SEVENTY years since the first citizenship ceremonies in Australia, Lake Macquarie welcomed more than 70 new Australians on Friday.
From 23 different countries, a total of 76 new people accepted their citizenship certificates at the Lake Macquarie City Council ceremony. Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Iran, UK, Ukraine, India, Thailand and the Philippines were among the range of diverse backgrounds.
Kay Fraser, Lake Macquarie mayor, and the official party showed their gratitude by sharing a few words on what the ceremony means to them.
Clayton Barr, state member for Cessnock, demonstrated the classic Australian sense of humour in a joke about the Matildas win in last night's World Cup game.
"And to our new Brazil citizen, no hard feelings about last night, you can now to cheer on the Aussies. I hope your family is proud to support Australia and that, maybe one day, your children can grow up to represent the country," Mr Barr said.
Joao Carlos Mendes Junior, the area's newest Brazilian Australian, laughed along.
"I like the Aussie sense of humour, it reminds me a lot of Brazil. My workmates and I joke around like that a lot," Mr Mendes said.
He and his wife moved from Newcastle to Lake Macquarie when they fell pregnant. At the ceremony, Joao proudly held his four-month-old baby.
"The area is great for families, we're glad to live here," Mr Mendes said.
Another young family at the ceremony was the Huangs from China. Terrance proudly followed his father Longfei to the stage when he heard the family name called.
"Terrance was born here in Australia but I needed my own citizenship. This certificate means I can now travel with my son, maybe to Europe one day" Longfei said.
Meanwhile, Ivanna Bondarchuk, of Ukraine, said migration had never been part of her plans. She said she had worked and studied in her country before meeting her now husband, an Australian travelling abroad.
"It's a real love story, I wasn't even in the city I studied in when we met. The whole process has been so natural, without any complications, so I'm very lucky. The ceremony today has been good and I'm excited to be an official citizen now," she said.
She said she loved her life in Australia, and particularly, Lake Macquarie. A regular runner, she met new mates one morning jogging around the Lake.
"Everyone's so nice and it was so easy to make friends. Now I have the best friends, the best work, and I live in the best place," she said.
All of the new citizens were congratulated with their official certificate, a native Australian plant, and a complimentary morning tea.
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