Double dissolution or not, I won’t be voting in this year’s Federal Election, which could happen on July 2.
Don’t worry, I won’t be getting a fine or a telling off from my in-laws because I have an iron-clad excuse: I don’t yet have my Australian citizenship despite pledging to get it at the last election in 2013 (and blogged about it).
Three years have passed and I have procrastinated and made no progress at all on the paperwork that must be filled in to get my Australian citizenship, passport and right to vote.
I would like to call myself Australian very much, but the process of becoming one overwhelms me.
Firstly, because I still have half my heart in Africa, I am determined to keep my South African citizenship. This involves applying to the South African Department of Home Affairs for the right to have Dual Citizenship. If I don’t, and get Australian citizenship, I lose my South African citizenship, part of my identity and part of my birthright.
Then there’s all the filling of lengthy forms required by the Australian Department of Immigration, plus statutory declarations, police checks and other hoops one must jump through. All of this takes take time and costs money.
I’ve been in the country since 2004, lived in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, have two Australian children – can’t they just give me the damn naturalisation certificate?
I recently had dinner with a woman who told me the government had just rung her up to say she had been given citizenship automatically and that she should come along to her ceremony. I was envious, if only it could be that easy for me.
But regardless of the effort required, you’d have thought I would have found a few quiet evenings over the past three years to fill out the forms and just got it over and done with.
I should be clamouring for my final stamp of Australian-ness. After 12 years Down Under, I’ve mastered the basics of Aussie Rules, know my flat white from my long black, developed a liking for a chicken parma and can sing along to my fair share of Paul Kelly and The Whitlams songs. Most importantly, I’ve made a good life here in a great and lucky country that has treated me exceptionally well.
The motivation should be there, if for any reason that my dark green South African passport that I still cherish, is a pretty useless travel document requiring that I get visas for so many places – Europe and the USA in particular – while an Australian passport would let me waltz right in.
I could say it’s because Australian politics or politicians don’t inspire me, which is partly true, but I’ve simply just put it in the “too hard” basket and gotten on with doing other things.
The truth is I would like someone to just give it to me on a silver platter: if only I could bowl a decent googly of swim like James Magnussen.
It’s funny how things come full circle: When I first came to Australia in 2004, there was also a Federal Election on, and I vivdly recall sitting outside a polling station somewhere outside of Canberra (we were on our way to the Floriade) like an outcast, eating my umpteenth lamington while my girlfriend and her family voted.
Sadly, she voted for John Howard which meant our relationship did not last (that wasn’t the only reason).
If I am being entirely honest, I am more than a bit disappointed with myself because I do feel that I am missing out. I’ve only voted twice in my life and one of those days – the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 – was definitely one of the greatest in my life.
I wrote about the experience and on this blog describing the queues of multi-coloured people waiting patiently in line, rich white ‘madams’ and uneducated domestic workers all side by side awaiting their turn, the rainbow nation at work. It was a glorious moment in South Africa and the world and I was so lucky to be a part of it.
It’s not quite the rainbow nation over here, but it’s not that far off – so hopefully one day I will join the queues.
Let’s say I’ll aim for 2019. That’s almost do-able right?