by Yvonne Gardiner
SETTLING into a new country is rarely an easy experience.
Friends and family have been left behind, and it can take time to find new employment, accommodation and social ties.
Despite the drawbacks and sacrifices, millions of migrants have blessed our nation with their talents and commitment.
Elenita Ribas Goncalves followed her daughter, Vanessa Schneider, to Australia six years ago, initially on a tourist visa.
While missing her family and friends and the social life she had in Brazil, she enjoys the company of her family here, including two grandsons.
Elenita, retired and aged 65, left a "beautiful life" in Brazil but well appreciates the benefits that Australia offers, like security, health care and education, and the fact that "everything's clean".
"I think Australia is like a mother for its children, because it's a good country," she said.
"And the people are lovely. Very friendly and very nice people.
"My days are full with my grandsons, aged 10 and three."
Elenita is the former head of a chemistry school and lecturer at university.
She sees a government here that cares for people in need, in contrast to the many homeless people on the streets in Brazil.
"The political situation in Brazil is very bad - there's corruption and it's not safe," she says.
Elenita is improving her English skills at TAFE classes.
Learning English was the reason her daughter Vanessa first came to Australia.
"My husband wanted to learn a bit of English so he came as a student," Vanessa said.
"Three months later, my Mum came over to visit.
"At first, it was very stressful for her. She thought she could speak English well but struggled to understand Australian English."
Like her mum, Vanessa brought professional qualifications to her chosen country.
She graduated 18 years ago as a dentist and had her own practice in Brazil.
Securing a job as a dentist in Australia required years of study.
Vanessa, now settled with her family at Tweed Heads, teaches dentistry at Griffith University and works in private practice.
As tough as it was, she has no regrets about coming to Australia.
"We love that if you want to be something here, you can be," she said.
Rob Allen, of Currumbin, epitomises the young migrant who seizes the opportunities that Australia offers, and makes the most of them.
He's a longtime resident who first worked as an engineer.
"I immigrated to Sydney in 1981 from Birmingham, UK, and had 13 years there, then I came up to the Gold Coast," he said.
"When I came to Australia on a holiday for a couple of months, I got a sense of Australia being a place of opportunity.
"People were judged not on their parents, what position they held, who you knew, what you had...
"I liked that opportunity as a basis for building a life.
"Tall poppies are knocked down. I enjoy the idea of Australia being equal for those who want to give it go.
"I now feel a strong desire to carry Australian citizenship."
Flying his own plane, Rob likes to travel to sporting events and to visit the spectacular Outback.
He retired early at 53, after achieving success as chief executive officer of a window manufacturing company. His wife and five children are all Australians, so he made a solo trip to pick up his citizenship papers.
Rob, at the age of 63, officially became a citizen on January 26, as did Brazilian-born Elenita.
"A couple of times before I've started the (citizenship) process but failed to finish it. I was busy," he said.
"I really feel I should be an Australian citizen and acknowledge the great country we're in.
"I really enjoy the outdoor culture and mateship.
"I played a bit of professional sports and made a lot of friends."
There's no doubt he's an Aussie teams' supporter.
"I enjoy beating the Brits more than anything else," he said.
Asked if opportunities he had still exist in Australia for migrants who arrive today, Rob says:
"They differ as we are even more diverse as a country and, as information and then markets have become so much easier to access globally, we are less constrained by our borders.
"That means greater opportunity for us but more competition. For this reason, we must look forward to plan change to government and tax structures to maintain competitiveness for our next generations."
Around the country on Australia Day, 336 ceremonies were held to welcome 12,887 new citizens representing 129 different nationalities.