I've recently been to Brisbane to attend my son-in-law's citizenship ceremony. Queensland, or at least the south-east corner of it that contains Brisbane, really does feel different from Sydney. Not only is it warmer, its vegetation more tropical, and its scavenger animals are brush turkeys(!) but it seems newer, glossier, younger, and altogether painted in brighter colours.
Some of this was evident in the citizenship ceremony I attended. A few months ago I'd attended Mary-Helen's citizenship ceremony in Sydney's inner-west Leichhardt. It was quite small, cosy and low-key with individual chats with the mayor and entertainment from the local brass band. My son-in-law's ceremony in Brisbane was quite a different affair. He was one of eleven hundred people becoming Australian citizens. Eleven hundred! The ceremony was held in the Brisbane Civic Centre and with the new citizens and their friends and families there must have been at least four thousand people filling the vast theatre. It was an Event - planned and organised to the minute - rather than a mere ceremony.
There were many flags,
a wonderful brass band (based on my sample of two, this seems to be a vital ingredient)
and a most impressive Indigenous welcome to Country that culminated in two older men among the group of dancers making fire using the friction from two sticks rubbed together - a wonderful symbol of new beginnings among old traditions.
There was a choir, mass affirmations of loyalty to Australia and the democratic process from the new citizens, lots of babies and young children crawling and playing in the aisles, singing of the national anthem and a brief moving speech from a 'representative' new citizen - a woman who had migrated to Australia from India with her young family. The mayor gave a most enthusiastic speech, unashamedly and knowingly countering the current promotion of a 'sustainable' Australian population by expressing his delight at the energy and potential that the new citizens were bringing to Brisbane.
I enjoy and am moved by ceremonies that mark a rite of passage. I always have a little weep. This one was no exception.