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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 158

Mr SLIPPER (9:39 AM) —I wish to place on record in the parliament this morning my absolute personal pleasure and satisfaction in relation to the citizenship obtained recently by three members of the Passeggi family who reside at Buderim in my electorate of Fisher. Mr Horacio Passeggi, his wife, Stella, and their son, Tomas, became citizens at a ceremony held at the Stella Maris Catholic Church at Maroochydore on 12 March. I represented the minister and performed the official part of the proceedings on behalf of the government.

It was a very emotional occasion, with many in the congregation unable to hold back the odd tear as this family publicly expressed their allegiance to Australia. I have to say that I also found this matter very emotional. I do not know of very many citizenship ceremonies that take place within the context of a mass in a church, but there was a very large congregation, and it was an appropriate place for the ceremony to take place because of the very strong support that the Stella Maris Catholic community had given to this family during their journey towards citizenship. It was uplifting to hear the rousing applause for the family when I was able to officially declare them to be citizens of this great nation.

The ceremony marked a very sweet end to a campaign that has lasted for many years. The Passeggi family arrived in Australia from their former homeland, Uruguay, in 1997, looking for a better life for their children in a country that offers some of the best living conditions in the world. We are free, we have low unemployment, we have good living standards, and we are a relatively safe nation. The Passeggi family initially were unable to meet the immigration criteria for permanent visas, and they feared deportation.

As the local federal member, I became involved in a widespread public campaign that was very strongly supported by the congregation of the Stella Maris Catholic Church. This campaign got under way in 2003. I was able to organise several meetings with the then Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and later on the current Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to ensure that there was a successful outcome to this campaign, and I want to commend and thank both ministers for their very strong support.

After meetings and correspondence, the family finally got the news that they were hoping for, and I was able to announce in November 2003 that they would be granted permanent residency visas. The youngest members of the family, Rosina Passeggi and Mariana Passeggi, will become eligible for citizenship later this year, because they have been travelling abroad, and another citizenship ceremony will be held. It was a wonderful event at the Stella Maris Catholic Church. I commend Michael Bull from Musgrave Lawyers, Peter Shadforth and of course Father Joe Duffy and the Catholic Church for their wonderful support of this family. (Time expired)