by Luke Voogt
Maria Juhel and son Emile were among Geelong’s newest 40 Australian citizens during a swearing in ceremony at City Hall on Tuesday night.
“It was a very good feeling,” the proud mum told the Indy.
In 2012 she and her then three-year-old son “left everything behind” when they moved from Mauritius to join her husband, who was working in Australia.
But when the couple separated Maria had to find a job and take her son to work.
“I didn’t have any support and would have to work hard and hide him under the desk at work,” she said.
After years applying for her citizenship Maria was proud to finally enjoy “the freedom” of being an Australian.
She loved living in Geelong and Australian “mateship”, she said.
“People here want to help you – which is becoming rarer and rarer nowadays.”
When Maria returned to Mauritius last year after the death of younger brother, she “realised it’s not home anymore”.
“I was longing to come back here where I have connections and where I’ve found a place to belong,” she said.
“It’s (Emile’s) home. He grew up here and it’s where he truly belongs.”
Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood and Council’s diversity portfolio holder Sarah Mansfield welcomed the 40 conferees from 12 countries including Pakistan, Ireland, Italy and Fiji.
“Our multicultural region has residents from more than 50 different cultural backgrounds, who make an important contribution to our community every day,” Cr Mansfield said.