COMING to Australia was a dream that Dilani Mendis had held since she was a teenager in Sri Lanka.
She had uncles who had lived in Sydney for many years who told her stories about how Australia offered a better life and opportunities than her homeland.
Unable to study medicine in Sri Lanka, Ms Mendis and her young family came to Australia in 2009.
She is presently studying in Warrnambool for a career in nursing. To reach that point she has undertaken extensive studies, gone through career changes and commuted long distances to work away from her family.
She and her two young children took their commitment to Australia a step further when they were among the 14 people who gained Australian citizenship at Warrnambool’s Australia Day ceremony last month.
Ms Mendis studied and worked in banking in Sri Lanka after being unable to get into medical school.
She met her husband, Lanka Maddag, in the banking industry but their application to come to Australia as skilled migrants was unsuccessful because bankers were not in demand.
Undeterred, the family’s next step was to outlay considerable funds for Ms Mendis to come to Melbourne to study hospitality management and become a chef.
The move tied in with Ms Mendis’ talent for cooking and the course enabled the family to come to Australia.
Her husband worked as a plasterer in Melbourne while Ms Mendis spent two years training to be a chef and working in aged care and hospitality.
Once qualified in continental cooking, Ms Mendis expanded her skills further when she landed a job working in a Thai restaurant on Phillip Island. Her family remained in Melbourne while she made the long commute.
Her stint on the island exposed her to the pleasures of living in regional Victoria and the family looked to a future outside the capital.
In 2012 they moved to Warrnambool, where Ms Mendis eventually found work in food service at Warrnambool’s Mercy Place aged care residence while her husband worked at Midfield Meat.
Ms Mendis said her time at Mercy Place helped her to realise her true passion was to work in health. While studying nursing she now works at mercy Place as a personal care attendant.
Ms Mendis said a wonderful moment was when she went to work at Mercy Place after gaining Australian citizenship and the residents welcomed her as an “Aussie.”