What is Australian Citizenship Day?
Every year, Australia welcomes thousands of new residents from all around the world. And this is a sound reason for a celebration. Each year, on 17 September, our truly multinational country marks Australian Citizenship Day.
This day is an opportunity for everyone to think of our privileges and responsibilities as an Australian community, take pride and celebrate democratic values.
This year, the date is special. 17 September 2021 is the 20th Anniversary of Australian Citizenship Day. To mark this occasion, we spoke to a few community members to find out what Citizenship Day means to them.
A brief history
1999 – National Schools Constitutional Convention comes up with a proposal to establish a special day to celebrate their Australian citizenship.
2000 – The Australian Citizenship Council releases the report ‘Australian Citizenship for a New Century’, where it recommends setting the Citizenship Day.
2001 – The Australian Government responds to the recommendation and establishes the official Australian Citizenship Day.
2001 – Australian Citizenship Day is celebrated for the first time.
Why September 17th?
17 September was chosen as Australian Citizenship Day as it is the anniversary of the renaming, in 1973,of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948.
What does Australian Citizenship Day mean to people making Australia their new home?
Whether you’re an Australian national by birth or have been granted citizenship at a certain point in your life, or you’re still working your way towards a permanent residency, Australian Citizenship Day reminds us that we are all united.
We asked five community members, for whom Australia has become home, what Australian Citizenship Day means for them.
Why and how did you move to Australia?
Vinoy Joseph, India to Adelaide
Better quality of life, for myself, my wife and child. That’s the primary reason why I moved to Australia.
Maryann Essa, Iraq to Melbourne
I am originally from Iraq. I moved to Australia ten years ago because of the war in my country. It was so hard to stay safe [in Iraq], so we had to leave. We didn’t have any more choice, due to the safety of my family and my kids.
Yaneth Orellana, El Salvador to Melbourne
With my family I came here to have a better life, better conditions to live and also a future. My husband is an Australian citizen, so I had the privilege to apply for a permanent visa.
Ashish Kumar, India to Victoria
That’s a good question. I am a software engineer by profession, so in India I started my career with Infosys Technologies in 2012 and then in 2016 they sent me to Australia on an assignment, so I came here on a work permit 457 visa. So I spent two and a half years here and applied for residency and I got an invite from the Victoria government and got residency in Victoria.
Vikram Behl, India to Australia
While I was in India I had quite a vast work experience, but I did believe I was possibly being underpaid for all the efforts I was doing. So I thought I needed to move to a place where my work would be recognised more and I could get more opportunities to earn a lot more than what I was doing. In addition to that, I also thought that I could give a better environment for my family and my kids, and that was a strong boost for me to move out of India and, for me, Australia was the best place that I could think of.
What does Australian Citizenship Day mean to you?
Citizenship Day in Australia represents equality, the freedom for being oneself. In Australia, I have recognised there is a lot of value for life and freedom for everyone, which is a great thing. We should all celebrate that, absolutely.
Citizenship Day was a very special day for me. I was very proud on that day to be a part of such a nice country. I was so proud to be part of Australia.
I am falling in love with Australia. [Citizenship Day] represents the freedom of this country, the people, and what a beautiful country it is to live in.
Citizenship Day really means a lot to me, and I guess that’s the same for all Australians. When we look up the importance of citizenship…so we can celebrate the freedom of life here in Australia. And the most important thing is equality…you will see people from different backgrounds and there is no difference [in how they are treated]. People from all backgrounds, no gender differences or anything. So there is equal opportunity to participate in different jobs…that is one of the best things I like about Australia. So definitely I have applied for Australian Citizenship and I am really looking forward to it, like, the day that I will be granted citizenship.
Citizenship Day would actually mean that I have formally got myself and my family amalgamated into Australia, and its culture, and its people. I’ve been living in Australia for four and a half years now but formally getting that tag of being Australian – and now I can even hold an Australian passport – that is a really big boost for me and my family. Now I feel more confident living in Australia and that yes, I can probably call myself Australian.
What does being an Australian Citizen mean to you?
Australian citizenship means a lot because the country treats everyone with respect and value. It doesn’t matter where you come from and what you do, Australia treats everyone equally, and rest assured that you are protected by the law of the land. You can give back to the community and the community gives back to you, so it’s a very pleasant life. That’s what citizenship means to me.
To be an Australian citizen means a lot to us. It means a lot to me and to my family. I feel very safe in this nice country. I feel I am part of this multicultural country. I feel respected and I enjoy living in this country which has a very nice nature. I am proud to be Australian and I have all my human rights when I got my citizenship. I felt I can do a lot to build a beautiful country here, to share my ideas with people here.
For me, now I am so excited to become an Australian citizen. It’s a long story. I have been living here for five years, my family lives in Los Angeles, California. I was born in El Salvador, but now I cannot go back to living in El Salvador or Los Angeles…really I am in love with Australia. I love the culture, I love the people, the beaches…really, I am in love with Australia. I love the city of Melbourne so much and I feel like I’m living in Europe, England, Italy, or in El Salvador. Thank you to Australia for giving me this great opportunity that so many people don’t have. I think it is the best thing that has happened to me.
Being an Australian citizen will bring many responsibilities and definitely a lot more privileges, like having the option to look out for different careers. [In terms of responsibilities] I am part of an organisation that, since the pandemic, we are helping international students and anyone who is in need…we are providing them with free groceries and essentials. So I’ve found that I am really blessed and privileged to be here and I would really like to continue here [in Australia] and take this opportunity to serve the community.
Australian Citizenship comes with a lot of privileges. One of the privileges that I can think of is, when you hold an Australian passport you can roam around the whole world without even the need to get formal visas…that’s a big privilege to have. You can just take your passport to over a hundred countries, present your passport and you are given entry to that country. That is a big bonus. Also, being an Australian citizen I get other advantages within Australia itself. I always had the desire to get into the armed forces and [citizenship] gives me the opportunity to do that.
Participants were speaking with Sera Yilmaz and Rakesh Gupta of The LOTE Agency’s National Advisory Group. The video is below.