Fleeing threat of war, ‘blessed’ to be Aussie

RAVI Gill stood on a stage at Walbundrie clutching the proof he was now a citizen of Australia.

A footy oval was to his right and before him, a sea of Akubras on the heads of about 300 people on plastic chairs swatting flies.

Walbundrie may only have about 40 people living in its township, but it is the hundreds of farmers on the wheat and sheep country around it who make up most of its population.

With prompting from Greater Hume mayor Heather Wilton, Mr Gill stepped forward to the microphone.

“The place I come from, Kashmir, is under threat from Pakistan and nuclear war,” he told a crowd more used to battling drought, fire and flood.

His parents and siblings are still in northern India but he, his wife and children are a world away in Culcairn.

“I really, really truly, can say this thing of how blessed we are,” he said.

His speech stirred strong applause and he walked down the steps and off the stage laden with a kangaroo paw plant and certificates.

He was met by his two teenagers wearing checked shirts and cowboy hats who relieved him of his gifts.

He took a seat, welcomed back into his family of three stepchildren and four children with his Australian-born wife, Simone.

Australia Day ambassador and former Burke’s Backyard host Don Burke said Mr Gill was the future of Australia.

Mr Burke spoke of the “tragedy” of immigrants living in the outer city suburbs, highly skilled and driving taxis.

He said communities like Walbundrie would remain static or decline if they didn’t change what they were doing in agriculture.

“I’m really happy Ravi is here,” Mr Burke said.

“When people come from overseas ... many of them have got agricultural skills and many of them grow crops you’ve never even heard of.

“These people bring us the way of the future. We need those people to bring ideas of what the world wants ... we’ve got to embrace change.”

Mr Gill, studying a diploma in agriculture, works on a farm but now dreams of owning his own.

On Australia Day, he was just happy he had found a home after living in 45 countries after fleeing the violence in Kashmir 13 years ago.

He met his wife online. They fell in love, were married in India and moved back to Culcairn.

“This is not just another country for me. It’s a home for me,” he said.

“I chose to live in a small town, in the bush because that’s real Australia.”

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