A grandmother who has lived in Australia for more than 40 years but faces deportation to Britain has shared “evidence” that she belongs in Australia and is not lying to the government.
Mary Philomena Ellis, 74, says she is “terrified” after the Department of Home Affairs advised her to “leave Australia as soon as possible or face serious consequences”.
Mrs Ellis, who arrived in Australia in December 1981, says she never left the country, “loves” living here and being sent back to Britain would be like going to a foreign country as she doesn’t know anyone. .
The charity worker, one of 11 siblings, can’t even remember where she grew up in London and her mind went blank when asked in an interview by Daily Mail Australia.
‘I feel anxious. He hasn’t lied. I never left here. I love Australia. “My family are Australian citizens and I should be too,” she stated.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981. She has since created a life in Tweed Heads, on the New South Wales-Queensland border, but fears she will be sent back to the UK.
Ms Ellis has made a life for herself in Australia and says she has never left. But Home Affairs claims she had secret aliases and that her partner was actually someone else with a name she had never heard.
Mary Ellis has worked in Australia, paid taxes, has a license, a Medicare card and even voted, but now bureaucrats have warned her to “leave Australia as soon as possible” or “face serious consequences.”
Mrs Ellis came to Australia with her partner, Martin Ellis, after a failed marriage to a British Army soldier with whom she had a son and daughter.
Ellis told him at the time that he had permanent visas.
They made a life for themselves in Australia. He worked in the Woolworths supermarket chain and she in hospitality and home care. Mrs. Ellis acquired a local driver’s license and Medicare card, paid taxes and voted.
He never returned to the UK and says he lost contact with anyone he knew there.
However, Home Affairs now claims that Ms Ellis re-entered Australia three times under a different alias and was out of the country between February 1983 and November 1986.
The department also said in a letter that it believes 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.
What the Ministry of the Interior alleges, without providing any documentary evidence, would make it impossible for him to qualify as an “absorbed person” under the Migration Law of 1958.
To obtain an absorbed person visa, a non-citizen must have been in Australia since 2 April 1984 and have never left the country on or after that date.
The Mary Ellis Test
Ms Ellis is now represented pro bono by Gold Coast immigration agent Stan Shneider, who describes Home Affairs’ claims as “nonsense”.
He has provided documents to the Daily Mail which he says prove Ms Ellis was here between 1983 and 1986, including an employment reference which says she worked for a restaurant and catering company in Tasmania.
The document said she worked as a waitress for Images International Cuisine with duties that included preparing salads and handling cash and credit card transactions.
It made no reference to her traveling abroad during that time, saying: “I am pleased to report that she is punctual, hardworking and sober in nature and I recommend (her) as an employee in a similar situation.”
Mary also submitted a successful Medicare enrollment letter signed by the then Minister of Health, Neal Blewett, to plead her case.
Shneider provided a written employment reference for Mary in 1987, which he said showed she was in Australia between 1983 and 1986, not out of the country as Home Affairs claimed. She says: ‘Mary Ellis worked for me for a period of about three years, until December 1989, as a waitress and cashier. Her duties included ordering and serving food, being responsible for cash and credit card transactions, and preparing salads, desserts, and other cold dishes.
After his time in Tasmania, he moved to New South Wales and created a life in Tweed Heads, a coastal town south of the Gold Coast and popular with retirees.
His son David McHugo has since emigrated to Australia from the UK with his wife and daughters.
Mary is a popular figure in her community due to the time she spends volunteering and raising money for the Salvation Army, a charity that supports those in need.
She received the 2023 NSW Volunteer of the Year award for her work for Agape Outreach, which provides hot meals to homeless people.
She has worked with Aboriginal people in home care and has a deep interest in Australian politics, culture and current events.
‘This is my house, I want an Australian passport. Even then I wouldn’t visit the UK again, I love it here.’
He worked in hospitality and for the New South Wales government for 30 years, where his employers did not question his visa status.
‘I’m a good person, I’ve paid my taxes. I think the minister is a good person but… I am anxious.’
Mary “loves Australia” and has granddaughters here and says if she went back to England she wouldn’t know anyone.
Mary, who is being helped by Gold Coast immigration agent Stan Shneider (above), is tearful and anxious about threats and suggestions that she is not being honest about her life in Australia.
Part of Home Affairs letter claiming Mary lied about never leaving Australia and telling her to “leave Australia as soon as possible” or “face serious consequences”.
Daily Mail Australia has asked Federal Immigration Minister Andrew Giles whether Ms Ellis could be granted an absorbed visa on compassionate grounds, given her age and record as a model citizen.
Ms Ellis’s case is the latest incident to tarnish Mr Giles’s department, after he was blindsided by a High Court decision releasing more than 140 asylum seekers from detention, despite many having served prison sentences for crimes as serious as murder and sexual crimes.
Shneider said a reconsideration by the department would be welcome, because a legal challenge could cost up to $100,000.
“She is a pensioner,” said Mr. Schneider. ‘She lives modestly in a rented house. She works in volunteer positions.
“She has always paid her taxes, she has never even gotten a speeding ticket, she has never violated anything, she has never offended anyone.”
The Australian Department of Home Affairs claims that Mary left Australia under different aliases in February 1983 and did not return until November 1986.
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.
Shneider said Ellis was so much a part of Australia that her face was even featured on a stamp, having won a competition to be honored in that way.
A member of Mr. Giles’ office said they understood that “the idea of deportation is terrifying” and that authorities “don’t just rock you and handcuff you, it’s less black and white.”
However, Mr Shneider said: “That’s all very well, but given what the Home Office has said (Mary) has a right to be afraid.”