At 21 the life of Afghani refugee Zarmina Ali was a far cry from that enjoyed by most men and women celebrating their rite of passage to adulthood in Australia.
Twelve years ago, the now 33-year-old was living in the midst of civil unrest in war-torn Afghanistan – 10,000km away from the city she now calls home.
Zarmin Ali and husband Esmatullah Ali with their two daughters Baha Ali, 10 and Elaha Ali, 6, at today's ceremony.
In 2007, Mrs Ali fled Afghanistan for Pakistan with her husband Esmatullah, and it was another five years before they finally secured a refugee visa to settle in Australia with their two daughters Bahar 10, and Elaha 6.
Today, more than seven years since arriving in Newcastle, the Waratah resident will be able to officially call herself Australian.
Mrs Ali joined more than 169 new Citizens from 30 countries at today’s City of Newcastle Citizenship Ceremony at the Civic Theatre.
Guests were greeted to performances from the Grainery Church and Indigenous dance groups before Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen invited citizens to take their citizen oaths and affirmations.
“Today’s Citizenship Ceremony is an historic moment,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said. “The year 2019 marks 70 years since Australian Citizenship was introduced into law, creating for the first time a legal status of being an Australian.
“Australians are privileged to live in a true democracy that protects and defends hard-fought freedoms.
“As Novocastrians, we are proud to be a culturally diverse, inclusive community, united by a commitment to democratic principles and fairness ensuring our residents enjoy equal rights and are treated with equal respect.”
Working as an Uber driver and studying English at TAFE, Mrs Ali said she will follow her passion for design and fashion now that she has her Citizenship status.
“I am enjoying learning English but I love design and clothes,” she said. “Today is a really happy day for me and I am happy for my children to grow up here. We have a smile on our face.”