A FAMILY of five who fled persecution in Burma will become citizens for the first time at the Bendigo Town Hall on Australia Day.
Ghay Moo Moo, who waited in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border for 17 years to be resettled, said he would be proud to finally be a citizen of a country.
"My family and I have never been citizens of any country," he said.
"We are Karen, so Burma does not recognise us as citizens."
Mr Moo met his wife Paw Paw Nway, who had been in the camp since 1986, when they attended school together as children in the Mae La refugee camp.
Their three children - Ta Na, Hser Nay Ta, Moo Ler Bwe - were all born in the camp.
Mr Moo says living in the Mae La camp felt like being a bird in a cage.
"You are not allowed to leave," he said.
"Because it is not safe.
"We were fenced in.
"We applied three times to come to Australia and were rejected.
"On the fourth attempt we were accepted, on January 28 2009 we came to here.
"We chose Australia because it has good policies and treats its citizens well.
"We flew to Melbourne from Bangkok.
"People are often shocked when I say we flew here.
"They think we came by boat."
Mr Moo said Australia meant freedom to his family.
"Everyone is treated equally," he said.
"I love everything about Bendigo except the weather.
"It's so hot but also gets cold."
Mr Moo says his family will finally be able to apply for passports and able to travel.
Paw Paw Nway Moo said she was excited to finally become a citizen.
The Moo Family will join 65 other people from Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Fiji, Sudan, Nigeria, UK, Iran, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, India, Egypt, South Africa, China and Philippines who will become Australian citizens at a special ceremony in the Bendigo Town Hall.
City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Cr Barry Lyons said he believed the 70-plus new citizens was a record for the local ceremony.