Mayor of Ballarat welcomes Australia’s newest citizens 

DES Alipoe spent 15 years in a refugee camp. 

In 2007 he set foot on Australian soil for the first time and now has become an Australian citizen. 

Mr Alipoe was one of the 20 new citizens who made the pledge at a special ceremony in Ballarat on Friday.

Before coming to Australia, Mr Alipoe moved from war-torn Togo in West Africa to neighbouring Benin.

Mr Alipoe was moved into a refugee camp where he lived for the next 15 years and where his partner gave birth to three children. 

Speaking to The Courier after the citizenship ceremony, Mr Alipoe said it was too hard to speak about his time in the camp. 

“I was so happy when I came to Australia. This was a program from the government to help people who were refugees in Africa to come here,” he said. 

“I spoke no English at all when I came but I studied it for two years when I got here and after that I did a construction course for a year and a half.” 

Mr Alipoe moved to Ballarat immediately upon arrival in Australia and has had two more children since then. 

"We acknowledge that in having new citizens, we are the better for it"

“Today, I am so happy to get my citizen certificate,” he said. 

“This give me freedom to go anywhere.” 

City of Ballarat mayor Josh Morris said Australia was a stronger nation for having new citizens like Mr Alipoe settle here. 

“I think it is a great recognition of all the things it means to be Australian and we welcome new citizens to our country and to our city,” he said.

“We also acknowledge that in having new citizens, we are all the better for it.”

Cr Morris said the ceremony was not just about people obtaining Australian citizenship, it was also about welcoming them to Ballarat. 

“That is one of the great things. The Immigration Act comes under federal jurisdiction, but as a city we really take ownership of our new citizens and welcoming them into our city.”