James Sinclair - Last word on a land he loved
Transnational crime - The case of the shipload of cough mixture

The mysterious Citizenship PNG Unit is on the prowl

Geoff Luck
Geoffrey Luck


SYDNEY - Our daughter was born in Port Moresby in 1958 during my first term of service in Papua New Guinea.

Recently, she applied to renew her Australian passport, six months ahead of its expiry date. To her surprise, the current perfectly valid passport was immediately defaced by clipping the pages.

She was told before a new passport could be issued she had to prove her Australian citizenship. The documentation required for this included her birth certificate, both her mother's and her father's birth certificates, their marriage certificate and details of their (that is, mine and my wife's) parents' place of birth.

Expostulation that this was merely the renewal of an Australian passport, which had previously been issued at least three times previously without question, was brushed aside without explanation.

As you may imagine, this caused an initial panic, as it was made clear that without the required documents, nothing would proceed.

Fortunately we keep immaculate family records and had no trouble to turning over the file. When we left PNG finally in 1966 we had taken the precaution to obtain multiple copies of all our children's birth certificates.

My birth certificate (and my wife's) also showed our parents' names as well as places and dates of birth, so all was complete. 

These documents were duly copied and a fee of $198 was charged (extorted) for the procedure of certification of Australian citizenship to be completed. This was to be done in the previously unheard-of ‘Citizenship-PNG Unit’ in Brisbane.

Now, the climax. My daughter was told that until the Citizenship-PNG Unit certified her Australian citizenship, she was a stateless person!

When she does receive this bureaucratic imprimatur, she will still have to pay the standard fee for passport renewal.

I have just come out of hospital after a hip replacement and have not been able to investigate this scandal further.

My only guess is that it may somehow follow from the dual citizenship saga involving federal politicians, but I would love to know how and when this nonsense came about.

My daughter by the way, is a lawyer, general manager of the NSW Council of Law Reporting, and is not taking this offence lying down.

First priority however, was to obtain her new passport and recover from the injustice of having six months passport validity stolen, prevented from travelling, and being declared stateless.

Who else with children born in PNG during the Australian trusteeship will be subjected to this treatment? And why?

Geoff Luck was journalist in charge of the ABC in Port Moresby from 1957-58 and news editor for Papua New Guinea in 1962-66 before continuing with a distinguished career in Australian journalism


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Sara Turner

This situation has been faced by all three of my family.

Jane and I were born in Port Moresby in 1950 and 1953 respectively, and Lisa in Bulolo in 1958.

A very distressing situation on the emotional level as we all have strong commitment to our place of birth. Such a shock to find that you are not recognised is hard.

Arthur Williams

Citizenship the perennial problem.

I was amazed that as a new pommie immigrant in 1970 that I was eligible to vote in the local Shire Council election in West Australia.

Not too many years later I wanted to take my two PNG daughters for a visit to the UK. I fronted upto the Registration office in Moresby with my marriage certificate issued by Lavongai Local Government Council.

The clerk disappeared for few minutes before returning to tell me, “Sorry PNG does not recognize Customary Marriages between foreigners and PNG citizens."

I had already made booking with ANG and so wondered if it would take months for me to try and get UK birth certificates and passports for them. Would I have to cancel this year’s trip?

I asked the official, “What am I supposed to do with my two bastards then?"

He looked shocked and once again disappeared behind the screen but for longer this time. He returned with two new certificates for my little ones and I was able to get them passports and make the planned trip that year.

Apparently that logical decision not to recognise Customary Marriages between aliens and PNG citizens is still in fact the law till this day. Thus quite often you see foreigners trying to avoid deportation claiming they are ‘married’ to local spouses.

On 18 July The National reported how an Asian was trying to win his court case because of his marriage to a Grade 8 lass who he now claims as his employer. He was unable to produce his passport or a Work Permit.

It appears foreigners are using these technically illegal but de-facto marriages to circumvent labour and land laws. There have been numerous reports over the years of overseas workers doing just that.

Eventually they depart back to their real families overseas leaving the ‘wife’ and mixed race kids. I have two daughters and seven grandchildren still in PNG after my 30 plus stay there mind they were married adults when I left.

Don’t understand why LLGs have not been used as the routine method of births, deaths and marriages for its citizens. It could be initiated by the Ward Secretaries who are actually supposed to maintain their beautifully faux-leather Ward Records – an improved version replacement for the Village Books of Kiap days now long gone.

I believe it was Ves, my predecessor Adviser at Lavongai Council, who had enabled the council to pass the Marriage Certificate Rule which I used for my initial A$60 Customary marriage.

Ian Robertson

It is quite rich blaming Turnbull-Dutton for a problem that has been with us for over 40 years.

My eldest son, Andrew, was born in Madang in 1972. TNG was a UN Trust Territory and I was required to register my son with the Australian Authorities. At no time forward did he have a problem obtaining an Australian passport.

My second son, David, was born in Port Moresby in 1974. Papua was an Australian Territory and I was therefore not required to register his birth or take any other action.

In 1984 we needed passports for our sons for a trip to Fiji. Andrew received a passport within weeks. David was declared a non-citizen and we had to obtain a PNG birth certificate and produce Australian birth certificates for my wife and me and our parents also. After several months David was issued with a fancy certificate that stated that David was entitled to Australian Citizenship as he had never done anything to deny the award of that Citizenship. His passport was then issued.

I know of a number of other children born in Papua to Australian citizens who have had to go through the same procedure.

It is an old problem - albeit a stupid problem.

I would like to take this opportunity thank Allyn Hicks for his help in extracting David’s birth certificate from the PNG authorities - I was ready to take up arms until Glen Thompson reminded me that Allyn was still in Moresby.

Belated thanks Allyn.

Geoffrey Luck

I've been informed that this issue is in the court of DFAT, not Home Affairs, and that the relevant minister is therefore Julie Bishop, not Peter Dutton.

The matter has been escalated to Bishop's office, following my story being posted here and also on Quadrant Online. See http://quadrant.org.au/

The functionary in the Minister's office was heard saying under his breath: " shit, shit!"


I'm one just person born in 1981. I have lived and travelled between PNG and Australia over the past 47 years, spending approximately equal time in each country.

I married an Australian and my children are all born in Australia but I own and operate a business in PNG and currently hold a Permanent Residency Visa in PNG.

My citizenship issues were flagged a few years ago when I went to renew my daughter's passport. I travel regularly to Asia for business and decided I should address it in case I ever had a passport stolen or lost overseas.

Cut a long story short, in November last year Australian Immigration notified me that I'm an illegal non-citizen of Australia and my passport was cancelled.

The reasoning was they have no evidence to say when I became an Australian and passports issued since Independence are clerical errors.

They do not take in consideration years of education in Australia, residence, paying taxes and working for the Australian Government (AusAID - mobilised from Brisbane to PNG).

Over the border, PNG Immigration has informed me that I am not PNGean and that I will need to to reapply for Resumption of PNG Citizenship.

I have been stuck in Brisbane since November with no travel documents. After no movement from the PNG Immigration Department (Resumption of Citizenship), I have submitted my application to become an Australian citizen.

I had to pay all the associated fees plus I will be required to sit the citizenship exam. I've been informed this process will take 18 months.

Two years of my life stuck in limbo because of an "administrative error". Insanity!

Mark Davis

These Dutton-Turnbull immigration and citizenship thugs demanded that my wife, an Australian citizen since 1978 or thereabouts, prove her Australian citizenship when she recently applied for a new passport (having held one since 1979).

Considering that an Australian citizen is just that and does not have to prove anything beyond the normal requirements, I asked for an apology from them but heard not a word back.

The hatred, bigotry and intolerance being fostered by Turnbull and Dutton is extending now to Australian citizens, especially of non-white extraction.

I am aware of other similar acts of Turnbull-Dutton bastardry.

Dan Vealikoluna

I had a similar issue. Being born in 1974 before independence, I had dual citizenship until PNG decided this was not an option.

My mother made the decision to go with an Australian passport. Eight years ago before the birth of my daughter, I thought it fitting that I change my name back to its original form.

I was asked to prove that I was an Australian citizen.

I then had to provide dates and birth certificates of all family members including my PNG grandparents (good luck with that).

Anyways, it didn't become too much of a problem but I've noticed some weird anomalies with visa restrictions and access changes by Australia for relatives wanting to come visit. Strange. What are they up too?

Will Self

Ah, here we go again.

In the 1980's this idiocy was all the rage in Canberra.

My father migrated to Australia as a ten pound Pom in 1922. He never left Australia except to serve with the 2nd AIF in the Pacific and was an officer in the Australian Public Service for 30 years until he retired.

Finally at 88 years of age he applied for an Australian passport to travel. He had in fact already taken the oath of allegiance when he applied to enlist.

He was served with deportation notices and there was a serious risk that he would be deported to the UK because he was not an Australian citizen.He was actually threatened with removal into custody.

This was immediately revoked and his passport issued after the local MP intervened.

Then I was retained to act for a 28 year old man who was born in New York and whose mother was a direct descendant of the first Australian Chief Justice and a woman from the Second Fleet.

The son, who held an Australian passport for all of his life, returned to Australia and lived and worked here for ten years.

His birth was registered with the Australian Consulate and his Australian passport was issued accordingly.

He applied to renew his passport but was arrested and deportation notices were served upon the basis that his Australian passports had been issued "by mistake" and that he was an American citizen - or perhaps stateless. He was found to have no attachment to Australia.

The US refused to take him because he was not an American citizen. His father was a citizen of the UK but the son was not.

We applied to the IRT and thence to the AAT and Federal Court. We produced the family tree in the IRT - it was 11 meters long and showed that this family - and the applicant - were related to almost every dynasty and high achiever in the nation from the 1790's onward.

The records from the US consulate had been mislaid.

The IRT overturned the the decision in 15 minutes and ordered his passport to be reissued to him immediately.

The Commonwealth did not appeal.

I have noticed that this mania coincides with either elections or some petty law and order crusade. Same now?

I suggest that you call their bluff - these decisions seemed to me to be made lazily and with no thought. As soon as you challenge it they pull their heads in.

William Dunlop

What an absolute disgrace.

In my case, along with several others, I had Australian citizenship conferred at the Australian High Commission Waigani on Saturday 27 September 1975.

I presume that I will be subjected to this blatant disregard of my Australian democratic citizen's rights.

I shall take this matter up with my Senator.

Are we now entering into a Peter Dutton inspired police state.

Quite inspirational of Philip Fitzpatrick naming him Mutton Dutton.

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