- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Australian citizenship: then and now: speech to the Sydney Institute by the Hon. Gary Hardgrave, MP: Sydney: 7 July 2004 .
Then And Now
Speech to the Sydney Institute by the Hon. Gary Hardgrave, MP Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Assisting the Prime Minister
Sydney, 7 July 2004
OUR MIGRANT HERITAGE
SETTING THE CONTEXT
CHILDREN OF FORMER AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS
REGISTRATION OF CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT
AGE LIMIT FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE EXEMPTION
DISCRETION TO COUNT CERTAIN PERIODS AS PERMANENT RESIDENCE IN AUSTRALIA
OUR MIGRANT HERITAGE
Tonight I will talk about Australian Citizenship and national identity, and the Howard Government's commitment to bringing the 55-year old Citizenship Act into line with the reality of modern Australia. The changes I will announce this evening, focus on maintaining the integrity of our national unity and the status which comes from becoming an Australian citizen while broadening eligibility to welcome back into the family many of those who may have lost their birthright while living overseas. Firstly, I will provide the context and set the scene for what Australian Citizenship means and has meant to us as a nation.
Australia is a nation enriched and strengthened by our cultural diversity, a result of successive waves of migrants to our shores. Since 1945 we have welcomed more than six million immigrants to help build the nation we enjoy today.
Migrants have come to Australia because of the freedoms we cherish, our democratic system, and the values of equal opportunity and hard work on which our nation has been built.
Any socially cohesive society must feature the principles of rights and privileges balanced by respect and responsibilities. In Australia, individual cultural heritage is predicated upon an overriding loyalty to Australia and the basic structures and values of Australian society.
There is no doubt there are threats to Australia and our way of life in the post-9/11 era. There are those whose aim is the destruction of our way of life and values. Terrorists hate the freedoms of our democracy.
As a people, we come from around 200 countries of origin. Yet despite our linguistic, cultural and religious diversity and with 23 per cent of us born overseas, we have worked hard to maintain our strong sense of national unity.
As foreign conflicts divide the world, our community seems to have a renewed sense of common purpose, which brings us closer.
The key to national unity is citizenship. The glue holding our culturally diverse society together.
One way to help protect Australia in these uncertain times, is through a coherent set of national values, the unifying effect of the common bond of Australian Citizenship and a focus on building a shared future which we all have a stake in.
NATIONAL VALUES As Australians we have a responsibility to uphold and to take an active part in our vigorous democracy and system of Government. This means valuing parliamentary democracy and the Australian Constitution, freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law, acceptance and equality, and English as the national language.
The great success of Australia's cultural diversity has been built upon our Western Christian society. Though we have a distinctly Australian culture and national identity, there is no point in denying our nation's history and its roots.
Just as Indigenous Australians have contributed significantly to our country, we must also acknowledge that British-style Parliamentary Democracy is at the heart of the framework of our national values and laws. At the same time, there is no doubt migrants from many countries and cultures have enriched our society and built our modern, culturally diverse nation.
Diversity brings with it significant economic benefits.
We are now part of a global trading environment and the importance of trade and investment to Australia's prosperity continues to rise.
Australia's diverse population and workforce is providing us with language skills; cultural understanding and knowledge; business networks and knowledge of business practices and protocols in overseas markets. Not to mention low-cost intelligence about overseas markets, including intimate knowledge of consumer tastes and preferences.
Some 12 of the top 15 Australian export markets are Non-English speaking countries.
43 per cent or about 8.8 million consumers in the domestic market are either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.
I believe this makes us unique and that as a result Australia is, arguably, one of the most successful culturally diverse nations in the world.
Recommitting ourselves to the values which underpin us as an open democratic society, particularly respect, good will and understanding between Australians of all backgrounds should be encouraged. These are the values which have attracted migrants from all over the world.
This is particularly important not only in the promotion of civics but in helping to instil pride in our great nation.
We inform migrants about Australian values before and after they arrive and ensure they understand our culture and the concept of mutual obligation.
Schools need to reflect broader society and should be places where our national values are emphasised. It is particularly important for young Australians to be given opportunities to develop an appreciation of what it means to be an Australian as well as celebrate our national identity and the values that unite and underpin us as a nation.Singing our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair and raising our national flag in schools and at appropriate public occasions are also symbolic as a unifying force for all Australians.Commemorative days and national celebrations have also become important in forging our national identity and all Australians, including newly arrived migrants and refugees, should feel free to observe and participate in days of national importance such as ANZAC Day. The ANZAC tradition and the values it symbolises, such as mateship and the shared defence of freedom and democracy, belong to every Australian. As a nation, we are united by our common values, by our national identity and by our Australian Citizenship which encompasses all that it means to be Australian.Successfully managing our diversity means emphasising the unity we have and we do this through public citizenship ceremonies.Australian Citizenship is the cornerstone of our society and the bond which unites us as a nation. Australian Citizenship is the unity ticket - the passport to membership of the Australian family.The Australian Citizenship pledge is about loyalty to Australia and its people, its democratic traditions, respect for each others' rights and liberties and a promise to uphold and obey our laws. It's about responsibilities as well as the benefits of belonging and reflects our national ethos of 'a fair go' for all.These values are also reflected in the affirmation that was developed five years ago in response to the many requests from Australian citizens who had heard the Pledge made by new citizens and wished to make a similar statement. Since 1949, more than 3.5 million people from all around the world have become Australian citizens. Australian citizens must vote in elections, and take AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP