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Australia Day

City of Boroondara Citizenship Ceremony
Sunday 26 January 2014 

This Australia Day we finally all became Aussies!

January 26th is our National Day of celebration. A traditional day of flags, fireworks and fun, and a time to reflect on what it means to be Australian.  A day that marks the anniversary in 1788 of the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships and raising of the flag of Great Britain. 

It is somewhat ironic therefore, that on this day, we chose not to pick up the British flag of our birth, but are enthusiastically waving the Australian Flag, along with hundreds of other new Australians!   

This year Australia Day had special significance, as it was the day my DH finally became an Aussie citizen. Myself and the kids had become citizens in 2010 but Tim's overseas work commitments meant he did not have the necessary residency to qualify.  

We start the day with a 
'What should I wear?question 
No, not from me, I wasn't the one going up on stage! Having googled citizenship ceremony images, we finally decided a suit was the order of the day. It was a glorious Melbourne day, a day more for shorts and sleeveless summer frocks, all blue skies and puffy white clouds. 

Tim looked smart in his suit, but equally he would not have looked out of place in something more casual. It was a day to celebrate the diverse heritage and background of the 125 soon to be new Australians, from 32 countries. Certainly no-one batted an eyelid at those arriving dressed in sari's or burkhas and the lady two seats down is wearing a flag with two smaller flags in her hair, anything goes!

We arrived to find the car park jam packed with people in kilts. We search for a park in the shade and a car arrives flying Aussie flags. We sense the building occasion, but do wonder if we're at the right place?

The ceremony is being held in one of our oldest buildings in Boroondara. The plaque outside the Hawthorn Town Hall dates it to 1888, hardly old by many countries standards, but positively geriatric in Aussie terms.

In the entrance foyer, all the ceremony candidates receive an Aussie flag pin and a name tag with either a blue or red dot. Tim's is red. We meet another British family with blue dots. We have a laugh suggesting what the two differences might be. Until they tell us reds will be pledging an affirmation, blues will take an oath on the bible... Oh so that's it, DH is not Darling Husband, I have a devil husband.

The doors open into the opulent main hall, and devil husband makes his way to the front of the room to sit with the others becoming Aussie citizens. We head upstairs to the balcony for better viewing. We are after all, old hands at this, and I can feel a blog coming on. I need a good view! 

Every seat is adorned with an Australian flag which we are encouraged to wave and cheer and make lots of noise as the candidates receive their certificates.  A backdrop of a massive flag adorns the stage, framed by heavy burgundy velvet curtains on the stage. 

There is an air of expectancy and excitement. The event itself is Grammy's meets School Speech Night. Thank goodness all 125 candidates are not going to make an acceptance speech, but my, what stories each and everyone could tell... 

As the Press well know. Several of the families and those of particular photographic appeal on diversity grounds (if you get my drift) are asked for stories and comment. Devil husband, white single middle aged male of European descent, is  of no interest, and there is no need for me to bring in security for his personal protection from media hacks.

Our Mayor welcomes everyone. She acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri Tribe, before greeting assembled dignitaries including two local MP's, and recipients of the Citizen, Young Citizen and Volunteer of the Year 2014. 

Cr Coral Ross, our Mayor has a lovely warm smile and a massive gold clinking collar which sparkles so brightly that even those of us in the back row reach for our sunnies - Oh look at me, lapsing into an Aussie'ism, like a real local! Sorry I mean sunglasses, to use my best Queen's English. No, on second thoughts sunnies it is!

Here we go - Drum roll please! With a mass of tartan, furry sporrans and red drum sticks, in parade the Hawthorn City Pipe Band. Their rousing performance explains the kilted playing bagpipe brigade spotted in the car park. We can't resist a little giggle, as we are still not quite sure how Scotland got so heavily involved, but hey Australia prides itself on it's multiculturalism... 

Or maybe this was it? The first subtle lesson of the day. Here we are tempted to say where's the Aussie band, and crack a joke that given it was Australia Day the only band not booked was the Scottish one. Then we realise, this is the Aussie Band!

The speeches are powerful. The candidates are reminded that Australia is a nation of migrants. They are told it is natural to have mixed emotions. Strangely I felt more emotional today, than when I became a citizen. Three years ago, it was a piece of paper to give our family stability to remain, come what may. Today I became an Aussie.

Not everyone is as fortunate as us We also have the double happy whammy of having the option to have dual British and Australian citizenship. We often talk about this, and how blessed we are to been able have both passports. We know how incredibly lucky we are to have these two countries behind us. We have not fled from civil war or natural disaster, we are not displaced. We have chosen to become Australian citizens. We have not spent up to five years fighting for the right to remain like the Asylum Seekers I work with. 

Australia welcomed us, fourteen years ago on the basis of devil husband's job skills. We may not have the appropriate criteria if we applied today. Things are tougher now, and certainly age would be agains us. We know many people who are not so lucky...

Maybe this is what is getting to me. I know all the people I work with would give almost anything to be in our family's position... To fly the Aussie flag on their car and wear the Australian flag on their lapel.

The opportunity is not lost to reinforce Australia as the best country in the world. A country that matters. Australia has:
  • Twelfth strongest Economy 
  • Sixth largest land mass 
  • Four capitals (Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth) in the top ten liveable cities in the world.
Diversity is Australia's countries strength. Of the 23 million inhabitants:

  • Almost 25 per cent of Australia's population was born overseas 
  • 43.1 per cent of people have at least one overseas-born parent. 
  • 15 per cent speak a language other than English at home. Locally the biggest second languages are Mandarin, Italian then Greek.

We are told
Never forget the country from which you came, and the culture from which you grew, that is to be celebrated

Everyone is given a tree as a symbol of their experience: 

The roots offer a secure and meaning future
where you and your family can grow. 
This plant becomes your hope for the future...

(Ohhh, no pressure then! I did make a mental note to make sure we plant it in a good spot and look after it!)

Later that day the Hardenbergia Violacae plant takes pride of place on the mantlepiece

By the time we watch the 'I am Australian' video, I am a blubbering mess. We've gone from the 
"Mum can you stop taking photo's it's embarrassing...", to the 
"Mum, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, it's just that we are ALL Australian now" 
'What's wrong with that?"
We are one, but we are many 
and from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice
 I am, 
you are, 

we are Australian.

The Hon Ted Baillieu, MP, Member for Hawthorn had the tricky "follow that' job but his speech brought me out in goosebumps. Here are some of Ted's thoughts: 
'MP's love these events they are the happiest we are involved with...

'Receive a flag... 
and somewhere, either here, or in the future, 
maybe with friends, or by yourselves 
your heart will dance with the sounds of Australia. 

Have a ball! 
Australia will creep up on you, 
maybe when you least expect, 
it will take your breath away and you will know 
you are Australian...

Ted - you're so right. 
I have had a ball in this wonderful Country. 
Australia has crept up on me...

Devil husband meets us outside after the ceremony clutching his certificate and his Hardenbergia Violacae. 
'Oops I've failed the Ashes Test already', 
he announces with a grin. What's that we ask? 
'Someone asked me who I go for in the Test Cricket, between Australia and England. 
I said England'
England??????? we all replied.

Linking with Our World Tuesday
Thank you to all the hosts Arija, Gattina, Lady D, Sylvia, Sandy, Jennifer

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