Liaqat Babai and his family can breathe a sigh of relief after officially becoming Australian nationals this week.
After fleeing the war in Afghanistan, Babai and his family lived as refugees in Pakistan for more than a decade before arriving in Australia in 2015.
They settled in western Sydney, but adapting to life in a new country proved challenging.
“I was overwhelmed in the first year because everything was so new and so different from what I was used to,” Babai said.
The Council welcomes 1,000 Australians
Mr Babai and his family are among 450 people who became citizens at a ceremony hosted by Cumberland City Council in Granville this week.
“Many people waited many years to become citizens, in some cases over a decade,” said Steve Christou, council mayor.
At the end of June, the council will welcome 1,000 new Australian citizens from more than 40 different nationalities – a record number for the area.
Cr Christou said the COVID-19 pandemic had created a backlog of people waiting to take the pledge of citizenship.
“During the pandemic, we limited the number of people who could participate in person, so now we have followed up completely,” he said.
“We want to welcome them to Australia and make them contribute positively to our community.”
Citizenship provides economic relief
For Mr Babai, a heavy burden has been lifted from his shoulders.
Before becoming a citizen, college students said he was worried he would not be able to pay the tuition fees required for his vocational education.
“When I applied for HECS, I got rejected and I had to pay it in advance … I had to use all my savings,” he said.
‘It’s much safer here’
Syed Rizvi also counts his blessings.
The 45-year-old and his family were among hundreds of people who took the pledge to officially become Australian citizens this week.
After arriving in Australia from Pakistan in 2016, Mr Rizvi and his family settled in Merrylands in western Sydney.
“I belong to a Shia community, and there were some targeted killings going on.
“I felt my life was in danger.”
Rizvi said the receipt of his citizenship certificate was an emotional moment.
“I feel like I belong here now,” he said.
“I do not think my life is threatened in Australia, it is much safer here.