Australia Research Guide | Naturalisation & Citizenship
Naturalisation records are a useful source of information for identifying the arrival and native location of an immigrant ancestor.
Before 1949, there was no legal notion of Australian citizenship. Every Australian, even immigrants who got naturalised, was a British subject.
Prior to 1849, aliens (Non-British people) could only be naturalised via a special Act of Parliament. However, between 1834 and 1848, Letters of Denization were granted, enabling foreigners to enjoy some of the privileges of a natural-born British. After 1848, the issuing of Letters of Denization ceased. Naturalization became a legal procedure in 1849 when legislation was passed. Non-British people who had lived in Australia for more than 5 years now became eligible for citizenship on application to the authorities. Naturalisation provided them the rights and benefits of citizens, such as the right to own land and vote in elections. People from former British Empire nations, such as Canada or Ireland, were not required to be naturalised in order to vote or own property. Very few women applied to become naturalised.
The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, enacted on January 26, 1949, established Australian citizenship. At this moment, the majority of Australians became Australian citizens, although they were still British subjects. After 1949, immigrants could apply for ‘citizenship by naturalisation’. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Australian residents were required to disclose their nationality as British. The legislation was amended in 1984, and Australian citizens were no longer British subjects.
Naturalisation and Citizenship records include information such as:
Prior to 1904, the States were responsible for naturalisation applications. Records for New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia up to this date are held in the relevant State Archives. The National Archives of Australia holds the naturalisation records for the Colony of Victoria from 1848 to 1903 and the Province of South Australia before 1904.
From 1904 naturalisation became a federal government responsibility. Naturalisation records from this date are in the National Archives of Australia.
Pictured: The Punt at Echuca, Victoria, James Charles Armytage (1802-1897)