Inside a West Melbourne apartment, Karthik Settu sits with his five-year-old daughter by his side, gazing out the window.
It’s a long way from his home country of India, but this is life he says he lives and loves.
Karthik collects her, and wraps his arm around her, seating himself back on the couch.
They are all impeccably dressed as they gather in front of a laptop.
This not a call to home. After five years in Australia Karthik, Sathya and Deepshika are about to become Australian citizens.
The online ceremony is one of the first of its kind, and the Settu family is welcomed and read the oath by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge in Canberra.
The coronavirus pandemic and social distancing restrictions mean it’s no longer possible to take the pledge in a town hall or on a beach, be handed a small tree to plant, or even a jar of Vegemite.
But that hasn’t hampered the day at all for the Settu family.
“We’re just missing that lively experience, with the crowd, with the people,” Sathya told 9News.
“It’s mixed emotions but it’s beautiful. Finally, we got a citizenship, thank you!”
The family thought their five-year-long dream of being Australian citizens had been put on ice, but when they got the call inviting them to “log on” to be Australian citizens, they jumped at the chance.
“I’m really proud and excited. It’s a stay safe strategy to have a virtual citizenship ceremony,” Karthik said.
Back on the couch, they gathered, baby Megnaa sleeping through the entire ceremony, as her parents and sister repeated line after line.
Then came the words they’d waited five years to hear.
“I now declare you to be Australian citizens,” Mr Tudge said.
He’s hoping 750 people could go through this process a day, to help clear a backlog of 90,000 people waiting to become Australian citizens.
“It does mean people can become Australian citizens. We want people to make that final declaration of loyalty to Australia. It’s important for them and it’s important for us,” Mr Tudge said.
And they’ll still get a certificate, just no handshake.
It will arrive in the post. So too will their ceremonial gift, a packet of seedlings to grow, much like the life they say they’ve sewn here.
Not long after becoming official Australian citizens, the family ventures out for exercise. A social distancing stroll in the park.
Like many, Sathya ponders a life without COVID-19 restrictions.
“We can get some fresh air; my children are homebound. It will be great,” her smile widening as the sentence ends.
“Some people are missing work but still its fine. We’re happy in the midst of all this pandemic something is happening,” she beams.
By this point Megnaa is fast asleep in the pram. The seven-week-old is already an Australian citizen because she was born here.
Her sister Deepshika has been incredibly quiet.
That is until the end of the conversation, when the topic turns to cricket, and the torn battle between the motherland, and their new homeland.
Sathya laughs: “I would support both teams, I would say,”
Karthik’s eyes open wide: “My favourite team is India, So I’ll keep supporting India.”
Then comes the mouse-like voice of Deepshika, not so quiet anymore.
“Australia!” she bellows.
Sporting allegiances might divide this family, but they don’t care.
Sathya smiles: “I’m very proud to be an Australian citizen.”
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