A charity-loving British grandmother is facing deportation from Australia after officials told her she had been illegally living in the country for more than four decades.
Mary Ellis, 74, says she was told by her now deceased partner Martin Ellis they had permanent visas when they left London in 1981 to start a new life in the picturesque Northern Rivers region in New South Wales.
But the Home Affairs department claims she entered the country three times under a different name and the man she entered the country with was in fact called Trevor Warren.
She has lived peacefully in Australia for more than 40 years where she has a son, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren and is seen as local hero for her charity and volunteering work for The Salvation Army.
The grandmother said ‘nobody said anything’ about her visa with her status going unquestioned during her time working in hospitality and for the NSW Government for 30 years.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981 and has since created a life for herself in New South Wale’s picturesque Northern Rivers region
Australia’s Home Affairs department claims Mary (pictured with her lawyer Stanley Schneider) did leave Australia under different aliases in February of 1983 and did not return until November of 1986
The Good Samaritan now may be forced to return to the UK despite having an Australian driver’s licence, a Medicare card and a pension card.
She was awarded the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, which provides hot meals for the homeless.
‘This is my home, I love Australia,’ a teary Mary told A Current Affair on Monday.
The pensioner was asked to visit the Brisbane office, where she was told she had been living in Australia illegally for more than four decades.
‘She knows not a soul over there [in England], not a soul,’ migration agent Stanley Schneider said.
‘She’s always paid her taxes, she hasn’t even had a speeding ticket, she’s never infringed anything, she’s never offended anyone.’
Mr Schneider, who is helping Mary pro bono, said the pensioner qualifies as an ‘absorbed person’ under the Migration Act 1958.
To be recognised for an absorbed person visa, a non-citizen must have been in Australia from April 2, 1984, and have never left the country on or after that date.
She was awarded the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year in 2023 for her work for Agape Outreach, who provide hot meals to those in need
Mary says she has never left Australia, not even for a 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 real identity of the now-deceased man she was in a de facto relationship with at the time, Martin Ellis, was actually Trevor Warren.
‘As you were not in Australia on 02/04/1984, you are not considered an absorbed person and do not hold an Absorbed Persons Visa,’ the letter states.
However, Mary insists this is ‘wrong’ and says she doesn’t know why Home Affairs believes she has left and re-entered Australia under different aliases.
She has documents she claims prove she was in Australia at those times, including a job reference from a restaurant in Tasmania.
It states Mary worked there from 1983 to 1986 as a waitress and cashier.
A successful Medicare enrolment letter signed by the then-Minister of Health, Neal Blewett, is also being used to argue Mary’s case.
Mr Schneider says she would not have been sent the letter if she had not been living in Australia at the time.
‘Mary Ellis is a decent person, a person we should be absolutely thrilled to have in Australia, and she’s an Australian, let’s face it,’ he said.