Today I became an Australian Citizen – Rebecca Baird

Today I became an Australian citizen!

After more than a decade of studying and living in Australia I took my citizenship pledge. It was with mixed emotions about the family that I left behind in Canada and have not been able to see in over two years due to travel restrictions.

However it is with great honour that I took the Australian citizenship pledge to become part of this wonderful country and the Gold Coast community.  The depth of feeling and pride that I felt on this day is hard to put into words.

As a young girl in my twenties, looking for adventure, I left my family behind in Canada and arrived at what to me seemed like paradise island.  I had one suitcase and did not know a single person here. I attended law school at Bond University and was admitted to practice as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of NSW in Sydney, in 2007.  From the moment of my arrival in Australia, I fell in love with the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches, sunshine, palm trees and active lifestyle and Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge, which the locals affectionately refer to as the ‘Coat Hanger’.  Australia felt like an inspiring place to live every day.

Over the years I had made several attempts at starting the application process to become a citizen, only to get stumped and lost in a tsunami of paperwork.  This was the year that I finally made it to the end of the paper trail. Through my work at McLaughlins Lawyers I met Sed Crest (specialist in immigration law) who advised me, and my work colleagues who encouraged me, through this onerous process.

The next hurdle was the Citizenship test where I discovered new Australian things and what makes Australia unique. For instance, Australia’s National flower is the yellow wattle which is why Australia’s national colours are green and gold.  As a result, the uniforms of our national sports teams are usually green and gold.  Another interesting fact that I learnt is that the opal is Australia’s national gemstone.  According to Aboriginal legend, a rainbow touched the earth and created the colours of the opal.

After all the paperwork, study and interview process was completed, the day to celebrate arrived. I walked over from McLaughlin’s Lawyers, which is conveniently located on Ouyan street, only a short distance from HOTA, where the citizenship ceremony was being held. Mayor Tom Tate and Bruce Paige, co-presenter of 9 Gold Coast News, hosted the ceremony.  Mayor Tom Tate explained that he went through the same citizenship journey and became an Australian citizen in 1982.  It was also Bruce Paige’s 73rd birthday which received three cheers from the crowd.

At the citizenship ceremony there were representatives from 71 countries and territories from Tunisia to Tokelau. This is a testament to Australia’s rich culture which provides freedom and dignity of each individual. It is a resilient nation with not only sun and surf, but also droughts and floods. I was proud to stand up and take the Australian citizenship oath, sing the National anthem and pledge my commitment and loyalty to this country which I came to as a law student in my twenties.

At the conclusion of the ceremony we each received our Certificate of Australian Citizenship and an Australian native plant called a Grevillea ‘Lana Maree’ which will grow into a shrub with bright pink flowers.

At the end of this journey I can finally call myself a proud Aussie, mate.

Author: Rebecca Baird

Date: 15 November 2021