Many people think of Russell Crowe as an Australian. Most know he was born in my homeland, New Zealand, but assume he is now an Australian. Russell is not an Australian. I discovered this last night and have to say I got a bit of a shock. Not that he isn’t a citizen: after all that is a personal choice, but that it seems he CANNOT become a citizen. Or at least not easily.
Me being me, I had to try and find out why. There are several reasons this intrigues me. The first, of course, is that Russell is like me. Born in New Zealand but lived most of his life in Australia. The second reason is a little closer to home. Like Russell I was living outside Australia when those changes happened. The difference between Russell and I is that I was already a citizen when I left in 1999. Had I not been, I would be in exactly the same boat. My sister, who lives in Tasmania, has never been naturalised yet has been here almost as long as I have.
This much I know from Russell’s own tweets.
Russell has lived in Australia 37 of his 49 years.
Funny, because I actually didn’t realise he was as old as he is – but don’t tell anyone.
I went to the DIAC web site and tried to use the Citizenship Wizard AND the Visa Wizard to work out why Russell can’t get citizenship. I ended up going around in circles. One page told me:
New Zealand citizens living in Australia
As a New Zealand citizen your eligibility for Australian citizenship depends on whether you arrived in Australia before or after 26 February 2001.
On arrival in Australia, most New Zealanders are automatically granted a Special Category Visa (SCV). This visa allows the holder to remain and work in Australian indefinitely. Up to 26 February 2001 the holders of SCVs were eligible to apply for citizenship.
On 26 February 2001, the Australian Government announced that New Zealand citizens are required to apply for and be granted permanent residence in Australia if they wish to access certain social security payments, obtain Australian citizenship or sponsor their family members for permanent residence.
Having permanent residence means you have a current visa that permits you to live in Australia indefinitely. There are many different type of visas that provide permanent residency for citizenship purposes. You can use the Visa Wizard to find a visa of this type.
So off I went to the Visa Wizard to see if I could get this PR visa. I answered all the questions as if I was Russell and was told I was eligible for SCV (Special Category Visa) which is essentially a sort of permanent temporary visa. Does that sound confusing? I agree, it does, doesn’t it. Like being permanently engaged, never able to get married.
Well, this doesn’t make sense, I said to myself. So I sent off a Tweet to Sandi Logan, the National Comms Manager of DIAC. He sent me a link to a Fact Sheet.
Those New Zealand citizens covered by the transitional arrangements are able to apply for Australian citizenship without first becoming a permanent visa holder. Those arriving on or after 27 February 2001 must first apply for and be granted permanent residence.
Russell’s problem seems to be he wasn’t here around the 2001 period. OK fine – just forget he was here from 1968 and let him apply for permanent residence as per the above statement. However, applying for PR isn’t as easy as it sounds, as I went on to discover.
I came across a website called Oz Kiwi dedicated to trying to resolve this permanent temporariness for some thousands of kiwis living and working Australia, paying taxes, having Australian children, marrying Australians but unable to become Australians themselves (or at least unable without great expense and difficulty). Unable to vote in elections to protect the future of their Australian children.
Is this all sounding a little odd yet?
Oz Kiwi has a lot of media information on http://www.ozkiwi2001.org/media.html, including Russell’s case.
After reading several pages of the DIAC website and using a couple of wizards and reading various bits and pieces, I THINK l understand why Russell Crowe and other New Zealanders like him cannot easily become citizens, if at all. I say “if at all” because maybe I’m still missing something! Russell does have an option, he has stated, of an special talent visa (costly and takes ages), but not everyone has that option. I wouldn’t, for example, if this were me. Well, maybe I would – I’m an author. 😀
The Oz Kiwi web site FAQ page offered more information and I have to say that for a New Zealander arriving TODAY it all seems fair and reasonable from Australia’s perspective (although New Zealand doesn’t treat Australians in the same way at all and surely there should be reciprocal arrangements). HOWEVER, for New Zealanders like Russell who arrived in Australia six years BEFORE I did, and who have lived the majority of their life here, it all seems a little like someone overlooked something somewhere in the planning of the legislation or the regulations.
He is on an Australian stamp, for goodness sake, as an Australian Legend – so Russell is “ours” only when we feel like it? Russell is high profile and I don’t know, but I get the impression he might be standing his ground on HOW to go about this on the principle of degree of difficulty of the process. Only a lawyer (and I’m sure Russell can afford a damn good one), DIAC and Russell know the specifics.
What of the many other New Zealanders living and working here who do not have Russell’s high profile or access to lawyers? The business people who work damn hard and pay the same taxes as any citizen? Who contribute to the economy and the community the same as anyone else? Who want to participate in our democracy and be able to vote?
If people CHOOSE not to become citizens, people like my sister (and yes, we’ve had words about it) that is their choice. When someone wants to become a citizen and yet we make them jump through expensive hoops for no sensible reason other than we forgot to account for a category of people when we framed legislation? That seems a little short-sighted to me.
When I arrived here in 1974, we didn’t even need a passport to travel between Australian and New Zealand. I do understand the reasons behind the 2001 changes. I’m just not sure we got those changes quite right.
Russell Crowe has not be contacted in relation to this article (so I might be in trouble). Information given here has been sourced from Twitter conversations, the Oz Kiwi website, DIAC website and my own experience.
- Russell Crowe endorses Turnbull as Liberal leader on Twitter (australiantimes.co.uk)