Prime Minister John Howard has used a citizenship ceremony in Canberra to remind immigrants of the need to embrace Australian values and to learn English.
Several thousand people made their way to Canberra’s Commonwealth Park for a flag raising and citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.
Among those gathered to receive their citizenship certificates were nearly one hundred immigrants from around the world.
“You may be drawn from the four corners of the earth but you are united by a common love of this country of ours and you are united by a common commitment to its traditions, its values, its triumphs as well as an acknowledgement of its failures, it successes as well as its mistakes,” Mr Howard told the group.
Turning to the values that characterise the nation, Mr Howard said Australians believed passionately in the equality of men and women, but also in the importance of a being able to speak English.
“I think most Australians think it’s very important that we embrace as our common method of communication with each other a single language and that is the English language,” Mr Howard said.
This, he said, was “because citizenship and interaction with each other is impossible unless we can effectively communicate with one another.”
“We don’t ask you to forget your homeland, we recognise that from now until the day you die you will have a special place in your heart for the country in which you were born.”
Mr Howard said Australia was one of the great democracies of the world, though he conceded not everyone in Australia had always been given a fair go.
“It was one of the countries that earlier in time gave full voting rights to women, although it lagged sadly in some parts of the country – I stress some – in giving voting rights to the first Australians, the indigenous people,” Mr Howard said.
“We believe very passionately in the equality of men and women.
“It is something that Australia strives very hard to practice and it’s something that Australia believes in very strongly,” he said.
Mr Howard presented certificates to each new citizen before mingling with the crowd.
Earlier in the ceremony, an honour guard fired a 21 gun salute and an F/A-18 fighter jet made a deafening low pass over the crowd.
Brought to you by AAP