Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers says he has been “working around the clock” to prevent the deportation of a foreign teacher working in his south-east Queensland electorate.
- Asako ‘Digi’ Ono has lived in Australia on a visa for 16 years
- Ms Ono’s bid to stay in Australia has attracted the support of her community and people across the country
- The ABC has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment
Asako ‘Digi’ Ono has taught at Marsden State High School south of Brisbane for the past three years after moving from Japan in high school in 2007 to play rugby union.
An application for a new visa is before the Department of Home Affairs to let Ms Ono stay in the country beyond her bridging visa, which is due to expire on Wednesday.
Mr Chalmers said Ms Ono was a beloved resident of his electorate of Rankin.
“She’s a legend in our community,” Mr Chalmers said.
In her past 16 years in the country, Ms Ono has played for the Queensland Reds and was selected as a squad member of the Australian rugby union women’s team, the Wallaroos.
She also coaches and mentors the next generation of female rugby union players and volunteers at youth development programs and as a surf lifesaver, but her future in the country is uncertain.
“Ideally, we would have found a way to be involved earlier than now — it’s quite late in the piece, which is personally worrying to me,” Mr Chalmers said.
“Locally, my electorate office has been talking with the department to see if anything can be done.
Ms Ono’s bid to live in Australia has attracted the support of her community and people across the country.
An online fundraiser that started six days ago has received $20,000 from more than 200 donors.
“Without this community helping with this page I wouldn’t have thought about this fight because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Ms Ono said.
Ms Ono used some of the money to pay for a specialist immigration lawyer, after spending $20,000 of her and her family’s money in failed attempts to secure residency.
“It’s so evident that I should have asked for help earlier,” Ms Ono said.
“I thought I knew all the things I needed to know but now it’s quite evident that I should have got professional help a long time ago.”
Ms Ono completed two university degrees in Australia and has taught high school students for the past five years.
‘Kids are actually putting money in’
Friend and fundraiser organizer Glenn Azar said seeing Ms Ono leave would be a huge loss to the country.
“It’s very clichéd but she’s honestly probably the most amazing human that I’ve ever met,” Mr Azar said.
“She’s easily one of the most popular teachers. I think it’s because she gives so much of her time.
“I don’t remember ever feeling this about school teachers, but kids are actually putting money in.”
Mr Azar said the success of the Biloela Tamil family gave him hope for Ms Ono’s case.
“Hopefully, with this change of government, we’ve got a fresh set of eyes, we’ve got someone [who] says: ‘We’re willing to look outside the box and look at this as an individual case’,” he said.
Equipped with a new lawyer funded by the community, Ms Ono is preparing for a long road ahead.
“Today I was walking through school and so many kids were saying hi to me and, ‘You’re not going anywhere’,” she said.
“Emotional roller coaster is the definition of me right now.”
The ABC has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment.