I’ll be honest. I was a bit nervous about the reaction I would get to the revelation in my last column that I had lived here for over thirty years without becoming a citizen. I thought some might have judged me harshly for remaining a pom all this time. Instead, I’ve been overwhelmed by readers and listeners ‘fessing up’ that they too have been tardy. I tell you – this country is full of immigrants who have lived here for decades without taking the plunge!
Valerie Kerr writes:
“We arrived in 1976 and none of us kids has done it yet.” Valerie goes
on to say she’s never really felt the need. And that’s where I was until
recently. You can’t pressure people into becoming citizens. It’s a
deeply personal and individual decision. Barbara Richards tells me her
mum came from England as a two year old in 1911 and never became
naturalised. Her younger sister eventually signed up when she turned
Others, like Ron Martin, have shared with me their epiphany
moments: “I woke up some years back and realised there was no need to
hold on to the past. So proud to own an Aussie passport and be in the
best state and the best country in the world”. I may have inspired Chris
Williams, who says: “I came from the UK in 1964 and I must do the same!
I should have done it years ago!”
Then there are stories like Phil
Eldridge’s tale. Phil moved here from England, aged two in 1950. He was
conscripted to fight for Australia, married an Aussie, then in 1983 they
moved to New Zealand. When Phil’s wife died, he tried to move back to
Australia. After all, he’d lived here over thirty years. He was told he
would have to live here four years before he could even apply! Phil
writes: “Spencer, this is an excellent decision”.
Aside from emails and
social media comments, wherever I’ve gone in these past couple of weeks,
people have wanted to talk to me about becoming true blue. I was in
Regents Park the other night, recording a fabulous radio piece about a
bloke’s love affair with his LED lighting. Gary Jones has multi-coloured
flashing strips behind his wall-mounted plasma screen and is in the
process of installing the same in his kitchen, at ceiling and floor
height. He even has a device on the bottom of his kitchen tap that
flashes rainbow colours when the water’s turned on!
Anyway, to get back
to the story, when I rocked up to Gary’s place, his brother and
sisterin- law, from Wales and Scotland, were having a cuppa. All three
of them have lived here twentyplus years and immediately launched into
this conversation about how they know they should, and will soon, apply
to become Aussies! For those who are wondering, assuming you’re
eligible, the process is incredibly swift and simple. You can do it all
at www.immi.gov.au From applying online, which took around an hour by
the time I’d located and scanned all the documents you need, to sitting
Immigration Department office on Adelaide Street completing the twenty
question multiple choice citizenship test, took just four weeks. That
said, there is a delay in being allocated a citizenship ceremony. At the
moment, you’re looking at July of next year.
As for the test, it’s
relatively straight forward, if you’ve lived here a while and have a
good grasp of English. I felt for the woman who was in the booth next to
me – I’m guessing she’s a more recent arrival – who had just failed for
the fourth time.
Finally to Bill of Rosalie, thank you for your poem.
Too long to print in its entirety, it starts: “Here’s to Spencer Howson,
who’s finally seen the light. He’s going to become an Aussie. Now
that’s a bit of alright.” Bill ends with the footnote: “Congratulations
old mate, you’re a true blue, fair dinkum sport and your blood’s worth
bottlin’. We’ll have to sink a few tinnies of the amber fluid at the
Aussie Day barbie. All the best as you adopt the land of Oz.” Thank you
Bill and everyone else who has extended the welcome mat. It seems I had
nothing to fear in coming out as an unconverted pom!