Australian citizenship requirements change; tougher English test introduced

THE introduction of tougher Australian citizenship tests has prompted concern in the Wimmera.

The federal government is considering major changes to citizenship requirements, including introducing a more stringent, university-standard English test.

The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment bill also seeks to change the waiting period for permanent residents applying for citizenship from one year to four years. Labor and the Greens have publicly opposed the changes.

Oasis Wimmera migrant support group president Pragya Kant said the changes added a lot of pressure for people wanting to become Australian citizens.

Dr Kant was born in India and moved to Australia in 2011.

“It’s quite a big burden for people. They have to also do a knowledge test, and that’s not easy,” she said.

“When I did my test, I had to prepare pretty very well for it. If people don’t study well, they can find it really difficult to get a pass mark.”

Hindmarsh mayor Debra Nelson said the changes were worrying given the shire’s large Karen population.

She said more stringent requirements could affect people choosing to settle in Australia, and particularly in regional or rural areas.

“Not all Australian-born people have a university-level standard of English ourselves,” she said.

“There are all sorts of people in the world and all sorts of jobs, and you don’t need to have a university degree to be of value to society.

”With these changes it sounds like they are saying they only want very skilled people to come into the country.

“It's also disappointing people have to travel a long distance to do the test – they can’t do it locally. It would be great if they could do it in Horsham even. Not everyone has the means to be able to travel to do it.”

However Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said the changes were necessary.

“It’s important that people who want to apply for citizenship live here for a period of time,” he said.

“In some countries in Europe it’s eight years. In the United States it’s five years.

“That means that a person who is living here can prove they are working and contributing to their community, and learning the language – those are very good things.

“I think the changes to the English proficiency test are good.

“If you want to integrate into Australian culture, you can only do that if you can speak English.

“There would be many of us who are very welcoming to people from all parts of the world, but we expect you to contribute and make Australia home.”