Australian citizenship was first introduced in 1949 with the enactment of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. Before this, most Australian residents were British subjects.
The first citizenship ceremony was held at Albert Hall, Canberra, on 3 February 1949. Seven men became citizens – one to represent each state and the ACT. They were from Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Norway, Spain and Yugoslavia. During 1949, a further 2,500 people from more than 35 countries became Australian citizens. Most were from Italy, Poland, Greece, Germany and Yugoslavia.
Since then over four million people have become Australian citizens and today 95 per cent of the nation’s population are Australian citizens.
In 2007-08 over 120,000 people from more than 200 countries became Australian citizens. The majority came from the United Kingdom, India, China, New Zealand and South Africa.
Australian citizenship, whether by birth or by choice, carries responsibilities and privileges. It is a commitment of loyalty to Australia and its people and our shared democratic beliefs, laws and rights. It is a bond uniting our culturally diverse society. Australian citizenship is celebrated annually on 17th September, Australian Citizenship Day.
New Australian citizens make a public pledge of their commitment to Australia. The Australian citizenship affirmation allows all existing Australian citizens to do the same by reciting the words:
As an Australian citizen,
I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people,
Whose democratic beliefs I share,
Whose rights and liberties I respect,
And whose laws I uphold and obey.
Source: Abridged from a Department of Immigration and Citizenship media release dated 23 January 2009.
Theme: Australian history and race relations – Cultural diversity and multiculturalism – Migration and refugees