Australia has finally unveiled a revised citizenship test. Would-be citizens taking the old test were expected to know facts and trivia. This was ridiculed by the media, especially cricket related questions about Sir Don Bradman. The focus of the new test is on understanding the rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with becoming an Australian citizen.

The handbook that must be studied before taking the test has also been completely revised. Anything relating to sport, culture or history has been removed from the test. As the tag cloud below shows, the main topics in the test relate to government, laws, civic values and constitutional rights.

However the new test still includes some intimidating questions that I doubt most Australian born citizens would know.

  • Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?
  • Which arm of government has the power to interpret and apply laws?
  • What is the name of the legal document that sets out the rules for the government of Australia?

This raises the first thorny issue:

Should naturalised citizens be expected to pass a test if that test can not be passed by a native citizen?

I don’t think this is reasonable. There are no classes of citizenship and all citizens are equal. In my earlier posts this seems to the consensus from reader comments. Whether you are a citizen by birthright or naturalisation, this is a test that you shouldn’t have to study for. This doesn’t mean making the citizenship tests easier, but I think there is a more tacit knowledge of a country that could also be used.

Isn’t it odd that the new Australian citizenship test doesn’t require you to know the words to the national anthem? Nothing unites a country more than singing. Surely this is a more emotional way of bonding with your country men than knowing opal is the national gemstone?

Understanding the language is a critical part to being able to integrate within Australian life, so it’s disappointing that the classic Australian slang is not tested.

However, all credit to the department for their inclusion of mateship. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the committee were talking about the proposed definition of this one.

Helping and receiving help from others, especially in difficult times. A mate is often a friend, but can also be a total stranger.
“When my car broke down, the other drivers helped to push it in the spirit of mateship.”