Gunnedah welcomed its newest Australian during the citizenship ceremony on Friday after a combined church service near the Dorothea Mackellar statue.

The setting of the gum trees providing shade while the sun blazed down was on theme for an Australia Day official welcome to Jerome Busante which Gunnedah’s ambassador Todd McKenney agreed with.

“The people are welcoming, you get the air in your hair, there’s a lightness about it, it feels quintessentially Australian and we are under a gum tree. We have got the barbecue going on over there and sulphur-crested cockatoos flying overhead” Todd said after the ceremony.

“I can see why this type of living would appeal to someone from overseas. I feel much more Australian being here than I do when I am in Sydney, to be honest.”

The morning had started with the combined church service which had Peter Hall from the Salvation Army conduct the service.

The award-winning Gunnedah Shire Band performed All Things Bright and Beautiful and What a Friend for the combined church service before Advance Australia Fair at the citizenship ceremony.

Gunnedah’s Citizen of the Year Marie Hobson spoke a few words about how volunteers are essential today just as what they had been throughout the town’s history.

Gunnedah shire mayor Jamie Chaffey assisted Jerome through his pledge to Australia.

Deputy mayor Rob Hooke and Shadow Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell spoke a few words at the ceremony along with Todd McKenney who had afterwards said that he was moved to watch Jerome become an Australian.

“I am sure [becoming a citizen] makes Jerome feel incredibly proud,” he said.

“I had a tear in my eye when he was reciting the pledge to become an Australian citizen because I think that is a very brave thing.

“We do live in the best country in the world, I can see why he did it, but I just felt the weight of the moment in his life.

“The regions are the backbone of Australia and I could see why somebody would find somewhere like Gunnedah and this whole area and the whole shire attractive.”

Jerome may have been formally accepted as Australian on Friday but he has been a Gunnedah local since January 2018. Some may recognise him as the local mechanic at Taylor Automotive or as the avid basketball player at the Gunnedah Basketball Stadium.

Gunnedah is the first place he has lived in Australia and has chosen to call it home.

He sees its appeal as a great place for a future family as many people do.

He places emphasis on Australia being a place of great opportunity and Gunnedah as home to many good people, however, it was not his decision to move to Gunnedah.

A job agency had helped him arrive in Australia but it also meant he did not know where in the country he would end up.

The other things he is enjoying about Australia is fishing and spending time at the river.

“It is a quiet place [with] good people around,” Jerome said.

“[The people] are good, my boss is good, my friends are good. I play basketball with other Australians so I get along with[them].”

He said that he loves his home country but always encourages other Filipinos looking for a new home to consider the sunburnt country.

He has no family in Gunnedah but he does have close friends who cheered him on at the ceremony.

The first thing he planned to do as an Australian citizen was take his friends to the pub for a meal and drinks.

Australia Day Gallery here: Gunnedah celebrates Australia Day 2024 | Gallery – Gunnedah Times

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