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This week we did something really exciting: We received our Australian citizenship certificate at a citizenship ceremony! 

If you’ve read this post about applying for our Australian citizenship, and this follow up post about taking our Australian citizenship test and having our citizenship interview, then you’re probably following along because you’re also on the same journey too (or at least maybe you hope to be one day)!

I’ve really enjoyed being able to share more about the process of getting our Aus citizenship because I couldn’t really find much about it online other than the official government pages. I think it helps to hear what things are really like from somebody who has gone through it. 

Just to give you a quick recap to save you looking back at the earlier posts, we applied for our Australian citizenship in January 2019. We took our Australian citizenship test and had our citizenship interview in September 2019. We both passed the test, and my husband received his acceptance letter a few days later. Mine took a month to come through. Towards the end of January 2020, we received our invitation to our citizenship ceremony via email.

All in, the whole process of applying for our citizenship took 13 months from start to finish. 

How does the Australian citizenship ceremony invitation arrive? 

Our Australian citizenship ceremony invitation was sent by email just under a month before the ceremony date. We only received one email for the whole family and it came to my email address. I’m not sure if all areas do this but it’s worth being aware of so all applicants should keep an eye on their emails. You RSVP through the email and can select if you’re bringing any guests with you to the event or not. 

Our Australian citizenship ceremony wait time was five months from the date of our citizenship test. 

Kids receiving their Australian citizenship certificates at the Australian citizenship ceremony

What happens at the Australian citizenship ceremony?

Australia citizenship ceremonies are a semi-formal occasion and it’s a great excuse to get dressed up smart and celebrate becoming citizens. Our ceremony took place on a week day at 5pm in a community centre about 25 minutes from our home. We were asked to arrive at 4pm to register and to enjoy some refreshments. 

The food at the Australian citizenship ceremony event

We showed our ID (we brought our passports) at the desk and were then invited to enjoy the buffet and hot and cold drinks that were on offer. The kids were very happy with the cakes! 

We used the spare time then to take photos with the various backdrops at the venue. 

The Australian citizenship ceremony lasted around one hour 10 minutes. There was an MC hosting the event, and a few ministers on the stage. In between short talks and welcomes, there was some music.

As part of the ceremony, we had an Australian citizenship pledge card to read from. The card matched our choice of citizenship pledge from our application (one option included the words ‘under God’ and the other didn’t). Everybody was asked to stand and recite their pledge together in unison – first the group who made their pledge ‘under God’, and then the second group who chose not to mention God. This was all done in a big group (so not individually as I know some people have asked me about this as they were worried about being on stage and having to say it out loud on their own!)

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Guess where I was this afternoon?!!!

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After this, the MC called out families in their groups to come forward and receive their certificates and to shake hands with the ministers and receive a gift of a native plant. All five of us were called up and the kids enjoyed shaking hands and receiving their certificates. 

It’s a great idea if you can bring a guest along with you so you can get some photos of you receiving your certificates. We didn’t think to do that and we missed out on pics of us actually receiving them which was a shame. In hindsight, we could have asked someone there to take a photo of us, but as we were one of the first to be called up we didn’t have chance to think about it before it was over and we were back at our seats again. 

There were 120 people getting their Australian citizenship during our event, and there had also been another ceremony earlier in the day at the venue so it’s quite a busy event. 

Gift bags at the Australian citizenship ceremony event

The kids found it difficult to sit down for the rest of the session – with our surname being ‘B’ we were one of the first to be called so it was a bit of a wait. And it was one of the hottest nights ever and the community centre didn’t have air conditioning. My tips are to wear cool clothes if your ceremony is on in summer (I wish I’d dressed the boys in shorts instead of trousers), and bring some cold water so you can stay hydrated during the ceremony. There were lots of other kids there too, so they all hung out at the side of the room together standing in front of the big fans! It was all very relaxed. 

After the certificates, there was another musical performance and some welcome speeches before we all stood to sing the Australian National Anthem (they gave us a leaflet with the words for those who didn’t know them) and wave our Australian flags. 

Karen Bleakley receiving their Australian citizenship certificates at the Australian citizenship ceremony

At the end of the event, they gave away a few gift bags and floral arrangements as prizes to some random names. We weren’t lucky enough to win any of those. We stayed back to take some more photos with our certificates and as we were one of the last groups in the room, we were given one of the table displays to take home – it was a beautiful floral arrangement so I was really happy with that! 

We were given forms to get our names on the electoral rolls (voting is compulsory for Australian citizens) with envelopes so we can post them off. I’ve heard others say they were encouraged to complete the forms at the end of the citizenship ceremony to hand them in in person, but I think at our event as it was a late finish everyone was glad to get out of the hot room and head home so they didn’t mention that as an option. 

Next on our agenda is applying for our Australian passports!

Completing the Australian citizenship process

The citizenship ceremony was a really lovely event, and it felt like the final piece of the puzzle for us. We started our migration process in June 2013 when we decided we were going to move to Australia. We were granted our visa in March 2014 and moved to Brisbane in September 2014. We’ve been living in Australia for 5.5 years now, and it is our home. It’s nice that this is now formally recognised. It feels like the end of one journey and the start of a new one!

The kids were really excited about sharing their citizenship ceremony photos at school for show and tell. They’ve had a lot of people shouting ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’, ‘Oi, oi, oi’ at them over the last couple of days! And our daughter’s whole class were asked to welcome her the next day with ‘G’day Eva!’ which was really sweet. 

Do we feel different now we’re Australian citizens?

I think it’s a bit like when you get married – your relationship doesn’t really change but something feels more permanent. We’re really proud to be Australian citizens and we appreciate the opportunities that it brings (being able to get passports and travel freely without needing resident return visas, having the option to work in jobs needing security clearance, having the opportunity for our kids to decide where they want their future to be). It feels like becoming Australian citizens has given us more freedom while also making us feel more connected with our home.

It has been a crazy journey with lots of ups and downs, new friendships, plenty of challenges, some tears, lots of laughter, so many new experiences. Moving to Australia has honestly been the best and the craziest thing we’ve ever done in our lives and I absolutely love that we had the confidence to follow our dreams.

Our little family unit has proved that you can take on any challenge if you stick together, you approach it all with a positive mindset, you don’t give up and, most importantly, that you don’t listen to the negative voices telling you all of the reasons why you can’t do it.

Life is way too short not to follow new adventures. And getting our Australian citizenship is the next chapter of ours and I can’t wait to see what opportunities the future brings. 

Pinterest image: What really happens at your Australian citizenship ceremony with a picture of Australian passports