City of Newcastle confers its newest Australian citizens
More than 200 people from 40 countries were invited to take the pledge of commitment as Australian Citizens alongside family, friends and dignitaries at Civic Theatre this morning.
Hailing from all corners of the globe, from Iraq and Jordan to Chile and Ethiopia, Newcastle's newest citizens were treated to traditional performances by the Deadly Callaghan Yidaki Group and dancers of Hamilton South and Plattsburg public schools before receiving their citizenship certificates.
Among them was Terez Al Talli and Ghassan Allawi, of New Lambton, their sixteen-year-old daughter Rahaf and twelve-year-old son Fadi.
After fleeing war-torn Syria as refugees in 2018, they spent a year in Iraq, before settling in Newcastle in 2019, with Terez finding work with a security company and her husband driving buses.
Terez described leaving her family's home country as "very hard" but said they were "very lucky" to reach Australia and become citizens.
"It was not an easy decision to leave Syria, but with the war, we had to leave. We left behind the place where we grew up and our parents and brothers," she said.
"When we found out we had been accepted for a refugee visa to Australia, honestly we felt like we were flying. We were over the moon!
"We didn't speak any English when we arrived here, so we learnt through TAFE, but when the pandemic struck, we had to learn English online, which was very difficult.
"Newcastle is such a nice area, we are so happy now. We are from a village called Sedneyah, outside Damascus, not a big city in Syria, so we are really enjoying the beaches here and the good weather."
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes congratulated Newcastle's newest Australian Citizens on this special day.
"Today we welcome hundreds of families to our city from all cultures and religious backgrounds," Cr Nelmes said.
"We welcome refugees like the Allawi family from Syria, and new migrants to our city and our country, and demonstrate our compassion and provide them with support.
"Newcastle is proud to be a progressive and inclusive city and we are so thrilled to be welcoming such a culturally diverse group of new citizens today."