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March 2015

Citizenship Ceremony Marks Harmony Day In Australia

Published: Friday 20 March 2015

One hundred and seventeen people from 46 countries became Australian citizens today at a special ceremony at the University of Canberra, held to mark Harmony Day. Harmony Day is celebrated on 21st March each year to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Michael Manthorpe, the Deputy Secretary for Visa and Citizenship Services at Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection, says that Harmony Day provides an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the rich cultures which make Australia such a fantastic place to live. Australian Citizenship ties in perfectly to the theme of a united and diverse society. “Australian Citizenship marks the final step in a person's migration journey and we look forward to welcoming these newest citizens into our community,” Mr Manthorpe explained. “With one in four Australian citizens born overseas, it is fitting to host Australian Citizenship ceremonies during Harmony Day celebrations.” Among those celebrating the attainment of citizenship status today are two professional rugby union players, who play for the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies. Twins Ruan-Henry and Jean-Pierre Smith will take the pledge after seven years of living in Australia. Originally from South Africa, they decided it was time to kick their final goal in their citizenship journey.  “We’re both excited to make it official today by becoming Australian citizens,” Jean Pierre said. “This land has become our home and we have achieved things here that wouldn't be possible in other countries. We are proud Australians.” Like his brother, Ruan-Henry was also pleased to make his citizenship official. “I've been lucky enough to represent Australia at schoolboys rugby level so I've felt Aussie for many years already,” he said. “But making it official is special. This is something we have both been looking forward to for many years. We are both focussed on making positive contributions to Australia through sport, our local Canberra community and in representing our region throughout the world.” In order to be eligible to apply for citizenship an applicant must have had four years lawful residence in Australia. This period must include 12 months as a permanent resident immediately before making an application for Australian citizenship. They must have had no more than 12 months absence from Australia in total in the four years prior to application, including not more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately prior to application.