A British grandmother who has been living in Australia for over 40 years is set to be deported after government officials claim that she was staying in the country illegally.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London in 1981 to travel to Australia, where she has since settled in Northern Rivers, New South Wales.
Ellis, who was 31 when she departed the UK, has since become a highly-respected figure in the community and is well-known for her volunteer work.
However, now the Australian government is threatening to kick the 74-year-old out, claiming that she is not who she says she is.
Mary Ellis, a well-respected member of her community who is known for her volunteer work, is facing deportation from Australia
Home Affairs officials state that Ellis left and then re-entered Australia under different aliases on separate occasions, claims she has denied.
“This is my home, I love Australia,” a teary Mary told local news outlets on Monday.
“I have a Driver’s Licence, ID card, Medicare Card, and Pension card. Everything Australians have.
“I thought well, I’m a permanent resident. You know, I carry on doing my daily – what I do every day. Nobody said anything.”
Just last year, Ellis was given the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year award, after she assisted a charity in providing hot meals for the homeless.
After a stint in hospitality, the 74-year-old began to work for the NSW government, where she stayed for over 30 years.
She was not aware that anything was wrong with her visa until the Home Affairs department contacted her.
Ellis was told that she had been absent from Australia between February 1983 and November 1986, however, she has disputed this, saying she has never left Australia since she first arrived in 1981.
Migration agent Stanley Schneider, who is assisting Ellis with her case, said that she qualifies as an “absorbed person” under the Migration Act 1986.
Ellis has established a life for herself in Tweed Heads, New South Wales
To qualify, a non-citizen must have been in Australia from April 2, 1984 and never have left since.
Schneider said: “She knows not a soul over there [in England], not a soul.
“She’s always paid her taxes, she hasn’t even had a speeding ticket, she’s never infringed anything, she’s never offended anyone.”
Ellis said she has documents to prove she has never left, including documents from her former employer.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said it did not comment on individual cases.
“People who do not have the right to remain in Australia are expected to depart,” a government spokesperson said.
“Individuals who provide incorrect information may be liable to have their visa cancelled under the provisions of the Migration Act.”