Mum-of-two deported, torn from kids over drug possession
A mother-of-two has been torn from her young children in Far North Queensland and deported to a country she has not lived in since she was nine despite rehabilitating in prison.
Taryn O'Dowd, 41, was deported to Auckland - a city she had never been to - on February 17 after serving time in a Queensland prison for possessing 10g of methamphetamine.
She left behind her 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son who live with their father on the Cassowary Coast.
"This is such a monumental decision that the government has made, to take me away from my children," Ms O'Dowd told The Courier-Mail in her first Australian interview.
Ms O'Dowd was born in a town north of Wellington, New Zealand, but moved with her family to a farm in Gin Gin, Bundaberg when she was nine.
"When people ask me where I'm from I say Bundaberg," she said.
Ms O'Dowd went to high school in Bundaberg, obtained a bachelor's degree from Central Queensland University and spent several years working in corrections while raising her family in Australia.
Until three years ago she had a clean criminal history, but "fell in with the wrong people" while struggling with the end of a long-term relationship.
She was convicted of breaking into a vacant holiday home and was jailed for 18 months for possessing 10g of methamphetamine.
"When I fell into the drug scene I was just the most broken person," she said.
"I'm not making any excuses, what I did was wrong and they were my choices alone but there were a lot of mitigating circumstances that took away my ability to make good decisions.
"When I went to prison I really found myself, I found my confidence again, just what I wanted out of life.
"I was so ready to get out and be this amazing person."
But Ms O'Dowd was deported to Auckland last month under section 501 of the Migration Act, which saw her visa cancelled when she was sentenced to more than one year in jail.
She appealed to have the visa reinstated but was unsuccessful.
"I just thought, 'they are not going to tear a mother away from her children'," she said.
"I thought they would clearly see that although I made some grievous errors that it was in my Australian children's best interest that I have my visa reinstated."
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Nine the 'Con Air' flight was "taking the trash out" to "make Australia a safer place".
Ms O'Dowd was on the plane with killers, child abusers and bikies.
"I think Peter Dutton would be hard pressed to find many Australians that consider me such a high risk that they feel safer with me out of the country," she said.
"People think I can bring my children with me, which I can, no one would have stopped me bringing my kids, but to what? I don't have anything in this country. I've got nothing. I was one step away from being homeless."
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously attacked Australia's policy of deporting convicted criminals who were born overseas, describing it as "corrosive" to the trans-Tasman relationship.
"Do not deport your people and your problems," she said in 2020 while in Australia.
While Ms O'Dowd does not believe the Morrison government will be swayed on its hardline stance on deportation, she believes she should be allowed to visit Australia if she does not commit any crimes in New Zealand.
"Because my visa was cancelled under section 501 we are never allowed back which I think is ridiculous," she said.
"I think if you can prove yourself and live successfully in New Zealand for say five years, I feel like you should be at least able to go back and visit.
"I'm not ashamed of my past in the way that these things have made me who I am but I don't think it should be held against me forever.
"I have changed."
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as Mum-of-two deported, torn from kids over drug possession