Graeme – Upchurch, Kent UK

To start, many of the cases of us Aussies still stuck overseas are NOT of our making.. and liking(!)

And like many thousands of other Aussies we could not just drop everything and come back in March this year from the UK when we were advised to by the Australian Govt.

My (and my wife’s) circumstances are this: I am an Australian Vietnam Vet, who with my wife moved to the UK in 2001 from Australia, and have operated a very successful ‘Australian centric’ upmarket battlefield tour operation here in the UK, predominately for Aussies and Kiwis for them to visit and pay their respects to their family ancestors who fought here (predominantly France and Belgium -WW1, & Bomber and Fighter Command WW2). We loved/love what we do, and have proudly brought so much closure and remembrance to thousands of Aussie families

Alas, with Covid and Aussies/Kiwis now unable to travel internationally until at least June/July next year to UK/Europe our source market has obviously crashed and we are in the final stages of having to liquidate/close the business down. (*At a loss of over £400K..) As you can imagine this is no easy task also in the current Covid climate in the UK with limited Govt resources to undertake this complex task of closing a company down.

However, as they say – wait.. there is more to this than the total destruction of our business by Covid// …

I had been under supervision for a few years by Guys St Thomas in London (one of the leading heart treatment hospitals in the world) for my heart - and had to undertake a very complex open heart surgery in December of 2019 with my wife acting as carer for my post op recovery. I was in the early stages of recovery from this when Covid hit the UK. Consequently all follow up was cancelled as Covid took over all the hospitals here. Unfortunately, I also developed vocal cord paralysis from the op as well as an incisional hernia. All this has taken place against our business shut down. I cannot travel back now until all this is sorted, as fitting myself back into the Australian health system again (as a returned pensioner serviceman) after so long an absence with my situation will be difficult and time consuming, so we have opted to stay on the UK until all my outstanding medical issues are fixed at my hospital, Guys St Thomas in London.

We have started to put together our ‘coming home plan’, however we are incredibly frustrated and cannot make any decisions currently as:

  1. We are still in the early process of closing our business down – a process that will take at least 10-12 weeks at least and will be/is already very complicated by govt, bank and tax procedures all which are even more complex as they are all operating on minimum staff due to Covid. This seems to be the same for many Australians here who are also in the same boat.
  2. I have to wait until my final operation(s) are scheduled and then spend at least 4-6 weeks recovering from them -  as I cannot travel by air long haul during that time
  3. Trying to get our pets (2 dogs) to Australia is extremely complex with permits and health rules plus very expensive - as well as a severe lack of space at Australia’s ONLY animal q/tine facility in Melbourne area.