Former Sri Lankan man celebrates his Australian citizenship
'I AM finally an Australian', were the words former Sri Lankan man Sujeewa Edirisingha exclaimed as he received his long-awaited Australian citizenship last weekend.
Mr Edirisingha was one of 10 new residents who chose to officially become Australian citizens and call the Central Highlands home at a citizenship ceremony hosted in Emerald as part of this year's Australia Day celebrations.
"It was so nice to hear that I was an Australian citizen,” he said thinking back to that moment.
"I have been waiting a long time for that.”
Mr Edirisingha was living with his son, now 10, and wife in Nattandiya, Sri Lanka, before moving to Emerald in July 2012.
"Before I moved to Australia I was working in the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka,” he said.
"I had actually been working on the Seychelles Islands for four years before I received the opportunity to come to Australia.
"I thought it was the best decision I am going to make in my life.”
He said the main reason he moved to Australia was to provide his son with the best possible future he could have, something he couldn't do in Sri Lanka.
"I wanted to give him a good education and life here,” he said.
"I also wanted to be a better person myself.”
Mr Edirisingha said he initially chose to move to Emerald because the the climate was similar to what he was used to in Sri Lanka.
"I am from a tropical country and the weather and temperatures in Emerald are close to that of Sri Lanka in the summer time,” he said.
"Once I moved I fell in love.
"I like the people in the town, especially those who I see and talk to every day. Everyone is so nice and kind.
"When my family moved over in 2016, I asked my wife if she wanted to stay here or move to another city and she said she loved it here and wanted to stay.
"We bought a house last year and have really settled in here. It is my home.”
In the time he has been living in Emerald Mr Edirisingha has started a cleaning business, Queensland Quality Clean, leased the restaurant at Route 66 Motor Inn and is looking to sign the contract to lease the restaurant at Emerald Golf Club next week.
Mayor Kerry Hayes said Australia Day was a significant day to reflect on the privilege of Australian citizenship and what it meant to be Australian.
"Australia Day was a great opportunity for us to give a warm welcome to our newest citizens and acknowledge the importance of what it means to become a member of the Australian community,” Cr Hayes said.
"This year marks 70 years since Australian citizenship was introduced into law, creating for the first time a legal status of being uniquely Australian.”
Cr Hayes said citizenship was the common bond uniting all Australians, whether Australian by birth or by choice.
Thousands of Australians affirmed their citizenship on Australia Day, bringing communities together in regional and metropolitan Australia.
"I congratulate those new Australian citizens on making their commitment to Australia and thank everyone that came along to the celebration to make it special,” Cr Hayes said.