Footnote(s): (a) Proportion of all overseas-born residents who had lived in Australia for about two years or more.
Source(s): Data available on request, Australian Censuses of Population and Housing
Footnote(s): (a) Year ending 30 June.
Source(s): Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Annual reports, 1998-2009
Citizenship is a common bond for Australians. It brings both rights and responsibilities, contributing to both individual and societal wellbeing. For example, citizens have rights beyond those offered to permanent residents, including the right to vote, the right to stand for public office, and the right to hold an Australian passport. But they also have additional responsibilities. They are, for example, required to enrol on the electoral register and vote in elections, serve on a jury if required, and defend Australia should the need arise.
Because only Australian citizens in the main can vote in elections, the proportion of residents who are citizens is one measure of the extent of democratic decision making in Australia. In 2006, 86% of all people living in Australia were citizens and 7% did not state their citizenship status.
Another way to view citizenship is to look at the proportion of overseas-born Australian residents (who have lived here for about two years or more) who are Australian citizens. In 1991, 65% of overseas-born long term residents were Australian citizens. This increased to 71% in 1996 and 73% in 2006. However, changes in this and other citizenship indicators are influenced by changes in the eligibility criteria to apply for citizenship, such as visa requirements, the number of visas awarded in any given year, and the citizenship residence requirement increasing from two years to four years (including one year as a permanent resident) in July 2010 (DIAC 2010).
Prior to 2007 there was a general increase in the number of people who were conferred citizenship, rising from 76,500 people in 1998-99 to a peak of 136,000 people in 2006-07. This reflects the multiple amendments made to Australia's citizenship legislation, which generally made citizenship easier to acquire. However, in 2007 this trend was reversed when new changes were introduced, including an increase in the residence requirement from two to four years and a citizenship test. Subsequently, the number of people who were conferred citizenship fell to 87,000 people in 2008-09 (Parliament of Australia 2009a).
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