Bhutanese citizenship celebration

The Bhutanese community have come here over the last four years, and today culminating in citizenship for the first group of those who came here in 2008. This has been a program of 5000 refugees over four or five years and this is the first group who have reached the four year mark in terms of acquiring the right for citizenship, and it’s a pretty exciting moment for them. Because they’ve been in Nepal, in a refugee centre for nearly 20 years so for them it’s very exciting to be able to gain Australian citizenship, and to be a member of the community here. I left Bhutan with my three children and wife, and finally landed in a refugee camp in Nepal which was run by the UNHCR. For eighteen years we were in the camp, and life in the camp is really difficult to live there, and then a program called country resettlement, and that gave us a new hope of living again, we were so happy. I was the first person to choose Australia, I had heard Australia was very peaceful, and very beautiful country. Which I’m seeing now, it really is a beautiful country and very peaceful. This day came after 20 long years of waiting. So we can’t express in words how happy we are. Our life has been transformed, our despair and all our struggles have been completed and we’re very happy, we’re living as a very good community here. Because we have been living in a refugee camp for 20 long years without a country, without a citizen, it was very very important for us to belong to a country. We discussed with our community and found many people who were interested, and we decided that we would do it as a big group. The last 15, 20 years we have been celebrating refugee day in the refugee camp, and on that day every year we said “we want to go back home”. Every year on that day we say “We don’t want to be refugees.” We are very grateful that the government of Australia decided to invite us to this country, and we thought, let us celebrate the end of our refugee life on a refugee week itself, to know ourselves, to feel ourselves, that we are no longer refugees, we are normal citizens of a great nation called Australia. Now I can proudly call that I am Australian. A proud Australian. And I have a place to call home.

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