House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Statements by Members

Bendigo Electorate: Karen Community

1:48 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Many in our Bendigo Karen community are facing long delays when it comes to applying for and receiving Australian citizenship. It is one of the most significant issues that has been identified as affecting our Bendigo Karen community. Over the past two to three years a number in the Karen community have been facing problems. The main delay is they have applied for citizenship but not yet been invited to sit the test, while some have sat the test and are waiting for that special ceremony to become Australian citizens. Most haven't been invited.

The Karen community in Bendigo settled through the Humanitarian Settlement Program and they have made a life in Bendigo. They are a huge part of the success of our community, working in many of our food-manufacturing industries and in our auto industry, as well as many other industries. They are a big part of our community. We now have, it's estimated, over 3,000 living in our area, and at least 136 have spoken to our office and identified themselves as having troubles receiving Australian citizenship. They are keen to become Australians and to stand with us. Some want to represent us in the armed services and some are keen to become police officers, something you cannot do until you're an Australian citizen. This government should immediately look at this issue and help these people take that final step to become Australian citizens.