On Friday morning, the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Bass Hill will play host to the biggest citizenship ceremony in New South Wales history, certifying 2400 City of Canterbury-Bankstown residents as Australians.
Dr Ahmed Owais, who will officially call Australia home from Friday, is both relieved and philosophical – and says the occasion is more than ceremonial.
“It’s not just a certificate, it is much deeper than that. Being a citizen increases our place in this country, a place we would love to stay forever. It’s a very strong feeling. It feels like our roots are being planted more deeply into the country. It gives you a feeling of peace and loyalty.”
Ahmed arrived in Australia from Egypt six years after the upheaval of the Arab Spring began – to complete his studies and raise his young family. He believes Australia’s religious freedoms, student-focused education and the absence of conflict offer its citizens a “quality of life [that] must never be taken lightly”.
Citizens from more than 80 countries, including Lebanon, Greece, Vietnam, China, Syria and Macedonia, will take part in the two-hour ceremony on Friday morning.
Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour, a lifetime resident of the area, says the city’s diversity brings “unique contributions” to the community – which represents more than 140 different languages – and was proud that the thousands of new Australian citizens “will be calling Canterbury-Bankstown their ‘forever home’”.
The mass induction comes after Covid interrupted months of ceremonies, causing a significant backlog. Typical ceremonies are smaller, with about 100 pledgers inducted every two weeks.
Last year, just over 2000 new Australians were officiated in a similar ceremony in June.