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We owe a duty to advance Australia fair

Across the country on Tuesday, more than 12,000 people will become Australian citizens at ceremonies infused with excitement and hope. The dreams of these new citizens, who come from more than 130 countries, will become part of our shared ambitions as a nation and for years to come we will benefit from the contributions they will make with their families to our society.

They pledge their loyalty to a nation that, in many ways, is the envy of the world. Ours is a country of staggering natural beauty and abundant opportunity. We are a stable and peaceful nation, with a society that values democracy, equality and the rule of law. Our collective effort to suppress COVID-19 has allowed our economy to grow again after the shock of last year and has largely protected our way of life, while other countries are struggling to cope with rising case numbers and social unrest.

Becoming an Australian citizen is a big step for many.

Becoming an Australian citizen is a big step for many. Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Restrictions imposed upon us by our federal and state governments to curb infections have not always been welcomed, nor have they all been reasonable. But they have been the subject of vigorous debate, which only improves the health of our democracy. The way Australians have broadly come together during the pandemic emphasises the connections at the heart of citizenship: the relationships between an individual, the state and the society that state serves.

When you pledge your loyalty to a country, you become entitled to its protection but you also take on responsibilities towards that nation and the community within its borders. Over the past year we have shouldered those responsibilities every time we have stayed home when unwell, cancelled celebrations, or lined up to have a cotton swab stuck up our nostril. And the Australian government has protected us in return, through managing our borders, securing vaccines and increasing welfare through the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplements.

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