Australian Identity Essay

This essay has a total of 1505 words and 8 pages.

Australian Identity



Identity is a debate that many Australians are still arguing today. After all these years
of living in Australia, the identity of the country is still something that cannot be
agreed upon. Though many seem to have their own idea of what an “Australian” is, there is
no clear cut view of this thus the conclusion that an “Australian” is a myth can be
formulated. Thus, many people of Australia feel as if they should aspire to be citizens
of the world instead.

It’s the phrase on everyone’s lips: Australian identity. What is it? To find out what
Australian identity is, you first must look for certain evidence based on customs and
traditions as well as rites and rituals. But the problem with this is that if you ask
almost any Australian on the street the first response that you would get would be the
same: the barbecue. Just about anyone can describe the rituals of an Australian
barbecue: the man cooking, “usually with a tinny in one hand and tongs in the other;” the
women preparing salads in the kitchen. It is difficult to figure out why the barbecue is
Australia’s “single most identifiable domestic ritual.”(Carey, The Sum of Us, pp, 30) It
might be that it connects Australian’s to their more ritualistic past but it is hard to
believe that a countries entire cultural identity relies solely on cooking a piece of meat
on a grill.

Sport is another subject that seems to dominate much of Australian society. Such events
such as the Grand Prix and Australian Open seem to give some Australians a sense of
identity. Australian Rules Football is another sport that seems to encompass many
Australians and is a way that many Australians identify. But it is important to note that
all three of these are dominant in Melbourne, the sporting capital of Australia. With the
upcoming Olympics in Sydney being one of the few exceptions, sport is predominantly in
Melbourne and isn’t nearly as popular in the other states thus making it difficult to
argue for it is “Australian” identity.

Australia Day is considered by many to be part of an identity that is strictly Australian,
and given the name, how can you argue. Events included in this celebration include ship
races, boat races and wheelchair races. All of this is great but how much they “reflect
the national character and identity and how much they reflect the images created by a
select group of citizens known as the Australian Day Council is difficult to
determine.”(Carey, pp. 30) This group was formed because of the lack of spontaneous
celebration thus showing how little it means to many Australians. In other words, it
would be hard to use this as an example of “Australian” identity if the people aren’t very
supportive of it.

Other than Australian Day, the only historical event that can be used to identify many
Australian’s in Anzac Day. The only problem with this is that much of what people believe
and celebrate is apart of a myth that has been taught and believed for years. The image
of the Anzac which is central to the legend, was a created by C.E.W. Bean, whose role in
the evolution of the Anzac legend and the accuracy of the image he imposed on the
Australian public have provoked a vigorous debate amongst historians. The Anzac Book
ensured that Bean’s image of the ‘Anzac’ became a model for Australians and the heart of
the Anzac legend. The mere landing in Gallipoli instantly was considered as national
triumph when in reality it was a disaster which cost the lives of 10,000 Australians and
New Zealanders; the only success seemed to be the evacuation. (Kent, pp. 30) The movie
Gallipoli, based on the Australians only helps to support this image of the Australian
soldier. The truth, of course, is that Australian troops behaved like brutal barbarians
in Egypt.

All these do is add to the myth that is Anzac Day thus not making it a good thing to base “Australian” identity around.
Another idea in which Australian’s have tried to identify themselves with is
multiculturalism, and is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as ‘the theory that it is
beneficial to a society to maintain more than one culture within its structure.’ At least
this is the view of the many supporters of a multicultural society. Multiculturalism and
a uniform conception of national identity are incompatible. Yet governments which inherit
delimited territories cannot accept this. (Jupp, pp. 143) It needs to be asked as to
whether most Australians have thought about the implications of a "truly multi-cultural
society"? At the moment many Australian traditions are based upon our Christian heritage;
but in a truly non-discriminatory multicultural society these traditions will lose their
official standing so as not to discriminate against, or offend, other religions;
especially when the population base for other non-Christian religions, such as Islam, grow
enormously. For instance, it is "discriminatory" for Australian governments to recognise,
and allow public holidays for, Christian religious festivals, such as Christmas and
Easter. It is a "logical" demand of multiculturalism to demand that such "discriminatory"
practices cease. In such an event, there are two basic "non-discriminatory" options: 1)
to recognise, and declare public holidays for, all religious festivals (a political and
economic nightmare), or 2) to ban official support for all religious festivals (this
latter scenario being the more likely choice). Do Australians really want government
recognition of, and public holidays for, Christian festivals (such as Christmas and
Easter) banned? Don't be misled by statistics of "ethnic background": the vast majority
of the Australian-born (second generation, third generation, or whatever) are Australians,
who are part of the Australian culture; some may be raised in such a way as to be imbued
with aspects of another culture, but that does not change the overall picture: they share
(broadly) the same way of life; speak the same language; relate to the same national
icons; operate under the same cultural mode of everyday behaviour; and they live in, and
enjoy, the same country. Culturally, most Australians are just that: Australian.

The fact is that Australia is not a multicultural country. To use an analogy, it can
readily be seen that a white dog, with a pink tongue and black paws, would only seriously
be described as "multicoloured" by an idiot, or someone with an ulterior motive; so it is
with multiculturalism: there is an ulterior motive behind the push to call Australia
"multicultural". The reasoning is that if Australia is called "multicultural" (which
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