Bendigo's newest citizens

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THE Town Hall was filled with balloons, big smiles and lots of happy faces this Australia Day as Bendigo welcomed more than 70 new citizens.

A record number of 73 people from Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Fiji, Sudan, Nigeria, UK, Iran, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, India, Egypt, South Africa, China and the Philippines made their pledges at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of Australian citizenship.

Since the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into effect more than four and a half million people have made the decision to become Australian citizens.

As 73 more people joined them in Bendigo, there was an eruption of applause from friends and family before each new citizen was presented with a certificate confirming their place in the family of the nation.

City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons, who conducted the ceremony, said it was the most important day of the year.

“It is an absolute pleasure for me to see them become Aussie citizens,” he said.

“You see the twinkle in their eye when you give them the certificate.

You see the twinkle in their eye when you give them the certificate - Mayor Barry Lyons

“Today is a very special occasion because there are over 70 people. I know a lot of the people today. I went to the Karen New Year and some of them are here; and most people have been in the town for two or three years and you run into them.

 “It really makes you feel good to see them today.

“They all walk out of here Aussies.”

Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said it was a day to "recognise our journey as individuals, a community and as a nation".

“It is a chance to celebrate and share our stories,” said Ms Chesters.

“I love the stories of the journeys people have made to come here, some of them are heart breaking.

“This is the final stage on that long journey.

“It is wonderful to share that with them.

“Sometimes there is not a lot to be excited about in politics over immigration; today is one of those good days.”

Councillor Rod Fyffe said it was an "utterly important day".

“It is important because it shows that Australia is open and embraces all people and religions; and because so many people want to be Australian.

“They have come into our community and want to be an official part of that community.

“It is terrific to see so many nationalities all contributing to the fabric of our society.”

As part of the ceremony, the Inner Wheel Club of Bendigo presented each new citizen with a native plant.

The day concluded with an affirmation ceremony for everyone to affirm their loyalty and commitment to Australia and its people, followed by a resounding chorus of the national anthem.

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