A London neighbour led to Julia O’Brien’s love story, which will celebrate a significant chapter on 26 January as she becomes an Australian citizen.
“I married an Aussie, we were neighbours in London,” the British national said. “It was always the plan to come back here to Australia but we never fully committed to it. One day we said ‘let’s give it a go’ and here I am.”
Mrs O’Brien is one of 27 conferees who will be celebrated at Surf Coast Shire Council’s virtual Australian citizenship ceremony this week.
The Barwon Health paediatric nurse and husband Jeremy previously lived in Perth, before another stint in the UK. The decision to ultimately settle in Jan Juc was an easy one.
“Jeremy has always surfed and we didn’t want to live in a city again,” she said. “Jan Juc isn’t too far from Melbourne and isn’t too far from Warrnambool, where Jeremy’s from.”
The village feel of Jan Juc appealed to the couple, who have called the Surf Coast home for 13 years with their children Ben, 12, and Isla, 5.
“It’s such a great community, especially with the kinder and Bellbrae school,” Mrs O’Brien said. “We’re always bumping into people from Juc and all the neighbours – including Councillor Kate Gazzard – are great. We also love the fact that we can walk to the beach.”
A COVID-19 lockdown in August 2020 gave the Worcester export plenty of time to apply for Australian citizenship.
“I didn’t think about it too much when I applied but I think I will be quite emotional at the ceremony,” she said. “My roots will always be in the UK along with my heart. I miss my family and friends there every day but our family has a great life here.
“I’m proud to be here and proud to be an Australian. I also have the advantage of two passports, and my children have two passports and are able to experience both countries.”
Council’s 26 January citizenship ceremony will be held via Zoom rather than in-person, because of COVIDsafe precautions.
“It will still be special,” Mrs O’Brien said. “We will be celebrating with a small outdoor gathering with close friends. We’ll have a BBQ and chocolate ripple cake. Hopefully we can have a bigger party at a later date.”
After becoming a dual citizen, she is prepared to be asked a tough question.
“I don’t know who I’m going to go for in the cricket. I think I’ll tell people it depends who’s winning,” she laughed.