Residents from 13 countries become Aussies
A VIBRANT celebration welcomed Gladstone's newest Australian citizens on Wednesday, as part of Australian Citizenship Day.
Lamingtons sporting Aussie flags and other national culinary snacks were enjoyed by friends and family in what was a special day for 36 new citizens.
From Nepal to Scotland, Zimbabwe to Iran, the Gladstone residents represented 13 countries in total.
One Filipino family saw five members become citizens together.
Dante Villarico said his wife and three children were excited and humbled to officially become Australian.
"It is a very big advantage for my kids to grow up here, and finish their studies," said Mr Villarico, whose children all attend Gladstone schools.
Australia's human rights standards and respect for equality were key drawcards, said the seasoned international worker.
Mr Villarico worked in appalling conditions in Saudi Arabia, where employees were treated like prisoners, and in Africa where racism was rife, he said.
"In Australia, you are given your rights and a fair pay."
Gladstone Regional Council organised the event, which was attended by representatives from local, state and federal governments.
Councillor Rick Hansen opened proceedings, and said Citizenship Day was celebrated across the country, and was a time to reflect on the meaning and importance of being an Australian.
But the ceremony also had a sombre message.
Gladstone independent MP Liz Cunningham said she had been saddened in recent months by violence and loss of freedom in too many parts of the world.
"We welcome you...(but) we ask one thing - that is to come in peace," she said.
"We ask that you help us defend our democracy and our freedoms, because they are of infinite worth."