They came to Bondi for the lifestyle, but they're staying for the friendship

SOME of Australia's newest citizens may have followed their hearts here but they stayed for community, said those being sworn in before National Citizenship Day today.

While Australia Day is the biggest day for citizenship ceremonies, those held on or around National Citizenship Day account for about 9120 of Australia's 85,000 new citizens.

Russian migrant and new citizen Svetlana Piskunova, of Bondi, arrived in Australia as a student after her boyfriend, who she later married, raved about the ''lifestyle, the beautiful weather and the great system of welfare''.

More than five years later, Ms Piskunova said the reality of life in Australia had lived up to his sales pitch. She said that while she lived in a small flat with her husband and two children, she had Bondi beach as her backyard and she did not need anything else.

''I love it in Bondi … a little community with everyone with different backgrounds,'' she said.

Ms Piskunova was sworn in at Waverley Council at Bondi on Saturday, along with 50 other new citizens, including four Irish friends, Keith Lynch and his pregnant wife, Jacinta Burke, and Alan Deasy and his fiancee, Veronica Bane.

British migrant Bernadette Rafter and her son Hughie Kiernan also gained citizenship.

Ms Rafter also came to Australia for love, following her British boyfriend, who told her how free and safe Australia was, and how friendly the people were.

''He did draw me to it,'' she said. ''The beach and the parks are clean, and everything is so lovely and open.''

While her relationship with Hughie's father did not last, her bond with her new home has.

Like Ms Piskunova, she said the best thing about her home was the sense of community.

Waverley was like ''a little village'', where a trip to the shops could take an hour because she had to stop to chat to everyone she knew, she said with a giggle.

The social researcher Mark McCrindle, from McCrindle Research, saidalmost 75 per cent of migrants to Australia take up citizenship, about twice as many as in the US and about 20 percentage points more than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

While Australians were not known for their hand-on-heart patriotism, the passion people felt ran deep, Mr McCrindle said.

''The majority of all permanent arrivals to Australia become citizens, which is a sign of this commitment and affection,'' he said.

Just over 50 years ago citizenship was Euro-centric, granted to just 2493 people from 35 nationalities. Italians made up 26 per cent of new citizens.

In the past year, 84,183 people from at least 180 countries have become Australian citizens. Today about one in five come from Britain, followed by India (12 per cent), China (8 per cent), the Philippines (7 per cent) and South Africa (5 per cent).

The story They came to Bondi for the lifestyle, but they're staying for the friendship first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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