There is widespread rejoicing among New Zealanders living in Australia that they now have a clear path to citizenship - and an urgent need to learn a new national anthem.
Kate Robertson, 51, has lived 23 years in Australia with husband Blair, 49, and still gets tears in her eyes when she sings God Defend New Zealand.
But the hurdles to becoming citizens in their chosen home grated for the years in which the couple had three children, set up and ran a business, paid tax and employed Australians.
This has now changed with an announcement that rolled back 22 years of Kiwis facing obstacles to citizenship that have cost people as much as $40,000 to resolve. The new pathway is expected to be straightforward and cost around $300.
For Kate Robertson’s husband Blair, becoming an Australian citizen was less complicated. He is also a Kiwi but was raised in Australia, which gave him an easier pathway to citizenship through permanent residency.
“I went to my husband’s swearing-in ceremony [for citizenship],” she said. “You stand up to sing it, but I didn’t want to. I wasn’t going to sing because it’s not my anthem.”
And when she’s a citizen?
“I will and I’ll sing it proudly. Until that happens, it’s not mine.”
Advance Australia Fair is an anthem that includes the lyrics “we are one and free” and “for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”. With an estimated 700,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, it was difficult to feel “one” with a country whose generosity with citizenship was a long way from “boundless”.
It left those in Australia unable to access social security, facing barriers to education and without the certainty they had a right to be in the country that had become their new home.
“There’s always a feeling of insecurity when you’re not a citizen. We’ve never been a drain on society, but to be told you’re not wanted is quite insulting. It’s not the Kiwi way,” Robertson said.
“It’s a really uncomfortable feeling and most Australians are unaware of it. They give you a hard time for not becoming a citizen, and they’re amazed when they find out you can’t. It’s a pretty dirty secret.”
The couple moved to Australia in 2001 just after the law was changed to block easy access to citizenship. Then 28, Robertson wasn’t aware the law had actually changed and it wasn’t until a few years later she realised she wasn’t a permanent resident.
In seeking citizenship, there were no pathways until Blair Robertson became a citizen, “and it cost thousands”. Their children, Aidan, 15, and Casey, 14, were citizens by birth through Blair Robertson.
While their relationship is secure, Robertson couldn’t escape the feeling of what it meant if they had separated.
“I would have had no way to support myself or my children.” She knew of a Kiwi who had stayed in her failing marriage “because there was no choice”.
Kate Robertson said she had also been irked by being unable to vote. Moving to Australia was “a big commitment” reflected in the energy put into setting up a business, hiring and training staff, taking on apprentices and contributing to the economy.
The lack of citizenship also limited the work available. She had hoped to work in disability services, but was barred from federal government jobs because of her lack of citizenship.
“It is really frustrating. It is like [the government] looks at us like we’re all annoying overstayers. The majority of Kiwis are hard-working people.”
In Melbourne, Amanda Haggie, 51, is also considering Advance Australia Fair. Her and husband Reihana’s three children - Rua, 19, Toa, 15 and Manu, 13 - sang it every day at primary school. Having said that, she said they confided in her: “We just mouth it.”
Now, with an upcoming citizenship ceremony, Haggie knows she’ll have to stand and sing it proud.
“I’m still a Kiwi, for sure,” she says, six years into their new life in a new country. “I’d like to be a citizen of both countries.”
A return to New Zealand is likely in the future. Reihana Haggie, 53, is Māori, she said, and so “the whenua is really important to him”. Until then, though, their plans are to stay in Australia for at least as long as it takes to “have a bit of fun” when the children leave home.
The couple who work in education had moved for work opportunities, then found citizenship consistently out of reach, even though Amanda Haggie’s brother and parents live in Australia as citizens.
The “clincher” was Rua’s first year at university and discovering he could not access a student loan. When semester fees jumped from $3500 to $8000 a year, they had to start considering the cost of being unable to attain citizenship.
“Oh my God, it’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It was so frustrating. We pay taxes. I have a good job. We’re part of society.”
Sydney’s Moana Taverio lives among the city’s Cook Islands community, which automatically receives New Zealand citizenship, and welcomed the rule change as of extraordinary benefit to her community.
“That sounds great. It’s very good news for all the Kiwis here. I see a lot come here and they struggle. For those coming after 2001, you weren’t entitled to anything.
“I’m so rapt and happy to hear about that change. Our people come here for a better life - whatever Australia can give, they are going to be a part of it.”
Taverio and whānau carry the scars of Australia’s border management through the loss of her son, Tangaru Turia, who was shot dead aged 34 by police after he was deported under the “501″ policy. Returning to New Zealand, which he left aged six months, Turia had a range of mental health conditions ahead of confronting police with a shotgun in the incident that led to his death.
Taverio saw it as a shift in direction away from border control approaches led by Australian politician Peter Dutton, who oversaw the 501 deportations. She hoped a new direction would include scrapping the 501 policy as it applied to New Zealand.
Grace Harman, 40, and partner Damien Bateman, 44, moved from Christchurch to Melbourne in 2007 but had put off getting citizenship because of the cost and bureaucracy. Harman could claim some expertise on emigrating, having set up an online guide to shifting to Australia.
At the most optimistic, she estimated citizenship would cost $4000, plus the cost associated with getting medical checks and meeting other requirements.
“Massive news,” she said. “I think that’s going to change things for a lot of Kiwis. There’s always a lot of insecurity [not being a citizen] that things could change. And for us, [it’s] quite frustrating not being able to vote - especially when we have a business paying all that tax and employing Australians.
“Pretty much every New Zealander I’ve met here is working hard and has a good job and is an asset to the country and giving back in some form.”
Harman said she would “definitely” be getting citizenship after the change.
“I was thinking, ‘I’ll have to brush up on my cricket knowledge’.”