Australian citizenship test to be updated, will include new questions on Australian values

By Our Reporter
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Hon Alan Tudge’s says govt planning to place greater emphasis on Australian citizenship

In an announcement made at the National Press Club on Friday, 28 August, Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Hon Alan Tudge said that while the government’s immediate focus is on fighting the pandemic, they are also putting in place the building blocks for the medium and long term.

“Australia is a very different place to what it was two years ago—with the COVID pandemic having a devastating impact, particularly in Melbourne—but these commitments remain the same,” said Minister Tudge.

He said that new measures were being planned to further the work of keeping Australians together as these new challenges emerge. “To start, we will be initiating a renewed push on the most important element which binds us together more than anything else: our liberal democratic values. We will develop a broader campaign articulating our national identity, our multicultural success, and the Australian values which underpin our nation.”

He said the government is also planning to place greater emphasis on Australian citizenship, encouraging people to take it up and educating people about what it means to declare one’s loyalty to our nation and its people. “Over the last 12 months, we have made particular effort to encourage and facilitate citizenship with a record 200,000 becoming Aussies, and we need to maintain this momentum,” said Minister Tudge.

“We will be updating the Australian citizenship test and this will include new questions on Australian values.” He added that the stronger focus on Australian values in citizenship testing will be an important part of helping protect social cohesion into the future.

“Australian citizenship is both a privilege and a responsibility, and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws, and want to contribute to Australia’s future. We should ensure that those who come here and those who want to settle here clearly understand—and are willing to commit to—the shared common values that unite us all as Australians.”

The Government will also be updating the Australian Values Statement—something that is signed by temporary and permanent migrants as well as citizenship applicants. This will make the Statement more meaningful so that it reflects the importance we place on the values that define and shape our country and culture.

As well as these initiatives, the Government is making substantial changes to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) so that English capability is more widespread.

“This is a billion dollar program, but it is presently not having a sufficient impact. It currently provides migrants 510 hours of free language tuition (with a very small number eligible for up to 1090 hours), but, on average, people only complete 300 hours of classes and only 21 percent leave with a functional level of English.”

The current program is mostly classroom-based and doesn’t provide the flexibility needed for people working or with caring responsibilities, and doesn’t sufficiently take advantage of the massive opportunities from Ed-Tech. “Moreover, once you have been here for five years, a person becomes ineligible to take further classes. In many cases, 510 hours is also insufficient, particularly for those whose native language is not a European language, which is many of the major groups of our new migrants today.”

The Government will also lift the cap on class hours and remove the time limits, which means that any permanent resident or citizen who doesn’t yet have functional English—that is, the basic language skills to enable participation in society—will be able to attend classes free of charge until they acquire this language capability.

“I am encouraging those who fit this description to take up this opportunity. Use this time to become better equipped in learning English. Once we pass legislation, people will also be able to continue to undertake classes until they reach vocational level English. We will work closely with the English language providers and the industry, including Ed-Tech, to ensure these reforms generate the improvements we need and expect.”

The Government will also boost the successful Community Liaison Officer network to include more officers with dual language skills—including in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese—to enhance engagement with communities at a grassroots level. “This will help us to better understand issues in these communities and better ensure they are receiving Government information and support. We started this network when I was last Minister for Multicultural Affairs and it has been effective in reaching out to communities.”

There will be further investment to understand and track our social cohesion in a more sophisticated manner, said Minister Tudge, which will include a focused research program designed to better understand community sentiment towards social cohesion. For example, the government plans to partner with the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute to better harness their research to inform their social cohesion policy-making and program delivery and allow an ongoing public discussion about this area.

“These initiatives will reinforce our values, strengthen our common language and keep us further united. The goal of social cohesion is one for all of us to progress and to take action where we can at an individual and community level. This is particularly important now during these very tough times—certainly for those in Victoria.”

It is my hope that the community will continue to step up and do what Australians do so well—looking after each other to build an even stronger Australia.

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