GIRRAWHEEN’S Woldemariam Wondemagny and three of her children were among 800 people who became citizens at the biggest Australia Day ceremony in the country today.
The City of Wanneroo hosted Australia’s largest citizenship ceremony for the fourth year running, with people from 49 countries becoming Australian citizens at Wanneroo Showground.
The highest number of people – 240 – came from the UK, followed by 97 from South Africa, 39 from the Philippines, 38 from India and 19 from Ireland.
Originally from Ethiopia, Mrs Wondemagny and her family came to Perth six years ago after spending about two decades in a refugee camp in Kenya.
She and her youngest three children, Bishat (16) and twins Daskedar and Negese (11) will become Australians today.
Her eldest two children – Tsion Tafese and Jetu Aseged – and husband Niguse Tamru have already become citizens.
Mrs Wondemagny fled Ethiopia with her oldest daughter in a truck during the civil war in 1991, and remained in the Kakuma refugee camp, where she had four more children.
“The children were born in Kenya,” she said.
Given the option to move to the USA, she opted not to because Tsion had already moved to Perth 13 years ago.
They were sponsored to come to Australia in 2000, and initially stayed in Cannington then moved to Koondoola five years ago and their current home five months ago.
Bishat is about to start year 12 at Girrawheen Senior High School, and said she wanted to follow her father’s footsteps into nursing.
The twins are about to go into Year 6 at Roseworth Primary School, where Daskedar excels at running and her brother enjoys football.
A grandmother of two, Mrs Wondemagny now provides family day care and said she was happy living in Australia.
“I like my children going to school,” she said.
“Australia is a safe country.
“In Kenya if you have money someone else would come who has a gun – I never really slept peacefully.”
Recalling how she would run and make up games with friends in Kakuma, Bishat said she liked that Australia was a free country.
“You don’t really have to get scared of anything,” she said.
“I remember in Kenya once there were robbers coming – in Australia you don’t really have to worry about stuff like that.”
Daskedar said Australia was a peaceful country.
Although they found it hard fitting in at their first school, Bishat said they were happy at their current schools.
“At the schools we go to, kids make friends – it’s really multicultural,” she said.
Although he doesn’t remember much from living in a refugee camp, Negese said he liked that there was lots of food in Australia and he was looking forward to becoming a citizen.
“Life is better when you are an Australian citizen,” he said.
Fluent in Amharic and Kiswahili, Mrs Wondemagny plans to wear a traditional white dress with blue embroidery plus a headscarf to the citizenship ceremony.
She has not been back to Ethiopia and might like to, although her mother is dead and she does not know what has happened to her father, two brothers or sister, who she last saw in 1991.
The City of Wanneroo has a long history of immigration dating back to the mid-1800s.
“In 1852 the Cockman family moved to the area, becoming the City’s first permanent settlers and by 1902 Wanneroo had a population of about 100 people,” Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said.
“Today we are one of Australia’s largest growing areas with a population of 200,000 growing by 7000 new residents each year or the equivalent of 20 people each day.”
Nilesh Sewpal, of Clarkson, moved to Australia in 2012 with his wife Yashnee and their three daughters, Sonia, Tiya and Layla.
The South African family initially lived in Darwin before moving to Perth in 2014.
Mr Sewpal said he was looking forward to becoming an Australian citizen.
“I love the cultural diversity in Australia, its warm and friendly people and the fact that all people are treated equally,” he said.
“My family and I enjoy living in the City of Wanneroo because of its great schools, public libraries, parks, playgrounds and gorgeous beaches – it’s perfect for families.”
Adrian Barich will be MC at the Australia Day ceremony, with Jenny Davis – the 2016 WA Senior of the Year – as guest speaker.
Richard Whalley will perform the Welcome to Country and singer Paula Parore will entertain the audience, accompanied by the Challenge Brass Band.
The Wanneroo Scout Group will host a barbecue breakfast for those attending and there will be themed face painting and temporary tattoos for children.
Mrs Roberts will also present the City of Wanneroo Australia Day Awards to local community members who have made an outstanding contribution to the City.
Countries of Origin
Congo, Democratic Republic of
Ireland, Republic of