This historic object is the Naturalisation Certificate of William Bantry from 1896. William Bantry was an engine driver living in St Arnaud, near Avoca, Victoria, when he was presented with this certificate. This was an important document and was signed and sealed by Thomas Brassey, the Governor of the Colony of Victoria. Citizenship did not become a Federal Government responsibility until 1904.
Immigration to the Australian colonies came from a number of European and Asian countries. However, non-British migrants did not have the same rights and privileges as British settlers. Before 1849, aliens could only be naturalised by a special Act of Parliament. However, between 1834 and 1848, letters of denization were granted allowing aliens to enjoy some of the rights of a natural born British subject.
Denization was the process in the British Empire, by which an alien or foreigner, through letters patent, became a denizen, thereby obtaining certain rights otherwise only normally enjoyed by British subjects, including the right to hold land. The denizen was neither a subject nor an alien, but had a status similar to the permanent residency of today. While one could become a subject via naturalisation, this required a private act of Parliament, denization was cheaper, quicker, and simpler.
No letters of denization were issued after 1848, and legislation in 1849 formalised the process of naturalisation. Once naturalised settlers were afforded most of the rights their fellow British colonists enjoyed, including the right to own land.
Prior to 1904, the States were responsible for naturalisation applications. The National Archives in Canberra holds naturalisation records for the Colony of Victoria for the period from 1848 to 1903.
- Title: Naturalisation Certificate, William Bantry, 1896
- Year: 1896
- Medium: Paper
- Museum: Immigration Museum, Melbourne
” Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.” Australian Proverb
Photo Credits: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons