Thousands petition to allow Riverina woman to stay
A groundswell of support is growing for the Catholic founder of Virtue Ministry, Stina Constantine, who is fighting deportation after nearly 20 years living in Australia.
Ms Constantine, 30, leads a team of speakers who run workshops and presentations for students about healthy relationships, cultivating the virtues, and Christian spirituality.
She is also a social worker with Country Hope, an organisation that supports families with children suffering cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.
Last year she represented her city as Miss Wagga Wagga, winning the title in 2019.
The young Catholic adult spent most of her life in Australia and completed high school in Wagga Wagga.
“this is a simple fix but it’s all out of my control. I’m trying to…surrender it to God” – Stina Constantine
Her family then returned home to Norway, but after staying in the northern European country for almost a year she decided to make her permanent home Down Under.
She says an administrative error by her education institution, which has since been corrected, is to blame for the deportation ruling and hopes Mr Hawke will exercise his powers of ministerial intervention and allow her to stay in the country she loves. Backing her cause are community leaders including the local MP, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who would like her to stay and continue her valuable work in the region which is desperately short of social workers.
More than 10,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to ask Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke to grant her a visa and Australian citizenship. She has also applied to the Federal Court to appeal the ruling, with supporters raising more than $15,000 to pay court costs and legal fees.
Ms Constantine said the original date given as the completion date at the education institution where she studied her Masters of Social Work made it appear as though Ms Constantine had not complied with visa requirements.
After asking for the error to be remedied, the institution provided a letter stating the correct date of the completion of her course, but she received a letter last December from the Department of Immigration stating that the original ruling would still stand and she had 30 days to leave the country.
A co-worker told the media he was “absolutely shattered” about her predicament, while friends have flooded her Facebook page with messages of support for weeks.
“It was hard to take because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Stina said. “It was caused by a human error that anyone could do and this is a simple fix but it’s all out of my control.
“But I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to surrender it to God and allow whatever he’s ordained to unfold.”
Despite an urgent lack of social workers in the region, the ruling puts a black mark on her record which Ms Constantine said would put her ability to gain a visa to live and work in Australia virtually out of reach.
“I did go back to Norway for almost a year and tried to spend that time discerning where God wanted me to be,” she said. “Ultimately I felt pulled back to Australia, this is my home and where I belong.” She said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the support of so many. “It’s unbelievable because I don’t know that many people, but I am grateful to anyone who wishes to support my petition for ministerial intervention,” she said.