Australia’s oldest Holocaust survivor risks losing carer

April 10, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Australia’s oldest Holocaust survivor is pleading with the government to allow his carer to visit her daughter in the Philippines and be permitted to return to Sydney to continue tending for him.

Elenita Fernandez had been in Australia on a visitor’s visa to Australia when she started caring for 103-yr-old Richard Roberts wife Helen. She has cared for Roberts since his wife died eight years ago.

Now she wants to go to the Philippines to celebrate her daughter Manlyn Mae’s 18th birthday but is unlikely to be allowed to return to Australia.

Elie Fernandez and Richard RObert

Lenie Fernandez and Richard Roberts     Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Roberts lives in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse within the electorate of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Letters have been written to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who told the carer it could take up to a year to process her case. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told J-Wire: “This is the normal time to be expected. However, although she will not have the freedom to travel out of the country and return, she can certainly continue her work caring for Mr Roberts until a decision is made.”

Roberts existence came as a surprise to many members of Sydney’s Jewish community. The Viennese immigrant arrived in Australia in 1938 but has had little to do with the general community preferring the company of a small group from the Austrian capital.

Roberts told J-Wire he spent time in Buchenwald and Dachau before escaping Europe in 1938. He was released and given just a short time to leave Germany travelling to England to acquire a permit to travel to Australia. He said: “I visited Jewish Welfare when I landed in Sydney in the hope of getting assistance to get permits for my parents and girlfriend but they did not help. Others did.”

43-yr-old Lenie Fernandez told J-Wire that she looks after Roberts 24/7. She said: “I have not seen my daughter for eight years but we communicate through Skype. She says she will not have a party to celebrate her birthday unless I am there.”

A friend of Roberts told J-Wire: “I know him through business and spoke to him frequently as he was one of my customers. He has no children but has a few distant relatives. He has visited my home and joined us for dinner at Rosh Hashanah. He is a very private man. I have visited his home and can attest to how well Lenie looks after him. The house is always spick and span.”

Marianne van der Poorten

Marianne van der Poorten

Roberts told Fairfax media “Lenie is such a good friend to me, and she takes the best care of me I could ever hope for.”

Up until now Marianne Van Der Poorten who recently turned 102 had been considered Australia’s oldest Holocaust survivor.


3 Responses to “Australia’s oldest Holocaust survivor risks losing carer”
  1. sheree waks says:

    Lenie has her visa!!!!

    15 Apr 2016 — It was granted to late yesterday and she is now on the plane flying to the Philippines.

    Lenie had to go to Parramatta to the Lawyer’s office and when she rang to say she had the visa, there was a lot of yelling and jumping for joy from her friends that had been invited for lunch and were waiting for the phone call. We had eaten without the guest of honour being present!!

    Richard kept saying ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it. I’m speechless’.

    When Lenie returned there were many tears of joy and embraces. Richard will now be happy knowing Lenie can return.

    Both Lenie and Richard want to send many thanks all their supporters who signed the petition and made such heartfelt comments.

    Love to all,


  2. Fiona Sweet Formiatti says:

    There is an online petition to support Mr Robert’s request that his carer Lenie be allowed to visit her daughter in the Philippines, then return to look after him. She has undertaken to leave Australia upon his death. Here is the link, please consider signing

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