FDC educator in small country town fights to stay in Australia and continue giving care

by Freya Lucas

January 10

Mungindi is a small country town straddling the New South Wales/Queensland border. At last count, just over 600 residents lived on the NSW side of the town, and close to 150 on the QLD side. It’s the place UK national Rebecca Ellison has called home since 2015.

 

Mungindi is also a town in danger of losing a vital childcare service if Ms Ellison’s appeal for permanent residency is again rejected. 

 

Having been introduced to the area when she gained a position as a nanny while on a working holiday, the Mungindi community made it clear to Ms Ellison that they “desperately needed a daycare service”, local news source The Moree Champion reported

 

“The local Progress Association had tried to get someone to fill the position, but there hadn’t been a daycare service for three years” she said. Holding the relevant qualifications, Ms Ellison decided to establish a family day care service, and thus Mungindi Helping Hands Family Daycare – the only daycare service within a 100 kilometre radius – was born.

 

There are currently 13 families enrolled in the service, which has full utilisation and a waiting list, demonstrating the need for care for children under the age of three in the town. However, the service may be forced to close should Ms Ellison’s second application for ministerial intervention to have her permanent residency bid granted be denied.

 

Ms Ellison first applied for permanent residency three years ago, The Moree Champion said, but this was denied at a tribunal hearing. She then pursued the 187 regional sponsored visa, with the family day care business as sponsor.

 

“I ticked all the right boxes, except the one for daycare centre manager, because we weren’t a daycare centre” Ms Ellison said. Undeterred, she applied for ministerial intervention and after 16 months of waiting, she received a letter in December from Immigration Minister David Coleman who declined to intervene because it “would not be in the public interest”.

 

This, she said, has left all involved “devastated and highly concerned about what will happen if my much-needed daycare service closes down”.

 

“This town cannot afford to lose any services during this tough time; me closing will have a massive knock-on effect on this community. Many of my parents will no longer be able to work, including farmers, teachers, and hospital staff” she told The Moree Champion. 

 

Ms Ellison has received an outpouring of support from the Mungindi community, with many writing letters backing her. She has also received support from Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Moree Plains Shire Councillor Sue Price, the paper said. 

 

Ms Ellison is currently in the process of applying for a second ministerial intervention – her last chance at being able to stay – and has started a petition on change.org to support her case.

 

If her request for ministerial intervention is again unsuccessful, Ms Ellison will be expected to leave Australia as soon as possible. In the meantime, she has had to book a flight out of the country to prove she would leave if her application is denied, and is having to renew her bridging visa every month. While on a bridging visa she’s unable to leave the country, which means she hasn’t even been able to return home to the UK in the three years since the process began.

 

“It’s been a long process … but it just proves how much I want to be here,” Ms Ellison said.

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