Thursday, November 9, 2017

The New Changes to the Australian Citizenship Test and the Similarities to the Former White Australia Policy

Image result for australian citizenship test

The new changes to the Australian citizenship test, will be designed to test potential new citizens in their English proficiency and their understanding of Australian values. It will be aimed to assimilate new citizens into Australian society. However, there have also been many opponents to such extreme means of testing and the shared similarities to the former White Australian policy. With this in mind, this blog will discuss some of the modifications posed by the new Australian citizenship test and how it reflects the old White Australian Policy and post-colonial ideology of national identity.

The current proposed changes to the Australian English language competency requirement, for those requiring Australian citizenship, have come under immense scrutiny and criticism in the public arena, Members of Parliament and academics alike. Associate professor in language and literacy, Misty Adoniu notes (2017), the new changes will further test Australian values with the aim of new citizens to integrate into Australian ideals. Those critical of the new proposition assert, that the new changes can prove to be extremely difficult in proving your ability to write, read and speak at the competent level of English. Overall the test is comprised of twenty questions which are selected from a random pool. To pass the test effectively the participant must answer 75 per cent correctly.

One of the requirements of the test is to complete a writing task in twenty minutes. For example, you have to complete a letter of 150 words that describes a scenario, explains the problem, why is it difficult and the participant is meant to provide some kind of solution. Effectively, the participant is marked on cohesion, grammar and vocabulary (IELTS 2017). To demonstrate the difficulty of the writing test. This is an example of a participant who failed the expected score requirement to pass, ‘Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with my room-mate. As you know we share one room, I can not study in the room at all any more if I still stay there’ (IELTS n.d).

In the reading requirement the potential citizen must read a minimum of four text within sixty minutes. Each text approximately consist of 250 words. The participant then must answer four comprehension questions. Correct spelling and gramma is also assessed in the test. This is an exampled document of the comprehensive expectation necessary (IELTS n.d).

Senator Penny Wong and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have been critical of such expectation the new citizenship proposes. Senator Wong asserts, ‘Frankly if English grammar is the test there might be a few members of parliament who might struggle’ (Benson & Baxendale 2017). The AHRC are of the opinion, that the standard achievement to pass the new test, aspires to the equivalent of Band 6 of the International Language Testing System. The proposed changes would significantly increase on the present standard and put forward the argument that many citizens born in Australia are unable to possess this written or spoken requirement to this standard. To demonstrate, the present undergraduate standard to most universities band sits at 5.5 and 6.5. It has been analysed in Adult Migrant English Program that between 30,000 and 40,000 new migrants per year are extremely improbable that they will succeed to meet the proposed English proficiency standards, being proposed by the new Australian citizenship test in their first decade of settlement in Australia. The AHRC put forward the recommendation, the Government could regard strengthening English language assistance rather than introducing a higher English language necessity, as a prerequisite for citizenship (AHRC 2017).

Marshall observes, that such new policy changes to the citizenship test, by the Turnbull government, will not improve the calibre of new migrants. This is due to, Australia already ensures well educated and skilled migrants. Nor will it deter any nefarious disposition, as who would admit they do not recognize Australian values. Furthermor, notes that the real purpose behind such means of testing is to reinsure right-wing constituates, that the government has the power to refuse immigrants such as Muslims, Sudaneses gang members and refugees, therefore, it could be argued reminiscent of the former White Australian Policy (Marshall 2017, p. 49).

Image result for australian citizenship testUnder the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 s 3(a), which defined the basis for the White Australia Policy, it allowed for the prohibition immigrants who failed the dictation writing test requested by an officer. This would include a signed dictated passage of fifty words in any European language directed by the allocated officer. If one was to fail the text, it will result in an automatic prohibition to immigration status will suffice prevented under landing 8. Resistance to comply with such demand, the perpetrator of an offence and will incur a punishment of imprisonment up to one month and then be automatically deported (Robertson 2005, p. 243).

The aim of the old White Australian Policy was to encourage national identity and social cohesion amongst Australians. Historically, the policy ensured cultural homogeneous with citizens sourced from United Kingdom and Europene countries. Historians note, that the policy aimed to reflect British race patriotism which was central to Australian identity (Windschuttle 2017, pp. 129-30). Effectively, the White Australia Policy was dismantled in 1966, under the Holt government (Australian Government n.d). Nevertheless, Australia has seen continuing trend when the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Testing) Act 2007 was passed under the Howard government. To become an Australian citizen, participants were required to study the citizen resource booklet titled Becoming an Australian Citizen. Those acquiring citizenship status were then required to pass the test that were derived from the booklet. The test scrutinised Australian history, geography, sports, people and Australian system of government with a focus on British colonisation. It was argued, that such means of testing sent the message to those who who did not recognised the values subscribed in the booklet they were not welcomed here (Fozdarm & Spittles, 2009, pp. 504-05, 11).

Such means of extreme testing of Australian values and what it means to be a true blue Australian, ascribe to racial and cultural superiority which reflect Gramsci’s post-colonialism work on the construction of subalternity and the politics of exclusion. Gramsci notes, that the subaltern groups are of other classes, races, other cultural groups or other religion outside the dominant groups. For Gramsci, the attention on identity and otherness gives rise to the issue of constructing categories of identity. This fundamentally lends to the exclusion of particular groups from participating in dominant political organizations and effectively are marginalised from other hegemonic institutes. Therefore, Gramsci proposes that constructed categories of identity are a key contributor that underpin the relations of inequality and exclusion and in turn produced the subaltern as the marginalised ‘Other’ (Green 2011).

This echoes Parsons and Harding’s observations (2011, p. 4), how through the culmination and reflection of historical texts, through our understanding of other cultures, privileges and how we construct certain knowledge we are sustaining the myth of an inferior worlds, inferior races and inferior ways of existing.

Spivak notes, in postcolonial terms, that the ‘subaltern is just not a classy word for the oppressed, for somebody who’s not getting a piece of the pie’. Spivak points out, that everything with limitation or with the inability to access cultural imperialism can be considered subaltern. However, she observes that many people and oppressed groups want to claim subalternity they don't need the word 'subaltern' ( De, Kock 1992, p. 45).

Undoubtedly, the new changes to the Australian citizenship test, are aimed to assimilate new potential Australian citizens and test their English competency. However, on the down side it also shares a strong similarity to the former White Australia Policy and it could be argued it is entrenched with post-colonalism convictions. Opponents to such extreme of testing have put forward the argument that such extreme means of testing, will see high numbers of applicants fail, therefore, reminiscent of such coercive policy as the White Australia Policy. Hence, such a policy is aimed to encourage a nationalistic identity and patriotism that are central to British imperialism. This in turn, does not lend to the multicultural Australia we have come to love today.

Reference List

Australian Government n.d, Fact sheet – Abolition of the 'White Australia' Policy, Australian Government, viewed 15 September 2017,

Australian Human Rights Commission 2017, Submission on the proposed changes to the test for Australian citizenship (2017), Australian Human Rights Commission, viewed 13 September 2017,

Adoniu, M 2017, Could you pass the proposed English test for Australian citizenship?, The Conversation, viewed 11September 2017,

Benson & Baxendale 2017, Citizenship changes revealed: Fluent English, four years of residency, Australian values, The Australian, viewed 13 September 2017,

De, Kock, L 1992, 'Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa', Ariel, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 29-47,

IELTS Essential 2017, IELTS General Training Writing Practice Tests, IELTS Australia, viewed 11 September 2017,
IELTS n.d, Sample Candidate Writing Scripts and Examiner Comments, IELTS, viewed 11 September 2017,
IELTS n.d, General Training Reading sample task – Sentence completion, IELTS, viewed 11 September 2017,

Fozdar, F & Spittles, B 2009, 'The Australian Citizenship Test: Process and Rhetoric', Australian Journal of Politics & History, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 496-512.

Green, M 2011, 'Rethinking the subaltern and the question of censorship in Gramsci's Prison Notebooks', Postcolonial Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 387-404.

Marshall, C 2017, 'Citizenship changes make a new enemy of the migrant', Eureka Street, vol. 27, no. 8, pp. 49-51.

Parsons, J & Harding, K 2011, 'Post-Colonial Theory and Action Research', Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 1-6.

Robertson, K., Hohmann, J. and Stewart, I., 2005. Dictating to One of Us: The Migration of Mrs. Freer. Macquarie LJ, 5, p.243. file:///C:/Users/marie/Downloads/2005_vol5_13pdf.pdf

Windschuttle, K 2017, 'The White Australia Policy', Sydney Papers, The, vol. 17, no. 3/4, pp. 128-134.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hubert100 Ultra - my comeback tour

It has been said by so many that if you don't like starting over, then don't stop!  Well the last 4-5 weeks has been somewhat of a challenge to get myself back moving again after such a long period of pathetic excuses that kept me spiralling down into a black hole of self doubt, and fear of inability to compete driven by damaged self pride.  I'd love to say I had genuine reasons for how I let myself get so far off course, but I have none.

After injuring my back, twice, early last year playing cricket I was forced to a complete stop with running for nearly 3 months.  When I was finally able to get moving freely again my performance was clearly not where I'd liked it to be and somewhat affected me.  I wouldn't admit to it then but I was too ashamed to run.  Even my flat 5-10km runs were pathetic (in my eyes at the time), and going out on the trials with the social groups I'd find myself struggling along with the back of the packs.  So what's the most logical thing to do?  Give up.  Crawl into a hole and find excuses why you can't run today, or tomorrow, or join in on that invite for a social run next weekend.  All the while, keep consuming high energy foods that I'd become accustomed to while training at high levels meant my kg's were going up quicker than my training miles were.

Fast forward to August 2015, Yurrebilla time approaching fast.  The one race I'd promised myself in 2012 when completing it as my very first ultra marathon, that no matter what was going on in my life at the time, Yurrebilla will not be missed.  I gave myself around 6 weeks to at least do something to enable the body to drag itself through.  This should've been my wake up call to slingshot myself back into the game, but no.  I managed to fake it through for a 10hr something finish and then fall back into the abyss.

Continue to roll the tape until March 2016, and a total of 28.5kg's later and we finally have some lights come on.  WTF am I doing?  Why?  The Clare Half mara is on next weekend so I enter at that moment knowing it'll be the worst run in history but who cares.  No more excuses.  I turn up, I run the event (if you can call it running) and allow the poor result to resonate and expand my purpose for sorting myself out.

The Hubert100 Ultra has been something on the cards for the last few years and finally it has come together for an official start.  I'd camped and done some minor hiking through there and knew it's potential for making an ultra like no other.  3 distances on offer, 41km, 51km and 86km.  Not knowing the trail precisely but knowing what the terrain can be like, I opt for the 41km option with the mindset of soaking up all the reasons I used to love these events.  The people, the scenery, the challenge, the self resolve.

I deliberately plan to not plan........ No overthinking. No pulling the event down piece by piece to strategize how I will carry out the run.  Just turn up, enjoy the moment and use it to refill my purpose.

With a number of familiar faces and friends going along, the weekend had the makeup to be quite enjoyable.  I pick up Tania and Michael the day before and share the drive up to Wilpena Pound where 5 hours later we sort out our tents and gear while sharing quick hello's with the other runners as they filter through the camp grounds.  Just after sunset we all gather at the resort for the welcoming by a local Aboriginal with loads of historical connection and passion for the region; telling some intriguing stories of the dreamtime for St Mary's Peak and some of the region.  A quick dinner with Mark, Mel, Tania and Michael shortly after before we all get an early night leading into race morning.

An unusually late start of 9:30am meant a no pressure morning, free to take our time getting organised.  Driving out to the start was just as I'd remembered from ultra's.  A few laughs, and some event banter while taking in the sights that wonderful Flinders have to offer.  "How long have we driven?  Because I thought we were only running 41km and it feels we've gone a lot further than that from the finish line......"

A long, bumpy ride later, we come to the starting area of the 41km, share some happy snaps and loose typical chats amongst the others of "are you ready?' etc, and we're off.  A great way to start with just a taste of what's to come, we lead straight into a couple of small hills that offer some stunning views of our surrounds.  Before 1km is up, the phone is out and I'm up to 5-6 pics already.  as we come down from there we come to a long, very rocky and technical creek bed.  Now THIS IS TRAIL RUNNING!  This is what I've been missing.  The group, while starting to segregate, still has a number of people bunched together so the time flies through here sharing small talk and various random discussions.  It's always great value to have Michelle Hanlin around.  Love your energy and spirit out there Michelle.

Considering my lack of training and carrying a shit-ton (official measure of weight in this context) of weight, my legs and general energy levels seem to be holding quite comfortably.  A lot better than I'd expected.

At approximately 8km in, I hear the sounds of sudden pain and discomfort from Tania just behind me.  She's blown her knee out turning awkwardly across a boulder.  The risk was always going to be high for an existing injury on this run but with the comfortable start it looked as though she was going to get a little more life out if today, until now.  The pain is clearly intense and can barely move without the stabbing sensation.  With a mix of not giving up, stubbornness, and a touch of stupidity Tania predictably decides to continue at any cost.  It's at this point I make the clear decision that I will not leave her on her own out here.  Not in this state.  I seen an eagle on the way to the start could easily pick her up and carry her away...... ;) Whilst it continues to plague her all day, she completes the next 33km of outrageous terrain in an awe inspiring spirit.  That must've been a constant battle of demons and I admire the sheer determination. 

Moving through the rocky creek bed, we come out to a slightly undulating track that offers some relief from the mind on the constant lookout for rocks and trip hazards, to a smooth and easy going step for the next number of kms.  It is hear that we come across Brenton struggling immensely with dehydration and body heat issues.  Spending what may have been close to an hour with him, it is clear he needs help and he decides he cannot go further.  Whilst uncomfortable to leave him, we must move forward knowing the next aid station is around 5-6kms away and no phone reception to call for help.  I take off to source help but around 3km to go, a mountain biker comes cruising past and offers to advise the upcoming aid.  I rest a little from picking up the pace and find Tania catch me up shortly after. (We find out later that Brenton had sought medical help and was fine)

Coming out to a wide expanse, the true view of what was to come was staring us in the face.  The almighty St Mary's Peak!  What a gorgeous sight.  Kelly comes trotting up behind; and although I'd heard early on that she'd not had an ideal start, appeared to be looking pretty comfortable and in good spirits. A few gentle kms and a quick review of the maps to ensure we're headed the right way and we come to the checkpoint that marks the next phase of the adventure; the climb up!

Up until this point, and for over 3 weeks leading up to the event I'd been completely free from processed sugar.  Knowing what was to come, I stupidly thought I could do with the energy and downed some coke and lollies in prep for the daunting ascent.  What a silly move that proved to be shortly after.........  Slowly making the way up through the initial gentle climb was ok, but around 20 minutes later as it slowly begins to get steeper, I feel my belly begin to turn.  Nothing major, but certainly not comfortable as it had been all day.  I manage, but it has been clearly noted.

Coming clear of the tall trees and out to the vast scrub, the views begin to become some of the best for the day.  Yet only 1/3 of the elevation is underfoot, this is clearly going to be a wonder to behold.  We continue to follow the trail the best we can, relying heavily on the blue markers along the way.  However, trail markers are only as reliable as their placement........  It becomes apparent very soon that the trail is fading. It now disappears.  Within minutes of second guessing where we have gone wrong, we are greeted by others who have clearly made the same mistake, (and I discover post race that this was a common spot for many others).  We spend what must've been 20-30 minutes looking for the trail before finally coming back to where we had missed a turn, spotting the post around the corner rather than at the turn.  Great spot for a marker!

Finally back on track and moving freely, belly slightly on edge, and Tania trudging along like a soldier with what must've been like a dagger embedded into her knee, we share the final climb up St Mary's Peak to the saddle.  Wow! Just wow!  The steepest, most vertical 'trail' I've ever come across.  This was not trail running. This was rock climbing!  Whilst I was swearing enough to make a sailor sound like a saint on the way up the last 1km, I'll admit later that it was clearly worth every step.  This section showed a strength of Tania's who clearly found this much easier than I, who patiently waited as I dragged my sorry ass up.

Reaching the saddle with the sun still in the sky was a great result considering the position we were facing early on in the day.  A few more happy snaps and it's time for the looooong and rocky descent.  This becomes a fav sectiont for myself as I begin to recover and feel quite comfortable, however it is clearly the worst of the worst for Tania with a bad mix of downhill slope and technical landing making a bad situation worse on the knee.  Where so many would've pulled the pin hours before, this rock solid nutter keeps putting one foot in front of the other with nothing more than a murmur of pain here and there.  Big respect right here.

Around 6km's down and it begins to clear up, flatten out and becomes more manageable to get a solid rhythm going.  These next few km's become the smoothest, and best running of the day since before the rocky creek bed early on.  All up until the final 2-3 kms where Tania's knee decided enough was enough and will not make this finish an easy one.  Once again, would not give in and kept a regular run/walk pattern right through.

It become apparent through the last few kms as the light slipped from the sky and required a quick grab of the torch that this day was about over and the watch was going to land a little bit short of being a marathon distance of 42.2km.  That's not acceptable.  Finally, some lights off in the distance and as we approach, some noise grows stronger to the point of an awesome cheer once they see lights coming towards them.  It's done.  Finished.  I give Tania a quick 'well done' as I look at my watch to find it's come up short as predicted so I trot on through and past the finish line until a few minutes later it ticks over.  42.2km's, ok now I'm done!

What a day! What an adventure!  An event like no other and one to return to once better prepared to have a good solid go at.  Next year, IT'S ON!!!!

Big thanks to Ben at Yumigo for such an awesome concept that his hard work has finally brought to life.  Big thanks to Michael, Tania, Mark and Mel for a good time spent across the couple of days.

It's clear I've finally found my passion once more and loving the journey back to form......