In 2005, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story concerning how migrant women felt about Australian culture. The story began with the paragraph:
"When asked to talk about Australian culture, their first reaction was laughter. Australia was a cultural vacuum; any culture that existed was "bland" and characterised by "average-looking" people." (1)
The opinion of the female migrants was also fairly typical of opinions expressed by tourists. Ironically, it has been difficult for them to see Australian culture because individual Australians are too creative. Instead of assimilating someone else’s style or creativity, individual Australians create there own. For example, if a tourist visits an Asian restaurant, the conformity amongst Asian chefs makes it very easy to recognize a distinct way of cooking. In modern Australian restaurants; however, the creativity of the chefs makes it difficult to find the commonality that is recognised as culture.
Even though it is difficult for an individual to create a work of quality without building upon a common style, a few Australians have managed to do just that. If migrants, and Australians themselves, looked beyond the dogs breakfast of mangled creativity, there are indeed many cultural expressions in Australia that are worthy of respect and are anything but "average."
timbers are not straight and tend to warp and crack when dried. Consequently,
most of Australia's early architecture looked like something Homer Simpson
would build. With time, wonky shingles gave way
to corrugated iron sheeting. Although not stylish, the roofing was a practical
solution to the difficulty of transporting building materials to the isolated
The sentiments expressed in
these early buildings have inspired a new generation of architects seeking an
Australian style. The leading architect of the genre is Glen Murcutt, winner
of the Pritzker. Murcutt takes the understatement of the bush shacks and infuses
into them the refined concepts of modern architecture. Murcutt pays close attention
to the movement of the sun, moon, and seasons in order to harmonise his buildings
with the movement of light and wind.
Greg Burgess - Uluru Cultural Centre
bush architect is Greg Burgess. Whereas Murcutt's designs are understated
rectangular forms, Burgess' designs seem to remould the earth in flowing curves.
Perhaps his most notable work is the Uluru Cultural Centre. The building
seems to have been carved from the red earth by some great dreamtime flood.
On the 17th of July 1924, the world's
first society of cartoonists, the Black and White Artists' Society, was
formed in Sydney. Although they didn't lay the
foundation for the creation of any Donald Ducks or Astro Boys, they did they the
foundations for a history of political and social comment. For calendars, look
for Michael Lunig and his wry take on life. In the newspapers, look for
Bill Leak's political comment. For a historical take, seek out Pickering's
series on politicians and their genitalia. Try the Ettamogah mob for
a bit of humour that you don't think about.
The Wiggles -
England had the Beatles and Australia had the Cockroaches. Although
the Cockroaches had a few top 40 hits on the Australian charts, they never attained
the fame of their insect cousin from England.
so the band went back to school, studied childhood education and reinvented themselves
as the Wiggles. World success followed. In 2004, they generated more than
$45 million in revenue to become Australia's richest entertainers.
plans to franchise the band into different languages, the Wiggles are set to gain
the kind of global domination, across languages, that the Beatles could only dream
about. For many of the world's five-year-olds, the Wiggles are bigger than Jesus!
Hi-5 - Another act in the tradition
of the Wiggles, except whereas the Wiggles are all male, Hi-5 has a couple of
sexy ladies. This addition of a feminine touch has proved to be very effective
in encouraging fathers to take a more active role in their child's parenting.
Bananas in Pyjamas - The mischievous
bananas who chase teddy bears have been sold to 36 broadcasters in 42 territories
and this year enjoyed unprecedented success in the United States. Over ten years,
they have made over $1 billion in revenue on their way to making Australia a banana
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie- May's Gibbs bush world of gumnut heroes and heroines may not have
attained world domination, but for those lucky enough to have made their acquiantance,
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have brought endless bedtime drama.
influenced much of its early culinary culture. The risk of bacterial contamination
in the hot climate forced meat to be turned into charcoal before it was safe for
human consumption. The prevalence of flies dissuaded people from leaving meat
to dry into jerky or let it decay into salamis. Furthermore, the lack of refrigerated
transport made it difficult for farmers to keep the market supplied with niche
products. As a consequence of these hardships,
Australian chefs had very little to work with when creating culinary masterpieces.
Despite the limited range of products to work with, imaginative chefs were still
able to create some recipes that Europe had failed to create in 2,000 years. In
the 1930s, Australian chef Herbert Sachse invented the Pavlova out of egg
Sometime in the early 20th century,
lamingtons were invented in Queensland Government House kitchen as a creative
use for stale sponge.
In 1922 Dr. Cyril
P. Callister developed Vegemite from brewer's yeast. The humble sandwich has
been a taste delight ever since. It is generally said that the only thing better
than Vegemite on toast is watching a foreigner try it for the first time.
Australian chefs now have access to a range of ingredients that were denied chefs
of generations past. The developing cuisine is basically one big experiment mixing
East and West recipes. Sometimes it is great. Sometimes it is not great. Unfortunately, with an emphasis on creativity over refinment, the great recipe that is sometimes created is quickly lost in further experinmentation.
"Modern Australian", seek out "Japanese" resturuants for sushi
made with carrots, canned tuna or chicken passed its used-by date. Seek out "Italian"
restaurants for pizzas made with tandoori paste and yoghurt.
Arguably, Australia's wood
craft is the finest in the world. Pieces are vesicles of emotion, impressions
of the natural environment and a bridge between the world of bush and humans.
Despite their artistic merit, few art
galleries display wood sculptures as works of art. This is a shame. Perhaps it
is symptomatic of Australian curators following the lead of the old world in deciding
what is or what is not art.
In an outdoor
gallery in the Dandenongs, William Rickett's sculptures carve the random
flows of native timber into human forms.
There is a stereotype that Australian
men dance like Frankenstein. Their
lack of rhythm and stiff knees has many of them resembling a chicken or jack in
the box bouncing from side to side. Other men just watch
over the dance floor, beer in hand, as they perhaps beat their chin to the music.
Bearing this stereotype in mind, it may
surprise many people to know that away from the techno nightclub, Australia has
created a unique dance genre known as New Vogue.
Vogue dances originated in the 1930s and '40s when Australian dancers rebelled
against the formal balletic foot work of the English Old Time dances and started
to choreograph their own sequences.
dances have open positions, which makes them attractive to watch. The dances only
prescribe footwork, alignments and basic holds leaving scope for the dancers to
add their own shaping and styling. This allows them to be very expressive.
Australia is not renowned
for its fashion. It is generally accepted that Australia is the only country where
people dress down.
Despite the lack of
aesthetic appeal, Australia has produced a great array of quality apparel. The
marquee fashion item has to be the ugg boot. The great feetwarmers were
initially created by surfers wrapping tape around wool to create "ugly boots."
Another great fashion item is the cork
hat. This was invented by Aboriginal droving hands wanting to keep the flies
of their faces. Appreciating their ingenuity, whitefellas soon made hats of their
own. Although aeraoguard has largely made the
hats obsolete, some fisherman remain custodians of the traditional ways.
unique fashion comes with the sleeveless Aussie rules jumper. Aside from pleasing
women by displaying the male's arms, it is an adaptible item of clothing that
is perfect for working on the car, playing footy, adding extra warmth, and in
the case of the Hawthorn jumper, making a statement that looks aren't everything.
Melbourne Cup Day is one of the few times
when looks are important. The dark clouds part and the lovely ladies come out
to shine. The basic rule is that the larger the hat, the shorter the skirt. Understandably,
the superfiscial aspects of such ladies make it difficult to concentrate on the
In 1913, Australia produced the world's first feature film - The True History
of the Kelly Gang. Since then the industry has suffered a roller-coaster ride
with more lows than highs.
The highs include
Gallipoli. Released in 1981, the movie is a unique addition to the anti-war
genre. Instead of promoting an anti-war message by showing maiming and death,
it simply fosters an appreciation for humanity so that the viewer feels loss when
senseless death strikes. Hollywood's Saving Private Ryan, Born on the Fourth
of July and Platoon aren't without merit, but a visit to www.orgish.com
would probably do a better job.
cult movies, you can't do better than a leather clad Mel Gibson driving
a black interceptor in Mad Max. In Australia, the film actually made more
money than Star Wars.
In 1986, Crocodile
Dundee did great things for Australia's international reputation with the
story of a good humoured larrikin adapting to life in New York.
a nutshell, most Aussie films feature a sex scene, a "quirky off-beat" relative
or friend, a violent scene, a wistful stare over beautiful scenery, and an impossible
to follow storyline.
1859, the world's first game of football was codified in Victoria. Australian
Football's initial ten rules pre-date those of Soccer, Rugby, Gaelic Football
and American Football.
is believed that Australian Football may have been inspired by the Aboriginal
game of Marn-Grook as well as the folk games that later evolved in Rugby
The code lacked
an umpire for its first 20 years. Now it has three field umpires, 4 boundary umpires
and two goal umpires to become arguably the most over-officiated and over regulated
game on earth. The mass of rules ensures that most foreigners don't really know
what is going on, and most Australians who have followed it their entire lives
don't really know what is going on either. (If they do, they seem incapable of
explaining it in a rational fashion. )
Australian Football has some similar elements to Gaelic Football. This may have
been the result of Irish immigrants/convicts arriving in Australia and bringing
elements of their homeland sports. Alternatively, it may have been Irishmen returning
to Ireland and taking elements of the Australian game with them.
Australia produces 90
per cent of the world's natural opal. The opal's incorporation into pendants,
broaches, rings and earrings helps give Australian jewellery its uniqueness. It
also allows Australians to keep a little of their country close to their heart.
If they have an intimate rendezvous with someone from a foreign country, opal
jewellery also allows the foreigner to keep a little of Australia close to their
Other jewellers have
made unique designs by taking inspiration from the gum leaf. Timber is sometimes
cut into the shape of a leaf and then etched to give texture. Some leafs are even
coated with gold plate. As the organic matter burns away, its shape is left like
David Williamson stands alone in the world of Australian playwrights. The
man is a genius who weaves good humour into his psychological explorations. (Even
Shakespeare would have been impressed. )
out The Removalist for a story power being gained, lost, abused and misused.
As the story is very funny, the smiling audience is left to ponder whether it
is morally ok to laugh at the horrific violence.
is also worthwhile getting together with friends and ranking the characters in
order of most honourable to least honourable. It is unlikely agreement will ever
be reached and moralistic arguments will continue well into the night. (It is
recommended no sharp knives be allowed in the house else life may imitate art.)
Poetry was all the rage in 19th century
Australia. Special mention must go to Banjo Patterson and his Man From
Snowy River. The poem tells the feel-good story of a underdog and his rangy
horse that show looks can be deceiving. (Parts of it can be found as mico-printing
on the Australian ten-dollar note.)
Lawson was the poet of Australian nationalism. The son of an ardent feminist,
Louis Lawson, Henry was instilled with an activist ethic from an early
age and used it to inspire his countrymen. Later he died an alcoholic.
Slessor's Five Bells is perhaps Australia's most popular poem. Slessor started
writing poetry during the great war. The anguish endured as he wrote about his
friend found floating in Sydney Harbour. It was the last poem Slessor that ever
Other poets: George Barrington,
Dorothea Mackellar, A. D. Hope, Les Murray
In the quest for immortality, two names stand alone. From the bush comes Banjo
Patterson. His song about a suicidal sheep thief has resonated across the
generations to become an unofficial national anthem.
From the city pubs comes the great AC/DC. Through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and
00's the energy, the sexual lewdness and the humour have been maintained. See
any add for a ute on TV and you are likely to hear the great band at work.
For AC/DC's take on Australia's egalitarian ethic, seek out Big Balls,
which equates the elite's quest for self-esteem with a proud declaration of testicle
Unique musical instruments in Australia
include the Didgeridoo made from a hollow tree branch, the Lagerphone made by
nailing beer caps onto a stick and the Bones made from the ribs of a bullock.
Other musical acts: Midnight Oil, Rolf
Harris, Cold Chiesel, Kylie Minogue, Skyhooks, Warumpi
Band, Icehouse, Nick Cave, Men at Work, Bee Gees, The Divinyls, Slim
Dustry, Lee Kennegan, Chad Morgan, Heathcoate Bushwackers, John Williamson.
Patrick White - The most revered
of Australian novelists, White was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973.
White wrote at a time when the bush was starting to lose its iconic status in
Australian life. His international breakthrough novel was VOSS (1957),
a symbolic story of a doomed journey into the Australian desert.
-Peter Carey won the Booker Prize for his True History of the Kelly
Gang; once more showing that if you stick Ned in your art you really can't
If you want emotional art, then it
is best to visit Europe. If you want cognitive art that makes you think, best
to visit Australia.
Sometimes the issues
explored by Australian painters are only relevant to Australia. In the case of
Aboriginal art, sometimes the issues are only relevant to a single tribe.
big names are Sidney Nolan, Pro Hart, Arthur Boyd, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton,
Clifford Possum, Frederick McCubbin, Russell Drysdale, Jeffrey Smart, Ken Done.
If you what to see art created by
drugs -which is like seeking art created by a wonky photocopier - seek Brett
It is worthwhile making a
trip to the Kimberley to view a mysterious form of rock art known as the Bradshaws.
The art is dispersed in around 100 000 sites spread over 50 000 sq.
km. Although the art's pigment can't be dated,
a fossilised wasp nest covering one of the paintings has been dated at 17,000
+ years old. This makes the art at least four times older than the the pyramids.The Bradshaw artists lacked many of the commonalties
shared by other Australian Aboriginal tribes. Most other Aboriginal paintings
used geography and animals as their subject matter. For them, art was a kind of
encyclopaedia to record their history, map the land, and interpret their world.On the other hand, the Bradshaw artists chiefly
focused on themselves. Some people believe it is a form of iconography like Egyptian
Puppetry of the Penis - Although
there is no La Figaro nor Phantom of the Opera, there is Puppetry
of the Penis. Also known as Genital Origami, the genre involves men
moulding their genital area into a variety of shapes.
stage show has been a world hit, performing live across Nth America and Europe.
Large video screens allow the audience a close up of the impressive deeds being
performed. Highly recommended is the Hamburger, the Woman, the
Snail, the Atomic Mushroom and the Sailboard.
Dogs - Americans have their Shirely Temple. Each to their own, but
the concept of a little girl tap dancing away seems like something that would
only appeal to the Woody Allens of the world. More on the masculine side, Australia
created Tap Dogs. Men donned in Bludstone Boots and flannelette shirts
dance away with raw energy.
Although Australian actors and
directors have been huge success stories in Hollywood, indicating a great deal
of locally grown talent, the Australian film
and television industry is largely irrelevant. The
failings of the local industry, despite having so much talent to work with, can
be attributed to a critical culture that is not supportive of its own and is unable
to appreciate potential.
In recent years,
the industry's solution to this problem has been to criticize the government,
ask for more funding, or create movies criticizing the Australian public. These
methods haven't worked. Director George Miller
even said it was a hopeless case as Australians:
don't have significant stories to tell, perhaps apart from the indigenous story...Australia
at its heart is so racist that I don't think we can stomach it."
it is not all doom and gloom. One proactive director, John Pulson, has
started Tropfest to lead by example. Watched live by around 130,000 Australians
at venues around Australia, it has now become the largest short film festival
in the world. DVDs are often distributed free by major newspapers.
each film is only seven minutes, it gives small time directors, writers, and actors
the chance to showcase their potential. If only the mainstream industry could
not stop whinging and instead open their eyes to talent, then it may again start
producing movies worth watching.
With its convict foundations, Australia
used to have an interesting tattoo culture. Some convicts had tattoos on their
backs of Jesus being crucified. This gave the impression that when they were being
flogged, Christ himself was being flogged. Other convicts had anchors to symbolise
National icons are often an important
part of individual identity. Accordingly, Australia's cultural cringe is reflected
with many individuals getting tattoo styles of foreign cultures that they have
no ancestral connection to, or actual experience with. Some
Australians get a Maori tattoo to pretend they have the warrior culture of a Maori.
Some get a skull to pretend they have the badness of a Hells Angels. Some get
a Chinese kanji to pretend they have the mysticism of a Chinaman.
provide an Australian alternative, some artists have created some tattoos using
Australian flora and fauna, or historic and folkloric emblems.
tattooists: Les Bowen, Colin Creed, Danny Robinson
Most of Australian television is
from America. However the choice of which American shows to watch, and which to
reject, is somewhat of a mirror upon Australian values. Accordingly, they affirm
Australian values. The Simpsons has been hugely successful. Even though
the sitcom is designed to run once a week, in Australia, every episode is repeated
so many times that it has been averaging about seven nights a week since the 1992.
On the other hand, Australians have largely rejected shows like Fraser
and the Sopranos which are hits in America.
home-grown television is quite small, there are some shows that have been cutting
edge and hugely influential. In the 60s and early 70s, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
was hugely popular. Skippy had the same kind of relationship with humans as
did Lassie the dog and Flipper the dolphin - but Skippy was better.
The Box was Australia's first soap opera. It was a naughty satire set that
was famous for its frequent nude glimpses and sexual content. Number 96 was
a show that challenged taboos by dealing with racial intolerance, drug use, rape
within marriage, adultery and homosexuality. Prisoner was another 70s soap
set in all places, a woman's prison. It dealt with issues such as mateship, dealing
with adversity, dealing with authority and mental anguish.
80s gave rise to the more generic Home and Away and Neighbours.
The two soaps play big happy families where neighbours are friends, barbies are
frequent and everything is relaxed.
Depending on your view, the Australian
style is benefited or harmed by a lack of restrictions. Australian winemakers
can do whatever they want to make the wine taste good. If the season is poor,
grapes can just be imported from another region and mixed with the local variety.
Strawberry or coconut essences may be added to increase the wine's complexity.
Critics, particularly the French, say
the lack of restrictions means that although Australian wine tastes good, it has
no identity and no soul. While it may lack a soul, Orlando's Jacobs Creek
has become the largest selling wine in the world. A bit like a McDonald's Big
Mac, its taste can be relied upon even though it may lack artistic integrity.
In the premium category, Penfold's
Grange is considered the finest wine from the Southern Hemisphere. The rival
to Grange is Henschke Hill of Grace. Unlike Grange, Hill of Grace is a
single vineyard wine and thus appeals more to the purists.
regions: Hunter Valley (Semillon), Tamar Valley (Pinot Noir), Barossa (Shiraz),
Clare Valley (Riesling), Margaret River (Merlot), Rutherglen (Durif), Yarra Valley
(Pinot Noir), Canberra Region (Shiraz)
Australia is an egalitarian
society. When friends go to dinner, bills are split irrespective of the diner's
financial background or gender.
If a beer
is bought in a "round" or "shout", the recipient is expected to buy a beer in
return. Again, financial background or gender is irrelevant.
invited to diner at someone's house, it is generally expected to make a token
contribution to the food being eaten or booze being drunk. This may be a salad,
dessert, six pack or bottle of wine.
and abbreviations are usually used for close friends. Friends may also insult
one another as a joke. In workplace situations, titles are not usually used and
bosses and employees quickly get to a first name basis.
are usually deemed to speak louder than words. Gloating or self-glorification
usually results in an audience trying to cut the gloater down to size.
is classless to a large degree - no matter what you are paid you can still afford
a bag of prawns, a bottle of wine and a beach on which to enjoy them. As a large
number of Australians are able to appreciate this fact, they feel no inferiority
about any lack of perceived social status.
Australian English, or Strine,
is arguably the most international of all English dialects. It has been shaped
by its Pommy parent, American television, one million of Australia's 20 million
inhabitants living in foreign countries at any one time, and Australia having
strong sporting relations with all other Commonwealth countries.
Strine's lexicon is expansive (as would be expected considering the entire planet
has influenced its creation). Consequently, Strine speakers often use words that
Americans don't understand. However, the reverse is not true. Strine speakers
can usually understand all American words.
an inventive mind set, idioms are very common in Strine. This allows exponents
to add extra power and emotions to their clause complexes. Sometimes the idioms
are sports related, for example "play a straight bat." Sometimes they
relate to Australia's bush heritage, for example "I'll have a crack at her."
unique feature of Strine is the tendency to economise clauses with abbreviations
of key words. The stressed syllable is retained and the rest of the word is discarded.
This can make Strine a very musical language. For example, "What are you doing
in the afternoon" is quite regimented and difficult to sing. "Whacha doing in
the arvo" has more rhythm flowing through it.
unique feature of Strine is the significant difference between male and female
pronunciation. Australian men speak with what is known as a broad accent.
Australian women speak with what is known as a cultivated accent (like
a university educated person from England.) No other English dialect has a significant
difference between male and female pronunciation.
Great expressions: kangaroos
loose in the top paddock, as mad as a gum tree full of galahs, as dry as a dead
dingo's donger, hit the frog and toad, have a Captains, shit happens, no worries,
any dramas? as lonely as a country dunny, how is it going today (prounounced
owzitgointodie), what are you doing this arfternoon ( pronounced -whachadoin'nthearvo)
words: Bludger (Lazy person who doesn't pull their own weight) Larrikin
(funny person who breaks rules) Wowser - ( pious person who mistakes
this world for a penitentiary and himself for a warder. The Larrikin's foe.)
ANZAC Day - On 25th April
1923 at Albany in Western Australia, the Reverend White led a party of
friends in what was the first ever observance of a ANZAC dawn service. Seven years
later, the first official service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph.
ANZAC Day was started by veterans, rather than politicians, its symbolic meaning
is different to that of other military days around the world. ANZAC Day is not
a time to glorify war. It is simply a time to remember what the war meant to those
who were involved in it.
A central feature
of the Anzac Day service is a paragraph taken from the poem 'Ode for the Fallen'.
"They shall grow not old, as we
that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. "
Cup - Held on the first Tuesday of every November, the Melbourne Cup is a
day of high fashion, drinking and gambling.
In Melbourne, the Cup it is a public holiday. In many offices around Australia,
work stops for a party that often involved a sweep, hat competition and a few
glasses of champagne.
As Christmas is celebrated in the heat of summer, some of Australia's Christmas
traditions are starting to diverge from those in the northern hemisphere.
the warm weather allows Australians to spend more time outside, the Christmas
tree is less important. Sometimes it is even made quickly out of VB cartoons as
Seafood and wine is starting
to replace turkey and egg nog as the staples of the Christmas lunch and dinner.
Christmas drinks are important, and many
people make an effort to get out to meet their friends.
The Australian Coat of
Arms - An unofficial Coat of Arms was designed for the New Atlas Australia
in 1886. A Kangaroo and Emu look curiously at a shield depicting the Eureka Southern
Cross and four aspects of Australian industry at that time; mining, wool, wheat
and tall ships.
It has been said that
because the Kangaroo and Emu can not walk backwards, they were included as a metaphor
of a great Australian trait to leave baggage in the past and look optimistically
to the future.
National Flag -
The Australian Flag has a Union Jack in the top left-hand corner to symbolise
servitude to Great Britain. It also has the Southern Cross and a Federation Star.
The Union Jack makes the Australian Flag
a flag of division. Some people say the Union Jack is irrelevant to the multicultural
society that is modern Australia. Others say that the Union Jack is a tribute
to the first urban Australians who built the cities, planned the roads, set the
language, and laid the foundations for others to follow. Ironically,
those who support multiculturalism on the grounds that diversity is a strength,
should be happy with a flag of division as it ensures that this diversity of opinions
will always remain.
Flag - The flag was designed by a Canadian Digger Lieutenant Ross during
the Eureka Stockade uprising in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854.
flag's five stars represent the Southern Cross. The white cross joining the stars
represents unity in defiance. The blue background represents the blue shirts worn
by the Diggers. Because the diggers were self-employed miners who rallied together in a union style group to raise a flag, it has never been clear whether they were right-wingers, left-wingers or individualistic liberals. As a consequence, the flag has been waved by right-wing groups, and left-wing groups.
In 1971, the Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas designed the flag to be a
rallying symbol for the Aborigines in their anti-government protests. The black
represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship
to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life.
Flag - In 1983, the yacht Australia II ended the American's 132 year
dominance of the America's Cup. The Boxing Kangaroo was the marketing icon of
the campaign. It captured the essence of an Australian underdog taking on the
world, and winning.