Iraqi refugee and doctor Marwan Shawki became an Australian citizen at a ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.
Iraqi refugee and doctor Marwan Shawki became an Australian citizen at a ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.

Refugee doctor becomes Mackay’s newest citizen

AN IRAQI refugee described his new home as heaven on earth moments after being handed his Australian citizenship.

The young doctor was one of 106 new citizens who would be welcomed to Mackay across four coronavirus-compliant ceremonies at the MECC this week.

But the path to Australia for Marwan Shawki was long and treacherous.

Ten years ago, the young student founded a medical society and began campaigning for the rights of women and internally displaced people.

His activism put a target on his back, Mr Shawki said.

"I was called a 'traitor' and an 'infidel'," he said.

"They said I was someone who wanted to Americanise their society."

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New Australian citizen Marwan Shawki, back left, from Iraq, with Mount Pleasant residents Ramy Wahba, Malik Wahba, 1, Fatma Youssef, and Ali Wahba, 4, front left, and Adam Wahba, 6, at a citizenship ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.
New Australian citizen Marwan Shawki, back left, from Iraq, with Mount Pleasant residents Ramy Wahba, Malik Wahba, 1, Fatma Youssef, and Ali Wahba, 4, front left, and Adam Wahba, 6, at a citizenship ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.

In July 2015 Mr Shawki was forced to leave the only life he had ever known, and flee from his Baghdad home.

"For us in Iraq, Australia was never on the map," he said.

"All that we know from television is that they have kangaroos.

"I was lucky enough to be welcomed by Australia.

"If there is a heaven on earth, it is Australia."

Unlike his home, where he had been threatened and persecuted, Mr Shawki said Australia was welcoming.

"I have felt foreign in my own country, but not in Australia," he said.

"They welcome people in their hearts, before their minds."

 

 

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After transferring his medical qualifications, Mr Shawki was able start working as a doctor in Australia.

And since February he has worked at Mackay Base Hospital in the civics and gynaecology department.

"The best place for me to give back is rural and outback," he said.

The newly-arrived doctor said he feel an immediate kinship with Mackay's First Nations community.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are as warm as the Middle Eastern people," he said.

"They have traditional beliefs I really respect."

The Iraqi migrant joined people from 28 different nations who were welcomed as Australian citizens on Monday.

Mayor Greg Williamson welcomed the new Australian citizens and their loved ones at a ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.
Mayor Greg Williamson welcomed the new Australian citizens and their loved ones at a ceremony held by Mackay Regional Council at the MECC on Monday July 20.

Mackay Regional Council mayor Greg Williamson said the region's diversity was its pillar of strength.

"We are a tolerant society and the national ethos is that everyone deserves a fair go," Cr Williamson said.

"Our cultural diversity brings with it strength when we talk about our community."


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