Escaping eruptions: citizens share stories

NEW LEAF: Irma McInnes of Jindera and Alexander Kochukunju of Culcairn gain their citizenship on Wednesday night. Picture: MARK JESSER
NEW LEAF: Irma McInnes of Jindera and Alexander Kochukunju of Culcairn gain their citizenship on Wednesday night. Picture: MARK JESSER

From living under an active volcano to a hobby farm in Jindera – Irma McInnes’ path to citizenship is one amazing journey.

Born in the Philippines, she lived near the base of Mount Mayon, considered the world's most perfectly-formed volcano for its symmetric cone-shaped top.

Mrs McInnes said locals considered it to be one of the seven wonders of the world, though it inspired as much fear as awe.

“It’s been erupting every four years; the worst one was 2006 and thousands of people have died,” she said.

“It’s very scary when it erupts, because you can see the lava flowing from the mouth of the volcano.”

Ms McInnes said it wasn’t easy living on an island plagued by volcanic eruptions and 25 cyclones on average a year.

“Rebuilding your house, you would not get any subsidy from the government,” she said.

“If you didn’t work, you would starve – if you were lazy in the Philippines, you would die early.”

Ms McInnes migrated to Australia 15 years ago, and she met her husband five years later.

John McInnes of Jindera said it was a “chance meeting”.

“I met Irma at La Trobe University graduations,” he said.

“My son had finished studying and Irma’s niece was there on the same day, and we sat next to each other.

“It was very interesting travelling to the Philippines with her – I’d never been outside Australia.”

The McInnes’ joined Susan and Alexander Kochukunju at Greater Hume Council’s citizenship ceremony on Wednesday night in Holbrook.

Mr Kochukunju, originally from India, gained his citizenship after migrating to Hay with his family, and then to Culcairn.

Mrs Kochukunju said September marked three years since the couple came to the shire.

“We bought a small house in Culcairn, I’m working in nursing,” she said.

“We were in Ireland and our son was a doctor studying and Australia agreed to sponsor him – we also didn’t like the cold weather.”

Mrs Kochukunju said her children were now far into their studies, thanks to support from the Australian government.

“My son is here now and my daughter is studying nursing at Hobart University, they are both living there,” she said.

Mrs McInnes has also taken to the health sector, which she loves.

“I’m working in nursing, at UPA Jindera,” she said.

“I’m very happy there, they’re like my family.

“I’m also very happy in Australia, there’s no eruptions.”