For all the talk of whether the Donald Bradman question should or shouldn’t be on the citizenship test — he’s safe, says Rudd — the Herald Sun‘s Andrew Bolt today cut through the hyperbole, claiming that the Don question is not actually ON the test: “[It] featured only in a sample test drawn up last year.”

Crikey asked recent Australian citizen Laura Gray if there was a Don question when she sat her citizenship test. There wasn’t, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless. She writes:

It wasn’t on my test, but they give you a random sample of 20 questions from a pool of something in the hundreds. Hard to know. I suspect the particular question about Bradman wouldn’t be in the test specifically because it was on the sample test that is freely available on the website, so as not to give some people a head start.

I did have, however, a question on what is the ‘outback’, and one on what is the predominant climate of Australia (desert, mountainous and snowy, grassy plains or a mixture).

The test itself may not be public, but the booklet on which it is based certainly is (click here for the pdf). Take a look at the citizenship page on the government website. Some of it reads like one of Johnny’s speeches (take a careful look at the section on Indigenous Australia, which to my interpretation read like some of their ‘problems’ could be attributed to a failure to integrate).

Interestingly, though, the booklet is far far more detailed and complex than the test itself, which comes across as more of an English language test, with an element of basic general knowledge required. It’s very clear that this test is inherently easy to English language speaking, educated people – although it’s hard to imagine one that wouldn’t be. What that says of the entry criteria is interesting though. I think a large part of what they are aiming for is to encourage integration and assimilation, as there is a strong focus on learning about the existing ‘culture’, in whatever mainstream incarnation they have concocted for the test, and a conscious downplay of what migrants can bring.

I purposefully didn’t read through the booklet until after the test, in the hope that despite my nearly 20 years of living in Australia and having done most of my schooling here, I would fail. I had hoped to write a rant in to The Age. However, it took me about three minutes to complete.

The thing that got me about the whole process was that I was made to feel like I had something to prove, that I should consider myself lucky to be able to even apply (which I do, of course, as I consider myself completely Australian and am very happy and proud to be so). However, there was something about the attitude taken to the whole process that made me feel very uncomfortable and defensive, particularly at the interviews where in my case it was perfunctory, whilst the Somali family and the elderly Greek lady on either side of me spent three or four times as long answering questions of a fairly personal nature.

For a laugh, call up the government’s immigration info line. There’s a lovely introductory spiel about being welcome to become a citizen in support of Australia’s morals, rights and … sporting teams. Absurd!

I feel very ambivalent about the whole process – really happy to finally be officially Australian, but frustrated at this clear demonstration of the previous government’s attitude to immigration and foreign relations.

CRIKEY: The citizenship test isn’t publicly available, but some bright spark’s imagined what it might look like.

Peter Fray

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