“When my grandfather — ‘Opa’ — arrived in Australia in 1952, he barely spoke English. Oma didn’t speak a word.
If Oma had been subjected to Peter Dutton’s proposed language test — requiring migrants to demonstrate university level English — she wouldn’t have passed. My grandparents wouldn’t have stood a chance at a new life in Australia. My family would simply never have made it here. ”
Paul, National Director, GetUp
This week, legislation which seeks to enforce this discriminatory test will be debated in the House of Reps before it heads to the Senate. So GetUp staff are heading to Canberra to call on the Opposition and the Senate cross-bench to join the Greens in opposing the change and defending a diverse Australia.
My grandparents’ story is like so many of their generation and the generations after — one of survival, struggling desperately to make a new life in a new land, and give their kids new opportunities. They prioritised living, not English grammar — which remained imperfect until the day they died. This didn’t mean they were lesser people. This never stopped them from striving to start businesses, build communities, and contribute to society.
Peter Dutton’s proposed English test is just one aspect of a brutal new law that will make it extremely hard for migrants from non-English speaking countries to achieve citizenship in Australia. It would have split my family. His law is designed to tear away the values of fairness, equality and inclusion at the core of our multicultural society.
These are the values my family lived by, now Dutton and Turnbull are trying to convince the country that welcoming people like my family was a mistake. Our great diversity must be defended.
Peter Dutton’s proposed laws lock our society into a future of two classes of people — citizens, and those living and working here but permanently excluded from truly belonging.
The changes include:
- A sudden, drastic increase to four years of required permanent residency. People with citizenship ceremonies already booked have had them cancelled, and now may have to wait for years.
- A new English language test requiring migrants to demonstrate English language skills at a university entrance standard (reminiscent of the White Australia Policy).
- New powers that would allow Peter Dutton the ability to overrule decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (literally putting himself above the law).
Minister Dutton has provided no evidence that his law is needed, and has refused to publish the submissions of hundreds of community organisations which opposed the changes1.
There is already a basic level of English needed for citizenship2. Any criminal history is already taken into account3. People like my Opa and Oma sometimes experienced hatred, but they never expected their grandson to experience a Government recycling old lies and fears about immigrants — just for political gain.
We cannot let someone with extreme, right-wing views like Peter Dutton remake Australia in his image. We’re not going to let him make this a place where we eagerly create two classes of people divided by fear, and exploited by politicians.
We’re going to come together and stand up for a fair and flourishing multicultural Australia. The kind of country my grandparents struggled so hard to be a part of, where people and communities feel safe — feel like they finally belong.
Paul, National Director, GetUp
 ‘Refugees will be hardest hit by changes to Australia’s citizenship test, experts say’ The Guardian, 21 April 2017
 ‘Tougher English test to meet new citizenship rules may set bar too high, expert warns’ ABC, 21 April 2017
 ‘CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION AND PAST CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS’ Putt Legal, 2 September 2015