City of Newcastle welcomes its 500th citizen in 2021 online

05 Oct 2021

City of Newcastle welcomed its largest number of new citizens yet via group virtual ceremonies on Tuesday, conferring Australian citizenship upon 190 people from 39 countries.

Following the success of earlier online ceremonies, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen presided over a further two ceremonies each via Zoom to allow our newest citizens to take the pledge of commitment whilst the Hunter Region is still under lockdown.

Despite changing COVID-19 restrictions impacting the traditional face-to-face ceremony format, the City has gained 500 citizens in 2021, significantly reducing the waitlist for the Newcastle Local Government Area.

Cr Nelmes said becoming an Australian citizen was not only an important ceremonious occasion, but a vital step towards exercising the democratic right to vote as well as apply for jobs and an Australian passport.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has displaced many people in many different ways, be it through job losses or a reduction in work, illness, or separation from loved ones,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Adapting our face-to-face citizenship ceremonies to online was a simple measure City of Newcastle could take to provide practical support to our new citizens at this challenging time.”

Newcastle’s newest citizens hail from all corners of the globe, from Afghanistan and Iran to Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Among them was Steve Barretto who was born in England, raised in South Africa, and moved to Ireland when he was 19. Steve met his now wife Nadine from Newcastle in Belfast and relocated to Newcastle in 2008 to start a family.

"Newcastle is the best place in the world, without a doubt. I remember as a kid watching cricket and wondering what it would be like to live in Australia. I'm really happy it's all official, I'll be having a little lockdown celebration at home with my family tonight, with some beers I have in the fridge and a meat pie."

The city proudly welcomes refugees and people of all cultural backgrounds, with 14 per cent of Novocastrians born overseas and more than 14,000 speaking another language at home.

In 2021, City of Newcastle has awarded Rapid Response Grants funding to Hunter Multicultural Communities to assemble welfare packs and produce a multilingual newsletter, as well as a combined $13,000 in Quick Response funding to STARTTS to assist in the organisation of the Unity and Diversity Festival, Afghan Community Festival, Congolese Community Festival, and Syrian Community Festival.