ERANGA Tissera and his wife Marian Fernando describe it as one of the most difficult but rewarding decisions they’ve ever made.
The Sri Lankan raised couple had completed their tertiary studies – Mr Tissera in engineering and Ms Fernando in computer science – and started working when they emigrated almost 9000 kilometres away, to Australia.
“Initially it was very hard to leave our parents, immediate families and friends, but the move has paid off,” he said.
“We are better off in Australia and the opportunities are immense here.
“It’s the best decision we ever made – this is the land of gold.”
The family were four of the 180 people from 32 nations who pledged loyalty to their new homeland on Friday, in what was the biggest Australia Day citizenship ceremony in NSW and the largest in Newcastle’s history.
“We feel really privileged,” Mr Tissera said.
“It’s a great honour for me and my family to say we are Australians, we think it’s a remarkable achievement in life.
“This is our home now and it’s a beautiful feeling.”
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said whether those gathered were newly arrived, had resided in the Hunter for a number of years, or lived here all their lives, they were some of the smartest people in the state “not just for becoming Australian citizens, but for choosing the city of Newcastle as your home”.
“It’s a wonderful time to be a Novocastrian,” she said. “The city is going through phenomenal change at the moment and that change is all about improving the quality of life for every single Novocastrian here.”
Australia Day ambassador Peter Gibbs spoke about how his sister’s death in a police cell in Brewarrina in 1997 was the catalyst for the the IPROWD (Indigenous Police Recruitment Our Way Delivery) program.
Mr Tissera said the couple had been speaking from Sri Lanka with Ms Fernando’s Melbourne-based sister when they decided Australia would provide a brighter future for their children, Evan, 4, and Eyan, 18 months.
“We knew Australia would be a better place for children and there were plenty of opportunities for them,” he said.
“The education system here is much more advanced compared to Sri Lanka.
“But even the road network, public transportation, workplaces, the freedom of the press is better.
“You can express yourself without being victimised.
“If you are willing to work hard you can have a beautiful life over here.”
They lived in Adelaide for two years, before moving to Newcastle about three years ago for Mr Tissera’s job at Ampcontrol in Warabrook.
“This city has really good people and a really good culture,” he said.
“We feel very welcome here.
“It’s calm and quiet and a great place for the boys to grow up.
“It’s not hectic or very busy like the big cities, plus we love the beaches – Merewether Beach is our favourite place.”
Canada-raised Corine Travaglini livened up the Australia Day citizenship ceremony by wearing the national flag as a cape to receive her certificate and then waving behind her as she ran along the stage.
“I never quite made it to the Olympics but always thought it would be great to win a gold medal and get to wear a flag,” she said.
“Citizenship of another country is an achievement and quite a privilege.
“I just wanted to show how good I’ve been feeling lately.”
Ms Travaglini even considered yelling ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’.
“But I felt really good just running across the stage – I felt a sense of freedom.”
WHEN Karungu Tubaleke’s father brought home a range of Australia Day merchandise to wear to the family’s citizenship ceremony, he was drawn immediately to the bow tie.
“It looks so cool and is massive,” Karungu, 13, said, after taking extra time on stage to pose playfully for cameras.
He and parents Kabike Karungurungu and Bahati Yozofina left the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003 and spent seven years in a refugee camp in Malawi before they arrived in Australia in 2011.
Mr Karungurungu said the family with nine children already felt Australian at heart, “but this is the final step”.
“We’re feeling good because we are now Australian and we don’t have any doubt,” he said.
“It’s been the best decision for our children’s safety.”
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