Is Russell Crowe a Kiwi or a Kangaroo?

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.

What is 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?

Russell Crowe on an AUSTRALIAN stamp

Russell Crowe on an AUSTRALIAN stamp

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.

17 comments on “Is Russell Crowe a Kiwi or a Kangaroo?

  1. I heard that if you live or work continuously for ten years you can apply for citezenship, however if you leave Australia for more than 10 days during that 10 year period, holidays etc. you have to start from the beginning again ( another ten years). Obviously Russell Crowe in his line of work wouldn’t have lived in Aussie over 10 years continuously especially after 2001.


  2. […] of the unfair treatment of New Zealanders living in Australia (every person can seek to realise their maximum […]


  3. I know this will not make me popular, though I actually have very little sympathy for Kiwis in Australia. Before I am screamed at, I do actually have a Kiwi for a husband, he is a citizen (or as my father used to say, a “Born Again Queenslander”) and I have lived in New Zealand for a couple of years back in the day.

    My issue is that New Zealanders seem to take Australia for granted. The ‘special’ relationship really only seems to go one way (yes I know Australians get services should they choose to live in NZ, fact is, the numbers are very very small who choose to do that). Yes, nowadays it is harder for Kiwis to get citizenship in Australia, but it is a hell of a lot harder for many other nations. Fact is, many of the Kiwis, like Crowe, have had decades to become a citizen & never bothered, so to whinge about it now when rules have changed is rather annoying as they can still live here, not like we are sending Kiwis to PNG?

    Members of my husband’s family are now in this position as well where they are upset that after living here for decades that they can’t get particular services as they are not citizens. When questioned as to why they did not do it earlier (my husband did it when he was 19 – now 40) they are offended that they “should have to”? Seriously? How many other nations will allow another Nationality to live in their country forever & not become a citizen of that country?

    New Zealand is a fine country, it is not war-torn, it is not having riots, it is not in poverty, so I know this will annoy the hell out of a lot of New Zealanders, but, if we are going to give special consideration to people who want to live in this country, I would prefer it was given to those that actually ‘need’ to live here and quite frankly, will ‘appreciate’ the fact they can raise their families and have a future in a country like Australia…


    • You make some good points. I have debated with my own sister long and hard about her citizenship status, so I know where you are coming from. Like your husband, I became a citizen a long time ago. I think anyone who plans to live here for the rest of their life should become a citizen.

      However, I am also aware of the old relationship between NZ and AUS – we didn’t even need a passport! So there was that custom and practice thing and many people just never got around to it – we could even register to vote (as Australians in NZ can still, I believe).

      I think kids who came with parents (like Russell) just grew up here and probably never thought much about it at all!

      Then there was this sudden rule change that left a large number of people in limbo – and it is that issue that worries me.


  4. […] Is Russell Crowe a Kiwi or a Kangaroo? (teamoyeniyi.com) […]


  5. governments worldwide are insane it seems…we recently had a case of a woman who at one point in her life had spent two years traveling around Australia with her hubby. She just turned 65 and applied for the pension. The New Zealand government is MAKING her apply to Australia to try to get a pension. Went so far as to threaten not to pay her a NZ one if she didn’t. As if Australia is going to give her a pension…they know that is not going to happen. She is a Kiwi…spending 63 of her 65 years in NZ.


  6. I first heard about Russell on the “60 Minutes” program a couple of weeks ago, and also thought the situation ridiculous. Well, you actually went on to investigate it further, to find out the reason. Still doesn’t make sense that after all the years he has lived here, with an (ex) Australian wife and kids and always being referred as “our own Russell Crowe” when it matters! Silly rules indeed.


    • He is far from the only one. Russell is just a high profile one. I would be in exactly the same boat except I was already a citizen when those changes came in. I have five generations of my family that have called or do call Australia home, my mother was born here as are my kids, my grandkids and great-nephews and nieces and their kids.


  7. It seems to me that the Australian laws on immigration are ‘red neck’ knee jerk reactions and not at all humanitarian. The UK has been awash with fears about Eastern European migrants flooding into the country recently as each country joins the EU and the fears are being stirred up by the right wing papers, nimbies, bumpkins and no forehead gutter racists, all spreading anti immigrant propaganda about migrants sucking the country dry through claiming free benefits, but the truth is that there hasn’t and never will be a flood of dole seeking migrants because very few migrants & Eastern Europeans want to come here and the laws on claiming benefits are already strict enough to stop them claiming for too long anyway. On the matter of immigration I’d say that Australian administrations, law makers and a lot of self righteous ‘red necks’ are over inflating the attraction of Australia as a country. My sister lived and worked there for a couple of years and she said she didn’t like Australia because she thought on the whole that it was an intellectually restrictive country, largely populated by narrow minded bigots; of course that was just her experience. As one has to fly to get to Australia and I don’t get on planes any more, (Not afraid to fly, just don’t trust big businesses not to cut corners and cutting corners on a hunk of metal that stays in the air by thrust and a neat trick with air pressure means certain death), I won’t be going to Australia to find out, though frankly I can’t name a country that I do want to go and see; when you’ve seen one bit of planet earth you’ve seen it all really. Anyway I think the recent news about boat people heading for Australia being sent to… was it Papua New Guinea?… was in the news anyway… seemed pretty mean to me and when the world economic situation gets worse it could be Australians trying to illegally migrate to Africa….. about 50 to 100 years time I’d say… anyway we’re all humans and the concept of nations and nationalities is a myth created by men with money and power ambitions and there is no such thing as democracy, that’s a myth too to keep you and I and anyone else who is unhappy, or poor, from rising up and shooting the people in charge. Voting doesn’t matter because whoever gets into government is from the same political class as the other party and they’re all there to make money and a name for themselves; greedy egotists basically. Anyway Robyn, fascinating article; one thing is for sure, Russell’s not from the Sherwood Forest area of the UK, but let’s start that furore again eh?


  8. Intriguing! I knew Crowe was a Kiwi but hadn;t realised he wasn’t naturalised Aussie. There are, I think, just under half a million Kiwis living in Australia – the scream here being the apparent exodus to fields greener, though in reality it’s a two-way flow. The funny thing is, despite all the hoo-har over residency, there’s still a clause in the Australian constitution allowing New Zealand to join the Commonwealth as the seventh state, something we turned down originally in 1901. Last time I was in Hobart the general word was that we should, so Tassie wouldn’t be at the bottom of the food chain.


    • I am SO split on the New Zealand becoming a state of Australia question. On one hand I can see many benefits, but on the other I am proud of New Zealand (even though I left) and can understand the reluctance to be absorbed into another country.

      You are right, it is a two-way flow. I flatted with an Aussie in my teens in NZ. She came back to Australia then returned to New Zealand. I’ve been back and forth. My grandmother went back and forth! Lots of people go back and forth.

      I think we consider citizenship seriously after we have kids – I know that is when I decided to become an Aussie.

      Don’t tell your Tassie mates (and I won’t tell my sister) but if NZ did join, Tassie would still be the bottom of the food chain, as much as I love that little island! 😆


  9. The dole abuse reason is so common I know, even Russell Crowe mentioned he understood why in a recent interview which alludes to the dole belief. Interestingly enough NZers were and still are the highest successful working migrant living in Australia, well above Australians even yet we are the only group targeted as a threat to the welfare system. I have changed my message somewhat in recent times as I travel around the country speaking on these issues. At first we were afraid to mention welfare and benefits because of the stigma attached. However, I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and promote the philosphy of welfare, it is to help care for those who are most vulnerable and in times of genuine hardship. My aim is to try to remove the shame that NZers have taken on board with this whole myth. My belief is there is nothing shameful in asking for help when you genuinely need it and if you have worked and paid taxes for a number of years you most certainly deserve the benefit and privilege of accessing help. Worrying about getting sick or having an accident or even being made redundant is a pressure that only NZers on non-protected SCVs have to worry about. 😦


    • Erina, the whole thing seems very confusing to me. It is as if New Zealanders are in this little special category (hence the name of the visa, I suppose) but it does seem unfair, especially given New Zealand’s treatment of Australia in the reverse.

      I thought the situation applicable to the website, given much of my writing is about immigration. I hope your site may receive a little exposure from this article.


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