Eight people were officially welcomed as new Australian citizens at the Australia Day community celebration at Littleton Gardens in Bega on January 26.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said it was his honour to welcome these new citizens to our proud Australian nation and to share with them the long history of this country.
"Australia has succeeded as a nation by embracing and defending our national values. We believe in freedom and the rule of the law, democracy, and we believe that all people are equal regardless of their cultural background, gender, race, or religion," he said.
The eight new citizens took the Australian Citizen Pledge and were awarded with their certificates and presented with a native Australian plant.
The new Australian citizens were Nils Bentsen, Gemma Grealy, Barbara Keogh, Rhys Tamatea, Marcin Janek-Morys, Monika Morys, Alan Hepburn, and Elizabeth Hepburn.
Bega District News took the opportunity to speak to some of the new citizens about their journey to Australia and what it meant for them to be patriated into Australian society.
Marcin Janek-Morys and Monika Morys were originally from Poland. They came to Australia in 2017 after seeking a change of pace in life.
The couple loved the Australian natural environment and wanted to settle in Australia for its better balance between work and personal life.
When they arrived in Australia they worked on organic farms with WWOOF for two years and visited the Bega Valley three times before deciding they wanted to stay.
They now live on a property in Brogo and grow a lot of their own vegetables.
Barbara Keogh moved to Australia from Germany 37 years ago.
She first lived in Sydney before moving to the Bega Valley and purchasing land.
Ms Keogh said the COVID pandemic was what made her want to receive her citizenship after so many years. She said witnessing how difficult it was for non-citizens to return to Australia over the past two years made her want to cement herself as a citizen.
She and her husband have children and grandchildren in Australia and so the idea of not being able to return if she had of left during the pandemic was difficult.
As a German, only one citizenship is permitted so the decision to instead take on Australian citizenship had to be well thought-through.
Rhys Tamatea first visited Australia from New Zealand in 1980 for a holiday and said after that it was clear he wanted to stay.
He was living in Gilgandra, north of Dubbo, before he decided he wanted to find somewhere nice to retire to and so was able to transfer his work to the Bega Valley.
He moved to the area in 2007 and has loved living here ever since.
Many of his family members including his mother, brother, and sister also moved to Australia.
He now also has a bunch of lovely grandkids to keep him on his feet.
Alan and Elizabeth Hepburn were originally from Edinburgh in Scotland but came over to Nelsons Beach in Shoalhaven to get married.
They had wanted to move to Australia for some time, but were unable to secure a visa and so instead would come to Australia for three months at a time before heading back home.
They loved the Bega Valley so much they would have the Bega District Newspaper sent to Scotland.
They remembered when there was an editorial piece that said the paper now had international readership and laughed when they realised it was them.
A business visa was finally granted when they invested in a business called Tanja Lagoon Camp (a self-contained glamping experience in Tanja) with a younger couple who ran the business.
Mr and Ms Hepburn offered business advice and although the business has been managed mostly by the younger couple in the last few years, Ms Hepburn is still an active director.
It took them eight years and a number of different visas before they were finally able to gain citizenship.
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