The City of Newcastle welcomed its largest number of new citizens yet via group virtual ceremonies on Tuesday.

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions impacting the traditional face-to-face ceremony, council opted to bestow Australian citizenship virtually via zoom following the success of previous online services. 

There were 190 individuals from 39 different countries who took the pledge of commitment in two separate ceremonies presided over by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen. 

Cr Nelmes said becoming an Australian citizen was not only a significant ceremonious occasion, but a step towards applying for jobs and an Australian passport, as well as exercising the democratic right to vote.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has displaced many people in many different ways, be it through job losses or a reduction in work, illness, or separation from loved ones,” Cr Nelmes said. 

“Adapting our face-to-face citizenship ceremonies to online was a simple measure City of Newcastle could take to provide practical support to our new citizens at this challenging time.” 

Some of Newcastle’s newest citizens welcomed by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes on zoom.

Newcastle’s newest citizens hail from all corners of the globe, from Afghanistan and Iran to Sri Lanka and South Africa. 

Among them was English-born Steve Barretto, who was raised in South Africa and moved to Ireland when he was 19. Steve met his now wife Nadine from Newcastle in Belfast and relocated to Newcastle in 2008 to start a family. 

“Newcastle is the best place in the world, without a doubt. I remember as a kid watching cricket and wondering what it would be like to live in Australia,” he said.

“I’m really happy it’s all official. I’ll be having a little lockdown celebration at home with my family tonight, with some beers I have in the fridge and a meat pie.” 

Newcastle is home to refugees and people of all cultural backgrounds. More than 14,000 constituents speak another language at home and 14 per cent of Novocastrians were born overseas. 

To support Newcastle’s newest citizens in 2021, the City of Newcastle has granted Rapid Response funding to Hunter Multicultural Communities to assemble welfare packs and to produce a multilingual newsletter. 

An additional $13,000 in Quick Response funding was also awarded to STARTTS to assist in the organisation of the city’s Unity and Diversity Festival, Afghan Community Festival, Congolese Community Festival and Syrian Community Festival.

Information source: Media release, City of Newcastle