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17 September 2020
Wimmera resident Rebecca Pilgrim has become the first person to successfully gain her citizenship under the guidance of a new Centre for Participation program. The Goroke resident moved from Cebu in the Philippines to the Wimmera more than eight years ago.
She was visiting Australia for a holiday and to attend a wedding. On the same trip she met her now husband Ian Pilgrim and set up a life in the Wimmera.
Mrs Pilgrim joined a Centre for Participation citizenship testing program which started late last year.
The program supported her through the entire process.
In May, her documents were approved, and she later made her citizenship pledge as part of a virtual ceremony.
“So happy, proud, thankful and I feel completely satisfied,” Mrs Pilgrim said.
She said work experiences ranging from agriculture to hospitality had shaped her understanding of Australian culture during her time in the region.
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“My lifestyle has changed. I learned the Australian culture through my first job at the takeaway shop in Nhill where I met different nationalities – the takeaway shop was owned by my sister and was located at the bus stop,” she said.
“I have been living on a farm for eight years and it is very quiet and peaceful.
“My experience in farming, cropping, livestock, and management of sheep which includes the shearing, feeding and drafting and delivering of grain made me happy and content.”
She said gaining citizenship in Australia would allow her to live a comfortable life in Goroke.
“The citizenship will make my life feel better and I feel stable living here in Australia. It gave me a feeling of security,” she said.
“I will also have my Australian passport when traveling which is really great.”
Her husband Mr Pilgrim said he was grateful for all the support Centre for Participation provided Rebecca while she was working towards gaining her citizenship.
“The Centre for Participation is so friendly and willing to help and made us feel so welcome and comfortable and we are so appreciative of this service,” he said.
“I felt relieved with all the support and very happy that it was completed. Such a great blessing as we are not good at computers, so it was such a great help.
“I also had the chance to join the Centre for Participation's summer cooking classes and I look forward to learning more.”
Migrant liaison worker Cecile Vence, who helped Mrs Pilgrim along her journey, said her citizenship would greatly improve her quality of life here in Australia.
“When you’re on a permanent visa it doesn’t mean you have the security to stay here because there are changes in the rules,” she said.
“Once you have your citizenship, you get to enjoy many benefits. You get a sense of security and one of the biggest benefits is having the right to vote as well so your voice will be heard.”
Mrs Pilgrim was one among 15 Wimmera residents to be successful in her application.
Mrs Vence said COVID-19 restrictions across Victoria meant citizenship tests were moved online, saving people from having to travel to centres at Ballarat and Melbourne.
She wanted to encourage more people who were seeking their citizenship to start the centre’s program that teaches people about Australia, its people, government and responsibilities.
“We are very fortunate to be in Horsham as we do have a lot of support in terms of reaching out to the multicultural community,” she said.
“It’s just a matter for people to reach out to the organisations that can help. Being a migrant here sometimes isn’t easy, so we need to reach out to them as well, it has to go both ways.”
We celebrate Australian Citizenship Day each year on September 17.
The Australian Government established the day in 2001 in response to a recommendation by the Australian Citizenship Council in their 2000 report Australian Citizenship for a New Century.
Australian Citizenship Day was first celebrated in 2001.