Nine years ago Sierra Leone man John Sandy was living in a Guinea refugee camp with 6,000 other men from war-torn countries like his own - seemingly with no future to look forward to.
He was separated from his wife, torn from his family and living in third-world squalor yearning for a better life.
That came in 2011 when he fled to Australia and was re-united in Newcastle with wife Isata after 12 years apart.
John Sandy and his wife Isata reunited in Newcastle after 12 years apart
Fast forward eight years to this Saturday, and Mr Sandy will rejoice when he and 193 other men and women from more than 46 different countries are officially welcomed by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes as new Australians.
“When I heard the news I was becoming an Australian Citizen, I was just so grateful and proud,” Mr Sandy said.
“It gives hope that people like me who have fled another country in fear of their life can find a new place elsewhere.”
Tomorrow’s 9am citizenship ceremony at City Hall will mark 70 years since the Australian Government first introduced Citizenship into Commonwealth law.
“In 1949, just seven men made history when they were sworn in as the nation’s first official Australians recognised under Commonwealth law,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“Tomorrow, in Newcastle alone, that number will be 194 from 46 different birthplaces. This shows just how far we have come as a multicultural inclusive community that welcomes people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.”
Tomorrow’s ceremony will also see local Australia Day awards presented before a range of family activities will be staged in the amphitheatre at the eastern end of Foreshore Park from 10am-2pm.
At 8.30pm, the fireworks postponed from New Year's Eve will be let off from Stockton, offering a clear view right along the Newcastle Foreshore and from higher vantage points such the Obelisk.
Public transport is recommended on Australia Day, but the Wright Lane, Throsby carpark and The Mall carpark will be free of charge.
For more information, please visit the City’s Australia Day information page online at http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Explore/Things-to-do/What-s-On/Events/Australia-Day-2019