2016 is only three months old and I have already changed my outlook on my life and who I am. Before this year, if you had run into me overseas and asked me where I was from, I would have instantly replied with, ‘New Zealand,’ or my parents’ favourite-line, ‘New Zealander living in Brisbane.’ However, after spending the majority of February back in NZ, I’ve definitely never felt more Australian.
I’m currently studying a double Bachelors degree of Journalism and Communications at the University of Queensland. My dream degree since I was twelve years old. At the time I began my degree, as a New Zealand citizen I was not awarded access to a HECs loan to help pay for my fees, so my selfless parents put their needs aside, and paid for mine and my brother’s university fees upfront. We are part of the lucky few. Most Kiwi’s I know, who have lived in Australia their whole lives, weren’t able to go to university because their parents simply, could not afford it.
Thankfully, after years of our futures being thrown around in the senate, New Zealand children who have lived in Australia for ten years are now able to access tertiary fee help. Under the new laws this allowed many friends of mine to begin their tertiary education this year, and I am eternally grateful along with them. Luckily for me, my parents have continued their undeniying support to my education, and maintained their financial aid.
These new laws may have seemed like nothing to many Australians, but to the forgotten children of Newralia, (New Zealand Australians) it was a lifeline that has changed everything. As without degrees, we cannot obtain citizenship for the country in which we believe we belong. However, even with degrees, citizenship is not always secured. I know that my two degrees will not secure me citizenship, however my brother’s one degree hopefully will, and my family had decided to attempt citizenship through him. This however, was never going to be a sure thing.
But again, we were finally thrown a lifeline this past February after a new law was passed in the senate that allows New Zealand citizens to take up Australian citizenship if they have being living in Australia for five years and have earned over $50,000 p.a. My mum cried, my best friends cheered, fellow Kiwis who had jumped ship before February 2001 congratulated me with the same excitement I felt and I began writing a monster blog post, wanting to share my elation with the world. But before I could finish writing about my family’s journey to and inside Australia, all the elation and excitement was thrown back in my face in the form of fine print.
This opportunity is only available to Australian citizens.
I cried. I sobbed.
Up until this point in time, except for some accent induced laughter, I have never felt so demoralised and worthless as a New Zealand citizen living in Australia. My father had to comfort me as I cried to the loss of my dream internship, due to my heritage. I had previously been so excited to become an Australian citizen in July 2018, but now I’m not quite so sure. What is the point of becoming an Australian journalist if I have not have access to the same training as fellow journos in my cohort? This rubs salt into the wound, as I’ve paid my way. I understand that it is a program funded by the Australian government for future Australian journalists, but is that not what I intend to become? Is that not what they offered to us when they provided access to HECs help? They are educating young Australians, no matter their heritage, in professions that will aid Australia in years to come. And yet, we are not able to have access to the same training due to the lacking of a piece of paper that, in my case, is only two years away.
In two years, my parents will pay the thousands of dollars; we will all sit the citizenship test and then walk across the stage in Brisbane’s city hall having finally been accepted after 17 years of paying taxes with no acknowledgement.
But for me, my opportunity will have passed. I will no longer be a second year journalism student at The University of Queensland hoping to go on a life changing internship when I finally meet the citizenship requirements to apply. There will not even be a journalism school at UQ when I become a citizen.
101 years ago the ANZAC’s were born, there was no division, they stood beside each other in battle, and were consider equals. Yet 101 years later, a child who was raised singing the Australian national anthem, does not have access to the same education as the child singing beside them.
Am I an Australian trapped in a New Zealand passport?