A London-born grandmother faces being deported from Australia after living there for more than 40 years as officials claim she lived there illegally.
Mary Ellis, 74, arrived in Australia from London in 1981 and has since become a well-known figure in the community in New South Wales’s Northern Rivers region.
She said her then-partner told her he acquired permanent residency visas for them both - which she discovered to her shock was not true decades later.
In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network, she said: “I have a Driver's Licence, ID card, Medicare Card, 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."ï»¿
The discovery came when the pensioner was asked to visit the Brisbane office of the Home Affairs department, where she was told she had been living in Australia illegally.
The grandmother worked in hospitality and then for the New South Wales government for 30 years.
She now has a reputation as a community volunteer with the Salvation Army, and was awarded the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year last year for her work for Agape Outreach, which provides hot meals for the homeless.
Supporters have called on the Government to allow her to stay. Migration agent Stanley Schneider, who has taken up her case, 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.”
He added: “Mary Ellis is a decent person. A person we should be absolutely thrilled to have in Australia.”
He has urged officials to recognise Ms Ellis as an “absorbed person”, which under Australian law would allow her to stay if she was in Australia from April 2, 1984, and had not left the country.
Ms Ellis said this was true for her, and that she had not left since 1981.
But in letters seen by Nine’s A Current Agenda show, government officials claim she left the country three times under different aliases - which she denies.
She said she had documents to prove she was in the country during that time frame, including a reference from a restaurant and a healthcare enrolment letter.
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.”