The forgotten history of women’s nationality rights

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In the first half of the twentieth century, Australian and New Zealand women automatically lost their nationality upon marriage to a foreign national. For some women, such automatic denaturalisation rendered them ‘aliens’ in the country of their birth; for others, it rendered them stateless. This presentation draws attention to the gender discrimination once contained in Australia and New Zealand’s nationality laws, examining the legislation both in terms of its lived experience and the political response it garnered. By placing the Australian and New Zealand cases within a global historical perspective, the presentation will highlight how gender discrimination still persists in the nationality laws of over 60 countries and how working to eradicate such discrimination is proving vital to the UNHCR’s ‘global action plan’ to end statelessness by 2024.

About Harriet Mercer:
Harriet graduated from the ANU with First Class Honours in her Bachelor of Philosophy and was awarded the University Medal for history. She went on to do a Masters in Global and Imperial History at The University of Oxford where she received the Beit Prize for most outstanding dissertation. Harriet’s passion for history is underpinned by the belief that the makeup of the contemporary world can only fully be understood by an investigation of its past. She is planning to continue her studies with a doctorate in history, with a particular interest in the history of migration, nationality and citizenship laws of the Australasian region, and how these inform policy today. She is currently working as a research assistant for Professor Stuart Ward’s Embers of Empire project at the University of Copenhagen.

Harriet Mercer, 2016 Anzac Centenary John Monash Scholar
Research Assistant, Professor Stuart Ward’s Embers of Empire Project, University of Copenhagen

About The Change Agenda:
The inaugural John Monash Scholars’ Symposium, The Change Agenda: Leadership and Direction for Australia’s Future, was held in Oxford on 1 April 2016. The UK and Europe based John Monash Scholars used short bite size presentations to inform a conversation on global trends, and provoke discussion about appropriate responses to them. Each area of discussion, Drivers of Change, Our Human Response, Harnessing Technology, and Leading the Region,  included 5-6 presentations, was chaired by an eminent Australian and took questions from the floor.