At 7:30 PM on June 11, 2009, my son Mio was sworn in as an Aussie citizen by the Mayor of Blacktown Charles Lowes. In a simple ceremony with about 150 other people of diverse multicultural backgrounds at the Bowman Theater in Blacktown, NSW, Mio was formally welcomed as a citizen of this country.
It started with the sound of bagpipes as the Mayor and a few officials strode down the middle of the hall onto the stage. The National Anthem was then sung. What strikes me most about the anthem are the lines ,’We are young. We are free.’ Somehow, those lines speak so eloquently about not just the youthful energy of this country and society but also an innocence that one still finds among many Aussies. Many Australians I have met seem friendly, straightforward and transparent, and quite trusting of the world and their Aussie way of life.There is a fun-loving character about them that can be infectious.
The main speeches were given by the two youth representatives of Blacktown Council, and they were effusively welcoming and inspiring. On behalf of their society, they formally opened its doors to the new immigrants while describing Australia as a vibrant land where ‘your talents can bloom and can shape the future of this land’. They also stressed that this relatively young society which has multiculturalism as one of its pillars, is proud to be home to more than 180 nationalities. ‘Australia’, as one of them said,’is a real land of milk and honey’. I was, to be honest, quite inspired by the speeches of these young people as were the Africans, Arabs, Filipinos, Chinese, Iraqis and other nationalities that were in the room.
One by one, they marched to the stage as their names were called. They got a certificate, a handshake from the Mayor and a plant to take home as a symbolic metaphor of their ‘planted future’ in this new land.
The Mayor then welcomed them officially, and soon after, cakes and drinks were served. A lot of the new citizens had pictures with the Mayor. As Mio went up to him, the Mayor asked where in the Philippines he was from. Mio answered that he was from Manila. To his surprise, the Mayor retorted that he was from Dumaguete! He was referring to his Pinay wife, something we were not aware of!
The ceremonies were on the whole, simple but touching. There was a seriousness about it as well as a light-hearted happy atmosphere as the host made funny remarks once in a while. One funny event was when the Alarcon family, all 8 of them were called in one by one. The host called it an ‘Alarcon-marathon’!
We went for Thai food after to celebrate. This is a first in our family history. There are Paredeses who have become American, Dutch citizens. Mio is the first Paredes to become an Aussie!