By Rosemary Bolger
Migrants who have been in Australia for less than three years believe it’s important to celebrate Australia Day, but many don’t grasp the significance of the date 26 January.
A survey by Australian Management and Education Services (AMES), which provides support for international students and other visa holders, found 68 per cent of newcomers planned to mark the day in some way.
But less than a third knew that 26 January marked the day the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson and only a quarter were aware of its significance for Indigenous Australians as “Invasion Day”.
Of those who did know about the controversy over the date, there was a split between those who believed it should change or remain.
The majority of the 150 new migrants surveyed said they planned to learn more about the history of the date.
Asked about the tone of publicity for Australia Day, three-quarters of respondents said it made them feel welcome.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a selfie with newly sworn-in citizens at an Australia Day citizenship ceremony.
AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the findings showed migrants and refugees were overwhelmingly committed to becoming Australians and contributing to the nation.
“It’s our experience that almost without exception people who are newly arrived in Australia want to fit in and become part of the broader society,” Ms Scarth said.
“They want to learn about Australia’s culture and history and they want to build connections.”
Record number of new citizens
A record number of migrants will mark Australia Day by becoming Australian citizens. More than 27,000 people will take the pledge on Sunday, compared to 15,137 last year.
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge congratulated those attending 454 ceremonies around the nation.
“Australia Day is an opportunity to celebrate our success as a multicultural nation and reflect on what it means to be an Australia,” Mr Tudge said.
“Citizenship is a chance for new migrants to make a pledge to uphold our laws and values and contribute to our cohesive, open and inclusive society.
Many migrant communities have organised celebrations to mark the national day of their adopted country, including Australia’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
National president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Australia, Imam Inamul ul-Haq Kauser said a ceremony would be held at each mosque during which the flag would be raised and the national anthem sung.
“We, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, always pray for the progress and development of our homeland, Australia. As per our traditions, we will celebrate Australia Day in all Mosques across Australia. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our nation, government and people because our religion teaches us that love of country of residence is part of faith,” Imam Kauser said.
Newly-arrived Afghan refugee Mirwais Janbaz said he was looking forward to celebrating his first Australia Day.
“I think Australia day is important for the nation, it shows that Australia is a united and peaceful country,” Mr Janbaz, who arrived early last year, said.
He said Australia Day would mean even more to him once he became a citizen.
“When I become a citizen, Australia Day will be part of the history of my new country, my new home. But even now, even though I am not yet a citizen, I feel welcome here beyond my expectations.”