Friday, March 6, 2009

Rotary and Australian Citizenship

Rotary and Australian Citizenship

Fall has hit the Illawarra, at least that's what the locals are saying. There is a slight chill in the breeze and my coworker, Brett the Younger said he can smell the change. I don't know how the locals can stand it, only in the low to mid 70's. I'm sure I'll see parkas and wollen scarves out soon.

Last Wednesday, I was invited to a weekly Rotary meeting. One of my coworkers who is a great guy, a Land Surveyor, is very active in Rotary and had invited me to a BBQ (in Australia?) earlier and has been trying to persuade me to join. They are a great bunch of people so I decided to see what a regular meeting was like. That night was a special night, and anything from ordinary.

They have their meetings at the Illawarra Leagues Club which has a casino, bars, restaurant, dance floors and meeting rooms. “Clubs” in Australia are similar to Fraternal organizations such as Elks, Eagles, Moose, etc. however in most cases, I don’t think they’re part of a National group. Most appear to be fairly localized, often surrounding themselves with a local sports team or university. There are clubs such as the Returned Soldier’s Club that must be a part of the Veteran’s group I’d imagine.

Also in Australia, when you see a ‘Hotel,’ it most likely means a bar that has a few token rooms to let (rent) in order to be able to sell booze. Similar to Washington State requiring a certain percentage of food sales to booze sales in order to maintain a class “H” license to sell hard liquor. Most likely some carryover from the ‘blue laws’ of a former Puritan era. More research is needed and I’m on task, but enough of that for now.

The Rotary was hosting a swearing in ceremony for new citizens of Australia. An official from Immigration in Sydney came down to perform his official function and actually it was a very good ceremony. Very touching and I’m sure the new citizens felt very welcomed. As at least 25% of the current population of just barely 21 million are foreign born, there really isn’t much if any, bad feelings about foreigners and immigrants as can be found elsewhere throughout some parts of the world.

One thing in the Official’s speech that move me was describing all the different countries that were being represented that night. Germany, the Netherlands, Philippines, USA, about 12 people became Australians that night. The Official said these new citizens are not asked to leave their heritage behind, but to incorporate it into Australia’s culture as they learn to be Australians. Australia isn’t a melting pot but more of a tapestry that makes this a strong, resilient nation of citizens. For some reason, that sounded very good to me.

No, I’m not going Aussie on you. I just thought it was a beautiful expression of respect for people around the world who come from different cultures.

I’m not going Rotarian either, lol.

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