New citizens find love on the Southern Downs
AUSTRALIA'S newest citizens followed their hearts to the sunburnt country of the Southern Downs, where they fell in love with its people, its landscapes and its pitiless blue sky.
At Warwick Town Hall today, 14 new Australian citizens were officially welcomed to the country by Mayor Tracy Dobie, allowing them the right to travel freely, partake in the democratic processes and represent its people internationally.
Eight years ago when Maria Abrigo travelled from the Phillipines to Townsville, she had no idea she was about to fall in love.
Ms Abrigo only planned on visiting her mother, but it was there she met Stanthorpe man Sam Marino, who became an Australian citizen himself in 1974.
"He is the love of my life,” she said.
"I moved here for him, but it is an amazing country.”
Australia afforded Ms Abrigo the opportunity to study biomedical science and she now works for the Heart of Australia, an organisation that delivers monthly specialist medical investigation and treatment clinics to regional and rural communities across Queensland.
Afghani woman Farfarisha Nazari moved to Warwick for love two years ago after a lengthy, long distance relationship with her now-husband Ali Khanullah.
She was proud to watch her husband become an Australian citizen today and hoped that one day, if she works hard enough in her language classes, it will be her turn to walk on the stage.
Mr Khanullah moved from Pakistan when he was only 17 years old, seeking a safer home where the people were friendly and he could feel true freedom.
During a visit to Afghanistan in 2013 the Warwick butcher met his future wife and began a difficult period of travelling back and forth across the oceans to be with her.
They hope one day Mrs Nazari's family will be able to visit, but as tailors in a small Afhani village they 'live simply' and cannot afford it yet.
Janna Liu found joy in the simplicity of life in Allora, where she moved to be with her partner Vincent Jouen five years ago.
Ms Liu said working on her uncle's produce farm, where the air is fresh and the views are spectacular, was worlds away from her crowded home country of Taiwan.
The couple have already welcomed one little Aussie into their family, Jareh Jouen, and plan to welcome a second into the world just next month.
Nicholas Allan moved all the way from the Lake District in the UK to drought-stricken Stanthorpe to be with his partner Will Rodgers.
Though the dry times have complicated the move, Mr Allan said he'd do it all again in a heartbeat.
"It's very nice here I just wish there was a bit more water,” he said.