‘I am Australian, not Cook Islander’

Monday June 22, 2020 Written by Published in Crime
Edward McHugh. Edward McHugh.

A former violent criminal is fighting being sent back to Cook Islands, a country he left as a small child and knows nothing about.

Atiu-born Edward McHugh has won a court victory in his battle against being thrown out of Australia.

His deportation is now on hold after the Federal Court in Australia ordered Australia’s immigration minister to reassess his visa application.

Australia’s aggressive deportation policy has been internationally-contentious: people with no family connections in New Zealand, Cook Islands, Samoa or Tonga have been deported – some without even having committed any crime.

“Now that I'm free, my next biggest step is coming home to West Australia to see my family,” he told Cook Islands News.

McHugh has grandchildren who were born while he has been in detention. “But I won't be able to see the family just yet because of the border closure due to Covid-19.”

McHugh has lived in Australia for more than 40 years. The 52-year-old father-of-seven did not discover he was adopted from Cook Islands until he was aged 45.

He had always believed he was an Australian citizen. “I am who I said I am,” he said, speaking from a Melbourne detention camp.

“Imagine, you know who you are, and someone else telling you that you are not that person. It is very stressful.”

McHugh was too young to remember much of the islands but recalled feeling unwanted by his Cook Islands mother. He was adopted by an Australian couple, when he was just six years old, and grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland.

He believed he was an Australian citizen through adoption, after successfully applying for an Australian passport.

But in 2018 he was sentenced to nine months in prison for aggravated assault and threatening to kill a person – and at that point he discovered he would be deported to New Zealand or Cook Islands.

Justice Stewart Anderson has now ordered acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge to reconsider Edward McHugh's application for his visa to be reinstated, on the basis he believed he was an Australian citizen.

The original decision “was, in a legal sense, unreasonable”, the judgment said.


  • Comment Link Auckland New Zealand Wednesday, 24 June 2020 16:27 posted by Auckland New Zealand

    God help you Edward

  • Comment Link Mana Makimare Wednesday, 24 June 2020 12:55 posted by Mana Makimare

    McHugh has lived in Ozzie for over 40ys, probably paid his taxes while being employed and bringing up his family of 7, and he was adopted by australians. That and his own personal belief, makes him more australian than a Cookie.

  • Comment Link If you migrated to Australia from England in whatever century, you should not be exempt from this deportation policy.  Its clearly a racist based policy formulated by a bunch of racist criminals. GTFOH with your bullshit. Wednesday, 24 June 2020 02:22 posted by If you migrated to Australia from England in whatever century, you should not be exempt from this deportation policy. Its clearly a racist based policy formulated by a bunch of racist criminals. GTFOH with your bullshit.


  • Comment Link Paulo Wednesday, 24 June 2020 01:59 posted by Paulo

    Australia is becoming more like israel everyday.not one bloody australian has any kind of heritage except that which traces to criminality!,aborigines are not australians by choice!,.id take the islands anyday than live in that racist dried up lump of dirt.

  • Comment Link Vaine Hosking Tuesday, 23 June 2020 19:08 posted by Vaine Hosking

    I sympathized with you Edward. I am with you on saying that you are an Australian. You were adopted and lived there all your lives. And you got an Australian Passport. God bless you

  • Comment Link Lorel Tuesday, 23 June 2020 12:43 posted by Lorel

    I feel for him. He was adopted by an Aussie couple, brought up as an Aussie and then the court tells him that he is not an Aussie. I think that court case is grossly unfair and I'm glad that they are reconsidering his application. Australia is his home. Their deportation policy is a human rights violation.

  • Comment Link French Tuesday, 23 June 2020 12:03 posted by French

    Well he just stated he was adopted by an Australian couple and not being cared and wanted by his biological mother and living in that country for 45 years, you need to take all this into consideration. He also stated he is an Australian citizen not Australian born. I see out of 45 years of his life he was sentenced to only 9 months detention, so he has contributed to your economy by working hard and paying tax, this I believe he can call Australia his home. When you have lived in a country for 45 years and contributed to the economy by working and paying tax, how can you say they don't deserve to stay there and call that country their home, how is it fair on him and his children and grandchildren which they have only known Australia as their home. And how is it fair on the country that these ones get deported back too, where we now have to help financially to support them in their every need, when they have not contributed to our economy in any way. I feel utterly sadden by the comment to keep this person in jail, clearly racist to me. I have heard of numerous cases about Australians being racist against New Zealanders or Pacific Islanders, when we are really peaceable people by nature.

  • Comment Link Kura tekeu Tuesday, 23 June 2020 10:53 posted by Kura tekeu

    He was adopted to an Australuan couple at age six. Surely he is what he claimed to be an Australian. He knows who he is and biologically born a Cook Islander. In his own right he is adopted by and Australian couple for 45 years of his life. Surely that counted for being Australian. He has done his crime why send him back for. That is not fair. Give him a chance to move on in a country that he grew up in. Everyone at one point of life make decisions that they are not proud off but they also need second chance. His paid for what his done let him be and help him him move on with other plans.

  • Comment Link Bill Emery Tuesday, 23 June 2020 07:54 posted by Bill Emery

    This man was adopted by Australian citizens as a child and knows nothing about his birth country and there for should be treated as an Australian citizen. I'm sure if he was a great sports person Australia would be quick to call him an Australian.

  • Comment Link Kataraina Ann Kake Tuesday, 23 June 2020 07:04 posted by Kataraina Ann Kake

    I was born a New Zealand Maori but, my DNA proves my parents came from Hawaii

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