The Sim family are staying in Narromine.
For the past few years the very real threat of deportation has hung over family’s heads, after it was discovered Geoff was in Australia illegally due to a technicality.
But about six weeks ago, the family of five got the news they had been waiting for; Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had intervened in their case and they were now permanent residents of Australia.
Geoff Sim said the stress of the situation had made it hard for he and his wife May to sleep at night, and they could finally think about their future.
“I feel different,” he said.
“Before you were hard, stressed and didn’t know what to do, nobody can help, can’t really sleep.
“But now you can think about the future, what we’re going to get, what we’re going to do, maybe try to do some more business.
“Now I just think about how I get a new house or start to prepare to get my son to high school in two more years.”
Mr Sim has lived in Australia for half his life, and has spent about seven years in Narromine.
But a technicality called the family’s right to live in Australia into question, and they came terrifyingly close to having to leave the country.
“We were withing a couple of months of them having to leave and it would have been absolutely devastating for the children – they’re obviously Aussies, they were born here,” said Parkes MP Mark Coulton, who took the Sim’s plight to Minister Dutton.
He said the desire of the community was clear; the Sims belonged in Narromine.
“I don’t know that I would have been game to come back to Narromine if the Sim family had have been asked to leave by the government,” he said.
“I received a lot of support for the family from various sectors in this town; some of them actually came to Dubbo and met with me in my office about their support for the Sim family.
“Narromine’s a great pace to live and the Sim family realise that, and the community understand what they had and they didn't wanna let them go.
“They’re very much loved, well-regarded, they’re great contributors to the local community … it would have been no justice anywhere for them to have to leave.”
Communities for Children co-ordinator Ann-Louise Stonestreet also played a pivotal role in arguing the Sim family’s case.
She helped them with paperwork, and orchestrated a petition lobbying Minister Dutton to let the Sims stay.
“They bring so much to the town,” she said.
“To have the community coming around them and say ‘no, they’re Aussies like us’ and the support they gave them because they were very valued and respected in the community.
“I was really thrilled that so many across the community supported them – not just one sector, it was across the community.”
She said families like the Sims were crucial in paving the way for other migrants in Australian country towns.
“We don’t have a huge variety of cultural and linguistically diverse people in Narromine, and if we’re going to start getting some migrants from overseas … we need the community to open up.”
The news also meant Geoff was finally able to travel back to Malaysia to visit his mother, without facing the risk of being unable to re-enter Australia.
“I went back to Malaysia two weeks ago and I give my mum surprise and all my sisters they feel shocked,” he said.