CIVIL war in Sri Lanka forced Dona Wijesooriya and Sirimegha Amarasinghe to look to Australia. It was safe.
Safety became the catalyst for their heart-wrenching decision to gather-up their two daughters, Diluni and Lochani, farewell family and friends and look to Australia for safety, security and the hope of a life free of fear and violence.
In 2007 they began the year-long immigration application process for permanent residency. It was granted in 2008 and so for more than four years they called Brisbane home. The decision to move to the Manning Valley flowed from the opportunity for Sirimegha to work at Ardagh in Kolodong Estate and for Dona to work at Taree District Preschool. So they once again gathered-up their two daughters and moved to Pampoolah. That was eight months ago and this week, the family celebrated the achievement of another milestone - they became Australian citizens.
The family was part of a group of people who yesterday participated in Greater Taree City Council's Australian Citizenship Ceremony. They gathered at the council chambers with Russell Coe, Moira Crament, Nikita Crament, Kasim Kerem, Martin McGill and Harinder Singh, to pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people. The event was hosted by mayor, Paul Hogan, general manager, Gerard Jose and member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead.
Mayor Hogan said he loved citizenship ceremonies and enjoyed seeing joy and pride in the faces of people.
"We all need to belong to a family or community. To share a past and to hold common hopes and goals for the future. By becoming an Australian citizen you are showing that you want to be part of Australia's future," Mr Hogan said.
Mr Bromhead described his involvement in this ceremony as a privilege and congratulated and welcomed the group.
"It's only a quirk of nature that I was lucky enough to live here. But each of you have chosen to live here, chosen to live in the Manning Valley and for that I congratulate and welcome you, particularly you kids."
The smiling kids were Diluni and Lochani and they loved the ceremony and the box of Cadbury Favourites chocolates they were able to take home.
The two girls are students of Taree Christian College and according to Lochani, she loves Australia because "the people are kind and it is very safe." At a little over nine years-of-age her perspective differs from that of her seven-year-old sister, Diluni. "I like living here because they have more animals and beautiful plants," she happily shared with an enormous smile.
The girls will now be able to nurture their very own Australian native plant, a Grevillea grown by staff at council's nursery. Each new citizen received a plant, a Certificate of Australian Citizenship, and an Australian Citizenship Medallion that was struck at Perth Mint.
Little Diluni is looking forward to caring for her new plant, "I will give it water and give it sun," she said ... probably after she's eaten a few of those chocolates.