After almost 5 years of being a resident of Australia, I finally took the plunge and became an Australian citizen. The process was relatively simple. About a month ago, I started filling up the necessary forms, paid the requisite fee and sat through a quick interview at the Immigration office. Before I knew it, I got approved for citizenship. The last step was to attend a citizenship ceremony where we would take an oath of loyalty to Australia.
I got invited to the citizenship ceremony held at the Port Adelaide-Enfield ( our city district )Town Hall about which is a bit of a drive from our house. We don't go there often and in fact, the last time we were there was for Meme's own citizenship ceremony two years ago. And the funny thing was, on the way there, I took the same wrong turn I took then, which had us going over the Port Adelaide bridge and into an industrial area. Sheepishly, I made a u-turn and got us to the Town Hall with plenty of time to spare.
The kids were initially excited about going out at night but as we sat and waited for all the people to come into the hall and the ceremony to start, they began getting a bit restless in their seats. Meme and I had to do our usual distraction routines like giving them snacks or giving them something to play with. Nico had a ball when he discovered he could work the digital camera. He took quite a few pictures and always saying "Cheese! Camera!" every time he pushed the button.
Bianca did her best to sit quietly though. I tried to explain to her what was going to happen but she couldn't quite grasp the idea of the ceremony. So, I told her that we were all there because Daddy was going to stand up and sing! She took that in stride and she waited patiently for my "performance".
The ceremony was a relatively simple affair unlike the big ceremonies they have during Australia day. On the night, about fifty or so citizenship candidates took turns going up to the front of the hall to take their oath in front of assembled government officials. My kids went with me to the front as we all took our oaths. Although the boy didn't stay too long with me as he ran to his Mom to take the camera from her because he wanted to take the pictures!
After we got our citizenship certificates, we sat down a bit to listen to a couple of speeches and then we all rose to sing the Australian National Anthem and trooped out for some late supper of sandwiches and drinks. It was a bit late when we got home so we got the kids ready for bed and they went straight to sleep without too much of a fuss.
A good way to end my first night of being Australian.
There were a lot of countries represented last night. There were people from the Sudan, Afghanistan, Irish, English, Yugoslavian, Chinese and Malaysian and all with a common desire to become Australian. I have to admit that I don't feel any different yet but being a certified Australian gives a sense of belonging. It's not that I've forever left the Philippines but it makes me, us, feel grounded in this country we now call home.
On another note, as we were leaving the parking lot after the ceremony, we saw the flashing lights of a police car. The officer was pulling over a car for some traffic violation. As we pulled up to the cars, we recognized the driver as one of the people who took the citizenship oath with me! Poor guy, the first act he does as an Australian citizen was to commit a traffic offense.