Over 100 people spoke in opposition to the Government’s proposed citizenship changes at a Citizenship forum hosted by local MP The Hon Tony Burke on Tuesday 18 July at Lakemba Senior Citizens Community Hall in Sydney.

The overwhelming level of interest emphasised the significance of holding such forums to listen to the community having their voices heard. 

Initially, the forum was going to be a small gathering where people would tell personal stories about the impact the Government’s changes to citizenship laws were having on the community. However from the start, the venue had run out of chairs as more than a hundred people found their way to Lakemba to object to the citizenship changes proposed by the Government.

“Citizenship shouldn’t be about politics. It’s about who we are as a nation and the Government’s changes are about telling people from non-English speaking backgrounds   that they are simply not welcome the way others are”  said Tony Burke MP.

Some of the people that attended were affected by the delays, including one person where the new law would mean he will be in Australia for 14 years before he will be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Over 100 members of the community gathered at Lakemba Senior Citizen’s Community Hall

Another told her story of having completed the 500 hours of English language training provided by the Government but still leaving her in a position where she would have absolutely no chance of passing the new university level English test.

Jihad Dib MP (left) and Tony Burke MP (right) speak to Atul (centre), one of the thousands of people affected by the citizenship laws.

Atul is one of the thousands of people affected by the recent proposed legislative changes to citizenship. Having grown up in Fiji to parents of Indian heritage, Atul arrived in Australia as a student studying a Digital Media degree. Following that he completed both a Masters in Advertising and then a postgraduate law degree. He has called Australia home for 10 years and was excited to become a permanent resident in December 2016. His hopes of gaining citizenship at the end of this year have now been dashed by the Government’s changes.

Tony Burke encouraged those present to make submissions to the Senate Inquiry before the deadline this Friday the 21 July and to sign the online petition on his website which he will present to Parliament when it resumes in August.

“These changes are a direct attack on Australia as a modern multicultural nation. We need to organise and act quickly because I’m convinced we can win” said Tony Burke MP.

Tony and other Labor MP’s will be holding these forums around the country over the next few months to consult with the community about the citizenship changes. If you know of anyone who would benefit from a community forum on this please let us know and we are happy to facilitate.

Tony Burke is the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia, Shadow Minister for the Arts and Member for Watson.