Tough new citizenship hurdles recently announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has raised the question – what does it mean to be “truly Australian”.
The new measures announced in April, would see immigrants facing a four year waiting period as permanent residents before being eligible to apply for citizenship, instead of the current one year wait, along with a tougher English language test involving “reading, writing, and listening components”, according to the Prime Minister.
These changes are straight forward enough, but it’s the third aspect of the announcement which is more interesting.
Mr Turnbull also wants immigrants to demonstrate and get tested on “Australian values”.
But, what is an “Australian value”? Leading onto an even bigger question…what makes us “Australian”?
Mr Turnbull himself even had an issue coming to an answer, stumbling over his words and eventually stating that Australian values were: “Fundamentally, the values that bind us together are those ones of respect, the rule of law, commitment to freedom, and democracy”.
Of course, these values mentioned by Mr Turnbull are without a doubt imperative to our country, but they are extremely broad and difficult to assess on a written citizenship test.
So, after talking to a few true blues and sifting through answers like “a commitment to VB’s and lamingtons”, the majority concluded that our laid back and relaxed attitude towards life are what set us apart from the rest.
This attitude is present in all aspects of our lives for most Australians, including our work life, which may have something to do with our hefty minimum wages and shorter working hours.
Earning a minimum of $17.70 an hour, in comparison to England’s minimum of $8.70, no wonder we are “laid back and relaxed”, allowing us more time to “contribute to an even better Australia”, in the words of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
This contribution to society that Turnbull mentions might be directly related to the idea that volunteering is a part of our Australian culture. Many Australians participate in voluntary work, with 36% of people aged over 18 volunteering in 2010, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Perhaps it’s the fact we earn a hefty wage here in Australia with extra free time that inclines us to help-out at soup kitchens, or participate in beach clean-ups.
Terry Ponton, a 30-year-old plumber from London living in Melbourne on a working visa is baffled by the amount of volunteer work we do here in Australia. He said: “In England there is no way we would work if we weren’t getting paid for it”.
Ingrained in us from birth with activities like “Clean Up Australia” made mandatory in most primary schools, we have made volunteering apart of our life here in Australia, some way or another.
Mr Ponton is impressed by our country’s commitment to volunteering. He said: “Back home I don’t know anyone who volunteers unless they are part of a church group or something. It’s not what we do, I can’t believe how common it is here, it’s great!”.
Since moving to Melbourne in 2016, Mr Ponton has been participating in monthly “Sea Shepherd” beach clean-ups and, volunteers at a soup kitchen weekly. With the aim of permanently staying in Australia, Mr Ponton is doing all he can to “contribute to a better Australia” in the wake of Turnbull’s tough new citizenship hurdles.