Australian Citizen

citizenship
Partner-in-Crime doesn't like his mug on the Internet, so I cropped him out.

Partner-in-Crime doesn’t like his mug on the Internet, so I cropped him out.

On Wednesday, I became a citizen of Australia.

It’s still a bit of surprise when I remember that I’m a “dualie.”

The obligations for becoming a citizen of Australia are four years in residence (I was able to count the days I was here on a tourist visa, as well as my resident days), including at least one year as a Permanent Resident. There is some paperwork involved, nothing terribly difficult, and a fee of $260. After submitting my paperwork, I was granted an appointment for an interview and the citizenship test. The “interview” really just involved a clerk going through my paperwork to make sure it was all in order. The test is 20 questions, and I’d say pretty hard not to pass if you come from a country with a democratic system of government. I read over the test booklet once the night before and passed with 100% in just over 3 minutes. If you’d like to know how you’d do on the Australian citizenship test, you can take practice questions here.

After passing the test, I then waited for a letter from my local council on when I was invited to attend a citizenship ceremony. My wait was about 5 months.

In terms of legality, neither country has a policy against dual citizenship, though the U.S. is a bit vague in its language. From the Department of State website:

The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. nationals may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist nationals abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

So, basically, we’re not going to stop you, but could you maybe not?

I took these questions seriously in my decision to apply for Australian citizenship. Had I been required to renounce my U.S. citizenship, then taking Aussie citizenship would not have even been a consideration. But, I have grown a feeling of belonging to this country, which doesn’t negate my feelings towards the U.S., all of which I’ve explored ad naseum in these pages over the last four years. From a practical perspective, there was no question. My husband and daughter both now have their Australian citizenship, and this would mean we’d all have one common passport. Plus, why not get the citizenship and its benefits if you’re eligible?

photo 3 (3)And so it was that I found myself in Willoughby Council chambers on Wednesday in a respectable new top and my grandmother’s pearls. All of the candidates were given a packet of papers, including a form to add your name to the election roll. Voting in compulsory in Australia. I marched my form up to the elections commissioner, and it was then that the weight of the occasion sank in. I have always been a proud voter, and as someone with an interest in politics, I already have my fair share of thoughts about how I might vote for the future of Australia. It was an honor to turn that paper in and add my name to the roll of voters.

The ceremony was fairly straightforward, presided over by the Mayor of Willoughby, and including an Aboriginal Welcome to Country by Walangari, short remarks, all candidates taking the oath of citizenship and receiving our certificates. You are required to speak the oath before becoming a citizen.

photo 4 (3)

There were around 25 people getting their citizenship that day, and as each one went up to get their certificate, I was curious about all the stories behind this day. How had they gotten here? What was their route to citizenship? What did this mean to them? I found the whole thing rather emotional. At the end, we sang the national anthem, and I want you to know that I have been practicing since Australia Day 2011, and I sang it without looking at the paper!

After my ceremony, I did some thinking about what this citizenship means to me. I realized that becoming a mother in Australia was the thing that made me feel the most linked to the life and values in Australia. When I talk to other American mothers here, the conversation always turns to how grateful we are to have had our children here, and how we’d prefer not to go back to the U.S. before we’re done having babies. For all of the amazing, creative, beautiful, charming, hard-working things about the U.S., the treatment of mothers and children is not one if its strongest virtues. I’m not making this up – ranking after ranking rates Australia far higher than the U.S. in categories to do with having and raising children. I wanted to share some of these thoughts with the Facebook mother’s group that I hang out in because I think that it’s a nice to be reminded of things we have to be grateful for, particularly when you’re from a country and don’t think about these things often. Here’s an edited version of what I posted:

OI! OI! OI!

Yesterday, I took the Australian citizenship oath.

My partner and I were living in the U.S. and in 2008, he decided to apply for a skilled work visa. Australia was never my dream, but I was up for adventure and in love, so I came along, and October 2010, we married at Darling Point with just a handful of new friends on hand.

For the next couple of years, we both worked and traveled. Though I found it hard to work in my industry, the fair wages I made at my jobs here allowed me to fully pay off the credit card debt I’d been carrying in the States since my student days and years as an arts worker, which was an immense load off my mind. We also saw so much of this beautiful country: Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, Jervis Bay, plus the wonderful city and surrounds of Sydney. I loved our adventures, but Australia never truly felt like home to me. 
Then, in 2012, we happily became pregnant with my daughter. After the most respectful and nurturing care from our midwife at Ryde Midwifery Group Practice, my daughter was born by emergency C-section at Royal North Shore Hospital. After she was born, she had a few issues for which we accessed specialists at RNSH. Because of Medicare, we’ve paid almost nothing out of pocket for any of this, something that would have been unheard of in the U.S. We also made use of services like Health Direct and Mothersafe, which were lifelines in times of need. 
The quality of life for me as a mother and for my daughter here have been extraordinary. I would have been lost from the early days without the Early Childhood Centre and my Mother’s Group, and as she’s gotten older, Playgroups are an amazing outlet for her boundless energy. None of these exist pro forma in the States. I decided to stay at home, but often wonder how I would have coped back home with returning to work after six weeks (!!) as most women have to. I was still in an complete fog! 
Australia has also made it possible for my husband to start his own business. He works from home and, therefore, sets his own hours, meaning that we have afternoons together as a family. 
I don’t mean to cast aspersions upon the U.S. by writing this. It will always be my home, and there are so many incredible things about it for which I am forever in its debt, but on the occasion of becoming a citizen of Australia, I wanted to share these thoughts with you fellow mothers. Yes, there are places for improvements in Australia, but there is so much to be grateful for. For those of you who were born here, you may not always realize or take a moment to notice what a good life this country offers us and our children. 
So, from my entire family, thank you for welcoming us to Australia. We’re all proud to be citizens.

8 thoughts on “Australian Citizen

  1. Christie Wilkin

    Congratulations! That is very exciting, and I was not surprised to read that it was an emotional experience. I remember choking up when a few of my son’s classmates became Australian citizens, and the situation was recognized at a school assembly with the singing of the national anthem.

  2. Tess Howard

    Congrats! I really enjoyed reading your take on this. I have to admit its something I tend to struggle with a bit. I have lived here now for almost 15 years and couldn’t agree more with you about children. My little Aussie dual citizens are so lucky to grow up here! Its a very conscious choice on my part to give my children an Australian childhood. (With liberal sprinklings of American traditions and trips thrown in). I tell myself every year I really should get my citizenship, then for some reason, it gets lost in the all the chaos of just growing a family. You’ve planted the seed once again in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Cristin Post author

      It’s tough to strike that balance and citizenship is certainly a personal choice. But, yes, this country offers such a nice life for our kids. I don’t take that for granted.
      Good luck if you do go for it!

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