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Caption: Nickolas Varvaris MP with The Hon. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells
Senator The Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, Councillors, Stephen Agius, Mayor of the City of Kogarah, Councillor George Katsabaris of Kogarah City Council, Councillor Rita Kastanias, Hurstville City Council representing the Mayor of Hurstville City Council Jack Jacavou, Emanuel J Comino AM, distinguished guests, citizenship candidates, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this evening’s Barton citizenship ceremony.
Now let me acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land on which we meet today, the people of the Eora nation, and thank them for their continuing contributions to our community.
We are mindful of the rich heritage and culture of our Indigenous people.
Theirs are the oldest of the many stories that make up our country. Yours are the newest. As Australians, we all participate and share in this nation together.
This year we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Australian citizenship. On 26 January 1949, the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into effect, creating the new status of Australian citizen.
Since then, more than four and a half million people have done what you are about to do – make a commitment to Australia and its people.
Together as citizens we will continue to ensure that Australia remains the best country in the world to live.
As the Federal Member for Barton, I would like to congratulate you on your decision to become Australian citizens.
The Barton electorate is one of the most culturally diverse regions in Sydney and we welcome that diversity and recognise the potential it grants to our area’s cultural and economic character.
Migrant communities have overcome significant hurdles – from learning a new language and finding work to choosing a school for their children. They have conquered social, cultural, language and economic barriers to make a life for themselves here in Australia. Things many of us take for granted.
Key to the social and material progress we’ve made since 1901 are the skills, energy and cultural diversity of our people.
And, importantly, the desire of new arrivals to these shores to embrace our Australian ethos whilst at the same time maintaining the best aspects of their own ethnic, religious and cultural identities.
As the Federal Member for Barton I am honoured to be involved in this citizenship ceremony with you as part of my responsibilities.
Tonight is a night for new beginnings. My forebears came to this country as migrants.
Like you, they had a choice of where to come and you should all be commended on the choice you have made.
Irrespective of our individual backgrounds and customs in the final count, we are all Australians. This united country of ours – culturally diverse but with core values – is a shining example to the world of what
a fundamentally free and decent people can achieve when they work together constructively, and show respect and tolerance for one another.
This means supporting and understanding each other and experiencing other people cultures. This is the only way we will be able to enjoy the richness of human experience that our multicultural Australia has to offer.
I think one of our great strengths – and this goes to the heart of the citizenship being conferred this evening – is our adherence to democratic values.
We believe in ‘a fair go’ and in ‘having a go’. We believe in a proper balance of rights and responsibilities.
As a nation, we most certainly have much of which to be proud.
We’re a cohesive, tolerant society – one that’s been enriched by ancient indigenous cultures and successive waves of immigrants.
This evening people from different parts of the world will become Australian citizens. In choosing to do so, you will enjoy the benefits of living in a democracy that respects human rights and offers freedom of opportunity.
Citizenship also brings with it responsibilities: to obey Australian laws, to vote, to serve on a jury if required and, if need be, defend Australia.
While each of you has decided to become an Australian, you retain the right to express your cultural heritage and beliefs, and a duty to respect others’ rights to do the same.
Congratulations. You are all now Australian citizens.
Thank you all for being a part of this momentous occasion.