The value of citizenship

The first official review of Australia’s 1948 Citizenship Act was carried out by an expert team in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the early 1980s under the leadership of an immigrant – the one once referred to in the streets of Melbourne as a black fellow – me! (Refer Part 2 of my second memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ available as ebook at at $US2.99.)

The 2 most important recommendations we made – and which were accepted by the government – were: that citizenship represents a commitment to the nation; and that only a citizen could govern, administer, or fight for Australia. Contrary to the previous competitive reductions by governments of the length of residence required to be eligible for citizenship, the waiting period was then extended to a more sensible period.

I also wrote a paper on citizenship enhancement – accepted by the official advisory council led by Emeritus Prof. George Zubrzycki – because there were nearly 1 million residents (almost all British) who had not sought Australian citizenship. That was understandable then, because Australia was Britain’s backyard, while (until 1948) all Australians were also British subjects (as I was – although born elsewhere).

Under the revised citizenship laws, all immigrants had to offer allegiance to Australia (the nation), not the Crown as previously, to acquire Australian citizenship. Previously, no oath or affirmation by British subjects had been necessary because they were already subjects of the Crown. Ironically, at about the same time – but quite independently – Britain revoked the right, previously available, for British subjects like me to enter Britain freely.

In my books I have consistently argued that a shared citizenship should assist the increasingly ethno-culturally diverse Australian population to become integrated into one people. In an open society, that should take about 3 generations.