Australia Day

Poll finds people moving to Australia want to become citizens

by Ray Clancy on January 30, 2019

in Australia Immigration

People moving to Australia plan to become citizens and also feel that marking Australia Day is important for the nation and it also makes them feel welcome, a new survey has found.

But most don’t know the significance of the January 26 date and are unaware of sensitivities over the day among some indigenous Australians, according to the poll by migrant settlement agency AMES.

Australia Citizenship

By The Art of Pics/Shutterstock.com

The poll comes as the Immigration Minister Dave Coleman revealed that the number of migrants becoming Australian citizens continues to rise, with an 83% increase in citizenship applications finalised in the last six months of 2018 compared with the same period last year. Between July and December 2018, almost 73,000 citizenship applications were finalised. This is compared to almost 40,000 during the same period in 2017.

‘Australia Day is an opportunity for all Australians, whether they are citizens by birth or by choice, to unite as a nation and celebrate what’s great about Australia. Citizenship is the common bond that unites all Australians while respecting diversity. It is a great privilege granted to those who support our democratic values, respect our laws and want to contribute to an even better Australia,’ said Coleman.

He revealed that a task force has been established within the Department of Home Affairs to focus on complex citizenship cases and $9 million is being invested in the recruitment and training of extra staff to ensure citizenship applications are managed as efficiently as possible.

The AMES survey found that 68% of respondents will have marked the national day this year. But only 31% of those surveyed knew the significance on January 26 as being the day the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson. And only 25% were aware of the recent controversy over Australia Day prompted by some indigenous groups calling it ‘invasion day’.

An overwhelming 89% said they planned to become Australian citizens and 61% said Australia Day would mean more them it they were citizens while 39% thought it would make no difference.

Some 82% said they knew, or planned to learn more, about Australia’s history and the reasons Australia Day is celebrated, the poll also found, and 55% said Australians should be proud of their national day.

The survey found Australia Day events and the tone of publicity around the day helped new arrivals feel welcome. Some 75% said the day helped them to feel more welcome while 17% said it made no difference and 7% said it made them feel less welcome.

Cath Scarth, chief executive officer of AMES Australia, said that survey results showed that migrants and refugees were overwhelmingly committed to becoming Australians and contributing to the nation.

‘It’s our experience that almost without exception people who are newly arrived to Australia want to fit in and become part of the broader society. They want to learn about Australia’s culture and history and they want to build connections,’ she explained.

New Australian citizen Hind Goga said that she finally feels connected to her adopted country and she spent Australia day with a small gathering of family and friends after becoming a citizen in December.

‘It’s important to me and it is nice to say I have finally become an Australian. This country accepted me and I want to do everything I can to contribute to this country and show that I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given. Observing Australia Day, even in small way, makes you stop and think about those things,’ she added.

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