Last week our Publisher and founder Mia Freedman addressed a Citizenship Ceremony in Sydney. She spoke with forty of Australia’s newest citizens and their loved ones, as they celebrated formally becoming part of our country
This is what she said……
By MIA FREEDMAN
It is customary on significant occasions like this one, to open with a quote from an influential figure in history. Someone whose eloquent phrasing and carefully chosen words bring a sense of gravitas that mine alone could not.
One might quote a Prime Minister, or a President, a statesman, a freedom fighter, a great philosopher or outstanding historian.
Well, I’m a working mum of three kids and I honestly don’t have time to read Aristotle at the moment. I’m also a writer and an editor – so I know a decent phrase when I hear one.
So I’m going to quote Harry Potter instead.
There is a wonderful scene in the first of JK Rowling’s famous series of children’s books, where Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter’s teacher, says to him:
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
And he was right.
Today, each of you has made a choice.
And unlike myself and Malcolm and others gathered here today – who were born as citizens of this great country – you have made a conscious choice to become an Australian.
And that choice is a very powerful thing indeed.
In making that choice you tell us – your fellow Australians – and you tell the world, who you truly are.
That you believe in a Government elected by the people, which will govern for the people.
That you respect our democracy and wish to play your part within it.
That you believe in fair play and you bring to that play, a sense of fun.
That you want all Australians to have every opportunity for success, regardless of their race, their religion, their gender, their sexuality and regardless of their financial circumstances.
That you too, want to share in the Australian dream. A dream that is founded on a very simple promise: that together we will build an even greater country for our children and our children’s children.
Many many years ago, my father made the same choice that you are making today when he chose to migrate to Australia from South Africa and start a new life.
He was 22 and his family had decided to leave their country because of the racial persecution of coloured people. His family’s lives were great. They were financially secure, had big houses and an exceedingly comfortable lifestyle.
But they were unable to live with the fact that the way they lived was dependent on the colour of their skin. So they gave up everything (you could not take money out of the country even if you were immigrating) for a new life in a new country.
They chose Australia out of a number of options – Canada, Israel, the UK, America – because of our weather, the fact we’d never had an internal war, we don’t share borders with any other country and because Australia is a liberal (small l) democracy.
So they arrived in the late 60s, in Sydney, and went straight from the airport to Bondi beach. My father had $100 in his pocket. One of my father’s happiest days was seeing a newspaper headline. In South Africa, they were accustomed to seeing daily headlines like “TRAGEDY: 100 killed in new race riots”. In Australia one day, he say a newspaper that said: “TRAGEDY: Australia loses to Britain in the 2nd test”.
And not for one minute of his life since the day he arrived has my father regretted or even paused to reconsider his choice to become an Australian.
I am grateful for his choice and I know that your children will be grateful for yours.
Australians are a people who work hard and party even harder.
We take nothing more seriously than how our footy team does on the weekend and nothing less seriously than ourselves.
We put family firmly at the front and centre of our worlds and we pride ourselves on looking out for our neighbours and our mates.
We are the only people in the world who choose to eat our national animal and 200 years on we’re still chuffed by the fact that many of our ancestors first came to this country as criminals.
We are a country whose population mostly don’t know the words to the second verse of our own national anthem.
But that anthem includes one line that is so important on a day like today: For those who come across the sea, we’ve boundless plains to share.
And today we choose to share those plains with you. And I know that our nation, our people and our culture will be all the richer for having done so.
On behalf of my family and my community, I welcome you to Australia.