parentThe meaning of “parent” for the purposes of s16(2) Australian Citizenship Act 2007  is not limited only to biological parents. When Charlotte Nguyen’s mother applied for evidence that her daughter was an Australian citizen, the question arose about whether Mr Lieu (who is an Australian citizen) was Charlotte’s father. No DNA test was undertaken. Mr Lieu’s relationship with the mother had ended about 3 months after Charlotte’s birth. However, he was named on the birth certificate, had paid child support and there was a Medicare card.

The Full Court (see Minister for Immigration v Lieu [2023] FCAFC 57 ) was critical of the delegate who focussed on the nature of the relationship between Ms Nguyen and Mr Lieu. The judgment referred extensively to the earlier decision of H v Minister of Immigration and Citizenship (2010) 188 FCR 393. In H v Minister, the court considered that there was nothing in the legislation which limited the word “parent” to mean only biological parents. Being a parent was not just a matter of biology but of intense commitment. The girl’s father had shown commitment to her from the time of birth, believing her to be his biological daughter and caring and raising her as if she was.  H v Minister contains a detailed analysis of the meaning of the word parent (by reference to both legal and everyday meanings). It also considers issues of statutory construction and the object of the citizenship legislation. 

In the end, the Minister’s appeal in Lieu was dismissed.

There are a number of other cases which are also in this “who is a parent” space, including FMR18, by her litigation guardian FSH18 v Minister for Home Affairs [2018] FCA 1632. Once again a non-biological father was found to be a parent. There is also the AAT case of  Ibrahim and Minister for Home Affairs (Citizenship) [2019] AATA 4294 where the Member was satisfied that the child was “informally” adopted at birth due. There was evidence full acceptance and responsibility being taken for the child. There was also financial and emotional support provided to the child’s mother prior to, and at the time, of the birth.

The lesson from these cases appears to be that there must be evidence to show that the child had been treated, by the Australian citizen, as if he/she were their own child from the time of birth.

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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