This is a Border (Town)

05. 09. 2016

Becoming settled


Mandy hits the play button on the YouTube clip of the Australian National Anthem and all of us assembled in the Bordertown Council Chambers sing along (with varying degrees of fluency) as we follow the bouncing ball on the screen.

Yakob, Saied, Bipemacho and Ninneh have come to Australia from different corners of Africa: Eritrea, Liberia, Sudan and the Congo. Now, they all pledge an oath of allegiance to their new country and, with a handshake from the Mayor, receive their certificates of citizenship. We all applaud enthusiastically – more enthusiastically than what we’ve sung the anthem, in most cases – and then we take photographs. From her place on the back wall, above the Australian flags, the Queen of England casts a benevolent smile over proceedings. (I have to say that she’s looking remarkably young for a 90 year old!)

Our new citizens have friends and family here to help them celebrate this auspicious occasion, including some Afghani men from the citizenship class that’s running at the Migrant Resource Centre across the road. It’s great for these men to witness the ceremony because it gives them hope that they too may one day receive their certificate emblazoned with the Australian coat of arms.

Citizenship bestows certain rights and privileges, but it can also signify a kind of belonging. It’s provides important protection and securities, the value of which is keenly felt by anyone who has migrated from a country where their situation was not so safe or secure. But the most valuable thing about citizenship for many migrants is that they can now apply to bring members of their family to join them in their new country.

Here’s another way of thinking about citizenship: it’s a key to becoming truly settled in a new home. The opposite of being settled is to be just passing through, without any proper connection. A person may be living and working amongst us, present in a physical sense, but their heart and their spirit may be elsewhere, back in the place where their family is still living and to which they themselves may one day have to return. As we share sandwiches and cakes with our new African friends, what we’re really celebrating is that each of these people is now actually one of us. Our awkward singing of the national anthem has somehow had the effect of a magic doorway and, now they’ve passed through, Yakob, Saied, Bipemacho and Ninneh are no longer the same.

Malcolm McKinnon



  • Pat Martlew says:

    When I read your account it reminded me of my own Citizenship Ceremony. It probably wasn’t as significant for me as for those who became citizens today. I came from England as a 12 year old with my parents, brother and sister and slotted painlessly in to society here. I married had two children and realized one day that all the people I loved best were Australian and it was time for me to become Australian too, even though in my heart that had happened long before. Anyway on my special day in 1988, I was presented with a tree, at that time only about a foot tall, which was duly planted on the family farm. I can’t say I checked on its progress in the years following, not even when we sold the farm in 1994. However when the new owner decided to sell he invited us out to take photos under my tree which had meaning for him too. His dad was a second cousin of my husband and Chairman of the District Council when I became an Australian citizen so it was he who presented me with the tree. When I saw it again I was amazed. It was now about 30 ft tall. When I think on it seems symbolic of new people to our land, nurtured by our freedoms with room to grow and flourish and contribute as so many have done in the past and will continue to do.

    • Tracey Grosser says:

      Pat you are truly one of the most generous kind hearted soles that well help the “new seedlings” of our community grow into “big strong trees”.

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Artist Residency


James Dodd, Mark de Nys, Malcolm McKinnon



About the Artist

Malcolm McKinnon

Malcolm McKinnon is an Australian artist and filmmaker working mainly in rural communities. Over the past 25 years, his work has encompassed oral history, urban planning, public and community art projects, critical writing and exhibitions. His current practice is mainly focused around documentary filmmaking and social history, motivated by an appreciation of living memory and local vernacular.

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About the Artist

James Dodd

James Dodd is an artist who has a strong interest in public space and often works on mural scale and community oriented outcomes. He has a multi-faceted visual arts practice that embraces a range of painting and sculptural approaches. He exhibits regularly across Australia and has had his work collected by major institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia. Dodd is an educator at Adelaide Central School of Art and is represented by Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide.

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About the Artist

Mark de Nys

Mark de Nys is a Limestone Coast based Visual Artist ,Educator and Musician,with a background in Engineering and Design, he has worked on large scale public artwork throughout Australia, taking energy from things never before made, re-inventing and re imagining always questioning, Why? This is a Border(town) offers the rare chance to engage with local Blokes via the Men's Shed along with industry and council members, the outcome is organic and fluid embracing Men's mental health, there may be Windmills! Hope to see you on the Journey.

Country Arts SA recognises and respects that we are living and creating on Aboriginal Lands and we are committed to working together to honour their living cultures.