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Becoming an Australian citizen in the midst of a pandemic

The Ünlü family. Source: APP

Face-to-face citizenship ceremonies are being ramped up across Australia

After a year of border closures and economic uncertainty, some brand new Australia citizens are breathing a sigh of relief.

Face-to-face citizenship ceremonies are being ramped up across the country, as local councils try to clear their backlogs of people waiting to reach this milestone.

Here in the western Sydney council area of Cumberland, 450 residents, representing 42 nationalities, took the oath to adopt Australia as their home.

For Afghan-born Nasratullah Hakimi, he's lived in Australia for five years.

He says the freedom citizenship gives both him and his wife, is something he's been waiting for.

The decades old citizenship ceremony tradition began a little differently this time.

Because of Covid-safe precautions, every person had to check-in, and have their temperature tested.

Among those in attendance, the Ünlüfamily, was just glad they could be all together.

Father Huseyin spent years here alone, working in the hopes of having his family join him from Turkey.

But Mr Ünlühard work has paid off.

He is able to stand proudly alongside his three children, all holding citizenship certificates.

His 16-year-old daughter Melissa says she's excited to make a life of her own here.

In 2020 coronavirus restrictions meant all ceremonies were temporarily forced online.

The Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou, who officiated the event, says he's relieved face-to-face ceremonies are back, as they mark the significance of the day.

Along with international border closures, he says it’s more important than ever for residents to have certainty about their citizenship status.

For Shreejan Shrestha who came to Australia from Nepal 13 years ago - it's a day he says he'll remember forever.

Or Mohit from India, who can officially barrack for his favourite sporting side.

They may hail from vastly different parts of the world, but they now all share a unique experience: becoming an Australian citizen in the midst of a pandemic.

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