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Uniting Church opposes citizenship test

The Uniting Church has called for the abolition of the citizenship test introduced by the Howard government – a decision passed at the March Assembly Standing Committee

National Director of UnitingJustice Rev Elenie Poulos and National Director of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry Rev Dr Tony Floyd expressed the view to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans that the test diminishes the understanding of citizenship.

“It’s an English literacy test,” said Ms Poulos. “It’s exclusionary, because many humanitarian entrants — refugees and asylum seekers and those given special entry because they’re at risk in their countries — don’t even have literacy in their first language let alone English.”

The citizenship test is currently being reviewed by the Rudd government. Ms Poulos has given evidence at the Sydney based public hearing and the Director of Justice and International Mission at the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Dr Mark Zirnsak has given evidence at the Victorian consultation, and a written submission has been lodged with the review committee.

While the Church acknowledges the requirements of the citizenship legislation and the importance of a process that enables people to understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship it objects to an English language test.

“Citizenship is a significant thing and it matters to people who come to Australia and want to become citizens,” said Ms Poulos.

“The process they go through should reflect seriously on the nature of citizenship but should also be something that enables people to demonstrate their understanding of what citizenship means in ways that are appropriate for them.”