13 April 2021

Bushfire-hit mirror twins caught in government red tape

| Kim Treasure
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Peter and David Abel

Mirror twins Peter and David Abel are being denied a Homeowner grant because they are not a couple. Photo: Supplied.

At 68, Mogo mirror twins Peter and David Abel have negotiated all of life’s twists and turns as a united front. Now, the very relationship that has defined them is being used by the Federal Government to deny access to funds to help them rebuild after the Black Summer bushfires.

In what’s been described as a heartless move, the pair who have lived together their whole lives have been denied financial help to rebuild their home because, as brothers, they don’t fit HomeBuilder grant criteria.

“HomeBuilder is only available to an individual or a couple,” David said. “A married couple can get it, defactos can get it, but we can’t because we are brothers.

“And we are not alone. There are others in the area who are brothers, or fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, who aren’t eligible.

“I was a bit disappointed. I thought they would be more flexible for bushfire victims.”

It’s just one more cruel blow for the twins, who now face a second winter living in a cramped caravan on their Mogo property.

“We’ve had 14 months in a caravan,” David said. “We are either hot or cold, and it’s a small space we are sharing.”

After losing the family home in the Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria, the brothers moved to the South Coast in 1987 and bought their new property in Mogo five years later.

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When the New Year’s Eve fire hit, they stayed to defend their home.

“We had a good fire plan,” David said, “and we thought we had it, then there was a wind change and it came from the south. Sizeable embers got under the pine ceiling and the whole thing burnt down in five minutes.”

Undeterred, the men have gone about rebuilding on their bush block, but the expenses keep mounting. They thought the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder grant would help, but their hopes were crushed by a letter from the office of Housing Minister Michael Sukkar.

“Applicants must be listed on the certificate of title for the property,” it said. “If more than one person is listed on the certificate of title, they must jointly apply for the HomeBuilder grant as a couple. Generally, and as implemented under the Commonwealth’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, this would include couples that are legally married, in a registered domestic relationship or those living as a couple on a genuine domestic basis.”

Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips has gone in to bat for the brothers, and she’s been backed by Opposition Housing spokesperson Jason Clare.

Jason Clare, Peter Abel, David Abel and Fiona Phillips

Opposition Housing spokesperson Jason Clare, with Peter Abel, David Abel and Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips in Mogo. Photo: Supplied.

“We wrote to the [Federal] Government on behalf of Peter and David asking them to have a heart and provide them with the grant,” Ms Phillips said.

“When they applied for a HomeBuilder grant, they were rejected by the Morrison Government because they are not ‘a couple’. And now, to add insult to injury, the government has told them to go and ask a charity for help to rebuild their home.”

Ms Phillips said what was particularly offensive was the direction that “there is a range of other assistance available to people affected by the fires, including grants provided by the Red Cross”.

READ ALSO Funds to tap into thousands of years of bushfire knowledge

“This is a classic example of a government that just doesn’t get it,” she said. “This isn’t about charity, it’s about fairness.

“If anyone deserves help to rebuild their home it’s brothers like Peter and David who lost their home in the fire and have lived together their whole life.

“Instead of telling Peter and David they should go and see a charity, they should just give them the grant.

“This could be fixed right now with a stroke of a pen. The fact that they won’t shows how heartless they really are.”

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Just another example of a government completely lacking compassion and empathy

Gordon Ferraby3:02 am 15 Apr 21

I’m surprised Morrison didn’t also mail them a “have a go” sticker.
It’s stories like these that just destroy any faith in the government.
Give them the grant for crying out loud.
I’m going to pass this article on to others I know for sure; (sadly as I too with other
others relating 2019) .

Andrea Franke6:46 am 13 Apr 21

They should be given the grant
It is very sad that they are still living in a caravan after all this time
The government is very proud of Australia‘s economic recovery so share the Money with the country’s people

Carlene Franzen9:10 pm 12 Apr 21

This is terrible. David and Peter are the most gentlest lovely men who have suffered so much. Surely, surely something can be done to help them through the red tape.

I really hope Fiona Phillips can help these brothers, they seem to have been through a lot. They don’t want charity they only want what’s fair. Hopefully sensibility reins through.

How can we help?

Typical heartless bloody Government. To busy taking care of themselves than caring for the community decimated by the bushfires. These brothers are a family. They may not be a couple or a defacto relationship but they are a family. Who endured significant loss from the bushfires. The same principle should apply to parents and children who own joint property thats damaged they are no less family than a couple or a defacto relationship couple. As for the Government palming them of to a charity. I find that appalling. When it’s their freaking job.

These guys I’m sure have paid taxes all their lives. Only to be screwed over by their Government in their hour of need.
Pay up Morrison!! You and your Government need to start holding the freaking financial hose mate. That IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! Or you will be replaced. Australians will remember how you failed these bushfire victims. Especially, us who live on the South Coast. As we are reminded daily of the damage of the fires, when we drive through our communities.

This is disgraceful!
While government lie in their warm comfy beds I hope they think of these 2 brothers and others like them who have suffered through no fault of their own during and long after the 2019 bushfires.
Change what is required and give them some dignity and a grant to keep them safe and warm.

Helen pickett9:16 am 12 Apr 21

Discrimination at its finest . Identical twin brothers who can prove that they have lived together all of their sixty nine years can’t get a grant , but two people who claim to be in a defacto relashionsip for a year can … Go figure….

Gordon Robert Wignall7:00 am 12 Apr 21

Why for goodness sake do governments make these terrible exclusions for people like the Abel Brothers in their time of need. I lived in the Bay for 23 years and knew both of them and they could only be described as hardworking model citizens who would go out of their way to help anyone and now this miserable excuse for a government gives them a kick in the teeth. If anyone deserves a grant it is these men

Kathy pearman10:57 pm 11 Apr 21

This is unfair. Peter and David are upstanding citizens and should be treated as such. They have shared their home all their lives and should be assisted to continue to do so.

Give them the grant

Kathie weston9:11 pm 11 Apr 21

Give them the grant that they deserve just like everyone else. They have lived together all their lives for Christ sake! Wake up to yourselves Australia’s meant to support each other. Never heard of such crap.

Kellie Whittington6:51 pm 11 Apr 21

My opinion is that they deserve everything plus more!
Where are our local spokesmen our councillors why aren’t they using their positions to help.
This is so wrong I had Pete and Dave come into the park that I was managing for respite after the fire.. the trauma on their faces will never leave my mind my memories please just give them the money.

The incompetent, lying Morrison and his Government of rorters have sucked billions out of the economy for their own gain and these guys are just collateral damage as far as the LNP are concerned.
Change the rules you LNP Muppets.

Dallis Tanner3:23 pm 11 Apr 21

Absolutely ridiculous state of affairs. Just give them the damn grant.

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