AS the De Waal family took the Australian citizenship pledge at Speers Point last week, they joined a class of overseas-born Lake Macquarie citizens that shows signs of growing steadily.
The ceremony at Lake Macquarie council chambers made new citizens of 88 people from 26 countries, including Sweden, Canada, India, Pakistan, Germany and, in the case of the De Waals, South Africa.
“It leaves you kind of reflecting on your journey, how you’ve left your homeland for a new start,” Kayle De Waal, who took the pledge with his wife Charmaine, son Kerryn and daughter Charé, said.
“You think about where you are at the present time with you and your family, and the opportunities available to them now.”
About 200 people have already taken the pledge in the Lake Macquarie area this year, prompting last week’s unscheduled ceremony so soon after 110 people were sworn in on Australia Day.
Halfway through March, the Lake has as many new citizens this year as in all of 2016 (there were, though, more than 300 in 2015).
Local officials note a rush of requests for citizenship – though no one is sure why – and the overseas-born percentage of the population is growing.
Lake Macquarie, from a base of 9.9 per cent overseas-born residents 11 years ago, had almost 14 per cent at the 2011 census.
“We have had high demand for citizenship over the past six months, which is why we have had to have an earlier ceremony today,” Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said.
“Naturally, we like to think it is because more people are being attracted to the enviable Lake Macquarie lifestyle, but there are many factors that affect people’s decisions about if and when to take citizenship.”
One of the citizens sworn in at the council chambers last week had lived in the area for 45 years.
Mr De Waal, a head of department at Avondale College in Cooranbong, said his family becoming citizens was “very important” recognition of their new home.
“We’ve been in Australia eight years now and it’s been a really good eight years; we’ve settled down, we’ve got family here, we’ve made great friends,” he said.
“Our children see themselves as Australian.”
Cr Fraser said witnessing local people take “the final steps on their migrant journey” was “a truly special moment”.