Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History and Politics, Faculty of Arts


This research examined the meaning and practise of Australian citizenship in the lives of migrant Filipino women in Australia. It utilized the life story approach and participant observation in Sydney and Wollongong. The narratives were analysed using a combination of feminist theoretical models of women's citizenship to underscore the different ways they construct a political space in negotiating their subject position as wives, mothers, paid workers, volunteers, electors, and members of community groups. Filipino women have a high valuation of Australian citizenship. Their motivations to become Australian citizens are not only based on the practical benefits derived from that status vis a vis retaining their Philippine citizenship but also the idea of belonging to the Australian community. They have employed their understanding of Australian citizenship to empower themselves in their personal and professional lives. This research explored three spaces where Australian citizenship is practised - the home, the workplace, and the community. Women in both Filipino homes and bicultural homes have made use of their knowledge of Australian citizenship in their relationships with their husbands and children. Those undertaking paid work have actively sought to participate in the economic benefits of citizenship although their entry into the labour market has been marked by structural and social constraints such as non-recognition of overseas qualifications, racism and sexism. In the community, the women are engaged in citizenship practice as volunteers in local schools and in community associations. Their participation in varied activities is mutually beneficial - enhancing their personal confidence and potentials and at the same time contributing to the needs of others. Filipino women have dual identities- a Filipino identity and an Australian identity as citizens. These two identities coexist in their lives. A Filipino identity is directed towards a particular social unit, the family; while an Australian identity is directed towards an abstract state perceived to be multicultural. They embrace an 'Australian' identity through shared experiences such as language and democratic practices. In a racially structured society, Australian citizenship offers a common political identity by which immigrant Filipino women equalize their racialised status with 'white' Australians. Becoming an Australian citizen provides them with the means to become active agents of change in their own way.