History - AustralianAustralian CultureCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries

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Cultural awareness: to stereotype or not?

Emotion & innovation

Group vs individual

Tradition & change

Cults of multiculturalism

Warden & Convicts

Failed revolutionaries

Thinkers and Drinkers

Immigration and emmigration

Colonial masters

India Cultural Differences Between Australia and India
Convicts and Maharajas

Samurai & Convicts

New Zealand
Convicts vs Do gooders

Papua New Guinea
Chiefs and Elites

East or west?

South Africa
Kaffirs and Convicts

Coolies and Convicts

South Korea
The middle-powers

"Australians appear very naive to the newly-arrived Japanese. They speak the same way with everyone."
Hiro Mukai - Japanese

"Australians risked becoming ‘the poor white trash of Asia."
Lee Kuan Yew - Singaporean

"I can personally affirm that to stand before an audience of beaming Australians and make even the mildest quip about a convict past is to feel the feel the air conditioning immediately elevated."Bill Bryson - American

"You have no need to feel iffy about a country where "relaxation is the aim". There's nothing to be worried about if "no worries" is your mantra. People have killed for less."
Soumya Bhattacharya - Indian

" What sort or peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers' representatives predominate in the upper house....and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?"
Vladimir Lenin- Russian

"You feel free in Australia. There is great relief in the atmosphere - a relief from tension, from pressure, an absence of control of will or form. The skies open above you and the areas open around you"
D.H Lawrence - English

" The Australian, who are the men our troops have had opposite them so far, are extraordinarily tough fighters. The German is more active in the attack, but the enemy stakes his life in the defence and fights to the last with extreme cunning."
Major Ballerstedt - German

"New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries."
Robert Muldoon - New Zealander


Indonesia and Australia

Population 240,271,522 (July 2009 est.) 20,600,856 (July 2008 est.)
GDP per capita ($US) $3,900 (2008 est.) $36,300 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 14.4%
industry: 48.1%
services: 37.5%
agriculture: 3%
industry: 26.4%
services: 70.6% (2007 est.)
Public debt 28.6% of GDP (2008 est.) 15.4% of GDP
Racial groups Javanese 40.6%, Sundanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, other or unspecified 29.9% (2000 census) White 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal and other 1%
Export partners Japan 20.2%, US 9.5%, Singapore 9.4%, China 8.5%, South Korea 6.7%, India 5.2%, Malaysia 4.7% (2008) Japan 19.6%, China 12.3%, South Korea 7.5%, US 6.2%, India 5.5%, NZ 5.5%, UK 5% (2006)



Evidence of hominid occupation in Indonesia dates back 850,000 years. The first group were Homo erectus. Some theories propose some remnant populations evolved into the Hobbit on the Island of Flores where they prevailed until 10,000 years ago. Some theories propose Homo erectus evolved into Homo sapiens. Other theories propose that Homo sapiens emerged from Africa 200,000 years ago and then wiped out the Indonesian Homo erectus.

Around 2,000 years ago, Austronesian people started migrating to Indonesia from Taiwan. 700 years later, Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced as a result of some kind of cultural interaction with mainland Asia. In the 13th century, Islam started taking hold and progressively became the dominant religion.

In the 17th century, Holland began colonising Indonesia. In World War 2, the Dutch were forced out by Japanese invaders. After the Japanese were defeated, Indonesia argued for independence. Ironically, the boundaries it argued for were those that had the Dutch as a common oppressor. As a consequence, Portuguese East Timor, which was linguistically and racially quite similar to the largest Javanese racial group, did not become part of Indonesia, while West Paupua who were more racially and linguistically different, did.

In 1975, Indonesia decided that East Timor should be part of Indonesia and duly invaded with the support of the Australian government of the time.

Evidence of hominid occupation of Australia dates back around 60,000 years. The diverse range of skeletons unearthed in Australia indicates that there was extensive migration over the next tens of thousands of years. There does not; however, appear to be evidence of migration from Austroesian people to Australia. Perhaps this was because the harsh soils and poor climate of Australia were not conducive to the farming lifestyles that the Austroesians favoured.

There is evidence that Chinese reached Australia in the 15th century, Portuguese in the 16th and Dutch in the 17th. The poor soils were perhaps the disincentive to stay. Additionally, most European powers wanted to trade or take something from a country and Australia offered nothing that Europeans wanted.

In the 18th century, the English decided that Australia would make a good place to dump criminals. Despite wanting a dump, English colonial mentality was very different from the Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese in that the English liked to build. Consequently, rather than just dump Convicts and then sail away, the English used them to build roads, schools and bridges and other infrastructure. Once the urban infrastructure had been created, free migrants followed.

What the countries stand for

It would be difficult to ask three different Australians what their country stands for and get any answer, let alone any kind of consensus. In Indonesia, a unified answer comes in the form of the Pancasila, the official philosophical theory of the Indonesian state. The principles of the Pancasila was enshrined in the 1945 constitution and is symbolised in the Garuda Pancasila emblem. It asserts five inseparable and inter-related principles:  

  • A divinity that is an ultimate unity
  • A just and civilized humanity
  • The national unity of Indonesia
  • Democracy predicated on the inherent wisdom of unanimity arising from deliberation among popular representatives
  • Social justice

Unlike Indonesia’s Garuda Pancasila, Australia’s emblems are somewhat valueless. The Australian Coat of Arms basically represents each Australian state on a shield being held by a Kangaroo and Emu. Aside from unity of the Federation, there are no values symbolised by the Coat of Arms; however, it has been said that the two animals were included because they could not walk backwards.

Indonesia's Garuda Pancasila is value laden while Australia's Coat of Arms is relatively valueless.

Colonialism and national identity

Different attitudes to the place of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (West Papua) indicate some of the different attitudes to colonialism and nationalism between Indonesia and Australia. Irian Jaya became part of Indonesia because the Javanese and the tribes of Irian Jaya shared the Dutch as a colonial ruler. Papua New Guinea became part of Australia because the Australians and Papua New Guineas shared the British as a common ruler.

When a few leaders in Papua New Guinea asked Australia for independence in the 1970s, the Australian government quickly said yes. When a few leaders in West Papua asked Indonesia for independence,  the Indonesian government refused. Today, Indonesia is dealing with a seccession movement.

The average Indonesian wants Irian Jaya to stay part of Indonesia for nationalistic reasons. Like much of Asia, they are attracted to the idea of strength and power. They want their country to be as large as possible. The same compulsion does not drive Australia. So much so, if a state wished to leave Australia, citizens of the other states would probably be let go without much of a fuss. This almost happened in 1933 when 68 per cent of West Australians voted in favour of seceding from the Commonwealth of Australia. It was only a delay by Britain in giving official approval that prevented the new country from being formed. In the delay, West Australians decided they didn't really care that much either way. Reflecting the indifference the potential loss of WA caused, very few Australians in the eastern states even know the referendum occurred.

Admittedly, there were also some economic differences that made the Australian government more receptive to an independent PNG than the Indonesian government to an independent West Papua. Specifically, if PNG had remained part of Australia, the Australian government would have had to provide welfare, policing, health services, education and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, other countries would be criticising it for its destruction of PNG culture, and holding it responsible for PNG social problems. In contrast, Indonesia can just exploit Irian Jaya’s resources without providing much in return. Because it is a third world country, it is not expected to provide economic and social infrastructure.


Although both Indonesia and Australia are multicultural countries, multiculturalism means different things in each. In Indonesia, multiculturalism refers to a mosaic of different cultures living together. In Australia, multiculturalism basically means lots of people with different coloured faces living together.

In policy, the Australian government strongly supports policies of migrants maintaining their identities, but in practice, these identities are usually left behind far more rapidly than is seen in Indonesia.

The different cultural identities of descendants of Chinese migrants in each country provide some ideas in regards to how policies of multiculturalism have affected individuals. In Indonesia, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Chinese migrants have managed to preserve their motherland's culture and their identity as Chinese. Marriage between Indonesian and Chinese is quite rare. In Australia, by the second and third generation, the Chinese identity has usually been eroded. Furthermore, marriage between the Chinese descendant and a different group is common. In a nutshell, in Indonesia, Chinese migrants and their descendants have had a tendency to cocoon themselves (or have been cocooned.) In Australia, they have integrated (or been integrated.)

Heritage is not a huge part of Australian identities. In 1998, almost half of all marriages registered in Australia were between people from different birthplace groups.



Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, which can cause some friction when Indonesians encounter liberals from Australia. As a Muslim country, Indonesia frowns upon the consumption of alcohol, homosexuality and the display of flesh by women. In contrast, Australians drink a lot of alcohol, have gay politicians, have a homosexual street party that receives government and media support, and Australian women are accustomed to wearing very little clothing.

The morality clash indirectly led to the 2003 Bali Bombings. Because Bali is predominately Hindu and quite open to sexuality, for years it has attracted Australian tourists wanting to enjoy the beach, cultural diversity, with the added chance of some sexual encounters. The Bali Muslims; however, were not been endeared to such Australians and to make a statement, they exploded two bombs in Bali nightclubs.





"Australia's culture has always been characterised by someone trying to make rules to live by, and someone else trying to break them."