Brimbank City Council has welcomed more than 500 new Australian citizens during the COVID-19 crisis, in an online citizenship milestone delivering joy and new beginnings.
One of Victoria’s most diverse municipalities and home to more than 200,000 people in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Brimbank hit the milestone on Thursday (13 August).
A total of 509 Brimbank residents have now taken the pledge to become Australian citizens during the pandemic, with a little help from technology. They hailed from 61 countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Jamaica, Romania, the United States and Vietnam.
The ages of conferees ranged from young children to people in their nineties.
Mayor Cr Georgina Papafotiou said there was no shortage of enthusiasm when Brimbank conferees were asked if they would be willing to take the citizenship pledge online.
‘It’s been an absolute honour, as presiding officer, to witness more than 500 people in Brimbank marking this new chapter in their lives, and the next step in their contribution to our community and Australia,’ Cr Papafotiou said.
‘It’s been wonderful and humbling to be present for something that means so much to them – becoming an Australian citizen, a lifelong commitment.
‘Council staff have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen for our community members, and I would like to acknowledge their dedication in helping make a few dreams come true for our new citizens.’
Brimbank became the first municipality in the west to offer online citizenship ceremonies back in June. Ceremonies are conducted via Zoom to comply with restrictions on gatherings and social distancing measures.
Sunshine North resident Asad Gill took part in Brimbank’s first online citizenship ceremony.
He wore a suit he had made in his home country of Pakistan, decorated the house in Australian flags and balloons while his five family members and friends (the maximum allowed at the time) watched on proudly.
Asad appreciates the freedom in Australia, and the multicultural and accepting way of life.
‘It’s like a dream come true. If I would not have been here in Australia, my life would have been very different. This is my country, and I will do my best to give back what Australia has given me,’ Asad said.
As presiding officer of the ceremonies, Cr Papafotiou has recited the citizenship pledge with conferees more than 500 times, with the ceremonies taking a total of 84 hours on Zoom – as only five people can take the pledge per hour in an online citizenship ceremony.
‘At a time when COVID-19 is causing so much anxiety and isolation in our community and across the world, it’s so wonderful to be able to offer these online ceremonies that bring our community together and remind us of our strength, pride and diversity,’ Cr Papafotiou said.