City of Newcastle has embraced the return to face-to-face citizenship ceremonies following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, welcoming more than 130 new citizens from 34 countries on Wednesday afternoon.
The first opportunity to gather in person in 12 months, conferees, their families and friends joined with dignitaries to make the pledge of commitment to Australia at the iconic Civic Theatre.
Hailing from all corners of the globe, from Germany and Brazil to South Africa and Afghanistan, the city’s newest citizens further add to Newcastle’s rich multicultural tapestry, where 14 per cent of residents were born overseas and more than 14,000 speak a secondary language at home.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the COVID-19 pandemic had presented unique challenges to the way in which citizenship ceremonies were conducted, with City of Newcastle continually adapting to changing restrictions to ensure conferees had the option to participate in online ceremonies.
“Since the start of the pandemic, City of Newcastle has welcomed 786 new citizens, and today’s cohort takes that tally to just shy of 1,000, keeping the waitlist down and upholding democratic processes, allowing our new citizens to enrol to vote, apply for an Australian passport and employment opportunities,” Cr Nelmes said.
“A number of ceremonies were held online via Zoom during lockdowns, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for myself as Lord Mayor and for the many faces smiling back at me.
“It is heartening, two years later, to see face-to-face ceremonies in full swing once more, representing a very special occasion in our new citizens’ lives, the photos and memories of which they will cherish forever.”
Wednesday’s ceremony featured a traditional didgeridoo performance by the Deadly Callaghan Yidaki Group, as well as musical items by The Grainery Church.
Proud Newcastle Aboriginal Elder Aunty Cheryl Smith continued the tradition of her father, the late Uncle Bill Smith, in delivering a powerful Welcome to Country that acknowledged the lifestyles, cultures and spiritual beliefs of the traditional custodians of the land.
City of Newcastle’s next citizenship ceremony will be held on Wednesday 7 September 2022 at the Civic Theatre.