While CIVID 19 restrictions resulted in the cancellation of many Australia Day events in Western Sydney, Blacktown City Council welcomed 157 new Australian citizens in ‘online’ citizenship ceremonies.
Residents from 28 countries, from Syria to Sudan to the tiny Pacific territory of Tokelau, joined the online ceremonies to pledge their allegiance to Australia from the comfort of their own homes.
Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM said; “Blacktown City has among the highest intake of immigrants and refugees in Australia and we are very proud that we are a multicultural City with a welcoming ‘open door policy’.
“Blacktown City has a population of more than 405 thousand people representing more than 180 countries. Nearly 50 percent of our residents were born overseas and a great majority of them want to become, or have become, Australian citizens.”
Three online ceremonies were held on Wednesday with Deputy Mayor Brad Bunting and Australia Day Ambassador, TV builder and gardener, Robert Palmer carrying out the official duties from the Blacktown City Council Administration Centre.
The Federal Member for Chifley Ed Husic, the Federal Member for Greenway Michelle Rowland, the Member for Blacktown Stephen Bali, the Member for Londonderry Prue Car, the Member for Mount Druitt Edmond Atalla and Blacktown City Councillors Julie Griffiths and Livingston Chettipally, also joined the online ceremonies.
Among those to be conferred with Australian citizenship was the Kaiber family of Mount Druitt.
For father Charbel and sons Rawad, Raghed and Roy, the day had extra significance and marked the final step in the long journey from Syria to Lebanon and finally to Australia, as refugees.
Fleeing their war-torn homeland, the Kaiber family witnessed the city of Damascus turned into a war zone and sought a new, safe life in Blacktown City, arriving here in August 2016.
Overcoming all obstacles, the Kaibers have settled into their new life and have a shared love for Mount Druitt.
“I am so happy to get my Australian citizenship today after a long journey of more than six years,” Charbel said.
“When I moved to Australia, my English wasn’t good. I spoke Arabic and French.
“But here I had the opportunity to improve my English in some courses and I now have certificates in English and also business administration.”
For one new citizen, the day marked a double celebration.
Indian-born Tallawong resident, Sahil Kabra celebrated his 37th birthday on the day he pledged his allegiance to Australia.
Sahil’s wife Shugufta and mother Tasneem also became Australian citizens as part of the online ceremonies.
“It was always my dream as I was growing up in India, to come to Australia and raise a family. To become an Australian citizen on my birthday has made that dream come true,” Sahil said.
Blacktown City Council will hold up to 12 citizenship ceremonies during 2022.
Pic: Birthday and citizenship celebrations for Tallawong resident, Sahil Kabra as he is presented with his citizenship certificate by Deputy Mayor Brad Bunting. They were joined by Sahil’s mother Tasneem (left), wife Shugufta and son, Amaan.