Immigration

Sydney holds largest Australia Day citizenship ceremony

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Australia's newest citizens say they are proud and excited to be part of a "great country".

James Golestani has dreamed of moving to Australia since he was a little boy - today his dream became a reality. 

The 52-year-old, who said he originally came from Iran and is of Persian ethnicity, was one of close to 1,500 people who became an Australian citizen in the country's largest Australia Day citizenship ceremony this year, according to a City of Parramatta spokesperson.

Held in Parramatta Park on Saturday morning, the historic event featured a traditional Welcome Ceremony and a performance by Indigenous band Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project.

James Golestani said he had always dreamed of becoming an Australian citizen.
James Golestani said he had always dreamed of becoming an Australian citizen.
SBS News

Wearing an Australian flag tie with a flag draped over one shoulder, Mr Golestani said he was "very, very proud to be a part of this lovely, adorable nation".

"I feel really, really on top of the world. All of my dreams came true today," he told SBS News.

Mr Golestani was wearing a brand new Akubra with an Australian pin, which he said he bought specially for the occasion. 

"I promised myself on the day I become an Australian, I put on the Australian hat," he said. 

Another new citizen, Babandeep Singh Kamboj, came to Australia with his family in 2008 from Punjab in India and said he was "very proud" to be here.

Babandeep Singh Kamboj and his family came from India to Australia in 2008.
Babandeep Singh Kamboj and his family came from India to Australia in 2008.
SBS News

"Australia is a great country, a peaceful country and that is why I wanted to become an Australian citizen," he said. 

"I am very happy and very excited and it is a very good moment now."

New citizens coming from India, like Mr Kamboj, made up the majority of nationalities represented at the Parramatta ceremony (27.1 per cent), followed by Iraq (6.7 per cent), China (5.8 per cent), South Korea (5.3 per cent) and Pakistan (4.9 per cent).

"Throughout 2018, City of Parramatta has proudly welcomed 1,450 new citizens, and we are honoured to be hosting such a large gathering as part of our Australia Day celebrations," City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Andrew Wilson said.

Mr Kamboj said he felt "very proud".
Mr Kamboj said he felt "very proud".
SBS News

"Parramatta is, and has always been, a welcoming, inclusive and multicultural city. As the home of a large migrant population, our great city is a rich melting pot of cultures and nationalities – which makes it the perfect location for this wonderful event."

Martin Alato, 29, became an Australian citizen after marrying his wife in Australia just months ago. 

He settled in Australia after fleeing the war in Iraq when he was in his early twenties. He remembers the date clearly: 25 November 2011. 

"It's the greatest thing you could ever be, you should be very, very proud to become an Australian citizen. You leave the country, come to new country, they take you," he told SBS News, while draped in an Australian flag.

Martin Alato embraces his new wife.
Martin Alato embraces his new wife.
AAP

"It makes you a home. That home you lost, you have it again now here."

He said he was "born again" after becoming an Australian citizen. 

Earlier this year, the government revised the citizenship code to make it compulsory for all councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day - a move criticised by some groups.

The new code, to be introduced next year, will also enforce strict dress codes for new citizens.

This year, the number of people who received Australian citizenship on Australia Day is at its largest number ever - 16,212 migrants, representing a 35 per cent increase on the previous year. The new citizens come from 146 different countries.

More than five million people have received Australian citizenship since the legal introduction of Australian citizenship 70 years ago.  That number includes 74,000 people being awarded citizenship on Australia Day in the past five years alone. 

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Australia Day marked around the country
Australia Day marked around the country

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