Seventeen Blue Mountains residents became Australian citizens at the Blue Mountains Theatre in Springwood on Australia Day, January 26. Some of them shared their stories with the Gazette.
Jean Paul Neblon
French-born Jean Paul Neblon came to Australia for a holiday seven years ago but it was love that saw him stay and become an Australia citizen this Australia Day.
“I have lived in Australia for seven years and my partner is Australian. It’s actually meeting her that prompted me to live here as I only intended to come for a holiday at first,” he told the Gazette.
Mr Neblon is not only a new Australian citizen but a new Blue Mountains resident as well, having moved to Bullaburra from Sydney last November.
“I’m turning 55 this year and since I have decided to live here forever, I want to embrace Australia and its values, its people, its culture,” he said.
“I want to be involved in the everyday life as a citizen and also have my say by voting. I also believe it’s a matter of respect for those wonderful people who welcomed me.”
Mr Neblon said while his partner, Chelsea Peard, still considers him “very French”, he feels “a bit more Aussie every day”.
“I even drink pale ale and listen to the ABC all day in my car. I still struggle with Vegemite though!” he joked.
Mr Neblon is a state account manager for Fournil Bakery, which was started by a French baker in 1997. “So, I’m a Frenchy selling baguettes in Australia!” he said.
For South Koerean-born Jeongmin Sylvester, taking the plunge to become an Australia Citizen was no easy decision.
South Korea doesn’t allow dual citizenship so it meant giving up a formal connection to the country she grew up in.
“It was a big deal to decide to become an Australian for me, as I have my extended family over there, and Korea is where I grew up and spent more than half of my entire life so far,” she said.
“But I am very excited to become an Australian as I love Australia.”
Ms Sylvester has lived in Australia on a permanent visa for the past four years, but with an Australian husband and family she wanted to make the arrangement permanent.
“I thought I am most likely to live the rest of my life in Australia since I have made my beautiful little family here with my husband and our two girls now. I didn’t see much point to still be able to vote for a Korean government. I’d rather to vote for an Australian government to contribute to make a better society for my children in the future,” she said.
The Winmalee resident shared Australia Day with her husband and daughters, as well as his family from Cairns and some close friends.
A patissier and ceramist, she has a studio space in her garage where she works when she is not busy baking.
“The end of the month is always busy as I sell my cakes monthly at the Springwood Growers Market. One day I dream of serving cakes I baked on a plate I made, and I think the Blue Mountains is the perfect place to see my dream happening,” she said.
Woodford resident Tabitha Leitner was born in New York, grew up in Sweden but has decided to make Australia her home.
She moved to Australia to study at the International Hotel Management School in Leura after receiving a flyer in her Djursholm letterbox “which sounded very exciting”.
Keen to escape Sweden’s long winters for awhile, she decided to travel and learn.
“I arrived in July 2002 at the hospitality school – it snowed that year! I continued to study here in Australia, going home for a year in 2004 and arriving back in Sydney, this time, 2005 to further my studies,” she said.
Ms Leitner met her current partner in 2003 and the couple became parents in 2007.
“My partner and our children are Australian and it feels right to be united in our country of citizenship,” she said of her decision to become an Australian citizen.
“I have lived here for nearly 15 years... so I feel like this is where I have settled and created a family. I love the way of life here and have developed wonderful friendships and feel very lucky to be part of a great community.”
Ms Leitner works from home as a Shiatsu therapist.
“I have lived in a few places in Australia – all very lovely experiences – but I feel very lucky to live in the Mountains while my boys are growing up. We are always on some bushwalk. It’s incredible,” she said.