Passport - Issued to Mrs L. Sigalas, Commonwealth of Australia, 1939.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: What is Australian citizenship?
Answer: The notion of citizenship can be difficult to define, partly because the word itself is widely understood to have at least two meanings. It sometimes refers to a political category; at other times it describes membership of a community. It can also be used to define a generally-accepted mode of social behaviour.
While citizenship is not mentioned in the Australian constitution, the category of citizen does exist and confers a number of privileges and obligations. Australian citizenship can be conferred by birth, adoption, descent or grant of citizenship. Citizenship is described in a number of Acts by the Australian government, most notably the Australian Citizenship Acts of 1948 and 2007.
When Australian residents become citizens they are granted the right to vote in state and federal elections, and to represent their fellow Australians by standing for election. They are also able to serve on a jury and to travel freely in and out of Australia.
Residents of Australia who are not Australian citizens are generally ineligible to vote in elections and stand for parliament. However, they are able to join the Australian defence forces, and under certain conditions can be conscripted to do so. This was the case during the Vietnam War.
Citizenship is seen as a privilege conferred on an individual by the State. New applicants to become Australian citizens by grant of citizenship must complete an application process that includes a test. The aims of this citizenship test are to ensure that applicants have an adequate understanding of Australian citizenship and a working knowledge of English.
The history of Australian citizenship reflects the nation’s history of political change. Non-indigenous women could become citizens from 1902 onwards, but it was only in 1963 that Aboriginal Australians of both sexes were granted the same right.