Young woman faces deportation despite living half of her life in Australia

Maria Duminica, 20, first arrived in Australia from Romania when she was 10. If she's forced to leave now she fears being 'homeless' in a foreign land.

Romanian-born Sydney woman Maria Dumenica, who is facing deportation after 10 years.
Maria Dumenica, 20, has called Australia home since she was just a 10-year-old but is now facing deportation. Source: 9News

A "genuinely outstanding" Sydney woman who has been forced to overcome extremely challenging circumstances while living on her own since she was a teen, may soon face deportation from Australia despite living here for more than half of her life.

Maria Duminica, 20, first arrived in the country when she was just 10 years old, with her Romanian-born mother and her Australia-born stepfather. Upon arrival in Sydney, the family settled into life and Duminica's mother soon married her stepfather and applied for a partner visa, with her daughter as a secondary applicant.

While Duminca remembers her early years in Australia fondly, particularly noting how friendly the people seemed to be, she said her family life deteriorated to the point she was no longer able to continue living with her parents. The tumultuous period continued for "years and years" until eventually, at aged just 16, she left her parents for good, she told Nine News.

Duminica first stayed with friends and then moved to temporary crisis accommodation. Some time later, she moved into a youth refuge service for young people who are homeless — Stepping Stone House at Dulwich Hill, located in Sydney's Inner West. It seemed like things were stabilising for the young immigrant, until just a few weeks before her 18th birthday, her future was plunged into doubt.

Romanian-born Sydney woman Maria Dumenica, who is facing deportation after 10 years.
Maria Dumenica's lawyers are calling on Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to intervene in her case. Source: 9News

Duminica's mother, who was still waiting on the approval of her partner visa some seven years later, had taken her daughter's name off her application as a dependent, subsequently cancelling Duminica's bridging visa — a fact she was not aware of for a month.

"The department didn't even notify me, it was my solicitor at the time, she did a visa check," Duminica told Nine News. "I was very scared. I was kind of in shock as well because I didn't know what steps I could take to fix that."

Dumenica realised she was not eligible for a student visa and was advised to apply for a protection visa, though that was refused in September 2022. A bid to appeal the decision at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) was also unsuccessful.

Then, in a rare move, the tribunal member overseeing Duminica's appeal said she could meet the special circumstances required for a ministerial intervention, and referred the case to Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles's office in June last year.

She's been waiting to hear back ever since. "I really don't feel like Romania is my home country," she said.

"I don't know anyone in Romania and I don't know how to speak the language. I don't have any connections there. If I do have to go back, I will be a young woman on the streets. I will be homeless."

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra.
A spokesperson for Minister Giles said the office was aware and looking into Duminica's case. Source: Getty

Now living independently and working in the hospitality sector, Dumenica said she's struggling with day-to-day life, not knowing what her future will bring. "There are things I can't even plan for, like getting a car. If I spend the money on a car, and I get sent back, that's money gone," she said.

"I was looking at living with a friend but I'm scared to get a place and sign a six-month contract.

A spokesperson for Minister Giles told Nine News the office was aware and looking into Duminica's case. Yahoo News Australia has also contacted Giles' office for comment.

Stepping Stone House CEO Jason Juretic told Nine Duminica was a "genuinely outstanding" young woman and called for her to be allowed to stay in the country.

While Duminca's lawyer implored the government to take into account her "unique" circumstances when casting a decision on whether she can stay in the country, recent data has suggested Australians are souring on the recently elevated levels of overseas immigration.

Almost one in two people believe there are too many migrants moving to Australia, even though the vast majority of Australians believe cultural diversity is a boon for the nation.

A new poll released last week by the Lowy Institute on Australian attitudes revealed 48 per cent of respondents said the total number of migrants coming to the country each year was too high.

This result was only a slight increase from the last time it was asked in 2019 and remains 6 percentage points lower than its 2018 peak, but it still reflects an 11 point rise since 2014 – months after the Coalition government launched its infamous Stop the Boats campaign.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.