Citizenship ceremony in Bendigo welcomes new Australians Down Under

Australian citizenship means different things to different people. 

For Kwa Katu Soe, a citizenship ceremony inside Bendigo’s town hall on Monday night was the culmination of six years in Australia as a refugee. 

It is the first time the Karen man has held any country’s citizenship, and he described the occasion as a happy one. 

Twenty-six people from Bangladesh, Myanmar, South Africa, New Zealand Russia, Slovenia, Pakistan, Vietnam, United Kingdom and Malaysia took the citizenship pledge on Monday.

Husband-wife duo Keith and Olga Davenport were glad their entire family would now travel with Australian passports. 

They described the clan as “like the United Nations”: the pair’s children, Lauren and James, were born in Australia, Olga is Russian by birth and Keith originates from the United Kingdom.

Since arriving in Bendigo, Ms Davenport has devoted herself to fundraising for her children’s kindergarten. 

“I really want to help out the community,” she said.

Guest speaker and citizen of the year Garth Keech emphasised volunteering as an important part of the Australian way of life, as did Inner Wheel president Marlene Sullivan, who handed out native plants to each new person.

“You hope they live here, get involved and retire here,” she said.

Friends and family watched on as their loved one’s affirmed their commitment to Australia. TAFE teacher Dale Cousins knew several of those taking the pledge, having taught them English. 

“It’s pretty special for them,” Mr Cousins said.