By MATTHEW MCKEW
Tearful selfies sent via text in the middle of the night reveal the heavy strain on an 11-year-old girl stranded in Aussie and missing her mum.
It’s been almost a full year since Peggy Hieronymus held her daughter Xavion in her arms at home and her seven-year-old younger brother Dantay’s also feeling the effects of separation.
‘‘I think it really affects him the most, he doesn’t really want to do anything any more like go out on bike rides,’’ Hieronymus says.
The siblings went to stay with their Aussie dad Christopher Coates last December and were meant to return for the start of the new school year at Queenstown Primary.
Dantay did, but the parents decided Xavion should enjoy the cultural experience of a term at an Aboriginal school in the outback, near where her dad worked.
The plan was to be home by Easter, but Covid-19 put the kibosh on that.
Coates lost his job and the pair moved to stay with family in Perth, then two weeks ago he got a new job in the Northern Territory and left Xavion behind with his brother’s family to attend school.
‘‘Covid’s changed things and he has to work to put bread on the table, but he’ll just see her once a week or every two weeks,’’ Hieronymus says.
She’d already been trying desperately to get her Dunedin-born daughter home — fishing company Sealord had offered to collect the youngster when they recovered a crew from Mauritius in October.
But Coates was unwilling to let Xavion travel on a flight full of strangers on her own.
With Xavion struggling to adapt to Australian schooling, Hieronymus is more determined than ever to get her back to New Zealand.
The Uber driver, florist and B&B manager’s decided to try and crowdfund money to fly to Australia to collect Xavion, who international airlines won’t let fly on her own, return to NZ and quarantine together.
She says Immigration NZ has indicated they can apply for a fee exemption but she needs $7000 to cover the cost of flights, child care and her rent while she’s away and unable to work.
The German national has NZ citizenship while her former partner doesn’t, so he can’t bring Xavion home, despite agreeing she should return.
Hieronymus’ friend Margaret Amor’s helping spread the word online and says it’s about ‘‘doing what we can to get a little Queenstown girl home’’.
With quarantine places at a premium, Hieronymus aims to get Xavion home for the start of the next school year.
Those wanting to help the family can find details at www.xavicomebackhome.com