Federal government citizenship test changes create concern

Hindmarsh Shire councillor Rob Gersch welcomes new citizens to Nhill in 2013.

Hindmarsh Shire councillor Rob Gersch welcomes new citizens to Nhill in 2013.

  • RELATED: Citizenship test changes spark debate

WIMMERA people are worried proposed changes to Australia’s citizenship requirements could prove damaging for the region’s migrant population.

The federal government is considering introducing a more stringent, university-standard English test, and changing the waiting period for permanent residents applying for citizenship from one year to four years. 

Karen woman ThaBlay Sher KhinShwe, who lives at Nhill, said many of the Karen adults in the town did not have the opportunity to attend school.

“If the citizenship test required university-standard English to pass, they would probably fail,” she said.

“I feel like we are expecting too much from migrant people. We all know learning a new language or changing the way we do a thing is hard enough.

“Instead of setting a new requirement, we should think of other ways such as setting up a mentoring program for migrants. For example, locals could teach or assist the newcomers in settling to the way of life in Australia.”

Ms Sher said Karen refugees had Visas to migrate legally and, under the refugee category, must stay in Australia for four years before applying for citizenship.

Hindmarsh mayor Debra Nelson said the changes were worrying.

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. 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 told the Mail-Times earlier this week the changes were necessary.

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