Roma opens the door for 16 new citizens
DUNHILL Abriol has been living and working in Australia for nearly 14 years, and after a year-long process, he and his family have been welcomed among the 16 new Australians citizens calling the Maranoa home.
Dunhill, wife Arien and son Kin, all hail originally from Mindanao in the Philippines, and on Wednesday night were conferred as citizens by Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder.
"We have been in the process of applying for our visa for about a year now,” Mrs Abriol said.
"We are very grateful to be here tonight and to finally be Australian citizens.”
Kin, who is in Year 10 at St John's Roma, said after so long, it was a great feeling to be able to hold the certificate.
Friends Bill Reardon and Matt Taylor were there supporting their mate.
"We've been friends since Year 3,” they said.
"We're pretty happy that this has all worked out for them.”
Mr Dunhill, who works on a cattle station near Surat, said living in Roma was a very different experience to that of living in his native Philippines, but he wouldn't change it.
Cr Golder said Wednesday's ceremony was one of the biggest the council had hosted in a number of years.
"Last year, we had one ceremony with just one citizen,” he said.
"It all really depends on what the department and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alex Hawke, sends us through.
"It's really good to see so many people come from so many different places and decide to settle in the Maranoa.
"It's encouraging to see so much diversity.”
Rex Cabulay first moved to Australia 12 years ago from Mindanao, and has cemented himself as an integral part of the Maranoa through his work at council.
"It's so great to be here tonight and to be recognised as a citizen,” Mr Cabulay said.
Cr Golder congratulated Mr Cabulay, labelling him a true asset to the region.
"He actually looks after the facility we're standing in now,” the mayor said.
Jen Free first made her move from rural Canada, near Toronto to Roma in 2008 to attend teachers college.
"I met Brenden in 2011, and haven't looked back,” she said.
"Having gotten married and now we have two children, it means a lot to me to have the same citizenship as my children.
"My dad came out from Canada to visit us, and it just so happened to coincide with the ceremony.
"Roma surely is very different to where I'm from in Canada in terms of the weather, dad won't come in December anymore, but I've come from a rural background, so it's not that big a change.
"I'm really happy to be here and to finally be called an Australian citizen.”
Portfolio Chair for Development, councillor Wendy Newman, said it was encouraging to welcome people from so many diverse backgrounds, and to challenge a common misconception of rural Queensland.
"If you look around, we are a very diverse region,” Cr Newman said.
"We are welcoming people from so many different places tonight, and we are lucky as a community to have these people to enrich the Maranoa.”
Cr Newman challenged the new citizens with one final test before they left.
"Aussie Aussie Aussie,” she shouted.
"Oi, oi, oi,” they shouted back.