COVID-19 separation ends for Victorian family after 10-months apart

After 10 difficult months apart, Horsham grain researcher Arun Shunmugan will finally be reunited with his wife and two-year-old son.

The family, who hold temporary visas, travelled to India at the start of this year for a wedding.

Mr Shunmugan returned to home early due to work commitments while his wife, Udhaya Kannan, and son, Aadav Arun, stayed on to spend time with family.

Ms Kannan and Aadav were meant to fly to Australia on March 19, the day the Federal Government closed the international border to everyone but permanent residents and Australian citizens, leaving them stranded in India.

“That’s when COVID hit and they just couldn’t return home to Australia,” Mr Shunmugan said.

The separation has been particularly difficult, Mr Shunmugan said, because the family was separated for almost a year in 2019 while they waited for their visas to be approved.  

“My son is two now,” he said.

“I missed his second birthday, the day he started crawling, the day he started walking, the day he started running,” he said.   

Endless hoops to jump through

Mr Shunmugan booked flights for his family in April, hoping border restrictions would be eased, but it wasn’t to be.

“We waited and waited and waited,” he said.

“And we’ve been waiting for another 10 months.”

Mr Shunmugan then sought an exemption from Australian Border Force for his wife and son to enter the country. 

After several rejections and months of trying, Mr Shunmugan secured the exemption.

But getting a flight back into Australia was the next hurdle. 

“There weren’t any flights available for us,” Mr Shunmugan said. 

Finally Mr Shunmugan managed to secure a flight for this week.  

“We couldn’t believe it because getting tickets these days is just like a rat race,” he said.  

Mr Shunmugan’s wife and son have now landed in Brisbane where they will spend two weeks in hotel quarantine before heading back to Horsham via Melbourne.

Mr Shunmugan said he was ecstatic about the impending reunion.  

“I’m just really thankful,” he said.  

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