Test over and no bloody worries for new Aussies
The Age (Melbourne)
October 2, 2007
RONALD Dela Cruz has spent the past week cramming for a test that made him more nervous than any other he has sat before.
Although he'd experienced many complicated and lengthy exams in order to obtain an IT degree, this test was for something different, and to Mr Dela Cruz, for something more important citizenship.
For the 31-year-old, Australian citizenship would demonstrate his commitment to his home of the past two years, and the nation's commitment to him.
His head, he said, had been buzzing with recently learned dates ranging from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics to the years in which nine Australians nabbed Nobel laureates. “I was so nervous especially with all the dates of the Nobel laureates, I tried to squeeze in as much as I could,” he said.
Yesterday his efforts were rewarded when he became a citizen by passing the Federal Government's controversial new citizenship test with a perfect score of 20 from as many questions.
Mr Dela Cruz, from Chile, and 25 other hopefuls from across Victoria and Brisbane were the first to sit the multiple-choice exam, which included questions covering some of Australia's history, traditions, geography and government.
To pass the 45-minute exam, prospective citizens need to answer at least 12 questions correctly, including three mandatory questions about Australian values.
Of the 26 who sat the test yesterday at Department of Immigration and Citizenship offices in Victoria and Queensland, all but one person passed. Twelve obtained a perfect score.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the computer-based test, in English, was designed to make sure new citizens had a basic knowledge of English and understood the “privilege” of being Australian.
“The reason the Government introduced the citizenship test was that we believe the great achievement of Australia has been to balance diversity and integration,” he said.
Mr Andrews said most Australians would be able to pass the test and if not, it would be a failing of the country's educational system, not the immigration department.
However, the test has received widespread criticism including a Democrats video posted on internet site YouTube that mocks the exam.
Yesterday Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the test promoted exclusion. “I think the test is about excluding people and getting votes from people who want to see immigrants to this country as 'other' people who are not worthy of the same rights that other Australians have.”
Premier John Brumby yesterday broke ranks with Federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd to criticise the test. He said the Federal Government could make better use of taxpayer money by spending the money on education, such as more English classes.
South African migrant Marius van Eeden, his wife Mariette and son Gavin, 20, all sat and passed the test yesterday. Marius van Eeden said he believed it was important to test applicants on their knowledge of Australia, although he joked that “some guys in Canberra” wouldn't know some of the answers.
Alejandro Ruvilar, who sat and passed the test yesterday, said it was a good idea and that all citizens should have a basic knowledge of Australian history.
The 29-year-old Geelong resident believed some people would be disadvantaged by sitting the test in English.
With DAVID ROOD