FIVE years can feel like five minutes. Fanus Van Wyk couldn't believe how time had flown by as his family was accepted as Australian citizens earlier this month.

It's been half a decade since he and his family first set foot in Gladstone.

Opportunity is what Fanus, along with his wife Tanya and their children Louise, 15 and Pieter, 13, were looking for.

It was the driving force behind their decision to move from their home in South Africa.

"It was a family decision," Fanus explained.

"We wanted to expose our kids to something exciting and create something new."

Looking to extend his experience in the aluminium sector, Fanus started work at the Boyne Smelter, while Tanya took a job at the Boyne/Tannum Pharmacy as an assistant.

"We liked what the area had to offer as a family," Fanus said.

"It's been great. We are having a ball of a time. It's a beautiful area, people are friendly, and it's been fabulous."

The Van Wyk family never want to live anywhere else.

Friday, October 5 marked a significant day in their new life in Gladstone - they officially received their Australian citizenship at a public ceremony in Gladstone.

"We are very proud Aussies," Fanus said.

While the Van Wyks have fallen in love with the relaxed Gladstone lifestyle, it did take some time to settle in after being in South Africa.

"The biggest difference is awareness of safety and risk," Fanus explained.

"It was always on our mind. When we used to exit the house, our safety was quite high on the priority list."

Fanus said he had always been on edge when he lived in South Africa.

"I was always in light sleep mode," he said.

Freedom is also a big difference.

"We were very restricted," he said. "Here you can have freedom to explore and see the beautiful country.

"The kids can actually play outside, ride their bike and go to the park."

When the Van Wyks moved to Australia, they had to learn all the little cultural differences we take for granted.

Fanus used to refer to traffic lights as robots because that's what they were called in South Africa.

"The first time we went to Coles, we got to the counter and the girl said to us as we were leaving, see you later. We thought this was very strange - we didn't have any plans with this girl."

New citizens

  • Gladstone welcomed 17 new citizens at a public ceremony at the beginning of October.
  • Since the 2011/12 financial year, Mayor Gail Sellers has welcomed 196 new Australian citizens to the Gladstone region.
  • More than 4.5 million people have become citizens since Australian citizenship was introduced in 1949.

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