I am so proud of my African Family, last night they received their Australian Citizenship Certificates in a ceremony with about 100 other recipients. To be eligible to become an Australian Citizen these days, you must have been in the country for more than 4 years, this recently changed from two. Luckily Taban and Jane arrived before the rules changed and only had to wait the 2 year period. Then you must pay a quite considerable sum really, about $260 per applicant, and then sit a test, of which you cannot get more that 5 answers wrong. To be honest I'm not sure that many Australian born residents would go through the process and the test has been changed since it began, because the questions were so out there not even us true blue Aussies knew most of the answers. I think the funniest was about a former cricket hero and how many wickets he took, seriously does knowing that really make me an Aussie?
I was most surprised by the very strong desire this family had to become Australians. Can you become an Australian, I mean isn't becoming a nationality kind of difficult. We think that you have to be born with it in you. I'm not so sure now. This family came to my country, running from a war that was shattering theirs. They had lived in a refugee camp for 18 years, yep 18 years. Jane and Taban met and married in the camp and all of their beautiful children were born there. Well except for Little Kimmy who was born here in Australia 3 years ago. The children had lived hungry, frightened, and with a strong desire to be free and safe. Jane told me the story of a night when rebels came to the camp to steal food. Taban and her grabbed Stephen (on the left) and Nancy, the next little one and ran. They had to leave Kenyi (eldest son) and Mindraa (eldest daughter) in the hut. The children had been warned if rebels came in the night, they must not look at them. To pretend to be asleep, this could save their lives. So they did, they buried their heads in their blankets and feigned sleep. The men came in, took what they wanted and left. The children survived to share the story. Can you imagine living like this, running with small children and having to leave children behind?! I can't. I cannot imagine the terror of returning to my hut, not knowing what I would find. Would I still have my children, what horror might they have experienced. The tales of rapes, and murder are real. I have met women who have experienced this many, many times. It breaks my heart.
So thinking about their strength, their love for each other, their commitment to having a better life, their desire to raise children who can be free, their truly enormous desire to be a part of our community in every way, well I am beginning to believe you can become an Aussie. You can be the kind of person we want to have in our country. There is an ongoing debate here, at the moment it is very heated, about boat people, people who queue jump to take up residence in Australia. They pay large sums of money to people smugglers to hop a boat to Australia. They do not come from Africa of course, but from the Asian nations above us. Many people here are angry about the number of these people scrambling to make a new life here. They say they are illegal immigrants. Well as part of the UN we have sworn to take people from all walks of life who are running from war, poverty and threat to their lives in their own country. They may be jumping the queue but they aren't illegal. And I ask the question, to what lengths would you go to protect and save your children's lives? Would you sell everything and pay for a few seats on a derelict water logged boat, in the hope of having a better life? Would you pray and hope that the people who live in Australia, that huge land you have heard about would be kind and willing to take you in and give you a chance to become one of them? I would, I would do anything to protect my children and grand children. I would do anything, to become an Aussie. So Taban, Jane, Mindraa, Kenyi, Stephen, Nancy, Gloria and Kim, we welcome you, we love you, we rejoice with you and we say Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!!!!