Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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Citizenship testing in Australia, Canada and Britain
Maria Chisari

Last modified: 2008-08-31

Abstract


The recent introduction of a citizenship test for immigrants seeking Australian citizenship has focussed debates about citizenship on notions of predefined 'national values' that are to be adopted by 'good citizens'. Active citizenship no longer encompasses only civic responsibilities and political rights but also involves participation in public life through a sworn declaration to and adoption of a unique Australian identity that has been officially sanctioned by government discourses. Many Western societies have also introduced rigid citizenship tests that assess candidates' suitability for citizenship through their knowledge of a nation's history, language and a set of values considered to be unique to that particular society.
This paper consists of a critical discourse analysis that explores how the themes of multiculturalism, migrant representation and indigenous rights are portrayed in government texts used as preparation for the citizenship test in Australia. The paper also examines government texts used for citizenship preparation in Canada and Britain and compares their themes and content on difference with the Australian texts.
The analysis suggests that through their portrayal of 'national values', government texts describing citizenship are aiming to redefine communal relations in Australia with an emphasis on integration as a means for social cohesion. Official discourses on citizenship are also challenging the notion of respect for diversity and questioning the future of multiculturalism as official government policy.

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