Twin sisters were among nearly 180 people who took the pledge of commitment at City of Newcastle’s first citizenship ceremony for 2024.
With family, friends and dignitaries looking on, Year 12 students Maryam and Masoumeh Hossein Zadeh swore their allegiance to Australia at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday 24 January.
The duo landed in Australia in 2019 and, after experiencing an initial sense of loneliness, they say they’ve forged lasting friendships.
“Australia, with its open arms, has become a home where dreams can take flight,” Maryam and Masoumeh said.
“As new citizens, we are not only a part of this nation, we’re testaments to the multicultural fabric that enriches our collective identity.
“As we embark on this new chapter as young Australian women, we carry with us the stories of Afghan women and the dreams that led us here.
“We know today in Afghanistan that girls our age cannot go to school and bright futures are being abandoned.
“So, we are honoured and proud to stand among you as a new Australian family, carrying the richness of Afghanistan in our hearts.”
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the ceremony was one of the most important days of the year for new citizens, representing an array of countries such as Iraq, Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, Nepal and Mexico.
“Our city prides itself on being inclusive and we encourage Novocastrians to foster an environment of empathy and understanding,” she stated.
“Newcastle is fortunate to be home to people of diverse nationalities, languages and cultures with about 19% of residents being born overseas and 12% speaking a language other than English at home.
“We are also proud to be a Refugee Welcome Zone and a Welcoming City, committed to creating a place where everyone can belong and participate in the social, cultural, economic and civic life of Newcastle.”
The ceremony featured a traditional didgeridoo and dance performance by the Deadly Callaghan Yidaki group, led by Alex Nean from Gamilaroi country.
Layla Rose Schillert from the Grainery Church sang the Australian National Anthem and was joined by Klaye Sanders to perform I Am Australian.
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