New Zealand Expats Fight for their Right to Equality in their Thousands

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New Zealand Expats Fight for their Right to Equality in their Thousands

Back in 2001 changes were made to Australian social security and citizenship laws, and since then it has become far more difficult for New Zealand expats to become Australian citizens than the other way around.

Pre-2001 the Australian government viewed any New Zealanders who moved to Australia as permanent residents, and they had the option of applying for citizenship after four years of living in the nation. Any children born in Australia to Kiwi parents automatically assumed the rights of a citizen.

But that’s no longer the case.

Any Kiwi’s who moved to Australia after 2001 are not considered to be residents under the law, and due to changes in the Citizenship Act these New Zealanders can’t apply for citizenship and therefore don’t qualify for the government support given to citizens. Children born to expat Kiwi parents are also no longer automatically given the rights of a citizen.

But the thousands of Kiwi’s who make the move to Australia every year are no longer taking the situation lying down.

Volunteer organisation Oz Kiwi has led the charge since May, managing a petition against the extreme restrictions placed on New Zealand citizens who move to their neighbouring nation.

Since the petition was published on Change.org nearly 13,000 people have signed it.

According to the document: ‘It is now an extremely restricted and expensive process to apply for a permanent visa as a step towards citizenship. Most of the approximately 300,000 New Zealand Citizens that have moved to Australia since March 2001 do not even qualify to apply for this visa, let alone citizenship. ‘

And the campaign may be acquiring a pretty famous supporter. It is hoped that New Zealand born actor Russell Crowe, who has lived in Australia for over forty years but is still being denied citizenship, may get behind the growing movement.

During an interview for The Australian Crowe was quoted as saying: ‘This is the country I choose to live in, this is the country in which I spend my formative years, so it’s kind of frustrating. But I am not the only person in that boat – there’s a whole bunch of New Zealanders who have committed to a life here, who have had children here, who bought their first houses here, who have been productive, taxpaying members of society. These rules are not big enough to engage with the complexity of people’s lives.’

Australia’s approach to citizenship has been termed ‘high unusual’ by Oz Kiwi, and as part of their campaign for change the organisation is petitioning high profile Aussie MPs and politicians.
Even new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd isn’t escaping the flood of ‘hundreds of emails every day’.

One of Oz Kiwi’s founders has asserted that making the law more accepting will actually be beneficial to Australia.

He commented: ‘Once New Zealanders really know about the law changes it will stop skilled New Zealanders going over there [...] They’ll still want their kids to have the same rights as Aussie children.’

What do you think? Should Australia make it easier for New Zealand Expats to become Australian citizens? Have your say on Facebook and Twitter!

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