11 September 2019

Meet two of the region's newest Aussies - Thi Ha and Alan

| Ian Campbell
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Australia Day Ambassador - Corey Payne, Alan Head, Thi Ha Nguyen, Bega Valley Mayor - Cr Kristy McBain. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Left to right: Australia Day Ambassador Corey Payne, Alan Head, Thi Ha Nguyen, Bega Valley Mayor Cr Kristy McBain. Photos: Ian Campbell.

Australia Day 2019 marked 70 years of Australian Citizenship. For those of us born with it, watching others sign on the dotted line and listening to what it means and entails for them offers an interesting reflection.

In 1949, seven men were the first to take advantage of the new citizenship law that for the first time created a legal status for being uniquely Australian.

These new citizens hailed from Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Norway, Spain and Yugoslavia. Seven were chosen to represent the ‘Commonwealth Star’ on our flag, each point on the star represented the Australian states and territories of the day.

It wasn’t until 1954 that citizenship started to take off when more than 49,000 people took the pledge. The preferential treatment for British subjects was removed from the Act in 1973 and in 1984, Australia repealed laws that made our citizens subjects of the United Kingdom.

Bega Valley Mayor, Cr Kristy McBain conducting the citizenship ceremony in Bega on Australian Day 2019. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bega Valley Mayor, Cr Kristy McBain conducting the citizenship ceremony in Bega on Australian Day 2019.

David Coleman, Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship, is the person to confer Australian Citizenship in 2019. Mayors and Deputy Mayors across Southern NSW act as the Minister’s representative on the day.

“By committing yourself to Australia today, you have chosen to embrace our nation and its values. Like so many millions of people throughout our history, you have decided to take on the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship,” Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain said on behalf of the Minister.

“It’s now your responsibility to join all of us in building an even stronger nation.”

While fulfilling the legal requirements prescribed by the Australian Citizenship Act, the occasion is an opportunity to reflect on Australian values.

“It is one of the requirements that I read the preamble to the Australian Citizenship Act before you take the pledge,” Cr McBain said.

“Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians while respecting their diversity.

“Persons on whom Australian Citizenship is conferred enjoy these rights and undertake to accept these obligations:

(a) by pledging loyalty to Australia and its people; and
(b) by sharing their democratic beliefs; and
(c) by respecting their rights and liberties; and
(d) by upholding and obeying the laws of Australia.”

At that point, the Mayor asks those taking citizenship to read the pledge, which means the candidate is accepting the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.

There are two pledges to choose from; one mentions God and the other does not.

In Bega on Australia Day, the two people taking up citizenship choose the second, which does not mention God:

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.

“On behalf of the Minister and Bega Valley Shire Council, I would like to congratulate you both and welcome you as formal members of the Australian community,” Cr McBain said.

With broad smiles, Alan Head and Thi Ha Nguyen were given their regal-looking citizenship certificates and a native shrub.

“It was a really big decision to come to Australia,” says Ms Nguyen, who migrated from Vietnam nine years ago with her Australian husband, keen to start a family.

“I am very happy here, I do miss the food,” she laughs.

“It’s hard to find [the right indregidents] what you want, but I’ve been here a long time [so I can find what I need].”

Wolumla's Thi Ha Nguyen. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Wolumla’s Thi Ha Nguyen.

Ms Nguyen and her husband run the Wolumla Post Office and General Store. Friends listening in on our conversation shout, “she is the heart of Wolumla, drop in and try her cooking.”

“It’s a great life, fantastic, very safe, and people are really lovely, I am very grateful to be here,” she says.

Alan Head was born and raised in England, “until I met this lovely lady over there,” he says.

“She [Sharmayne] was travelling and here I am.

“We’ve been here since 1985, my two sons moved with us, they were 12 and 10 at the time, they’re still here and are now Australian citizens.”

Mr Head says he put off becoming a citizen for no real reason, and that the ease of doing it online made 2019 “the time”.

“I’ve never been back to England and I have no intention to go back to England. I love it here and being a citizen is the icing on the cake.”

When it comes to cricket though, Mr Head says he backs England but otherwise cheers for Australia.

Bemboka's Alan Head, a new Australian citizen. Photo: Ian Campbell

Bemboka’s Alan Head, a new Australian citizen.

The Heads run the bistro at the Candelo Bowling Club each Thursday and Sunday and live in a “beautiful mud brick home on the other side of Bemboka.”

The current Brexit debate in his motherland doesn’t interest Mr Head, but he is looking forward to voting in his first Australian election this year.

“Actually that is probably one of the underlying reasons [for citizenship] being able to vote this year is a bonus, at the moment I can’t whinge because I didn’t vote them in,” Mr Head laughs.

To take up citizenship next Australia Day or at one of the regular local ceremonies, start at the Department of Home Affairs website.

Born an Australian citizen? Are you living up to the pledge?

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