One of the most special civic duties I undertake are Citizenship Ceremonies. In 2016 I inducted around 800 new citizens in ceremonies as large as 200 people and as small as 35. They are all different, special and include lots of smiles.
In fact, after some of the particularly large ceremonies, I can be suffering a little from a sore jaw! But it is so worth it, celebrating such a significant moment in the lives of new Australians who have chosen to make the City of Darwin their home.
I always take the opportunity to provide the new citizens with a personal reflection which goes a little bit like this:
I’m 5th generation Australian with my great, great grand parents coming out from Southern China in the 1860s. With the recent debate about refugees, I have often wondered, what prompted my ancestors to make such a perilous journey, to a country that would have been hostile to these newcomers.
In fact, one of the reasons for the formation of the Federation, was the drive to implement the “White Australia Policy”. Was it the attraction of the gold fields? Was it escaping from some type of persecution? In fact, it seems that in the 1860s there was a famine in Southern China and so people left, seeking a better life.
I am very grateful that my ancestors chose to come to this “lucky country” where hard work and a positive attitude can lead to success. Where it is absolutely acceptable for a girl who looks like me to become the city’s Lord Mayor.
Is the story so different for today’s new citizens? Have they not left the familiar to seek a better life for their families? I know that their great-grandchildren will thank them for making that hard choice just as I do.