Australians All

27 May 2008

Yesterday I became an Australian citizen.  And to say that the ceremony was ‘odd’ doesn’t really do it justice.  It was quite bizarre from beginning to end.

There were 100 new citizens there, together with family and friends, and the occasion started with the entry of the official party, led by the Mayor of Hornsby.  He had with him a vicar, two State MPs, a local Councillor and a senior Hornsby Council employee.  And for about 20 minutes he gave us a complete CV on each of these people. 

The vicar had originally trained as an accountant and practised with Coopers & Lybrand in London for a while before returning to Sydney with his wife and two daughters etc etc etc.  Fascinating stuff with absolutely no relevance to the occasion.  By the time the Mayor got to the second MP, I’d rather turned off as, apparently, had most of my fellow new citizens.  The point of all this quite escaped me.

Prior to the occasion, we’d been asked if we wished to swear an oath or affirm and I (of course) chose to affirm.  We were also told that if we wished to swear on a particular holy book, we should take our own.  (David suggested I took The God Delusion and Lara proposed something by Elizabeth Zimmerman!).     It was therefore rightly assumed by the authorities that we were a mixed bag of people representing all religions and none.  So why was it necessary for the accountant-turned-vicar to say a prayer before proceedings?  It certainly wasn’t very well received on the row where I was sitting.

Then it got even better.  The Council employee, who was the Director of the department that deals with roads, read out to us the duties and responsibilities of an Australian citizen.  Had he been especially chosen for the job (and, if so, why?) or was he just sitting in the Council at just the right time to be coerced into taking this role? 

And just when we thought that this really couldn’t go on any longer, one of the State MP’s starting talking to us about graffiti.  According to him, there’s no graffiti in London or Singapore because both places have soldiers with machine guns on street corners!   I don’t know when he went to London but David was there last week and reports that, yes, he did see graffiti and no, he didn’t actually see any heavily armed forces patrolling Deptford High Street. 

Then we at last got to stand up, shake the Mayor’s hand, get our Certificates/badges/bushes (YES, I got an Australian bush which put paid to my belief that the story about being given a tree was just an urban myth).  Then we produced the most lacklustre and slow version of the National Anthem I’ve ever heard.  At least we’ve got the lamingtons and sandwiches to look forward to.  But there weren’t enough lamingtons to go round so I missed out. 

I decided to make up for my lack of sustenance by seeking out the Mayor and asking him why a CIVIC ceremony included a Christian prayer.  He said that “people” would be offended if it were left out.  I couldn’t get out of him any details of which “people” he was referring to as I was quite sure the new citizens wouldn’t bat an eyelid if this was a secular event. He said that they’d tried to get other religious leaders to attend, as he thought that would appease me, but I pointed out that religion just had no place there except for those who felt that their word couldn’t be trusted unless their hand was on a holy book.   

I am not making this up.  Lara I’m sure will confirm every word and she probably remembers a lot that I missed.  Both her and David were caught between hysterical laughter and spitting blood by the time I got to them. 

I’m glad I became a citizen but this wasn’t quite how I’d envisaged it to be.  The best you could say about it was that it was memorable!

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  1. Sally tells no lies – it was both a moving ceremony, and a bloody farce. The worst moment was when one of the MPs told the story of her grandfather – an economic migrant from Holland, and then claimed that he was “one of the original boat people”!

    I was appalled – I hope that there were no boat people in the crowd, to hear their plight belittled like this. Real boat people face unimaginable horrors, they risk everything in the hope for a better life, and to hear this vapid woman miss the point in the context of welcoming new citizens was a little like watching Brendan Nelson on sorry day. Cringe worthy.

    Anyway, the most important thing is that we have 100 new citizens, and hopefully some of them will become elected officials in the fullness of time, and future ceremonies might be conducted with a little more sensitivity.

    Welcome to the team Sally!

  2. Congrats on getting a bit of a say in what happens where you live – I’m glad you are now an ‘Aussie’!

    Sorry the ceremony was a bit of a joke – but I am glad that you had some company to laugh about it with. Hope your dinner celebrations went well 🙂


  3. Dinner was lovely!

  4. Congratulations on your citizenship – you are an inspiration to the complacent Permanent Residents like me who should try and change the stereotype of who or what “the people” are. (though I can and do vote)

    What was the Aussy bush you got? A nice Wattle?
    “the symbol of our land, you can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand. Amen.”

  5. Aaargh! And we missed the celebrations!! Congratulations, but you’ve done nothing to push me toward applying for citizenship. 🙂

  6. Congratulations! Weird ceremony though. Clover kept mine much more on topic, and we definitely didn’t have any religious interludes. Then again, I didn’t get a bush, so I’m still jealous of yours.

  7. I am totally swearing on something by EZ the next time it’s called for.

    Genius idea.

  8. [My belated] Congratulations.

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