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Citizenship Ceremony for Tampa refugees in Chch.

Speech at the Citizenship Ceremony for Tampa refugees in Christchurch

Today we welcome our new citizens to the New Zealand family. They all share one thing in common - they arrived in New Zealand at the same time - back in 2001 after arriving in this part of the world on the Tampa boat.

To welcome you today as fully-fledged kiwis is a hugely important step on your journey. This sort of ceremony marks an important partnership between our new Kiwi citizens - in this case, from the Tampa - and existing New Zealanders.

It is a unique relationship recognising the contribution and perspective you bring as new citizens, and acknowledging your recognition and acceptance of the values of New Zealand. It is also about sharing and celebrating our differences while recognising the common bond we have as New Zealanders.

Why is citizenship important?

It is heartening to see so many of the Tampa people and their families here today making the commitment to New Zealand. In taking the oath of allegiance to New Zealand you are signalling a commitment to your new country while no doubt keeping your links to your former home country and culture.

In entering the kiwi fold today you have completed a journey that began when you arrived here three and a half years ago as refugees. Since then you have worked towards achieving your New Zealand citizenship by fulfilling the requirements of being a New Zealand citizen.

Each one of you has shown a commitment to achieving citizenship. All of you, for example, have demonstrated a competency in understanding and speaking the English language and you have all been New Zealand residents since your arrival.

You are demonstrating a commitment to the responsibilities and privileges of New Zealand citizenship. By that I mean you are agreeing to abide by the laws of New Zealand and fulfil your duties and obligations as a New Zealand citizen.

One of those obligations is respecting the diversity of New Zealanders. In becoming a citizen you are accepting formal membership of the New Zealand community. It is a common bond and, as I referred to in my opening remarks, is a unique relationship involving reciprocal rights uniting all New Zealanders while respecting their diversity.

Today you can hold your heads up high as you become members of the New Zealand community. Your arrival into the Kiwi family will contribute to the richness and diversity of our country. I am sure you will all become valued New Zealand citizens and I trust you all in return will value the uniqueness and opportunities that New Zealand offers you.

ENDS

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