A grandmother who has lived in Australia for more than 40 years will be deported after she was found to be in the country illegally.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981 and has since built a life for herself in the picturesque Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.
His partner at the time told Mary that he had obtained permanent visas, but 40 years later, the pensioner is at risk of being deported at any time.
In Tweed Heads, Mary is considered a local hero for the time she spends volunteering and raising money for the Salvation Army.
Mary received the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year award in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, which provides hot meals to homeless people.
However, the good Samaritan could be forced to return to the UK despite having an Australian driving licence, Medicare card and pension card.
“This is my home, I love Australia,” Mary said through tears. A current issue on Monday.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981 and has since built a life in the picturesque Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.
He worked in hospitality and for the New South Wales government for 30 years, where his employers did not question his visa status.
Mary has a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in Australia.
The grandmother said “no one said anything” about her visa until she was contacted by the Department of Home Affairs.
The pensioner was asked to visit the Brisbane office, where she was told she had been living illegally in Australia for more than four decades.
“She doesn’t know a soul there, not a soul,” said immigration agent Stanley Schneider.
“She has always paid her taxes, she has never even gotten a speeding ticket, she has never violated anything, she has never offended anyone.”
Schneider, who helps Mary pro bono, said the pensioner qualifies as an “absorbed person” under the Migration Act 1958.
To be recognized as an absorbed person visa, a non-citizen must have been in Australia since 2 April 1984 and never left the country on or after that date.
Mary says she has never left Australia, not even on holiday, since 1981.
However, Home Affairs claims Mary entered Australia three times under a different alias and was out of the country between February 1983 and November 1986.
The department said in a letter that they believe the true identity of the now-deceased man she was in a de facto relationship with at the time, Martin Ellis, was actually Trevor Warren.
Mary received the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year award in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, which provides hot meals to those in need.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs claims that Mary left Australia under different aliases in February 1983 and did not return until November 1986.
‘As you were not in Australia on 02/04/1984, you are not considered an absorbed person and do not hold an Absorbed Person Visa,’ the letter says.
However, Mary insists this is “incorrect” and says she does not know why Home Affairs believes he left and re-entered Australia under different aliases.
He has documents he claims prove he was in Australia at the time, including a job reference from a restaurant in Tasmania.
He claims Mary worked there from 1983 to 1986 as a waitress and cashier.
A successful Medicare enrollment letter signed by then Health Minister Neal Blewett is also being used to plead Mary’s case.
Schneider says they wouldn’t have sent him the letter if he wasn’t living in Australia at the time.
“Mary Ellis is a decent person, a person we should be absolutely delighted to have in Australia, and she’s Australian, let’s face it,” he said.