“From this time forward, 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.”
Waiting in line to sign the guest book
Today I spent my first full day as an Australian, after an amazing day filled with love, laughter, good food and good wine yesterday. My father in America was a little sad – I think he’s always harboured the wish that I’d move back to Arizona and right down the street.
A friend of my parents however was shocked that I could give my loyalty to another country. In an email she asked me “What possessed you?”
Ironically enough, I was reminded of a poem that poet Robert Frost read at JFK’s inauguration: “The land was ours before we were the land’s.
For the past 10 and a half years I’ve called Australia home, but still always felt a bit of an outsider because of my accent and the fact I had no voice in how Australia runs. I come from the state of New Hampshire in America, where democracy and politics run strong. I’d put off becoming a citizen because I thought I’d have to give up my US citizenship and because I thought I had to pledge allegiance to the Queen. When I found out that had changed in 1994 (just a few years ago), I started looking into things more in depth. And that led to yesterday.
The ceremony was heartfelt and utterly without pretension. In fact, one of the local council members led the audience in the chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi! Oi! Oi!” as each batch of new citizens were welcomed in (they brought us up in groups of 10 so that rellies could get good photos). That kept any of us from getting too sooky and soppy about the whole thing.
I received a small tree, a flag, a folio full of pamphlets on the meaning of various Australian symbols as well as political propaganda from the local MP, a DVD with several versions of “Advance Australia Fair” on it and a little badge celebrating 60 years of Australian citizenship for us all.
The mayor explained that before 1949, people living in Australia were subjects of the British crown. To quote from Frost again “we were England’s, still colonials, possessing what we still were unpossessed by…
My first day as an Australian I started by keeping promises to myself and starting a course that I’ve wanted to take for the past few years. New beginnings are like that – full of promise, hope and optimism.
So I’m now the land’s. My accent, my love of peanut butter, my love of cheesy Christmas movies — that’s my contribution to the rich tapestry of diversity that is Australia.
Oi, oi, oi!