A few weeks back, reacting to the maiden speech by Katter’s Australia Party senator, Fraser Anning, who broadly (and in some areas of his speech, recklessly) called for a review of Australia’s immigration policies, Australian senator, Lucy Gichuhi, (who was born in Kenya) asked the question: “At what point do you become an Australian?”
Lucy’s answer was, “…when I get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”
I follow Senator Gichuhi’s political posts. I supported Senator Bob Day, of the Family First party, passing his position over to her after his election win was declared invalid because of a candidacy conflict with the Constitution. I was encouraged when Senator Gichuhi was duly found by the High Court to have a legitimate election win. In addition to this I was thankful Senator Gichuhi had taken a brave stand for healthy traditional family values in Australia, and I’m often interested in hearing her opinion on other subjects. However, the Senator’s answer to her own question was off the mark.
The answer to Senator Gichuhi’s question, “At what point do you become an Australian?” isn’t as simple as obtaining a piece of paper that grants the right of citizenship. What comes with that right is also the responsibilities and commitments which are attached to citizenship. It’s discouraging to here a Senator in the Australian parliament claim that what makes a person an Australian is “…when they get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”
Australian citizen doesn’t stop with a piece of paper. Citizenship papers signify not only the right to be recognised as a citizen, but also that the person who has chosen to become an Australian citizen, is willing to live out the responsibilities associated with the recognition of citizenship. For anyone not born in Australia, to both be and become an Australian goes hand in hand. The adoption has been made official, but it takes time to own membership in that family. Membership in that family is learned. Membership in that family cannot truly become membership if the adoption is rejected by the person being adopted.
Civics 101 talks about the reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship between citizen, neighbour and state. Rights do not get to trump responsibility. Both collective and personal responsibility are vital elements of successful cohesion within a diverse society, and the oversight of small, good government.
The question “At what point do you become an Australian?” is easily answered as:
1.) A person who signs on to become a citizen or is born in Australia.
2.) A citizen who chooses to abide by English common law as set down in Australian law
3.) A citizen who has a respect for and knowledge of Australian history and civics – including a clear understanding of the importance of Judeo-Christian, and classical liberal values.
4.) Speaks English reasonably well, or is willing to learn it (for their own benefit as much as everyone else’s).
5.) Has a love, or at the very least a deep appreciation for all these things and what they’ve delivered.
6.) Is willing to defend (a) through (d) and respect our national holidays.
All these points line up with The Australian Citizenship Act of 2007:
‘The Parliament recognises that Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity.
The Parliament recognises that persons conferred Australian citizenship enjoy these rights and undertake to accept these obligations:
(a) by pledging loyalty to Australia and its people; and
(b) by sharing their democratic beliefs; and
(c) by respecting their rights and liberties; and
(d) by upholding and obeying the laws of Australia.’ (Source)
Citizenship is reciprocal and involves a daily commitment to the nation and its people as agreed to in the Pledge of Commitment:
From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I will uphold and obey. (Source)
The imperatives of citizenship are participation and contribution. These entail the right to be recognised and the responsibility to dignify that recognition, by honouring the agreed upon commitment made between both the nation and the individual.
Even though multi-ethnic communities form part of what it means to be Australian. Australian culture is not multiculturalism. Just as Australian citizenship is not defined by the colour of a person’s skin; Australian citizenship is not defined by a person’s ethnicity.
However, immigrants to Australia should be sensitive to what it means to be an Australian. This means knowing, adopting and respecting the fact that the mother tongue of Australian culture is English. That Australian culture, its civics, its theology and politics are built on a Judeo-Christian, classical liberal European and Indigenous Australian heritage.
As Senator Fraser Anning so clumsily tried to communicate, there are immigrants who have come to Australia, are granted citizenship, have accepted that citizenship, but have refused to become what it means to be Australian. Immigrants who do this, are not living up to their end of the citizenship agreement.
Unfortunately, if anyone raises concerns about this issue they’re immediately frowned upon with
suspicion immediate accusations of racism or ethnocentricity. They’re branded as a white supremacist, or at the very least, a white nationalist sympathiser. In favour of logical fallacies,the argument, concerns and ideas put forward are pushed to the side, and the individual who sought to defend Australian culture, with the aim of preserving its diversity, and rich heritage, is demonised into silence.
Senator Fraser Anning wasn’t the only Australian senator to speak recklessly. Senator Gichuhi’s assertion was disappointing because it was too simple; suggesting either a lack of understanding about Australian civics and citizenship, or a deliberate denial of the obligations that are part of citizenship. Being an Australian citizen goes beyond just being given an official piece of paper and the rights that pertain to citizenship. It also means responsibility.
Rights and responsibilities are not separate from one another. Citizenship does not have a full stop after “…when I get a citizenship paper!” Citizenship is lived out. It grabs freedom, warms to adoption (through sensitivity to the culture) and responds with gratitude to those who make, and have made, that citizenship possible.
In 2009 Rod moved on from a 12 year management career with Koorong. Then went on to study a degree through Tabor College Adelaide, graduating from there in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology. You can read more of Rod’s work at his website.