New Australians granted citizenship in emotional Bendigo ceremony

Bendigo residents granted Australian citizenship this weekend have said they value the quality of life available to them inside their adoptive home country.   

The opulent interior of Bendigo’s town hall was the setting for the hour-long event, the fourth to be held in the central Victorian city during 2016.

Bendigo has conducted ceremonies for 229 migrants this year, 48 of whom were in attendance on Saturday.  

Those welcomed were from India, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Belgium, England, New Zealand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Myanmar. 

Kanishka and Siranji Kumarasinghe, who accepted their certificates of citizenship this weekend, moved from the Sri Lankan city of Kandy in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

“We’ve been trying to get this (citizenship) for years,” Mr Kumarasinghe said. 

“We only knew distant relations when we came, so it was basically just ourselves.”

The pair have since established careers in the cleaning and hospitality industries and are expecting their first child in April next year.

Also among the day’s citizenship recipients was English-born woman Jo Hanson.

After meeting her Australian husband in Paris, she migrated down under and began working for the Victorian education department.  

“I love it,” Ms Hanson said. “It feels like home.”  

After the official proceedings, her father-in-law, who had watched on from the audience, said: “She’s a fair dinkum Aussie now.” 

We only knew distant relations when we came, so it was basically just ourselves. - Kanishka and Siranji Kumarasinghe

Inner Wheel Bendigo president Marlene Sullivan, whose community organisation presents each new citizen with a native Australian plant, said the ceremonies were always emotional.

“They are always very positive, very happy,” she said.

“It is an opportunity to meet new citizens and provide them with a symbol of that welcome.

“Things like that are important rituals, especially for many of the people who come here.”

In her nine years attending citizenship ceremonies, she had seen the number of participants at each event grow to between 50 and 60. 

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