If we go offshore and get the invitation to apply you can’t get back in until it’s processed –so you don’t get a bridging visa.”

Ms Pyatetskaya said she is hesitant to bring her son to her native homeland.

“Here he is valued as a person, a learner and a child – it’s unbelievable how people are treating him here because we never got that at home. In Russia if you’re not first at school you’re next to nothing. We are teaching him Russian but he would struggle in school, be picked on and bullied.”

For now, the family is living in two rooms in shared accommodation and have accessed St Vincent de Paul and Grainery Care Centre for assistance with groceries, Soul Cafe for food and op shops for clothing.

Every day they wake hoping for good news.

“I’m pulling my hair out – if in June nothing happens, what do we do?” she asked.

“I’m running low on energy to fight but can’t fail my son. It’s worth trying – I’d never be able to face him and say there was a chance to stay and I never did it. We want him to have the opportunities to succeed and the choices that we never did.”

Donations can be made to ANZ Bank, BSB: 012780 Account: 216425905. Reference “SEB”.

nib appeals to shareholders to grab their share of $2.5 million in unclaimed dividends

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By , 18/06/2019 11:16

Appeal: NIB chief executive officer Mark Fitzgibbon. Picture: Marina Neil

TIME is running out for NIB shareholders to claim their share of close to $2.5 million in dividends before the health insurer gives the jackpot to charity.

In what it says is an n corporate first, the Hunter-founded private health fund has changed its constitution to allow unclaimed dividends to be transferred to nib foundation, which helps charities to deliver community focused and well-being initiatives.

Unclaimed dividends werepreviously transferred to the Office of State Revenue under The Unclaimed Monies Act 1995, but in late 2017 nib shareholders backed the insurer’s move to transfer them to nib foundation.

There are about 9000 shareholders –more than 1400 of them in the Hunter –who have not claimed dividends totalling almost $2.5 million. The average unclaimed pool is $257 but one western Sydneyshareholderis owed $14,600.

If shareholdersdon’t claim what is theirs before August 31, 2018, the monies will be transferred to the foundation.

NIB managing director Mark Fitzgibbon said thefunds had remained unclaimed for a period of five years or more, despite nib’s best efforts to contact shareholders and pay them.

“We’ve worked hard to reconnect these shareholders with their unclaimed dividends, including by mail, via advertising in national newspapers, social media campaigns, and if they are a nib policyholder, reminding them when they contact us for a claim or query that they have outstanding dividends,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“We don’t want our shareholders to miss out on what’s owing to them, which is why we’re encouraging anyone who has owned NIB shares to contact us to check if they have dividends that can be claimed,” he said.


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GWS not looking beyond first contest

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By , 18/06/2019 11:16

Emma Swanson says GWS aren’t getting ahead of themselves when it comes to grand final talk.AFLW surprise package Greater Western Sydney refuse to look beyond even the first contest of Friday’s blockbuster against Brisbane, when their grand final hopes go on the line.

A win over the Lions at Blacktown in Sydney’s west will put the Giants in a strong position to make the final, but won’t guarantee them a spot.

Fourth-placed Adelaide could still pip them for a place on percentage if they have a much bigger win on Sunday away to Collingwood, while a draw between the top two teams, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, would also shut them out.

All of which could lead to a nerve-shredding weekend for GWS, even if they do beat Brisbane.

“I don’t think it’s an advantage to play on Friday night at all, we just have to wait around a few more days and see what happens.” Giants’ defender Emma Swanson told AAP.

“I haven’t really thought too much about what needs to happen and I can speak on behalf of a lot of the girls, I don’t think anyone’s really too focused on the outcome, even of our game.

“We know that there’s a bunch of things that we need to do right before we get the win, so it’s about focusing, not just on the first quarter, but only the first contest.”

Fifth-placed Brisbane can also make the final, if they win, but need other results to go their way.

Along with reigning premiers Adelaide, GWS have the joint current longest unbeaten streak, with each team winning three of their last four and drawing against each other.

GWS have effectively been playing knockout football for the past month after losing their first two games.

Going into the penultimate round GWS were scheduled to play the top two teams.

They upset ladder leaders Western Bulldogs last week in Canberra and now host Brisbane, who slumped to fifth after a loss to Collingwood.

“I think that’s a good advantage for us,” Swanson said.

“A lot of the girls have said we’re happy that’s in our control and we’re not versing those lower teams and then hoping for outcomes for other teams.”

Worst way to start at an NRL club: Evans

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By , 18/06/2019 11:16

Kane Evans revealed he felt overwhelmed in his NRL debut for the Parramatta Eels against Penrith.Kane Evans has admitted to being overwhelmed in his first NRL game for Parramatta, describing his Eels debut as the worst way to start with a new club.

The former Sydney Roosters prop turned in a subdued performance in the Eels’ season-opening loss to Penrith, carrying the ball for 56 metres in a 24-minute stint off the bench.

While all the attention was on Jarryd Hayne’s return, Evans candidly revealed how he had to deal with some mental demons before and during the match.

“I think the build-up got to me. Physically I prepared the best I could (but) just mentally, I cooked myself,” Evans said on Thursday.

“I could see myself in the review just out there running around in my own mind, rather than just being in the moment and doing what I do. (I was) over-complicating stuff.”

The 26-year-old said he thought he had already overcome some of the mental hurdles that younger players would have to deal with at the beginning of their careers.

But he conceded entering game day against the Panthers with plenty of “head noise”, and hinted at meeting with renowned peak performance manager Joe Wehbe for some help.

Evans identified Wehbe as the man behind the Warriors’ breathing exercises following tries in their first match of the season in Perth.

“I’m pretty sure they do some work with Joe Wehbe. He’s done some work here and at the Roosters. He’s all about that staying in the moment, breathing,” Evans said.

“I actually used some of his techniques earlier so I might give him a call and see what’s doing.

“I think it’s easy with everything that’s going on in life – footy, family, it’s my debut for the club. You can get caught up in it and players do go through that, especially young players.

“But I thought I’d be over that by now. It’s just a little lesson. I’ve learnt from that now.”

Evans remains confident he can improve in Sunday’s clash with Manly.

“Obviously it can’t go worse than last week. That’s the worst start you could get at a new club. For me, I’m confident and still preparing,” he said.

“Especially coming to a new club, you want to earn the respect of your peers. But after that game, I don’t think I did. I’ve got to pull my head in and this is the week to have a crack.”

Rebels planning to run tired Tahs ragged

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By , 18/06/2019 11:16

Marika Koroibete will be one of the players the Rebels will rely on to finish well against NSW.The Melbourne Rebels are planning to run the Waratahs ragged before a second half ambush by their bench as they look to keep their unbeaten start alive in their Super Rugby clash on Sunday.

The Rebels will go into the Allianz Stadium match fresh on the back of a 10-day turnaround while NSW are regrouping after the long-haul slog to South Africa and Argentina.

After battering NSW early on through back-row beasts Amanaki Mafi and Lopeti Timani, the Rebels are counting on hard-running Wallabies Marika Koroibete and Richard Hardwick coming off the bench to be equally as damaging.

Melbourne coach Dave Wessels said he believed his reserves were almost more important than his starters in terms of their game plan.

“If we can create some fatigue in the early part of the game we can come on and up the tempo toward the back-end with some pretty handy players,” Wessels said on Thursday.

“If we do that effectively we feel like we can get over the top of a lot of teams in the back-end of games.

“The strength of our bench is a big part of our plan as we have some special individual players and it would be silly if we didn’t use that strategically.

“Whoever’s on the bench plays almost a more important role than the guys who are starting.”

Despite the Waratahs’ indifferent start to the season, Wessels sees the Sydney match as the toughest of the n conference.

He said his team wanted to make a statement by taking their impressive form against the Brumbies on the road.

“This will be our biggest test – the Waratahs have got a lot of ‘s best players so we’re going to play really well,” Wessels said.

“They will be disappointed by the way they played overseas so it’s going to be a step up for us.”

While the Waratahs welcome back Test players Sekope Kepu and Rob Simmons to bolster their set piece, Rebels captain Adam Coleman has recovered from a sternum injury to play.

Melbourne have some concern about hooker Jordan Uelese, who tweaked his hamstring at training this week, but are hopeful he will be available.

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