Cherishing a changed life

Bharansher Rai still beams with excitement when recalling the day he officially became an Australian citizen, more than a decade ago.

A native of Nepal, Mr Rai wore his national costume called Daura Suruwal when he pledged allegiance to Australia which he now calls home.

“My life has changed,” the 66-year old, who was the first Gurkha to become an Australian citizen in 1994, said.

Ghurkas were fearsome Nepalese fighters who were integrated by the British Army during its empire-building in the last century.

Mr Rai fought side-by-side with Britain’s army for 15 years before moving to Brunei to work as a security guard for the Sultanate.

Between 1964 and 1965 he fought with Australian soldiers in the Borneo conflict which is more popularly known as Confrontation.

After nine years of working for the Sultanate of Brunei, Mr Rai decided to come to Sydney in 1989 as a tourist.

He immediately applied for residency on humanitarian grounds.

“If I go back to Nepal I’ll be unemployed. Some friends who came here said I can come here for a visit and then apply for a residency visa on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

Mr Rai was granted permanent residency a year later before an amendment to the migration law took effect, which gave authorities the power to detain people without a valid visa.

Wasting no time, Mr Rai lodged an application for citizenship in 1990 through someone who belonged to the Indian Ghurka regiment based in Melbourne.

It was also during this year when he moved to Gippsland and lived in a property owned by a Moe man.

Four years later Mr Rai became an Australian citizen and returned to Nepal to bring his children to Australia.

Mr Rai said he was “very lucky” to become an Australian and have a place for his family to live.

The Moe man offered him and his family free accommodation if they would agree to look after his property and his horses.

Today this former fighter is nearing his 25th year as an assistant cook at the Latrobe Regional Hospital.