WITH his white suit and blue shirt, Jean Pierre Malilo stood out among the 23 men, women and children who yesterday became part of the Australian family at a citizenship ceremony at Wodonga’s Les Stone Park.
The refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo got special mention for his dress sense from Wodonga Mayor Rodney Wangman, who described Mr Malilo’s suit as a “purler”.
But there is much more to Mr Malilo than just a snappy look — he spent seven years in a Kenyan refugee camp after fleeing a war that has claimed more than five million lives in his homeland.
Mr Malilo, 24, was reluctant to describe the ordeal he endured before arriving in Australia.
“It was hectic but I’m privileged to be here,” Mr Malilo said.
“Many people want to come here, so I feel privileged to be here and I feel lucky.”
Mr Malilo’s cousin, Tangacha Malilo, who works at the city’s abattoir, also became a citizen yesterday.
Standing with his wife, Suzan Stanslaus, who only arrived in Australia this month, Mr Malilo told of his ambitions.
“I’m studying a Bachelor of Human Services and want to go into social work, help out in the community with home violence and maybe help some refugees because I understand that,” Mr Malilo said.
Other new citizens at the ceremony were from India, South Africa, Poland, Britain, Colombia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius whose jobs ranged from electrical engineer to nurse to forklift driver.
The day was the 65th anniversary of the first Australian citizens to be inducted under the Citizenship Act, passed by Federal Parliament in 1948.
More than four million immigrants have since been naturalised.
Overseeing the ceremony were the member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, and the member for Benambra, Bill Tilley.
They both spoke of their pride in Australia.
“Sunday morning and I feel like I’m in God’s cathedral,” Ms McGowan said.