Monday, October 01, 2007

do you past the test?

10 years ago I took the plunge. It was the greatest act of commitment I have ever made. After getting cold feet a couple of years earlier I finally filed the paperwork and submitted to the ceremony. I became an Australian citizen.

It was politics that drove me to it - perhaps in the end it will be politics that may lead me to renounce it. With a past life as a political science graduate I found not being able to vote more frustrating than the average resident. It was Jeff Kennett that pushed me over the edge. Every corpuscle in my body wanted that man dethroned.

The first time I sent off for the forms I could not bring myself to fill them in. I agonised that although I would not have to give up my New Zealand citizenship, I just couldn’t go the whole hog and become “Australian”. This nation to me seemed racist, often sexist and many negative ‘ists’ in between. In the intervening years the desire to have a voice, to take responsibility for the mess of my adopted homeland, won out.

No longer would I be able to say, “I’m a kiwi, I’m not responsible for the abhorrent treatment of the native peoples of this country”, that certificate doomed to be filed and lost meant otherwise. Sure, I could be eligible for grants and funding if I wanted to hit academia again, I’d be able to vote that bastard Kennett out (sadly it took til second time around there and lets hope Howard will be third time lucky) and I could now – what did they tell me at the citizenship interview? – be called up to defend my new country (or suffer the consequences of refusing to do so).

But a decade down the track, if I was to apply for citizenship as of today I don’t know whether I’d pass the first hurdle, the freshly minted citizenship test. The test is based on this booklet. Would I be able to get the minimum 12/20 questions on Australian culture and history correct? I know nothing about sport and as for dates, facts and figures – even with 2 degrees under my belt in my native speaking English tongue – I haven’t got a clue when Federation was or what the population of Australia is.

But more than that, I don’t know if I agree with the conclusions made in the booklet about life in this wondrous land. Under Australian Values – the first 4 proclaim:

• respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
• freedom of speech
• freedom of religion and secular government
• freedom of association

I ask myself is this really true? Look back over the past year. The sedition laws. The anti-terrorist and other ‘security’ legislation. I don’t know how free our speech is any more (and here I am not comparing it to some other regime, rather the Australia of the late 20th century), how much the government and it’s agencies actually respect the individual.

Sure Haneef wasn’t a citizen but we too could be detained under the same conditions, if the Federal Police got the wrong end of the stick.

And when it comes down to it – just how secular is our government when the 2 major parties feel the need to court favour with extreme Christian groups?

And if there exists another of the values, equality between men and women – why are women still lagging behind in equal pay, representation at corporate board level and as CEO’s? While men only lag behind in the hours of housework they perform.

The test can include any information found in the booklet such as the national holidays, gemstone, colours, flower and coat of arms. They are undisputed facts, though there are an awful lot to memorise. For example you may also be asked the length of the Gallipoli campaign, the amount of casualties and the soldier who epitomized the Gallipoli spirit.

Then there is sport – 2 pages of it. The Bradman legend, Pharlap, Lindrum and all the footy codes. You may be asked to name Australia’s Nobel laureate, the christian name of Henry Lawson's mother or give details of the Heidelbery School. The final pages cover the complexity of the many teirs of government, right down to who is responsible for immunising your children.

So how do you think you'd go?

Below is the sample Citizen Test. No cheating – how did you score?

1. In what year did Federation take place?
2. What date is Australia Day?
3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
4. What is the first line of Australia’s national anthem?
5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?
6. What is the population of Australia?
7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?
8. Who is the Queen’s representative in Australia?
9. How are Members of parliament chosen?
10. Who do members of parliament represent?
11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?
12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?
13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?
14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?
15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?
16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian
citizenship: true or false?
17. In Australia, everyone is free to practice the religion of their
choice, or practice no religion: true or false?
18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be
an Australian citizen: true or false?
19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby
born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?
20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol
on the electoral register: true or false?

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Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

And when it comes down to it – just how secular is our government when the 2 major parties feel the need to court favour with extreme Christian groups?

Furthermore, for a democracy to be truly secular it must enshrine the separation of church and state, and no such separation exists in Australia.

10:23 am  
Blogger Flora said...

I would fail. I'm a kiwi who has lived here for 20 years and there is no fecking way I would pass that test. I did Australian Modern History at school and I am still made of fail.

How much more daunting is it going to be for someone from a truly different background?

5:13 pm  
Blogger Boysenberry said...

Maybe cos I'm a geek, it was 18/20 here.

The 20 questions are fairly indicative of the total pool used.

7:26 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I think the issue is both Flora and I aren't Australian born. Even with shared language and colonial history, it is a lot harder. Throw in a totally different heritage and English as a second language the test hovers over the line of discrimination and a return to a white australia policy.

7:50 am  

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