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Donagemma family saved by miracle days before deportation

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The Donagemma children will have to separate if there is no intervention from the Minister for Immigration. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
The Donagemma children will have to separate if there is no intervention from the Minister for Immigration. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The Donagemma family got the miracle they prayed for to help them stay in Australia days before they were due to be deported.

Following media coverage of their plight and a change.org petition which drew almost 40,000 signatures, St Agatha’s Pennant Hills parishioner Vanni Donagemma was offered a dream job from an Australian gas and oil company.

The news also means that his youngest child, Benedetta, should be safe to remain legally with her family but only ever temporarily as she will never pass the requirements for a permanent visa.

“He and his wife Elisa said they had found it hard to ask for help initially but that the experience had shown them the best side of humanity …”

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“We were really running short on time but thank God, really it is like a miracle,” Mr Donagemma said.

He and his wife Elisa said they had found it hard to ask for help initially but that the experience had shown them the best side of humanity and their parish and wider community.

“We realised that we could trust people and once our appeal became public my CV was circulated in every company in my industry,” Mr Donagemma said.

Benedetta with her father Vanni, at left, and brothers Matteo, Andrea and Francesco. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Benedetta with her father Vanni, at left, and brothers Matteo, Andrea and Francesco. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

As reported by The Catholic Weekly on 5 March the couple and Benedetta, 18, were preparing to leave their home of nearly 20 years when their temporary visas expired at the end of the month.

Mr Donagemma was invited to Australia from Italy to work as a geologist in 2006 and he and his wie raised their children here.

The parishioners at St Agatha’s Church, Pennant Hills, said that after Mr Donagemma lost his job in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic he had struggled to find work in the oil and gas sector, which was necessary for him to continue on his working visa status.

Benedetta lives with a rare chromosomal condition and is reliant on her parents’ visas, so the heartbroken couple were preparing to separate her from her siblings and twin brother Matteo, who all successfully obtained visas.

“She will need some support and services which she isn’t eligible for on a temporary visa, so it is a victory today and we are very grateful for the support of many people but it’s just a big step in the right direction.”

Because she is non-verbal and has a developmental delay Benedetta has been deemed a burden on Australia’s health system and has not passed the country’s strict tests for migrants and refugees with a disability.

“We are very worried about Benedetta because it’s a matter of her life, truly,” Mr Donagemma told The Catholic Weekly on 27 February.

“She will need some support and services which she isn’t eligible for on a temporary visa, so it is a victory today and we are very grateful for the support of many people but it’s just a big step in the right direction. We still have a long path ahead and we would like to see a change in the government’s policy,” Mr Donagemma said.

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