They hail from vastly different parts of the world, drawn to Australia by love, career opportunities and, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, safety and security.
This Tuesday, on January 26, they will pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people at the Sydney Opera House before joining Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore for a glass of Australian sparkling wine and canapes made with Australian produce such as macadamia and wattleseed.
For Hayat Horma, Australian citizenship will be the culmination of a journey that began in 2014 when she met her Australian husband Ben in Singapore.
Ms Horma was born in Morocco and studied, lived and worked in France, the United States, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates before her first visit to Australia.
“I immediately fell in love with Sydney when I visited the first time, and loved the country even more as I travelled around and made another family here,” she said.
Ms Horma said she was proud to become a citizen of a country that “places people above all else”, and valued diversity and individual liberty: “The fact that our daughter was born here makes it even more special.”
Ms Horma is one of 12 people who will become Australian citizens at the Lord Mayor’s citizenship ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on January 26. More than 12,000 people from 130 countries will become Australian citizens on Australia Day.
In 2019-20, 204,817 people became Australian citizens - compared to 127,674 in 2018-19. Another 68,703 people acquired Australian citizenship in the last half of 2020, according to the Department of Home Affairs.
Cr Moore said she had made more than 25,000 people Australian citizens during her tenure, calling it “one of my favourite responsibilities”. “I get to celebrate the incredible diversity of our new Sydneysiders while acknowledging the shared values and freedoms that unite us all,” she said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian attended citizenship ceremonies of family members as a young child and recalled the significance of these events.
“Looking back if you asked my family, I don’t think they would have thought that with a surname like Berejiklian, I would one day become the premier of the state they chose to call home,” she said.
Gabriele Tedesco will also become an Australian citizen at the Opera House on January 26 just a few months before he becomes a father.
Mr Tedesco said love for his wife drove his decision to go through the arduous process of acquiring citizenship.
“The hardest part was when we applied for my partner visa whilst I was offshore and my wife had to stay in Australia for work,” he said. “We had to be apart for eight months before my visa was granted and the separation was agony for the two of us.”
Mr Tedesco said his “heart still aches” for his loved ones and “my little village near the Italian Alps”, but technology made it easier to stay connected to Italy.
Abhijeet Gandhi and his wife Duhita arrived in Sydney in 2015 after stints in the United States and Singapore.
The couple, who Mr Gandhi said were “high school sweethearts” in India, became eligible to apply for citizenship in 2019, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed their interviews and tests.
“Despite being away from our family back home, we don’t feel alone,” he said. “The amiable and accepting culture of Australians saw us make friends that are now family to us.”
Mr Gandhi said Australia offered an enviable lifestyle that allowed them to pursue passions outside of the workplace as well as fulfilling career goals. “And the healthcare and welfare system has helped us feel safe and secure,” he said.
Mr Gandhi said there were many aspects of life in his adopted country that were not given a second thought by Australians.
“The one that always amazes me is the immense return on the taxpayer’s money the government provides in the form of public healthcare, travel infrastructure and economic benefits to citizens and immigrants alike,” he said.
Mr Tedesco said he does not feel culture shock anymore “but I will forever be puzzled by Australians’ fascination with fairy bread and how they believe pineapple on pizza is delicious”.
“However, I do enjoy the serene “she’ll be right” wisdom, which has helped me through a lot of tough times,” he said.