CORRECTION 5/2/24: This article originally published a response from the Department of Immigration which stated that “current (and past) legislation does allow for someone to be granted citizenship automatically, bypassing the legal requirements”. This is incorrect and should have read “doesn’t allow”. The Examiner apologises for any confusion caused by the error.
The Examiner has received a response from the Federal Government following last week’s front page story about Vietnam veteran Norm Heslington and his decades-long fight for the right to call himself an Australian citizen.
Norm has lived here from the age of four, after he was orphaned and sent from the motherland to the colonies as a post-war ward of the state.
He was denied citizenship on grounds of not being of good character, after he was embroiled in a years-long battle with the City of Perth and imprisoned over a non-existent busking licence.
Norm was conscripted to fight in Vietnam and believes that any person who has been deemed eligible to fight for this country, should also be deemed eligible to hold Australian citizenship, and should have been given it freely.
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration has said that current (and past) legislation doesn’t allow for someone to be granted citizenship automatically, bypassing the legal requirements.
“Rather, the service provided to Australia by defence force personnel has been acknowledged through specific concessions for applicants seeking citizenship by conferral,” the spokesperson said.
“No application fee is payable by applicants for Australian citizenship by conferral who have completed at least 90 days service in the permanent forces of the Commonwealth at any time, or 90 days National Service under section 26 of the National Service Act 1951 before 26 November 1964.
“When considering an applicant’s character, decision makers holistically assess all available information.
“A criminal record does not mean that an applicant will automatically be assessed to not be of good character. A person who may not have been of good character can become a person of good character, as demonstrated by their conduct over time.”
But when The Examiner first spoke with Norm, he said in no uncertain terms that he refused to apply for citizenship again.
“Why should I apply for something that I should have been given freely?” he said.
“And what about all the men who fought and died for this country, and went to the grave as non-citizens?
“I won’t stand down just to make some politician feel good about themselves.
“If they didn’t want us as Australians, they should never have conscripted us to fight for this country.”
The Immigration Department made no specific comment about the issue of whether conscription should confer automatic citizenship rights, but pointed to the fact that anyone who was resident in Australia – citizen or not – was able to be conscripted until the act was abolished on December 5, 1972.