Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
   Page tools: Print Print Page RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Population >> Citizenship

Citizenship is a relatively recent concept for Australia as a nation, having its origins in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 (Cwlth). Prior to this, Australians were British subjects. Since the inception of the Australian Citizenship Act (Cwlth) in January 1949, more than three million people born overseas have acquired Australian citizenship. For these people, citizenship is voluntary, expressing a commitment to the laws and principles of Australia, and respect for its land and its people. It confers the opportunity to participate more fully in Australian society, giving the right to vote, to apply for public office, and to hold an Australian passport and therefore leave and re-enter Australia freely.

Australian citizenship law and policy have been amended many times since their inception to reflect a more inclusive approach to the acquisition of Australian citizenship, with recent changes in policy towards creating more opportunities for young adults to acquire citizenship (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), Australian Citizenship). All migrants who meet set criteria are encouraged to become Australian citizens. Children born in Australia acquire Australian citizenship at birth if at least one parent is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia, and children born overseas may be registered as having Australian citizenship by descent if at least one of their parents is an Australian citizen.

The 2001 Census of Population and Housing indicated that almost three-quarters (74%) of people born overseas who had been resident in Australia for two years or more were Australian citizens. There were high proportions of Australian citizens among people born in Greece (97%). However, this citizenship rate is influenced by the age and period of residence of people from Greece. For Australians born in Greece, most (83%) arrived in Australia in 1970 or earlier and three-quarters are aged 50 years and over. The longer overseas-born people reside in Australia, and consequently the older they get, the more likely it is that they have acquired Australian citizenship.

Standardising gives the rates that would be expected if a given overseas-born population had the same profile of age and period of residence in Australia as the total overseas-born population (table 5.67). Based on standardised rates, people born in the Philippines, Viet Nam and China were the most likely to become Australian citizens. Unstable or changing political conditions in these countries may result in a greater desire for Australian citizenship than for people born in other countries.


5.67 CITIZENSHIP RATES, Overseas-born people resident in Australia for two years or more - 2001
Persons
Citizenship rate(a)
Standardised citizenship rate(b)
Selected birthplace
'000
%
%

Philippines
90.4
90.4
92.1
Viet Nam
141.8
95.3
91.5
China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
114.2
80.3
90.1
Greece
108.3
97.1
89.2
Italy
204.6
79.5
65.2
United Kingdom
951.5
65.6
64.3
Germany
100.5
76.5
59.7
Netherlands
78.7
78.3
55.5
New Zealand
281.5
37.7
45.3
All overseas born(c)
3,560.3
74.4
74.4

(a) People for whom citizenship was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) The rates of citizenship that would be expected if a given overseas-born population had the same age and period of residence profile as the total overseas-born population.
(c) Excludes people whose birthplace was not stated, inadequately described, n.e.c. or at sea.

Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


In contrast, people born in the United Kingdom and New Zealand were less likely to be Australian citizens. This may be because 'the shared language, and strongly similar legal, political, and industrial arrangements of Australia and the other Anglo-American countries lead these immigrants to feel less need to make a choice of national identity' (Evans 1988).

Despite their comparatively low rate of take-up of citizenship, Australian residents born in the United Kingdom and New Zealand were the two largest groups among the 79,200 people granted Australian citizenship in 2002-03 (table 5.68). This is in keeping with the large numbers of United Kingdom and New Zealand-born people resident in Australia. Former British, Irish and New Zealand citizens have been among the largest sources of Australian citizens since the early-1970s, when legislative changes and visa requirements prompted many Commonwealth citizens living in Australia to apply for Australian citizenship. Other residents who were granted Australian citizenship in 2002-03 were likely to have come from Asian countries, such as China, India, Viet Nam, Philippines and Malaysia (together comprising 21% of citizenship grants), and citizens of South Africa (5%), Fiji (2%), Iraq (2%) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2%). These figures reflect immigration from these countries in recent years, with China, South Africa, India and the Philippines in the top 10 birthplace groups of overseas-born people who had arrived in Australia between 1996 and 2001.


5.68 FORMER NATIONALITY, People granted Australian citizenship - 2002-03
Country of former nationality or citizenship
no.
%

United Kingdom
14,854
18.8
New Zealand
13,994
17.7
China(a)
7,126
9.0
South Africa
3,998
5.1
India
3,051
3.9
Philippines
2,885
3.6
Viet Nam
1,676
2.1
Malaysia
1,619
2.0
Fiji
1,509
1.9
Iraq
1,502
1.9
Bosnia-Herzegovina
1,475
1.9
Sri Lanka
1,328
1.7
United States of America(b)
1,194
1.5
Taiwan
1,116
1.4
Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of(c)
1,036
1.3
Lebanon
947
1.2
Iran
928
1.2
Indonesia
830
1.0
Italy
786
1.0
Pakistan
781
1.0
Other/not stated
16,529
20.8
Total
79,164
100.0

(a) Including citizens of Hong Kong and Macau SARs but excluding those of Taiwan.
(b) Includes American Samoa.
(c) Now referred to as Serbia and Montenegro.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 'Annual Report, 2002-03'.


Previous PageNext Page


Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.