Dozens of migrants now call Bendigo home as Australian citizens, after receiving the honour on Australia Day.
New Australian citizens in Bendigo are adding to the Victorian city’s growing multicultural diversity and boosting the state’s second largest regional economy.
Two hours drive north of Melbourne, the City of Greater Bendigo raised its flag on Australia Day celebrations.
Thousands poured in to Lake Weeroona Park to celebrate the town that is one of the fastest growing regional centres in Victoria.
With a burgeoning population of over 115,000, City of Bendigo Mayor Councillor Margaret O'Rourke said the cultural diversity of the region has exploded in recent years.
“Back in the gold rush (1850s) we were the most diverse town in the world and it’s becoming that way again.”
In the decade to 2016, Bendigo welcomed over 3200 people born overseas - an increase of 58 per cent of its migrant population.
Today it welcomed 30 more migrants.
Amongst them is Bendigo’s newest citizen of Mexican heritage, Edith Mendoza-Munoz.
One of a handful of Mexican nationals in the region, she left her life in Mexico to follow her heart to Australia.
And on discovering Bendigo she said she fell in love again.
Today, she takes the citizenship affirmation to cement her place in the community she already calls home.
“I just want to give back to this beautiful country that embraced me since I arrived.”
New citizens from Albania, India, Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and China will join her.
Doctor Shaukat Bashir moved to Australia from Pakistan to follow his passion for rural medicine.
A resident at Bendigo Health, he joins his wife and daughter as Australian citizens in a place that he calls the land of opportunity.
“It’s a privilege to be an Australian citizen. In Australia, you have a fair and equal opportunity to achieve your dreams.”
As some regional communities see their populations drain into the city centres, Bendigo has beaten the odds.
Each year its population increases, as it attracts new migrants who bolster the city’s economy as well as its cultural fabric.
Mayor O’Rourke said that is something to celebrate this Australia Day.
“We can take it for granted how good we have it. Some people are coming here to escape atrocities. It makes me so proud that they’re choosing Australia and choosing Bendigo.”
Sending out 30 new citizens from Bendigo Town Hall, she hopes many more will be proud to call themselves Bendigonians in the future.