New citizens to be welcomed with indigenous culture

Every new Australian citizen in Campbelltown will now be welcomed to the country with a taste of indigenous culture.

Campbelltown councillors decided at their last meeting to adopt deputy mayor Meg Oates’ motion to have more indigenous involvement in the city’s citizenship ceremonies.

New citizens can expect a smoking ceremony, clapsticks and didgeridoo performances after they pledge their allegiance to the country.

If time allows, the clapstick player may also treat the new citizens to a traditional dance.

Cr Oates said she was “pleased” the council was adopting her idea.

“Great work has been done by council’s Aboriginal Development Officer in the indigenous community,” she said.

“Including these cultural perspectives will be meaningful and powerful for our new citizens.”

Cr Oates said it was great that new residents would immediately get a chance to understand the long indigenous history of the Campbelltown region and the Dharawal people.

The specific traditions and performances to be included at the ceremonies were decided after consultation with indigenous elders.

Those aspects were deemed to create “a meaningful and cultural experience for all attending” and maintain the “cultural integrity and significance of an indigenous ceremony”, the council’s report stated.

Councillor Karen Hunt requested new citizens also be given information on the meaning behind the ceremonies as part of their care packages.

“Many of them would probably be unaware of the history,” she said.

“Having that experience incorporated into every ceremony and giving them the meaning behind it will prepare them to become new citizens.”

Councillor Paul Lake said the indigenous representation was a good move as Campbelltown’s Scottish history was already represented by a piping band.

Councillor George Greiss was less enthusiastic about the changes to the ceremony.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I’m surprised at the cost of $900 extra per ceremony, although it fits within the budget,” he said.

“I think we should make it clear that our new citizens aren’t forced to walk in and sit through the smoking ceremony.

“There might be religious or health reasons, asthma for example, that they don’t want to experience it.

“We have to be accommodating for all people.

“We must be wary of sensitivities.”

Campbelltown Council holds citizen ceremonies every eight weeks, with roughly 80 to 100 people granted citizenship.

The ceremonies currently included a rendition of the Australian National Anthem and performance of I Am Australian by a vocalist and lone piper, and a performance by a pipes and drums band.

New citizens also receive a native plant.

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