Our record-breaking new Aussies
By KAT MULLARD
WE'RE famous for our beautiful beaches, stunning bushland and warm weather, but it also seems that people are queuing up to call the Coffs Coast home because we're just such friendly folks!
Yar Manyuon, who was born in Sudan, was one of the 94 people participating in the mammoth Australia Day Citizenship ceremony in Coffs Harbour held at the Coffs Ex-services Club yesterday.
"There are five people in our family becoming citizens today. I like Coffs Harbour because it is a quiet place, it's good for the kids, and the people are very friendly," she said.
Gautan Chauhan agrees.
"I'm from a small country town in Fiji called Labasa. Coffs has a peaceful nature, different to Sydney which is too busy for me, and I've got a lot of friends here," he said.
This year's ceremony saw a record number of new citizens in Coffs Harbour with people from 24 different countries participating, including representatives from Argentina, Chile, China, Egypt, Denmark, and Ethiopia.
The club was forced to open it's function room to full capacity as family and friends crowded around to wish the proud new Aussies well.
"My boss even turned up to watch me today," Jo Barton said.
Ms Barton moved to Australia 12 years ago from England, and decided to make her home here official because her family now live in Coffs, and her two-and-a-half-year-old son was born here.
For Kate Stroud who has recently turned 18, the most important thing about becoming an Australian citizen is that she now has her chance to have a say.
"I'm from New Zealand but I have lived in Australia for 17 years. I love Coffs ? the beach and all the bush ? and now I can vote. That's the biggest thing."
While the reasons for becoming an Australian citizen are as diverse as the people who live here, it seems that there is a consensus on the fact that the Coffs Coast is becoming a popular place to call home.
AUSTRALIA Day was memorable for a record number of Coffs Coast locals, but probably none more so than the Bruckner family.
Dawne Bruckner and her family stepped off the plane at the Coffs Harbour airport on Friday at 8.45am and then headed straight to the Australia Day Citizenship ceremony to make their Aussie home official.
Dawne and her children had just spent over the past 20 hours on flight from Cape Town in South Africa, celebrating their youngest daughter Ariah's fourth birthday in the air.
"We have just come back from spending four weeks back in Cape Town visiting family and now the feeling of sitting in this room about to become Australian citizens is just ? wow," Ms Bruckner said as tears welled in her eyes.
"Going back to South Africa clarified a few things for me ? the crime and poverty there is glaring, it's just so in your face. Here in Australia my children can walk to school and go to the shops without fear."
The Brucker's have lived in Australia for the past six years, residing on the Central Coast before making the move to Coffs Harbour three years ago.
"I like the climate here, the beach, but for me one of the most important things is education. When I first drove down Hogbin Drive and saw the education campus I said that's where I want to be."
Mrs Bruckner is a maths teacher at the Coffs Harbour Senior College, and her eldest daughter, Jade, has just completed her HSC there.
"I love the Senior College. I made lots of friends there, and the teachers are great," Jade said.
Dawne's husband, Paul Bruckner, also emphasised the benefits of our education system, saying that the opportunities here are much better then they are in South Africa.
"If you want a decent education in South Africa you have to have a lot of money. Our daughter Nadine goes to Toormina High, where there is about 20-30 students in a class. In South Africa she had up to 50 people in her class," he said.
Unfortunately, Mr Bruckner could not join his family in becoming an Australian citizen yesterday.
"It would have been nice to do it together as a family, but I misplaced my passport! I spent the past nine months looking for it, and finally found it last Tuesday, but by then it was too late for the Australia Day ceremony. I'll take part in the Harmony Day ceremony in March instead," he said.
Mrs Bruckner and her three eldest daughters were not going to give up there opportunity to become Australian citizens yesterday, under any circumstances.
"We couldn't wait, we were really ready," Mrs Bruckner laughed.
The Brucker's praised the Australia Day ceremony, saying it went very smoothly, and then left with their very tired children to celebrate Ariah's birthday with a cake, back home on Australian soil.