As Minister for Multicultural Affairs I am proud to preside over ceremonies in the ACT conferring Australian citizenship.
They are great events for the people becoming Australian citizens but also for Canberra, as they have chosen to make our community their home. They are filled with so much hope, fun and excitement and I really enjoy presiding over them and sharing this time with our newest citizens along with their friends and family.
Some people becoming citizens have been living in Australia for many years, some have just arrived.
It would be natural for new citizens to have mixed emotions about their citizenship ceremonies - on the one hand people have memories of and close connection to the country in which they were born or grew up, and on the other, hopes for the future in their new country.
Becoming an Australian citizen doesn't mean forgetting their country of birth, or the country where they grew up, its customs and culture. Every new citizen brings new ideas and experiences which strengthens our community.
What becoming an Australian citizen also means is a public commitment to embracing Australian values and institutions and enriching and strengthening them through diversity.
As a community, we value and enjoy this cultural diversity and recognise the contribution each new citizen makes to the strength, harmony and vigour of our society. We encourage them to maintain their cultural heritage and traditions and to share them with other Australians.
Canberra for this very reason is a great, multicultural community.
Our city’s foundations were built by migrants and today people moving here from overseas continue to strengthen Canberra. More than one fifth of Canberra’s population was born overseas and the ACT has residents from nearly 200 different countries.
Citizenship brings both responsibilities and duties - to obey laws, to vote, to serve on a jury, and to defend Australia if the need for such an unhappy circumstance occurs. But it also brings civil and social rights - the right to express your individual cultural heritage and beliefs coupled with a responsibility to accept the rights of others to express their heritage and beliefs.
By becoming an Australian, new citizens are showing they want to be part of our community and also have a say in Australia’s future and that’s an exciting thing to be part of.