Mungindi daycare uncertainty: Only family daycare provider Rebecca Ellison fights for permanent residency

Rebecca Ellison has become an integral member of the Mungindi community. Photo: contributed
Rebecca Ellison has become an integral member of the Mungindi community. Photo: contributed

Mungindi could lose a vital service if one of its valued community members fails in her last-ditch attempt to gain permanent residency in Australia.

Rebecca Ellison has been living in Mungindi since February 2015, when she found herself in the small rural community as a nanny on a working holiday visa from England.

Although she'd always dreamt of one day moving to Australia, Ms Ellison had originally planned to return to the UK after her working holiday.

However, the Mungindi community had other plans.

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"When I was working as a nanny, everyone was saying how desperately they needed a daycare service," she said.

"The local Progress Association had tried to get someone to fill the position, but there hadn't been a daycare service for three years.

"Being qualified [with a Diploma in Childcare and Education and an Honours Degree in Youth Justice], I decided to give it a go."

Rebecca Ellison pictured with some of her family daycare children. Photo: contributed

Rebecca Ellison pictured with some of her family daycare children. Photo: contributed

Ms Ellison opened up the Mungindi Helping Hands Family Daycare - the only daycare service within a 100 kilometre radius - and has "never looked back".

"I fell in love with the town and the people," she said.

"I currently have 13 families on my books and have been fully booked with a waiting list since I opened, so it's really needed.

"This town has no other childcare facilities for children under the age of three and by opening up my daycare I have enabled many parents to return back to work, which is vital, particularly at the moment during this awful drought."

Rebecca Ellison pictured playing with her daycare children. Photo: contributed

Rebecca Ellison pictured playing with her daycare children. Photo: contributed

However, Ms Ellison may be forced to close her business and leave the country if her application for a second ministerial intervention to have her permanent residency bid granted is denied.

With her working holiday visa due to expire and knowing she wanted to stay in Mungindi, Ms Ellison applied for permanent residency three years ago.

However, this was denied through a tribunal hearing in Sydney.

"I went for the 187 regional sponsored visa, and my business sponsored myself," she said.

"I ticked all the right boxes, except the one for daycare centre manager, because we weren't a daycare centre."

Ms Ellison then 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 outcome has left Ms Ellison, her daycare parents and the wider Mungindi community "devastated and highly concerned about what will happen if my much-needed daycare service closes down".

"It would be devastating for the town if I were to close, especially with the drought when people need to work," Ms Ellison said.

"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.

"I am a very active member of this community, I have sponsored local football teams, been part of the last two amateur theatre productions and have been the treasurer for our local Mungindi Show for the past two years having been on the committee for four.

"This comes at a time when the government is trying to encourage workers to regional areas, yet here they have one who has settled, started up a vital business to a farming community and pays tax and they are stating it is not in the public's interest to intervene?"

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.

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.

Mr Coulton said the Department of Home Affairs assess all ministerial intervention requests against the Minister's guidelines and that cases which involve compassionate, unique or exceptional circumstances will be progressed to the Minister for consideration. However, he said decisions to intervene are made on a case-by-case basis.

"I have acted on Ms Ellison's behalf to put forward her case at a federal level, however there is a process that must be followed for all such immigration requests," Mr Coulton said.

"Ms Ellison has my support for a ministerial intervention, and I'm confident that it will be given appropriate consideration.

"Ms Ellison will be able to remain in Australia while her case is being considered."

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.

"I'd be devastated if I had to go. Mungindi is a place I call home now and I would be deeply saddened to have to say goodbye to the community, my parents and children and friends I have made."