Skip to content | Skip to document navigation

Research Guides

Citizenship in Australia: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records

1. The Meaning of Citizenship

A guide to Commonwealth government records on citizenship in Australia faces two significant problems, which require elucidation at the outset. First, the concepts of citizenship and nationality have been imparted by political theorists and practitioners alike with a range of varied and sometimes contradictory meanings, so no single definition wins general acceptance nor offers a singular starting point for this guide. Second, the history of citizenship and nationality in Australia presents particular complications since Australia remained a component of the British Empire until quite recently, and as a result categories of civic belonging were primarily imperial rather than national ones. Moreover, citizenship provides an abstract way of thinking about the relations between the individual and the state, which has no necessary connection to the ways that the Commonwealth government historically dealt with the rights and obligations now identified as critical to citizenship. This introductory chapter examines the concepts of citizenship and nationality as they emerged historically, and then discusses the particular history of citizenship in Australia during the twentieth century.


Chapter 1
The Meaning of Citizenship