Tanya Plibersek calls for Australian children to take pledge of allegiance

Labor frontbencher and former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek believes Australian school children should pledge allegiance to the country.

Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek addresses a Labor conference at the Chifley Auditorium in Sydney, Sunday, December 8, 2019. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek Source: AAP

Senior Labor MP Tanya Plibersek will use an Australia Day address to call for all school students to be taught the Australian citizenship pledge. 

Ms Plibersek, who was the Opposition's deputy leader until the May federal election, will make the case for students to make a US-style pledge of allegiance in a speech to be delivered at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday.  

The pledge taken by new Australian citizens states: "From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey."

The pledge was originally stated in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, which was repealed in 2007 and replaced with the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. The legislation contains two versions of the pledge, one which mentions God and another version which does not.


The Department of Home Affairs encourages school students to also say the pledge, called the Australian Citizenship Affirmation.


Educational materials state that the statement is "a chance for us to come together in our school community and affirm our commitment to Australia and its people."

'Elegant expression'


Ms Plibersek, who is now the opposition education spokesperson, suggested reciting the pledge would improve young people's understanding of what it means to be an Australian citizen. 

"It's an elegant expression of what it takes to be a good citizen - of the rights we hold and the responsibilities we owe," she tweeted on Saturday, in response to criticism of the idea on social media.

In the United States, school students recite the pledge of allegiance every day with their hands over their hearts. 

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" is the text of the patriotic oath. 

US students say the pledge of allegiance before the start of school.
Source: AAP

'Patriotism is not about exclusion'

In a speech focused on the notion of patriotism, Ms Plibersek, a daughter of Slovenian migrants, rejected the argument that patriotism is about exclusion and defining the boundary of who does and does not count as an Australian.

"Patriotism, like mateship, is about solidarity. It's about what we owe each other as citizens.

"Patriotism is the knowledge that we're not alone in this life; that our neighbours are there to share our struggles; that we have 25 million people in our corner when we need it.

"To love your country is not to assume it's better than others. Patriots don't need to feel superior to feel proud."

The Sydney MP also used the speech to link patriotism with support for action on climate change.

Tanya Plibersek says patriotism does not mean excluding people.
Source: AAP

"Because patriotism is not a single act. It's not something we do in summer and forget by winter.

"Patriotism is an ongoing commitment to your country - and an ongoing commitment to the people with whom you share it."

The former Labor deputy leader says this summer has seen communities at their most vulnerable and the country at its most generous.

"Without pause or hesitation, people have accepted their duty to each other as citizens, as neighbours, as fellow human beings," she says.

"This has been patriotism at its practical best; patriotism as the thread connecting us all as Australians."

Albanese says Australia Day should remain on 26 January

Earlier this week, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he believed Australia Day should remain on 26 January.

In previous years, a number of Aboriginal Australians have called for the date to be changed out of consideration for those who view the 26 January as Invasion Day, a day when British explorers claimed Australia as territory of Britain and the Commonwealth.

Mr Albanese said Australia needs to move forward from the divisive debate.

"One of the things we need to do is seek ways to unite Australia, rather than engage in culture wars. It’s really counterproductive."

He added that he believed that respect can be paid to the views of Indigenous Australians on 26 January.

"It’s an opportunity to educate people about dispossession and the consequences of it. And it’s given a focus on that day."

Additional reporting: AAP

Published 25 January 2020 at 3:52pm, updated 25 January 2020 at 10:25pm
By SBS News