Citizenship Law

Kim Rubenstein, Niamh Lenagh-Maguire

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


This chapter analyses Justice Kirby’s constitutional judgments, drawing out various themes in his approach to Australian citizenship law, and considers whether his approach to citizenship has been influenced by underlying ideas that are supranational (acknowledging nationality as a status beyond one nation-state) and universal, as applying to all citizens in all states, or indeed colonial (that is, influenced primarily by Australia’s British subject origins).

The chapter explores the distinction, drawn in several of Justice Kirby's citizenship judgments, between constitutional and statutory forms of nationality. Kirby J has rejected the idea that statutory forms of citizenship adopted by the Federal Parlaiment can define exclusively those who are Australian nationals, and thus 'non-aliens' - that interpretation, he argues, 'deprives the separate constitutional idea of Australian nationality of any content'.

However, while Justice Kirby has been keen to develop a contemporary understanding of the meaning and signifi cance of constitutional nationality, applied in a social and political context far removed from the understanding of the framers of the Constitution, his broadest view of membership beyond statutory citizenship status includes only those non-citizens who hold British subject status and who enjoy most of the rights normally attributed to democratic citizenship (such as voting). This “broad” view does not necessarily include those non-British-subject permanent residents who have spent almost their entire life in Australia and have been absorbed in most other social and political ways. To this extent, his view of citizenship is not supranational or universal, but linked directly to Australia’s historical colonial origins.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAppealing to the Future
Subtitle of host publicationJustice Michael Kirby & His Legacy
EditorsIan Freckelton, Hugh Selby
Place of PublicationUnited States
PublisherThomson Reuters
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9780455226682
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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