Moving to Australia was never on the cards for registered nurse Aarzoo Handa but after five years here, she could not think of a better place to call home.
Aarzoo, together with husband Akash, was among 150 people from 28 countries who took the pledge to become Australians during a recent council-run citizenship ceremony.
“I originally wanted to go to Canada because I have family there but then Akash told me about Australia and when I came over I just loved it here,” she said.
Aarzoo and Akash grew up in Haryana, an area in India’s north, which is home to 23 million people and known for rice and wheat exports as well as a world-class engineering college.
They were childhood sweethearts who met in primary school, however the prospect of marrying seemed out of the question as they got older because Aarzoo is a Christian and Akash a Hindu.
“She kept saying to me that we’ll never get married because of it but I said ‘don’t worry, we will get married’,” Akash said.
They went their separate ways after high school, with Akash and a friend heading to Australia and Aarzoo training and working in India as a nurse.
“I came to Australia in 2009 and did a diploma in management and worked at Pizza Hut,” Akash said.
Fate intervened in 2012 when Akash lost his passport and was forced to temporarily return to India.
While there, he reconnected with Aarzoo and the flame between the two was rekindled despite worries about religious differences remaining.
However, those concerns were put to rest and Akash’s prophecy came true when in 2014 the pair married with the blessing of their families in a whirlwind ceremony of sorts.
“The day that we got married we didn’t know we were going to get married that day when we woke up,” Akash said.
“We didn’t know you had to give temples and churches one month’s notice to get married and so they were all saying they couldn’t marry us.
“We were back in India only for a short time, so we ended up signing the documentation and getting married at the courthouse that day.
“The only people there were our parents and then we did a proper reception with family and friends about a week later.”
Since then, the couple has made their home in Ipswich and welcomed a daughter – Hazel.
They are building a house at Bellbird Park and hope to move in by Christmas.
So what is it that they love so much about Ipswich and Australia?
“There is more opportunity, the lifestyle is very good and everyone is so friendly,” Aarzoo said.
“The working environment is also much better and a lot fairer.
“For Hazel in particular, I think she will have more opportunity in Australia with study and work when she is older.”
Akash said he was sold on Australia from the get go.
“I remember when I came here and first saw it I said this is going to be the place where we live forever,” he said.
New Australian citizens welcomed by Ipswich City Council this year
January – 84 new citizens from 26 countries
March – 109 new citizens from 29 countries
May – 108 new citizens from 29 countries
July – 141 new citizens from 12 countries
August – 150 new citizens from 28 countries
September – 100 new citizens from 23 countries
For more information about citizenship ceremonies and requirements visit here.