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Meet some Geraldton locals becoming citizens on Australia Day

There are plenty of reasons to become an Australian. Some do it for love, others for work, or simply because they like the look of the place. At this year’s City of Greater Geraldton’s Australia Day citizenship ceremony, 32 locals will be making it official.

The citizenship ceremony will take place on the main stage at Stow Gardens from 3pm on Wednesday, followed by a traditional smoking ceremony, and live music.

“Definitely bring the picnic blanket and some good company while getting a bite to eat at this chilled-out event,” mayor Shane Van Styn said.

The Guardian met four of the 32 becoming citizens this week, to gain insight into their path to becoming an Aussie.

Arun Kurup
Camera IconArun Kurup Credit: Edward Scown

Arun Kurup

Mr Kurup’s journey to becoming Australian was kickstarted by a friend but Australia wasn’t always the the goal.

“I was flying from Bangalore to Mumbai and I’d had a bad client meeting. I called my friend in the US and told him about it and (that) I was thinking about moving away. I felt like I’d just spent too long in one place,” he said.

“We spoke about Australia but I originally planned to go the US. By the time I landed I got a phone call saying my friend had already put a deposit down for me and started the process to move to Australia.”

Kurup had a good job in India as an IT consultant for a large multinational accounting firm. He’d seen opportunities to continue with the company in the US or Canada but, put simply, “it’s too cold.”

The warm weather wasn’t why he decided to stay. He said he was won over by the warmth of the Australian people.

“When I arrived in Sydney the immigration officer told me ‘you’ll love it here, you’ll be here forever.’ I’d never had an immigration officer talk like that, with a warmth. It made me feel very welcome. I’ll never forget that,” he said.

“Some Indians I knew had fear that Australia was a bit racist but I don’t remember a time I’ve ever faced racism. You never feel that this isn’t a place where you belong.”

“I’m Indian by heart, Australian by soul.”

Lynsey Allen.
Camera IconLynsey Allen. Credit: Edward Scown

Lynsey Allen

“I travelled Europe and Canada back in the day and I always wanted to come to Australia.”

Ms Allen came to Australia from England as a backpacker in 2009 and never left.

She travelled up and down the east coast and made friends with a few fellow backpackers who helped her find work in Geraldton with then nightclub owner and now mayor Shane Van Styn.

“They said they knew some people ‘just north of Perth’, they never said it was five hours away,” she said.

She said taking up Australian citizenship was never a priority. She’d secured a permanent residency visa and met her partner. But travel restrictions made the decision an easy one.

Meghan Heller
Camera IconMeghan Heller Credit: Edward Scown

Meghan Heller

The Texas native met her Geraldton-born partner while he was a travelling musician in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I was a photographer and I was going to a lot of live music gigs. We knew each other for a year or so before we got together,” she recalled.

The pair moved to Australia in 2014 and had two children — who now hold dual Australian and US citizenship. Ms Heller said it took years before she started to feel at home but she was immediately taken with the beauty of our towns.

“The first thing that stood out was the beauty. Especially in WA. All the neighbourhoods here are so nice. There’s trees and grass, they have to be set up with a certain about of green space,” she said.

“I was driving around looking for a rental and every neighbourhood I went to I thought, ‘this is fantastic’.”

While she will retain her US citizenship, Ms Heller said Australian citizenship would make her feel certain in her place in her new home country.

“Becoming a citizen makes me feel like I belong here, and feel safer with my family.”

Maria Weston.
Camera IconMaria Weston. Credit: Edward Scown

Maria Weston

Ms Weston was brought to Australia through the power of social media.

She met her husband on Facebook while living in the Philippines in 2013. A year later they moved to Geraldton together.

Ms Weston said she applied for citizenship soon after getting settled in Australia but the process took a back seat while she cared for her husband, who had fallen seriously ill.

Now with the time to sort the paperwork out, she said she’s glad to become officially Australian after eight years of enjoying Australian nature.

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