Today we were scheduled to visit an Australian immigration office here in NSW for a 2hr citizenship interview.
But as with almost every face-to-face gathering lately, this appointment has been postponed. We have permanent resident status, but since our home country of Canada allows for dual citizenship we applied. I haven’t studied for the Australian citizenship test yet…but have downloaded the practice test app, so that counts, right? 😊
So why am I sitting down to write about citizenship now – and amidst one of the busiest terms I have ever experienced?
And why is this my first blog post on here since 2018?
I’ve been feeling quite reflective lately – and not just due to the uncertain and challenging circumstances worldwide brought on by CoVid-19…but that is definitely one reason.
Since I haven’t blogged in a (long) while, I thought I would share a story from my Canadian and Australian contexts – one that serves as a background to a publication that came out this week.
Publications are always a celebratory time in my university circles, but this one feels different. This is the first time I have shared my personal perspectives as a Canadian in Australia through a research article.
I am grateful to my co-author, Michelle Bishop, and for the collaboration we formed that resulted in our ‘written yarn.’
Through our research-informed dialogue,
I was shocked to learn that teachers are often cited as the primary reason Aboriginal students refuse or leave school in Australia.
Michelle was also featured in The Conversation this week – such a powerful voice speaking to this dark Australian anniversary (the start of British colonisation) that marked our calendars yesterday.
Right after high school I started a typical 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree which included a range of philosophy, anthropology, mathematics, English literature, and psychology courses – a lot of psychology. My major was declared in psychology although I did take a few extra courses in anthropology. Both anthropology and psychology research fascinated me (and continues to fascinate me) because of the focus on people (intra-personal and inter-personal) and their behaviours in different contexts. I chose to add a year to my degree because
I am an over-achiever I wanted to conduct research and write an honours thesis.
After a couple of years away from university, I then decided I wanted to be a primary school teacher.
Two things almost stood in my way:
1. My focus on psychology did not meet the criteria of having “teachable subject knowledge” for the K-12 education system
2. I didn’t have enough “Canadian” content in my transcripts (?)
First of all, psychology…how is that not a pre-requisite for a teacher education program? That one surprised me – especially now as I have come to learn that psychology is possibly the most important field for a teacher to rely on! Fortunately my range of English literature and anthropology courses were just enough to help me meet the ‘teachable subject’ requirement.
But…not Canadian enough?
My home is Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada – I was born, raised, and enjoyed life there for over 30 years. In my late 20s, I naturally (and conveniently) applied to teacher education programs being offered at the two institutions close to home. And yet to my surprise I was told I was not eligible to apply because I did not have enough “Canadian knowledge.”
Sorry – I couldn’t resist including this delightful stereotypical commercial (…and yes, I realise I just typed ‘sorry’… I am truly Canadian 😊 )
There I was, a Canadian, a product of the K-12 school system with 5 years of undergraduate coursework and research experience – that spanned the two local tertiary institutions – being told I wasn’t Canadian enough to be a teacher?
So I enrolled in two summer courses, I think one was in sociology and one was in history. It was only through those two courses – after 18 years of education in Canada – that I really learned of the colonial damage and horrendous residential school stories of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
It was true…I really didn’t have enough Canadian knowledge to pursue a teaching career.
So after those two courses, I entered my teacher education program with eyes wide open, wanting even more to be a catalyst for educational change.
My program was a 16-month intensive post-degree introduction to becoming a K-12 teacher. While there were glimpses of cultural respect, it wasn’t enough so I chose to enrol in a First Nations language course offered in the evening.
The course was held at a local college campus in Cowichan on the traditional territory of the Quw’utsun First Nation. Although it was informative, I sought more of a cultural immersion beyond that small college classroom.
Thankfully, I was matched with an inspirational supervising teacher
for my final practicum.
Upon learning of my interest, she was able to ask permission to bring me with her to the Hul’qui’minum (the Vancouver Island dialect of Halkomelem) language classes taught by Coast Salish Elders and community members on their land. It was only then, that I recognised the importance and significance of a relational and respectful approach to understanding culture through stories and language.
I continue to be grateful to my supervising teacher, Mrs. Jenny Ingram, for setting me on the path for respectful and relational education for all. Thank you, Jenny. Huy ch q’u
Here is an excerpt related to that part of my story:
After a few years of primary school teaching (and many more learning), I find myself the director of an intensive teacher education program – like the one I completed all those years ago.
But instead of questioning whether I am Canadian enough – I have been questioning whether I am Australian enough.
Here is a related excerpt from our article:
I have only included a couple of short excerpts related specifically to my story, but acknowledge that these words are more meaningful when considered within the full written dialogue with Michelle. Let me know if you would like a copy of our article 😊
Through my current roles as teacher educator, researcher, and program director at UNSW in Australia, I will continue this journey of critical self-reflection and advocacy that I started when I was a teacher education student in Canada.
As I wait for that immigration interview to be re-scheduled, I will keep developing my understanding of what having dual citizenship means to me in two countries with similar histories.