Sixteen-year-old Amelia reflects on what makes Australia Day special to her family, who migrated to Australia seventy-three years ago.
Each year on January 26, special Australia Day ceremonies are held all around the country.
These ceremonies serve to officially welcome migrants from across the globe, who wish to commit themselves to Australia and her people by becoming Australian citizens.
These special services are called Australian Citizenship Ceremonies—or Naturalization Ceremonies. After speeches and other formalities, a Pledge of Commitment is taken by the new citizens.
The Pledge of Commitment
This Pledge is a solemn vow by which the new Australians formally and publicly accept both the responsibilities and privileges that come hand in hand with becoming an Australian citizen.
The Pledge of Commitment goes as follows:
From this time forward under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
For those migrants who have successfully completed the necessary requirements to become citizens, this is a monumental day, where they step into a completely new era in their lives.
My Family’s Australia Day Story
This Australia Day tradition is a personal part of my family history.
Seventy-three years ago, my great-grandparents took an older version of that Pledge on Australia Day. They truly meant it. My Beppe and Pake sailed to Australia in 1951. They were Dutch migrants who fled Europe in the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War.
Taking their four small children—and expecting a fifth (my grandmother)—they sailed to Australia, hoping for a new life. Both of them had a strong desire to embrace Australian culture and values.
It was extremely hard for them to face a completely new, strange country, leaving their family behind with the knowledge that they may never see them again.
Yet, if my great-grandparents had never been welcomed on Australian shores—if they had not worked hard to earn their places as Australian citizens—my Gran would never have met her husband. Consequently, my Mum, my sibling and I would never have been born and raised in this great country.
I am eternally grateful for the new life my Pake and Beppe gave me, as each day I enjoy the benefits of that pivotal decision.
Let’s Celebrate Australia Day
On that first Australia Day so long ago, when the First Fleet landed on Australia’s shores, the men and women brought from London’s prisons and slums were given hope—just like my grandparents—and the chance to start a new life.
Australia Day is a day when Australians of all backgrounds can recognise the privileges, freedoms and liberties that we enjoy every day: liberties that many around the world could never imagine.
It is a day when we appreciate the wonderful opportunities that this country has provided to so many.
May all Australians truly strive to live out that Pledge of Loyalty and give back to our precious country even a fraction of what she has given to us.