Australian citizenry experienced tremendous transition from white majority to multiculturalism. At least three factors have led to this dynamism and they include politics, race and culture (Cox, 2010). The history of Australia dates back to January 1st 1901, when the country came into existence as well as a self-governing entity (Dunn et al, 2010). In the early 19th Century, Australian viewed themselves as pre-dominant Anglo-Saxon emigrants. This was the foundation of an Australian citizen, which explains their distinct physical manifestation, culture and racial features (Cox, 2010). This inevitably led to the introduction of Immigration Restriction Act 1901, which became the infamous White Australia Policy.
In the recent developments in Australian citizenship, there is a dramatic change taking effect that is explainable by political re-organization, culture and race. The Second World War saw a massive influx of immigrants to Australia (Dunn et al, 2010). This as a political event-taking place during that time saw a sudden shift of white Australia to multiculturalism. The question of whom or what constitutes an Australian identity has cropped up (Cox, 2010). However, this can only be responded by arguing that an authentic Australian preserves his or her values ingrained before. The nexus that exists in authentic record of Australian Citizenry is a basic pronouncement made by the politicians (Cox, 2010). There is political significance that plays the role of identifying the values of Australian citizenship. Citizenship testing and the relationship existing with values came into sharp focus in 2005. There was a comment that pointed out the existence of divided loyalties among Muslim Australians.
Their basis argument is that Australia expects her citizens to abide to core beliefs that constitute the fabric of the society (Hafez, 2011). These are the rule of law, independent judiciary and liberty. From the different arguments that characterized the political atmosphere at the time, core propositions emanated. This relate to the use of English language in communication, upholding Australian values and understanding the core Australian values. The first clause holds little effect in cohesion since other related factors should be realized such as religious and political affiliations(Slade & Möllering, 2010).
The multicultural policies implemented in Australia in 1970s encouraged diverse populations. Under this concept, the indigenous people are regarded as an ethic group in the midst of other myriad ethnic groups. The right of self-determination has a central role to indigenous citizenship. Under this discourse, a state can recognize and incorporate ingenuity within its national identity (Cox, 2010). The dualities of indigenous citizenship are fostered if there is an agreement between immigrants and the indigenous. Self-determination is broad spectrum and incorporates cultural, economic, political and legal content. The discussions put in place for multiculturalism anticipates the introduction of a pluralist state.
Going back to White Australia Policy, the criterion of race and ethnicity was used as the basis of inclusion and exclusion (Cox, 2010). This led to exclusion of racially undesirables who were often the non-whites. Like any other established Western country, the citizenship in Australia draws back from historical, political socio-economic and cultural factors (Reconciliation Australia, 2009). From these factors, citizenship has entirely been exclusive or rather discriminatory (Cox, 2010). One will understand that the intents behind the drawing of citizenship were to support and establish cultural, social and political dominance (Hafez, 2011). From the historical influence, attempts to define the term citizenship in Australia are faced with deficiencies and at times limitations. Historically, there are periods whereby the government made efforts to select only the desirable immigrants (Slade & Möllering, 2010).
A huge gap exists in which the concepts of citizenship and national identity are yet to incorporate the issues of cultural diversity. The Australian values, culture and systems will enable people integrate. Social integration and cohesiveness take many factors into one entity (Cox, 2010). Basing on the first proposition on authenticity, individuals may perfect their English, but remain alienated in the broader Australian citizenship (Cox, 2010). Australian citizenship entails many factors, which includes the recognition and bearing of many privileges and advantages. Australia remains to be a class, gender and ethnically divided country (Dunn et al, 2010). The privileges enjoyed by Australian citizens realize the importance of guarding this prospect. Australian values are invoked as a key testing tool of citizenship. The New government that came into existence in 2007 lessened its attitude towards immigration. There was a realization that a great number of Australians were born oversees with huge discrepancies in the language spoken. However, significant aspects of immigration and citizenship policies were maintained.
Citizenship and multiculturalism is reflective of theory and practice as well as the nation’s history (Slade & Möllering, 2010). Citizenship has made little advancement in incorporating and integrating Australians irrespective of their colour, language and religious affiliation. The idea of white Australia is institutionalised and raises the question of marginalization that is still evidenced. Political views that conceptualise the ideals of citizenship draw information from political economy, culture and socialism (Dunn et al, 2010). Conceptualizing in terms of culture, there is significant socio-economic inequality with the Christian culture still dominating (Cox, 2010). The White Australia Policy idealized has put citizenship at the periphery of race. This constitutes the power and the privileges experienced by white Australians.
Cox, L 'The Value of Values? Debating Identity, Citizenship and Multiculturalism in Contemporary Australia', in C. Slade and M. Mollering, From Migrant to Citizen: Testing Language, Testing Culture, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
Dunn, K. M., Kamp, A., Shaw, W. S., Forrest, J., & Paradies, Y. 2010. Indigenous Australians’ Attitudes Towards Multiculturalism, Cultural Diversity, ‘Race’ and Racism.Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 13(4), 19-28.
Hafez, L. 2011. Changes and continuities: Australian Citizenship from white Australian Policy to Multiculturalism and Beyond. University of Wollongong.
Reconciliation Australia. 2009. Australian Reconciliation Barometer: Comparative Report.
Canberra: Reconciliation Australia.
Slade, C. P., & Möllering, M. P. 2010. From Migrant to Citizen: Testing Language, Testing Culture : Testing Language, Testing Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan.