DB&A in the Media
As an acknowledged and respected expert in Australian immigration law, David is often sought out to give his view on issues that are of importance and interest in the media.
David talks to New Zealand ZB NewsTalk radio about Australia's citizenship changes
Mamma mia! Inside the complex process of gaining Italian citizenship
Liberal National Party senator Matt Canavan's resignation from cabinet has sparked intense interest in how Australians can acquire Italian citizenship. Here's a look at the key issues involved.
Who can claim Italian citizenship?
Italian citizenship operates on the principle of the "law of the bloodline" (jure sanguinis in Latin). This means citizenship is conferred through ancestry, sometimes stretching back many generations. Unlike for many other countries, one or both of your parents do not need to be Italian citizens; some people have become Italian citizens by proving their great-grandfather was Italian. Technically, the familial link could stretch back to 1861, the year Italy became a nation. Matt Canavan's parents were both born in Australia but his maternal grandparents were Italian. (Italian citizenship can also be obtained through marriage, adoption, or birth in Italy to stateless parents.)
How do you become an Italian citizen?
Applicants are required to book an interview with their local consulate to activate their citizenship. The Italian Consulate General in Brisbane (the relevant consulate for Canavan's family) lists a raft of documents applicants are required to bring along with them. These include:
- proof of residence in Queensland or the Northern Territory
- documentary evidence of Italian ancestry
- birth/marriage/ change of name/ divorce certificates
- children's birth certificates
- copies of all applicants' identification (driver's licence or passport)
- a €300 fee for each applicant
Is it an easy process?
Not at all, says Melbourne immigration lawyer David Bongiorno, who has been through the process himself. "It's torturous," he says. Others attest to the time and effort involved in gathering documents and filling in forms.
Italian Citizenship & Genealogy Services, a private service that helps people claim Italian citizenship, notes that members of a family can claim citizenship at the same time.
"Applying with siblings and/or first cousins requires very little additional work and is a great way to divide up costs," the site says. "Another benefit of applying with other members of your family is that you need only ONE set of certificates for your entire family's application"
Can a parent register a child for citizenship without their knowledge?
According to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Canavan and his mother had discussed the issue of Italian citizenship but he did not know she had registered him.
This idea has been greeted with much scepticism by those familiar with the process. On Wednesday ABC presenter Emma Alberici, who is an Italian citizen, visited the consulate in Sydney and asked about the application process. She was told that if you are over 18 you have to appear in person and fill out the relevant forms yourself. "A parent can't do that on your behalf," Alberici said.
David Bongiorno said it would be "highly irregular" and "extremely odd" for an adult to gain Italian citizenship without actively participating in the process.
The Consulate General in Brisbane does not explicitly state that all applicants in a family must be present for an interview. It does say: "One appointment only must be booked for all members of the same family, living at the same address. However, one 'main applicant' must be chosen for the time of booking."
Identification and proof of residency, though, are definitely needed for all applicants.
Pressed for more details on how Canavan's mother was able to make an application on her son's behalf, Joyce said the High Court would look at those matters.
Where does this leave Matt Canavan?
Former Victorian state Labor MP Carlo Carli - a dual Italian-Australian citizen - says that, when it comes to the Australian constitution, it appears to matter little whether Canavan knew he had been registered or not.
"Under Italian law, you are considered an Italian, even if in practice it hasn't be realised," Carli says. "Italian law says if you are born to an Italian parent after 1948 you are an Italian by blood."
This would throw Canavan's eligibility under section 44 of the constitution into serious doubt, particularly from the moment his mother became an Italian citizen. The High Court will have the final say when it rules on the matter and could have a more generous interpretation.
The best way for Canavan to ensure his eligibility would have been to investigate the issue and, if necessary, renounce his claim to Italian citizenship before entering Parliament.
Thai general seeks Australian protection visa
Diplomatic ties between Australia and Thailand look to be tested as a Thai police general presses for an Australian protection visa.
Australia's diplomatic relations with Thailand face strains if a former Thai police general is granted a special protection visa to stay in Australia.
Former senior officer Paween Pongsirin, who led high profile investigations into human trafficking gangs operating in southern Thailand, has refused high level appeals for his return to Thailand.
Paween fled to Australia in December claiming he faced death threats following arrests linked to the cases.
Paween, now in Melbourne, has stood by claims of receiving several threats against his life from "those in authority" while leading the investigation.
"I just fled from death threats in Thailand. Why should I go back to face those threats again," he told local media.
The investigations were spurred on by international pressure for Thailand to crack down on illegal human trafficking in the country's south.
Paween's investigation team arrested more than 80 suspects including senior figures in the Thai military and police with links to the trafficking syndicates.
Facing increasing threats Paween quit the police force in November and fled to Australia in December on a tourist visa before claiming for refuge protection through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Observers say a decision to the claim may be expected in the near term.
Paween has rejected calls for his return to Thailand including from Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and national police chief, General Chathip Chaijinda.
He says he no longer trusts anyone, especially those in positions of authority.
"They have no credibility any more," he said.
Analysts say granting a special visa to the former police general would cast a shadow over bilateral relations with Thailand, currently under military rule.
Australia, the US and some European countries were highly critical of the military's takeover of power in May 2014.
But through 2015 Canberra moved to rebuild ties, including an official visit to Thailand last May by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Melbourne-based immigration lawyer, David Bongiorno, recently told AAP that Canberra was likely to be sympathetic to the application by Paween.
Bongiorno said given the evidence before the department it was "far more likely that Paween will meet the complimentary protection criteria".
David speaks on JOY.FM
David joins a panel discussion about Modern Families and The Law
David in the Moreland Leader
Emma Hastings, Moreland Leader
COBURG student Minh Duong has been allowed back into Australia after his visa dispute was settled.
The victim of a brutal bashing in Ascot Vale, Mr Duong’s recovery from his injuries was destabilised in January when the Swinburne student was told at Melbourne Airport his visa had expired, he must leave and was not allowed back into the country for three years.
The decision, which stranded Mr Duong in Vietnam, prompted a public outcry to reinstate his visa, including an 89,000-signature petition.
Mr Duong was visiting family in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since his attack, which occurred in 2012 when a neo-Nazi group smashed a brick over his head, causing serious injuries including the loss of teeth.
Friend Adrian De Luca said last week that, with the help of Melbourne lawyer David Bongiorno, Mr Duong had finally been allowed back into Australia.
He was expected to return to Melbourne on Saturday, March 1, ready to recommence his studies yesterday.
But Mr De Luca said Mr Duong’s injuries were still holding him back.
“He has applied to have his teeth fixed (through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal),” Mr De Luca said.
“It’s been 88 weeks (since the bashing) and nothing has been done.”
Mr De Luca said Mr Duong required up to $25,000 worth of work, including implants and braces, but that no money had yet been provided.
“Enough is enough,” Mr De Luca said.
Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal spokeswoman Ashe Whitaker said she was unable to comment on Mr Duong’s case.
David helps Minh Duong
Bashed and left for dead; the Minh Duong story.
By Minh Duong · 4 mins · From Unsung
In the video, Adrian, my Angel, is the man wearing the blue shirt.
In June 2012, I was an international student studying for my Bachelor of Accounting degree when I was the victim of a vicious, unprovoked, racial attack by three members of a Neo Nazi group in Melbourne.
On my way home from work one night, I was savagely kicked, punched and stabbed before being bashed with a brick with such force that the brick broke in two and I was left to die in the gutter. I was the victim of the worst that Australian society has to offer.
I was in a critical condition when I was found lying in a pool of blood and taken to hospital. Adrian heard of my attack on the news and felt he needed to do something to help. As a musician and a music teacher he has a great belief in the power of music to help in the healing process and he contacted me to offer free music lessons in an effort to bring some hope and positive healing through music.
Slowly beginning to recover, I accepted that offer but found it very difficult to trust anyone and felt that everyone was dangerous. I learned, with the help of Adrian, to find that trust again through music.
Adrian began helping to pay some of my medical bills and then we applied for our motor cycle licences together. When I passed the test Adrian bought me a motorised scooter so I no longer needed to rely on public transport.
Understandably my confidence had been shattered by the attack so far from the comfort of home and, having missed a lot of lessons, I wanted to abandon my studies and return home to the safety of my family. Adrian encouraged me to continue with my studies and helped me to organise a trip home to Vietnam to visit my mother for the first time in over five years. At the airport however they were confronted by the immigration officials who claimed my student visa had expired and I was told to leave Australia and not return. I was distraught at the thought of not being able to return to complete my studies and Adrian made me a promise that he would find a way to bring me back into the country.
Adrian then began a twelve week battle with the Department of Immigration and brought together a group of people who worked tirelessly on my behalf. He enlisted the help of Australian barrister Julian Burnside who supported my case on national television and top lawyer David Bongiorno who offered pro bono representation, worked relentlessly and liaised with the Immigration Minister’s office and officials in Ho Chi Minh.
Adrian, meanwhile, organised a petition supporting my return to Australia and, through his own personal efforts and social media, he gathered 89,740 signatures. This petition was presented to the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, who responded personally to the case.
I was granted a new visa and on 1st March 2014 and returned to Australia to begin the final year of my degree.
But this wasn’t the end for Adrian. He felt so passionately about the need to raise awareness of racism in Australia that he began to organise and create a musical production showcasing my journey in Australia, through expressions of music, storytelling and dance that explored the negative and positive battles of my experience.
The production, ‘We are Australia – The Minh Duong Story,’ touched on racism, hope and community and the voluntary cast of professional performers that Adrian drew together played to sell out audiences on three successive nights. The proceeds from the shows went to help with my outstanding dental bill of $25,000 – I had never received any compensation for the attack.
Adrian De Luca saw an injustice and simply wanted to help a young man in any way he could. What he ultimately did though was to restore the shattered confidence of a young man far from family, help him gain back a trust in humanity and create a family for him here in Australia. He brought to the fore not only the negative aspects of racism and hatred in Australia but also the much more positive side of our society – empathy, compassion, community spirit, resilience, optimism and hope.
Adrian has proved that one person can make a difference and has become an inspiration to all who know him.
I was sad, depressed and had no hope in life then Adrian, my angel, came along.