I vote therefore I am

It was 1978, Thursday, late night shopping. I was at Liverpool Westfield’s but I wasn’t buying anything. I was witnessing my parents’ Australian Citizenship ceremony. Yep, right there on Centre Stage. You know, where they hold the fashion parades, and where Santa sits in his throne at Christmas time waiting to be is swamped by small children.

In those days shopping malls didn’t have eateries so Centre Stage was also the cool place to hang. Everyone, well not everyone, the kids from the high school, and the unemployed kids who wished they were still in high school, and a whole lot of old people who needed to sit down, could be found there. On this particular night there was no fashion parade, and it wasn’t Christmas, instead Westfield’s was hosting a parade of New Australians.

This was still in the day when we called people “New Australians”, and also reffos, wogs, wopps, dagos, gino, guido, greaser etc. And it was before we took being Australian so seriously. Nowadays citizenship ceremonies are conducted on Australia Day at places like Parliament House or at local councils, and there is a dress code.

So there I was standing next to my parents on the stage, staring back at the old women that had stopped to rest on the plastic chairs and the teenage boys who were gawking at the ‘reffos’. My family weren’t actually refugees. Although we’d come to Australia by boat, it was a rather large one, a cruise ship actually. And the only risk we took was that of dying of clogged arteries from night after night at the buffet.

We were very lucky. We’d been able to bring with us everything we needed for our new life in Australia; stored safely in the cargo hold was our television set, the family car and all our household appliances.  We’d been told we’d need these to pass the citizenship test. We didn’t bring our house because my parents wanted to participate in the Great Australian Dream.  Which is how we found ourselves two years later, the proud owners of a McMansion, complete with exorbitant mortgage, in a brand new suburb with no public transport or infrastructure.

I got to stand on the stage, but it was my parents that took the oath on the bible even though they were atheists. In acknowledgement of their new status they each received a citizenship certificate and the gift of a palm tree from the local council.  I thought that would come in handy to sit under on the average 38 degree western suburbs summer day.  I don’t think you have to swear on the bible anymore to become a citizen but you still get a palm tree. You can always tell the suburbs that have a lot of new citizens by the number of palm trees.

Although this event happened thirty seven years ago I have recently begun to worry about it. On that night that I stood on the stage with my parents I never actually got my own citizenship certificate.  Apparently my name appeared at the bottom of my father’s certificate. But my father has since passed away and I don’t know where that piece of paper that made him (and me) an Australian is. And recently my passport expired. I had no travel plans so I didn’t renew it. So now it seems that it is only the electoral roll that stands between me and statelessness. Which is why, every election day, I’m at the polling booth bright and early, to prove that I’m an Australian and to make sure I don’t miss out on a democracy sausage.

About sagesomethymes

Daniela is a writer, theatre producer and civic educator. She has had short stories and poetry published in: 'Prayers of a Secular World', Inkerman & Blunt; 'Blue Crow Magazine', Blue Crow Press; 'Knitting and other stories', Margaret River Press and Radio National’s '360 documentaries'. Her debut play, 'Talc', was produced in 2010. Her short play, 'Sicilian Biscotti', was produced for the launch of “Women Power and Culture” at New Theatre in 2011 and shortlisted for the Lane Cove Literary Award in 2015. Her second full length play, 'Friday', was produced by SITCO at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in 2013. 'The Poor Kitchen' was produced in 2016 as part of the Old 505 Theatre’s Fresh Works Season and was published by the Australian Script Centre in 2017 (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-1836). It was re-staged by Patina Productions at Limelight on Oxford in 2019. She co-wrote 'Shut Up And Drive' with Paul Gilchrist and it was produced at KXT in 2016. 'Seed Bomb' was produced at Old 505 Theatre as part of the FreshWorks Season in 2019 and has been published by the Australian Script Centre (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-2166). She co-wrote 'Softly Surely' with Paul Gilchrist and it was produced at Flight Path Theatre in 2022. She is the co-founder of indie theatre company subtlenuance (www.subtlenuance.com) Her published short stories can be read via the Short Stories tab on this blog.
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1 Response to I vote therefore I am

  1. Gina says:

    LOL, I loved how you ended this entry. Indeed you are an Australian. We are Australian! The S.S. Ellinis? I wonder if it still sails the oceans?
    Thanks for sharing this account, and I love that photo! Too cute!

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