Ninety people have become Australian citizens after taking part in a ceremony at Shepparton.JOHN LEWIS April 9, 2014 3:55am
Shepparton’s Eastbank Centre echoed to the trilling voices of Africa and shouts of ‘‘Go Australia, go’’ yesterday morning as new Australian citizens were welcomed in the first of three ceremonies to be held across two days.
Ninety new citizens took the oath of Australian citizenship, before accepting certificates and being welcomed by City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan.
Shepparton’s newest Australian citizens come from 16 countries — Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Fiji, India, Philippines, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Albania, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Sudan, China, Pakistan, Egypt and Thailand.
Cr Houlihan said citizenship ceremonies were held about every two months, and were always treated as a day of great importance by those taking part.
‘‘You can see by the way people dress that it’s a special day for them,’’ she said.
Among those taking the pledge of loyalty to Australia yesterday were Nickel Mundabi and his wife Gertrude.
The couple arrived in Australia in 2009 with two children Jesmira, 8, and Christian 6.
They now have a 20-month-old son, Jovhani — born in Australia.
‘‘It’s a big day for us. I feel very good. To become Australian means I am free,’’ Mr Mundabi said.
A painter and wood carver, Mr Mundabi said he was forced to flee civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He spent eight years as a refugee in Cameroon before arriving in Australia.
‘‘I feel free to participate here — and free to vote,’’ he said.
Also becoming Australian citizens yesterday were cousins Ranbir and Harpreet Singh, who work in Shepparton as car mechanics, and bus driver Harmeet Singh — all from Punjab in north India.
‘‘Everyone here is so friendly, it is very multicultural. Australia is a great place to be,’’ Harmeet said.
Children are believed to still be on a bus that was involved in a crash on Benalla Rd in Shepparton this afternoon.
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