Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reading Lips

The Artswipe
Sign Language 2007
Mobile phone moment

With the looming election, I felt it time to get back to basics and explore some nationalistic themes - usually a hot topic here at The 'swipe. A favourite moment in recent times (say, the last month or so) has been the introduction of the Australian Citizenship Test, which is so important it even has its own Wikipedia entry. In case you've been living under a rock (let's say Uluru in this instance, or Ayers Rock if you prefer) applicants for Australian Citizenship have to pass an Australian citizenship test. As summarised by Wikipedia:

The objective of the test is to prove an applicant's grasp of English language and understanding of Australia’s "values", history, traditional and national symbols. Citizenship applicants will need to study a booklet produced by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The computer based test will consist of 20 multiple choice questions drawn randomly from a pool of 200 confidential questions. The test will only be available in English. Applicants will have 45 minutes to complete the test. The material is drawn from the official guide "Becoming an Australian Citizen" published by the Australian Government department of Immigration and Citizenship. Applicants must obtain a mark of at least 60 per cent to pass but must also answer three mandatory questions correctly. Applicants will need to pass the test before they can submit their citizenship application.

OK, so that's the official line. I agree Australian values are important. But who sets the tone for what is characteristically Australian knowledge? Obviously the whole thing is designed to ensure migrants 'assimilate' into the Australian way of life. That good old fashioned 'A' word: assimilation. It's like a cross between ass and simulate and something Australians know a lot about: the simulation of assholes.

So I was wondering what questions I'd want included in the test, so that it is a true snapshot of Australian life. For instance, is there an Australian art question? Surely there should be something about Brett Whiteley as he's the only Aussie artist apart from Pro Hart that non-artsy people know about. So the question could be:

How did Brett Whiteley die?
A: face bitten off by a grizzly bear
B: auto-erotic asphyxiation
C: heroin overdose
D: thrown from rollercoaster at Luna Park

You may think of others, say some pop culture inspired ones:
What type of bird is Ossie Ostrich?
A: Ibis
B: Plucker
C: Kookaburra
D: Ostrich

Or even something about indigenous culture:
Which word are Aboriginals not likely to hear from the white fella?
A: sorry
B: pardon
C: apologies
D: all of the above, but especially A.

Or perhaps something about Kylie Minogue:
Complete the name of this Kylie Minogue song, "Confide in ___"
A: Michael Hutchence
B: Molly Meldrum
C: Mel Gibson
D: Me

If you have multiple choice questions you'd like to add to my "Getting your Aussie L Plates" database, just comment at this blog or send an email to: theartswipe at hotmail dot com.

Just one thing before I go, I'm no racialist but really there is nothing worse than being the only person in the room who can't speak the language. This happened to me recently when I found myself at a speed-dating event for the deaf. Everyone was talking in sign language. How did I find myself there? I hear you ask. I was told really hot people are sometimes deaf. NB. Marlee Matlin. The only bit of that night that I could understand was the screening they had afterwards of select Home and Away episodes, which came in both spoken and sign language. Look, I believe Home and Away is a good start, but the deaf should think a bit more carefully about the politics of effective assimilation.


Skanky Jane said...

Bloody brilliant Artswipe - I always get such a breath of fresh air over here at the 'swipe. I reckon an all important question for the citizenship test should be "Are you sensitive about racial slurs?" Coz I mean if they can't accept the Aussie sense of humour and the fact that they're never ever gonna be true blue then they should go straight back to wherever they came from!

SJ xx

Skanky Jane said...

Skanky is getting a new kitchen (gawd awful too - but that's another story). Anyway, the kitchen bloke and the housing maintenance sheila came over to discuss adjustments SJ wanted made to the "design". Said kitchen bloke emigrated to Oz from Scotland (in 1972). Said housing maintenance sheila's ancestors emigrated to Oz from hell (in the dark ages). Sheila repeatedly mimicked bloke's pronunciation of the word "book" and advised him as to the "way we do things in Australia". Bloke, an Aussie cit. who's been here for 35 years took it all in his stride while Skanky shrank through the kitchen floor in shame.

SJ xx

Skanky Jane said...

Which song really makes the Howard Government shake their groove thing?

1. Six months in a leaky boat - (Split Enz)

2. Money Talks - (JJ Cale)

3. Baa Baa Black Sheep - (Anon)

4.The Star Spangled Banner - (Francis Scott Key)