Joint Media Release with Senator Chris Evans MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Emerging tennis stars Anastasia Rodionova and Jarmila Groth will compete in the Australian Open this year as fully fledged Australians for the first time.
Russian-born tennis player Anastasia Rodionova became an Australian citizen in December. She is ranked world number 95 and is currently Australia’s third top-ranked female tennis player.
Slovakian-born Jarmila Groth was conferred with Australian citizenship in November. She is currently ranked 114 in the world and fourth highest in Australia.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard today congratulated the two players on becoming citizens and wished them luck for their first grand slam tournament as Australian citizens.
“It’s exciting for all Australians to welcome two very talented citizens to our country. On behalf of the nation, I offer Jarmila and Anastasia every success for the tournament,” Ms Gillard said.
“Becoming an Australian citizen shows commitment and loyalty to this country and a desire to share a common future. Australia has been enriched by the cultures and traditions of people who have chosen to come here from all over the world.
“I am certain that Jarmila and Anastasia will continue this tradition and contribute significantly to our nation.”
Ms Rodionova and Ms Groth are among 97 893 people from countries all over the world who became Australians last year.
Ms Rodionova, who has won eight ITF singles titles, calls Melbourne home and is an ambassador for Guide Dogs Victoria.
“I am so excited and proud to be an Aussie! I have played and competed here since 2002 and now I feel like my adopted home is finally my true home,” Ms Rodionova said.
Ms Groth, who is married to Australian male tennis player Sam Groth, said she fell in love with Australia on her first trip Down Under in 2002 as a 15-year-old junior.
“It will be a very proud moment for me to walk on the court for my first match and to be introduced as a real Australian,” Ms Groth said.
Although both players had lived in Australia for more than four years, they were not eligible for citizenship under the residency requirement because of their international tennis commitments.
Prior to changes made by the Rudd Government in September last year following representations by the Australian Olympic Committee and Tennis Australia, people who were out of the country for 90 days or more in the year before applying for citizenship were ineligible to become citizens.
Elite athletes and other professionals who travel frequently now need to be a permanent resident for two years before their application with at least six months physically in Australia in that time. Their application must also be supported by a recognised national peak body such as Tennis Australia.
All applicants will need to be able to show that despite spending periods of time overseas, their home is in Australia. They will also be required to meet all other legal requirements for citizenship, including sitting and passing the citizenship test.
The Rudd Government’s changes mean elite athletes and people in specialist professions who wish to become Australian citizens are no longer disadvantaged by their travel commitments.