Sue Ellson, founder of Newcomers Network, felt very honoured to be a conferree’s guest at Australia’s largest Australian Citizenship Ceremony held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Saturday, 19 June 2010. Sue writes movingly on Open Forum saying:
“I first met the conferree 11 days after his arrival in Melbourne from Brazil on 13 April 2007 at one of the monthly Welcome to Melbourne events I have hosted since 16 January 2005. He was extremely excited to become an Australia citizen but was also disappointed that someone else he knew was becoming a citizen ‘as a safety net/back up option’ – and he wondered whether or not the Australian Government could change the rules to perhaps allow more people to live here (with the relevant visa) but ONLY give Australian Citizenship to those people who truly wanted to be Australian.
Unfortunately I could not imagine a test that would assess someone’s true heartfelt feelings about their adopted country. How could any government create a test or process that would ensure only ‘true believers’ would become Australian citizens? How do we measure someone’s passion and commitment to build our nation? And who is to say that someone who does it for ‘safety’ reasons will not become a valuable contributor to our society?
I first became involved with Australian Citizenship on 27 May 2003 – when I was approached by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA – now the Department of Immigration and Citizenship – DIAC) to promote the concept of Australian Citizenship to English speaking arrivals. These newcomers had often lived in Australia for years but had never become Australian Citizens.
On 15 August 2003 I was very privileged to be able to attend the Highest Australian Citizenship Ceremony at the Rialto Building in Melbourne and then on 4 September 2003, the first airborne Citizenship Ceremony in a Qantas aircraft that departed from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, flew over Victoria and Melbourne city and then returned to Tullamarine. Shortly after on 9 May 2004, I attended a previous largest Australian Citizenship Ceremony at Melbourne’s Exhibition Building (the site of Australia’s first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901).
As glamorous as these events sound, they did not compare with the feeling of yesterday’s event, as I was seated by someone whom I met soon after his arrival, having seen his trials and tribulations over the last three years and yesterday saw the culmination of his life goal of moving to Australia and making it his new home.
His other guest was an Australian who has lived in other countries around the world and the three of us sat next to a man from Israel who was there on his own. For some reason, he assumed the conferree with us was British (perhaps because both of his guests were Anglo Australians). In a harmonious society, we are often reminded to view people who look different and consider how much the ‘same’ they are to us. However, as my local church minister suggested recently, sometimes people look the same but feel different.
But I wondered at the time, how many newcomers go through these milestones in life without new friends to share the experience?
As the Founder and Director of Newcomers Network, I was reminded once again of why I do this work – because I know it makes a difference and it is my absolute honour and privilege to be able to work with such proactive people. My tips and advice to this conferree insured that he had friends – not only at the Australian Citizenship ceremony but at celebrations later in the evening.
As to my personal opinion, I believe that one of the best ways to move forward in Australia is to have an excellent command of written and spoken English and a supportive network of friends, colleagues and mentors. Like any transition in life, it is handled most effectively with good strategies rather than emotional reactions. As I prepared for the ceremony, I felt as though it was as an extremely significant event for the conferee and I was more than happy to share the experience. The event was very well organised and the atmosphere was one of quiet anticipation and excitement.
To all of the other new Australian Citizens there on the day, I wish you a long and happy life here in Australia – may your adopted home give you the opportunity to fulfill your dreams.”
Sue first started supporting the Australian Government’s Living in Harmony initiative back in 2003. With the change of government, it has been changed to the Diverse Australia Program.
With humble beginnings 10 years ago, these programs have had a focus on reducing racism – and Sue is pleased to see the new direction towards the key message of ‘Everyone Belongs.’
Sue, as Director of Newcomers Network, has been hosting free monthly Welcome to Sydney and Welcome to Melbourne events every month since the beginning of 2005 and started in Adelaide in July 2007 and Perth and Brisbane in September 2008 (more locations to come).
Newcomers Network has supported the Australian Human Resources Institute International Human Resources Management Specialist Area since 2006, the Australian Government’s Living in Harmony Initiative from 2003-2006, was a Finalist in the Corporate Citizenship Category of the Australian HR Awards in 2004, earned a Four Star Business Accreditation from Micronavigator in 2004 and a Highly Commended Award in the Emerging Business Category, Micro Business Awards in 2001.
She has also supported the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition from 2004 to 2008, the Australian Institute of Management International Business Group from 2001 to 2002, and the Cultural Tourism Industry Group in 2001 and 2002.
Newcomers Network has allowed Sue to advocate for both skilled migrants and Australians returning to Australia, particularly in relation to finding relevant work. She has written a Pre Departure Employment Jobs Kit, Newcomers Career Advice Booklet and Savvy Settlement ebook.
Through the many good relationships established across Australia and internationally she has been able to help governments, organisations and individuals manage settlement issues more effectively.
You do a great job Sue – thank you.