A grandmother who has lived in Australia for over 40 years is set to be deported after it was discovered she is in the country illegally.
Her partner at the time told Mary he had acquired permanent visas, but 40 years later, the pensioner now risks being deported at any moment.
In Tweed Heads, Mary is regarded as a local hero for the time she spends volunteering and raising money for The Salvation Army.
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.
However, the Good Samaritan may be forced to return to the UK despite having an Australian driver’s licence, a Medicare card and a pension card.
‘This is my home, I love Australia,’ a teary Mary told A Current Affair on Monday.
Mary Ellis, 74, left London for Australia at the age of 31 in 1981 and has since created a life for herself in NSW’s picturesque Northern Rivers region
She worked in hospitality and for the NSW Government for 30 years, where her visa status went unquestioned by her employers.
Mary has a son, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in Australia.
The grandmother said ‘nobody said anything’ about her visa until she was contacted by the Home Affairs department.
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.
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.
Mary 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
Australia’s Home Affairs department claims Mary did leave Australia under different aliases in February of 1983 and did not return until November of 1986
‘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 was not 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.