Switching place, mayor welcomes new Aussies

Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher has welcomed four new Aussies today. The shire’s newest citizens come from Chile, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

More than 16,000 people from 150 nations have adopted citizenship during Australia Day ceremonies across the nation. Closer to home, Mayor Hatcher spoke from experience when he said choosing naturalisation was a big step – having adopted citizenship himself in 2013.

While that ceremony was face-to-face in Council’s chamber, today’s event was held over Zoom. Either way, Mayor Hatcher said “becoming a citizen changes everything”.

“Just go all in. Help your neighbour, join a local club or association and get active volunteering in the community. Bring along your culture and heritage, then blend it with what’s already here.”

Mathew Hatcher’s own journey to Australian citizenship was a roundabout and unexpected one, after meeting his now partner Holly while supervising summer camp in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains in 2001.

“I was teaching website design and Holly – who grew up at Tomakin – was, of course, a lifeguard,” he said.

Summer Camp ended and the pair went their separate ways. But on 11 September 2001, two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and Mathew realised “the world could end tomorrow”. At the first opportunity he sold his worldly goods and jumped on a Greyhound coach for a two-day ride to Canada. And Holly.

The pair flew to London, travelled through Europe, then Africa – with a marriage proposal in Zimbabwe. Finally in Australia, they made straight for Tomakin where Mathew thought, “this is paradise. These are the kind of people I want to be around, this is where I would want to start a family”.

It’s taken a while – with travel, study, and business ventures – but Mathew said he was a full-fledged Aussie now.

“I know I’ll never sound truly Aussie, probably never make full local status. But this is home.”

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