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Episode 46: 70 Years of Australian Citizenship

People wave flags as an ANZAC Day parade marches by in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Australia has been an independent nation for more than 118 years, but citizenship in this country is a much newer concept.

SBS Italian news, with a slower pace. This is Slow Italian, Fast Learning, the very best of the week’s news, read at a slower pace, with Italian and English text available.

Italian

L'Australia divenne ufficialmente Commonwealth of Australia il primo gennaio 1901, quando il parlamento britannico approvò la legislazione che permetteva alle sei colonie australiane di governarsi da sé come nazione indipendente.

Ma non fu che il 26 gennaio 1949 -- quasi cinque decenni più tardi e dopo due guerre mondiali e la grande depressione -- che le persone che vivono in Australia poterono essere ufficialmente riconosciute cittadine australiane.

Sette uomini originari di Cecoslovacchia, Spagna, Danimarca, Grecia, Francia, Yugoslavia e Norvegia furono le prime persone a ottenere la cittadinanza.

In una cerimonia il 3 febbraio 1949 davanti all'allora primo ministro Ben Chifley, gli uomini rinunciarono alla loro cittadinanza e prestarono giuramento come nuovi australiani.

Thiel Marstrand, originario della Norvegia, era uno di quegli uomini, come documentato da un servizio televisivo del 1949.

"MARSTRAND: I, Thiel Marstrand...

JUDGE: Swear by almighty God....
MARSTRAND: Swear by almighty God....

JUDGE: That I will be faithful...

MARSTRAND: That I will be faithful...

JUDGE: And bare true allegiance...

MARSTRAND: And bare true allegiance...

JUDGE: To his majesty King George the 6th...

MARSTRAND: To his majesty King George the 6th...

JUDGE: And I will faithfully observe...

MARSTRAND: And I will faithfully observe...

JUDGE: The laws of Australia...

MARSTRAND: The laws of Australia...

JUDGE: And fulfill my duty...

MARSTRAND: And fulfill my duty...

JUDGE: As an Australian citizen.

MARSTRAND: As an Australian citizen."

Il parlamento federale approvò l'Australian Citizenship Act il 21 dicembre 1948.

Il decreto legge specificava che "la cittadinanza australiana è un legame comune, che include diritti e obblighi reciproci, unendo tutti gli australiani, rispettandone la diversità".

Prima del 1949, le persone residenti in Australia erano conosciute legalmente come "subjects" sudditi dell'Impero britannico, anziché cittadini australiani.

Il Professore emerito della University of Melbourne Brian Galligan dice che i cambiamenti nel 1949 furono semplicemente un tecnicismo legale.

"In the formal acts like the Naturalisation Act and so on, you became a citizen of the Queen, you didn't become a citizen of Australia although essentially that's what it meant. And Australia, of course, being very much a country of the British Empire. So you could say Australians were citizens really from 1901 and the Citizenship Act in '49 simply used that term in a formal legal way."

Il professor Galligan dice che la spinta per una cittadinanza formale la fornì in parte la delusione per l'Impero britannico dopo la Seconda Guerra Mondiale e (in parte) il bisogno di un maggior senso di unità nazionale.

"Australians became more conscious of themselves not as Victorians, or Tasmanians, or New South Welshmen, but as Australians. And so this was, you might say somewhat belatedly, but this was a formal recognition of that fact that now they were Australian citizens and this would be recognised in the Act."

Dopo un periodo di scarsa immigrazione durante le guerre mondiali e la grande depressione, la fine degli anni '40 vide un influsso di nuovi immigrati nel Paese.

Il professor Galligan spiega che quei migranti che diventarono cittadini australiani dovettero rinunciare alle loro cittadinanze precedenti come modo di garantire la loro lealtà al nuovo Paese.

"The idea was that if you were a citizen of country A, a citizen of Australia, you should have total allegiance to that country. And if you were a citizen as well of another country then you would have a divided allegiance. So when it came -- and I suppose this was fresh in people's minds -- but when it came to war and serving your country, if you were also a citizen of another country that was on the other side, then there would be problems and you would have dual allegiance to those countries. You know, you would have sections of the population that couldn't be trusted and so on."

Thiel Marstrand, un immigrato norvegese, era uno di quei primi uomini che divennero cittadini australiani nel 1949.

Immigrò nel 1948 dopo essere sopravvissuto al campo di prigionia Changi a Singapore.

Dopo essere rientrato brevemente in Norvegia, lui e la sua famiglia decisero di trasferirsi in Australia dopo che Marstrand ricevette un'offerta di lavoro per gestire una segheria in Tasmania.

Marstrand morì all'età di 86 anni in Tasmania.

Sua figlia Val Busby - che vive ancora in Tasmania - dice che l'Australia gli offrì un nuovo inizio, sfuggendo sia ai ricordi di Changi sia al clima rigido della Norvegia.

"He found it very cold there because he was very emaciated after the war and he was offered a job to come to Tasmania to manage the plywood mill, the job he had in Malaya as a plywood mill manager. He accepted that and we came to live in Somerset which is not far away from Wynyard about five minutes' drive from Wynyard".

Busby ricorda che suo padre parlava raramente delle sue esperienze a Changi, scegliendo invece di raccontare i dettagli di quel periodo nelle sue memorie.

Busby dice che suo padre parlava invece di quanto amava l'Australia.

"He was very proud to become an Australian he really wanted to. And he has always been very much an Australian. He loved his country of birth, but Australia was his great love and he loved being here and always very grateful. It's a wonderful country isn't it."

English

Australia officially became the Commonwealth of Australia on the 1st of January 1901, when the British Parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right as an independent country.

But it wasn't until the 26th of January 1949 -- almost five decades later and after two World Wars and a Great Depression -- that people living in Australia could officially be known as Australian citizens.

Seven men from Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark, Greece, France, Yugoslavia, and Norway were the first people to gain citizenship.

In a ceremony on February the 3rd 1949 in front of then-Prime Minister Ben Chifley, the men renounced their old citizenship and swore an oath as new Australians.

Thiel Marstrand from Norway was one of those men, as documented in this television news report from 1949.

"MARSTRAND: I, Thiel Marstrand...

JUDGE: Swear by almighty God....
MARSTRAND: Swear by almighty God....

JUDGE: That I will be faithful...

MARSTRAND: That I will be faithful...

JUDGE: And bare true allegiance...

MARSTRAND: And bare true allegiance...

JUDGE: To his majesty King George the 6th...

MARSTRAND: To his majesty King George the 6th...

JUDGE: And I will faithfully observe...

MARSTRAND: And I will faithfully observe...

JUDGE: The laws of Australia...

MARSTRAND: The laws of Australia...

JUDGE: And fulfill my duty...

MARSTRAND: And fulfill my duty...

JUDGE: As an Australian citizen.

MARSTRAND: As an Australian citizen."

The federal parliament passed the Australian Citizenship Act on the 21st of December 1948.

The act detailed that "Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity".

Prior to 1949, people living in Australia were known legally as "subjects" under the British Empire, rather than citizens of Australians.

University of Melbourne Emeritus Professor Brian Galligan says the changes in 1949 were simply a legal technicality.

"In the formal acts like the Naturalisation Act and so on, you became a citizen of the Queen, you didn't become a citizen of Australia although essentially that's what it meant. And Australia, of course, being very much a country of the British Empire. So you could say Australians were citizens really from 1901 and the Citizenship Act in '49 simply used that term in a formal legal way."

Professor Galligan says the push for formal citizenship was in part disillusionment with the British Empire following World War 2 and the need for a greater sense of national unity.

"Australians became more conscious of themselves not as Victorians, or Tasmanians, or New South Welshmen, but of Australians. And so this was, you might say somewhat belatedly, but this was a formal recognition of that fact that now they were Australian citizens and this would be recognised in the (Citizenship) Act."

After a period of low migration during the World Wars and Great Depression, the late 1940s saw an influx of new migrants in the country.

Professor Galligan says those migrants who became Australian citizens had to renounce their previous citizenship as a way to ensure their loyalty to their new country.

"The idea was that if you were a citizen of country A, a citizen of Australia, you should have total allegiance to that country. And if you were a citizen as well of another country then you would have a divided allegiance. So when it came -- and I suppose this was fresh in people's minds -- but when it came to war and serving your country, if you were also a citizen of another country that was on the other side, then there would be problems and you would have dual allegiance to those countries. You know, you would have sections of the population that couldn't be trusted and so on."

Thiel Marstrand a migrant from Norway, was one of those first men to become an Australian citizen in 1949.

He migrated in 1948 after surviving the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore.

After briefly returning to Norway, he and his family decided to move to Australia after Mr Marstrand received a job offer to manage a plywood mill in Tasmania.

Mr Marstrand passed away at the age of 86 in Tasmania.

His daughter Val Busby -who still lives in Tasmania - says Australia offered him a fresh start, escaping both the memories of Changi and the harsh climate of Norway.

"He found it very cold there because he was very emaciated after the war and he was offered a job to come to Tasmania to manage the plywood mill, the job he had in Malaya as a plywood mill manager. He accepted that and we came to live in Somerset which is not far away from Wynyard about five minutes drive from Wynyard."

Ms Busby says her father rarely talked about his experiences in Changi, instead choosing to detail that time in his memoirs.

Ms Busby says what her father did talk about was how much he loved Australia.

"He was very proud to become an Australian he really wanted to. And he has always been very much an Australian. He loved his country of birth, but Australia was his great love and he loved being here and always very grateful. It's a wonderful country isn't it".

Report by Tara Cosoleto

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