Australia Day

A Sixteen-Year-Old Reflects on Australia Day

26 January 2024

1.9 MINS

Sixteen-year-old Amelia reflects on what makes Australia Day special to her family, who migrated to Australia seventy-three years ago.

Each year on January 26, special Australia Day ceremonies are held all around the country.

These ceremonies serve to officially welcome migrants from across the globe, who wish to commit themselves to Australia and her people by becoming Australian citizens.

These special services are called Australian Citizenship Ceremonies—or Naturalization Ceremonies. After speeches and other formalities, a Pledge of Commitment is taken by the new citizens.

The Pledge of Commitment

This Pledge is a solemn vow by which the new Australians formally and publicly accept both the responsibilities and privileges that come hand in hand with becoming an Australian citizen.

The Pledge of Commitment goes as follows:

From this time forward under God,
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.

For those migrants who have successfully completed the necessary requirements to become citizens, this is a monumental day, where they step into a completely new era in their lives.

My Family’s Australia Day Story

This Australia Day tradition is a personal part of my family history.

Seventy-three years ago, my great-grandparents took an older version of that Pledge on Australia Day. They truly meant it. My Beppe and Pake sailed to Australia in 1951. They were Dutch migrants who fled Europe in the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War.

Taking their four small children—and expecting a fifth (my grandmother)—they sailed to Australia, hoping for a new life. Both of them had a strong desire to embrace Australian culture and values.

It was extremely hard for them to face a completely new, strange country, leaving their family behind with the knowledge that they may never see them again.

Yet, if my great-grandparents had never been welcomed on Australian shores—if they had not worked hard to earn their places as Australian citizens—my Gran would never have met her husband. Consequently, my Mum, my sibling and I would never have been born and raised in this great country.

I am eternally grateful for the new life my Pake and Beppe gave me, as each day I enjoy the benefits of that pivotal decision.

Let’s Celebrate Australia Day

On that first Australia Day so long ago, when the First Fleet landed on Australia’s shores, the men and women brought from London’s prisons and slums were given hope—just like my grandparents—and the chance to start a new life.

Australia Day is a day when Australians of all backgrounds can recognise the privileges, freedoms and liberties that we enjoy every day: liberties that many around the world could never imagine.

It is a day when we appreciate the wonderful opportunities that this country has provided to so many.

May all Australians truly strive to live out that Pledge of Loyalty and give back to our precious country even a fraction of what she has given to us.

Originally published on Your Commonwealth.

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  1. Ian Moncrieff 26 January 2024 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Amelia, your comments give me hope that there are a majority of migrants to our blessed country that far outweigh the ungrateful minority who do no want to embrace the pledge they made.

  2. Helen G 26 January 2024 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Beautifully authentically said from the heart!! I too was adopted by this country and I was most grateful. I didn’t have to be a citizen back then to live here however, I felt if Australia was willing to accept me – then the least I could do was become a citizen. It also gave me a voice which I was grateful for and now there are a minority that want to take that away. I too want to feel safe and belong.

  3. David Hallett 27 January 2024 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Well said and well written.

  4. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 27 January 2024 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I was six when 73 years ago I arrived in Australia as a DP on board “The Hellenic Prince “on which there had been an attempted mutiny and the over-loaded rust bucket ( minus food and water) had broken down half- way between Colombo and W.A. My father’s family, who had fought with the Allies , had to flee as refugees after WW1 from the newly created Kingdom of Yugoslavia to Italian Zara . WW2 found my parents in another war on the wrong side this time ! The Italian king signed an Armistice with the Allies on 8 September 1943 and everybody thought they were safe in Italian Zara, but, 2 months later on 2 November 1943 (the “Day of the Dead”) was the first of 50 Allied fire-bombings which completely reduced the city to rubble and killed most of the population ! My father and his family fled to 2 little islands with several old, old aunts, etc in a boat which he and an uncle rowed in winter. Mother was 6 days off giving birth to me when we landed and found temporary safety, but, in1947 Italy signed The Treaty of Paris with Communist Yugoslavia surrendering 5 Italian Provinces , including our Dalmatia, so, rather than be murdered in the Ethnic Cleanse of all non-Slavs and death in the “Foibe “, etc, we fled as refugees to Venice, the ancient city of my ancestors who had fled the Barbarians in about 450 AD to the swampy island which became Torcello (the “First Venice “). Sick of being refugees every few years, my father chose somewhere far away from Europe’ s wars where we would live in peace. After 5 years we became proud Australian citizens. We were welcomed by the wonderful Australians of Adelaide which gave me a first-rate education and opportunities I would never have had in any other Australian city. I will vote against Australia becoming a Republic as from my university Constitutional Law studies I see great danger to our country if we become a Republic.

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