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'Proudly Sikh and proudly Australian': Albury welcomes new citizens in a COVID-safe manner

Gurjeet Singh and his family holding their citizenship certificates and Australian flags on 25 August at Albury, NSW. Source: Supplied

For many of those in Australia who were born overseas, becoming a citizen is an important part of their migration story. A Sikh family shares their experience of gaining Australian citizenship at an unusual ceremony held at Albury, NSW recently, in-keeping with the social distancing protocols required during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gurjeet Singh and his family became citizens of their ‘dream country’ Australia on 25 August at Albury, NSW. He had migrated to Australia in 2008 from the northern state of Punjab, in India.

A truck driver by profession, Mr Singh says he feels ‘proud to be living in this great, peaceful and prosperous country’.

“We feel happy and privileged to receive Australian citizenship. It was a great and very uplifting occasion. We were proudly dressed in traditional Sikh attire and enjoyed every moment of this ceremony.

“For us, becoming Australian citizens means an ongoing commitment towards its people, its values and multicultural beliefs, and to have a capacity to work together for everyone’s benefit,” he said.


Highlights:

  • Albury city council welcomes 51 new Australian citizens from over 17 countries
  • Gurjeet Singh and his family are among those who became citizens on 25 August
  • Singh family migrated to Australia in 2008 from the northern state of Punjab, in India
  • Over 200,000 pledged their allegiance to Australia in 2019-20, of which a majority were from India
  • Around 85,000 people are awaiting a ceremony with many now receiving it online due to COVID-19

Mr Singh said their Sikh way of life also coincides with the concept of ‘betterment for all’.

“Our religion teaches us to respect everyone and to live a life in the service of humanity. To some people, we may look a bit different, but we never had any problems or issues with our appearance and religious beliefs ever since we moved to Australia,” he added.

Gurjeet Singh, his wife Manjinder Kaur and their children Balsharn Kaur and Yuvraj Singh
Gurjeet Singh, his wife Manjinder Kaur and their children Balsharn Kaur and Yuvraj Singh
Supplied

Mr Singh said that in order to practice social distancing and protect the health of guests the citizenship ceremony seemed ‘quite different’ this time.

“In NSW, the situation with the coronavirus is not as bad as it is in Victoria. But the authorities didn’t take any chances. The ceremony was conducted in the hall but in a COVID-safe manner,” he said.

“Nevertheless, it was a milestone event for me and my family as we marked this occasion with celebrations along with the other new citizens.” 

A screenshot from the AlburyCity's Facebook Page.
A screenshot from the AlburyCity's Facebook Page.
Supplied

While presenting Singh family’s picture on Facebook, the Albury city council made the following statement about this event:

“This week we welcomed 51 new Australian citizens from over 17 countries to our community. The COVID safe event looked very different with social distancing measures in place, however, it is a reminder that we are united through culture and community during these challenging times.”

Recently, Acting Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge had stated that it is more important than ever to welcome new citizens to our community.

“Australian citizenship is an immense privilege and fundamental to our national identity,” Mr Tudge said in an earlier statement. 

The citizenship ceremonies are on hold in some parts of Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The citizenship ceremonies are on hold in some parts of Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Supplied

What are the requirements for Australian Citizenship?

  • Permanent resident status for one year and have lived in Australia for at least 9 out of 12 months within the year
  • Lived continuously and legally in Australia for the past four years
  • Be physically present in Australia and have not been absent for more than twelve months in the last four years
  • Meet the good moral character requirements

A record number of people – over 200,000 pledged their allegiance to Australia in 2019-20, of which a majority were from India.

There are currently 85,000 people awaiting a ceremony with many now receiving it through online platforms. 

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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