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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



Australian gothic

The United States vs Australia

Convict eyes on the Land of Liberty

For different reasons, both Australians and Americans are a little uncomfortable with stereotypes being used to define the characteristics of their respective cultures; however, just like the accent that each uses to speak the common language of English, there are some subtle differences that can be used to distinguish Americans as a group from Australians as a group. For example, the author of this article (an Australian) was once giving a presentation to a post-graduate marketing class. To explain the difficulty in building a patriotic image for a brand in Australia, he draped an Australian flag over his shoulders and struck a pose as if looking at the sunset in an American aftershave commercial. As expected, the class looked unimpressed. He then took the flag off his shoulders and enthusiastically polished his arse with it. The class started laughing (as expected). He then asked if anyone was offended. A chorus of nos went up. A lone voice said that, although he wasn't offended, he was disappointed. The lecturer, who had previously worked for the defence forces, gave the presentation a distinction. It the same thing had been done in America, expulsion from the university would have been a distinct possibility.


Population 318,892,103 22,262,501 (July 2013 est.)
GDP per capita ($US) $52,800 (2013 est.) $43,000 (2013 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.1%
industry: 19.5%
services: 79.4%
agriculture: 3.8%
industry: 27.4%
services: 68.7% (2013 est.)
Public debt 71.8% of GDP (2013 est.) 32.6% of GDP (2013 est.)
Racial groups White 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% White 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal and other 1%
Export partners Canada 18.9%, Mexico 14%, China 7.2%, Japan 4.5% (2012) Japan 19.6%, China 12.3%, South Korea 7.5%, US 6.2%, India 5.5%, NZ 5.5%, UK 5% (2006)

From CIA World Fact Book


America has always had a diversity of strong groups, and strong conflict between those groups. Some archaeologists believe that the first humans made it to America 20-30,000 years ago. They originated in South East Asia and used boats to island hop across the pacific. Other archaeologists believe the first humans made it to America 12,000 years ago. They originated in north Asia and made it to America via a land bridge between Russia and Alaska. Whatever the exact origins, the people of North America evolved into diverse groups in conflict with each other. In the south, cities formed around agriculture while a nomadic life following game was pursued in the northern regions.

After Europeans discovered the Americas in the 15th century, Spanish, French, Dutch and British colonists competed with the pre-existing Americans for slices of the new world. English speaking Americans emerged to dominate all others and in turn formed colonial governments under the direction of the British crown.

In 1776, taxation tension over British rule led to the Declaration of Independence, which not only stated an intention to cut ties with Britain, but also symbolically stated:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The ensuing war ended in 1783 with Britain’s recognition of the US. Rather than go on a purge of dissidents, reactionaries and other threats to their power like most revolutionary heroes, America’s heroes did something very unusual in world history by creating a constitution and Bill of Rights aimed at protecting civil rights and freedoms.

In the mid 19th century, disagreement over whether freedoms were being protected led to the American civil war. Some states wanted the freedom to have slaves while other states wanted the slaves to be freed.  The anti-slave states emerged victorious.

World War 1 proved to be very lucrative for America as it sold war supplies to both sides before entering on the side of the Allies and subsequently sharing in the victory spoils. World War 2 followed a similar pattern and culminated with America having military bases spread throughout Asia and Europe, along with Asia and Europe owing it a great deal of money.

Due to its harsh environmental conditions, Australia developed in a very different way to America. Mungo Man, dated at 62,000, is the oldest evidence of human occupation in Australia. Mungo Man’s skeleton was fine-boned like modern Aborigines; however, the skeletal record between Mungo Man and the present day indicates a great deal of diversity.

In 1770, the British discovered Australia, but like the Spanish, Portuguese, the Dutch, and Chinese who had discovered it previously, they decided it had little of value and initially left it alone. After the American war of independence; however, Britain needed a new dumping ground for its criminals and in 1788, Sydney became that dump.

Because Britain was the only European country to show an interest in it, Australia was never a battlefield for Europeans as was America. Furthermore, because the land was poor, Australia never had pioneers setting off to build new towns along the river to escape persecution or establish a new idealistic community. Instead, the defining characteristic in the shaping of Australian culture was British policies aimed at preventing Australia following the American lead towards revolution.

In the penal colony's early years, the British felt that the best method of control was extreme dictatorial policies that had Convicts being flogged for something as simple as having their hands in their pockets. In 1804, this provoked  about 330 of the Irish Convicts into a full scale insurrection. Although their catch cry was "liberty or death", most of the Convicts got neither. The ring leaders foolishly tried to negotiate a deal and were caught. The stunned mob was then fired upon and after 15 minutes of confusion, they fled to the bush. The principle ring leader was hanged almost immediately, eight others shortly followed, four received 500 lashes, thirty were sent to goal gangs and another thirty were sent to Newcastle. The Convicts who ran away surrendered in twos and threes over the next few days.

Castle Hill Rebellion

In the 1804 Castle Hill Rebellion, Convicts foolishly believed that authorities could be trusted. They paid with their lives.

Empowered by the dictatorial policies, Governors turned their attention to soldiers and the threat of free enterprise that had helped spark the American revolution. In 1808, Governor Bligh was particularly zealous in trying to increase government control of industry by arresting soldiers and ex-soldiers involved in the rum trade and farming. The soldiers responded by arresting Bligh and assuming control of the colony for the next two years. Britain subsequently had a choice of either deciding that the Sydney colony had rebelled and come down with an iron fist or take a conciliatory approach to bring the colony back into the fold. The later option was pursued.

Rum Rebellion

In the early 19th century, colonial governors tried to reduce the power of private enterprise by bringing more industries under government control. Soldiers reacted by rebelling and removing the governor.

In 1853, the discovery of gold posed a new threat to British rule. Miners from all over the world descended upon Australia and brought with them ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. Anti-authority sentiments reached boiling in 1854 when miners on the Victorian Goldfields burnt their licences, flew the Eureka flag, built a stockade and subsequently dug in for a battle with the troopers. A few days later the English attacked the stockade. In a battle lasting only 15 minutes, 30 Diggers were killed and 100 others were taken prisoner - all for the loss of only four English red coats.

A subsequent trial illustrated some of the various propaganda wars that in turn shaped the Australian identity over the next century.  The Resident Commissioner defined the stockade as an attack by various nationalities upon the Queen's rule.  This subsequently shaped which miners were selected for prosecution. Over 1,500 men trained at the stockade in preparation for battle but only 13 were arrested and tried with treason. Two of these men were black, one was an Italian, another was a Jew and the rest were Irish. It seemed that British authorities had specifically targeted non-Anglos to be the criminal face on show. If so, the play backfired as all the men were found non-guilty by a jury. One of the men, John Joseph, a black man from America, was carried around the streets of Melbourne in a chair in triumph by over 10,000 people. The Italian was elected to the local court at Ballarat to adjudicate mining disputes.

Eureka Rebellion

Inspired by America's progressive ideals, in1854, miners tried to replicate change in Australia. They were slaughtered but their stand did bring about change in the political system.

One final stand of resistance came from the bushranger Ned Kelly in 1880. The son of an Irish Convict, Kelly was declared an outlaw on the words of a drunken police officer who molested Kelly’s sister and was later dismissed as "not being fit to be in the police force; that he associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield; that he could not be trusted out of sight; and that he never did his duty". Although Kelly did not appear at his trial, the judge declared that had he been present he would have been sentenced to 20 years jail. With no legal options available but with significant public sympathy, Kelly probably tried to start a revolution. It failed due to an unexpected act of police cowardess and a loss of nerve by sympathisers.

Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly's helmet was designed for a shoot out and only worn once. Over time, it has become an iconic symbol.

In the 20th century, the ballot paper (rather than the weapon) became the favoured method of dealing with grievances against the British. Leading the way was the Australian Labor Party, which deliberately chose to use the American spelling of Labor to associate itself with America's progressive ideals. Its intentions were stifled by a political system in which the ultimate power in each state and federal government resided with an appointment of the Queen.

Despite significant public opposition to Britain, Australian politicians gave Australia’s support to Britain in World War 1 and 2.  Ironically, both wars helped erode support for the motherland. Specifically, in World War 1, the British were blamed for using Australians as canon fodder at Gallipoli. In World War 2, the England capitulated to the Japanese in Singapore and subsequently redirected war resources from the Pacific to Europe. Left to fight the Japanese with the Americans, the fall of Singapore marked a shifting of Australia's allegiance from England to the United States. An Australian desire to strengthen this relationship led to Australia’s involvement in the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars (which in turn alienated many Australians from the relationship with America.)

Because of the divided allegiances and deliberate attempts to erode the threat of Australian patriotism, Australia has become an individualistic nation that lacks a group psychology to conform to culture. Australia still has its "wardens" that want to flog the country, its people and any conception of community pride. Australia also has its rebels who dislike the wardens. As neither personality wants to share a group with the other, it has been difficult for individual Australians to create cultural expressions accepted by all or feel the sense of family that is usually associated with a national identity.

Why aren't Australians as patriotic as Americans?

Like most people around the world, Americans are very patriotic people. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to the impressive array of American achievements that include landing on the moon, taking a leading role in stopping Nazi Germany, inventing the internet and winning 30 per cent of Nobel Prizes. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to American history, and the emotive rallies that were initially used to unite diverse groups into once force capable of overthrowing the English. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to American psychology, which has always fostered a strong identification with the group. The group psychology that was initially cultivated on a racial, religious, civic or state level, has now been transferred to a national level.

Although patriotism can unite Americans, it can also divide them. Each American subculture has a tendency to believe its culture is what America is about, and they will fight to preserve that culture by using the American flag as a rallying symbol. For example, many American Christians believe that America is about obeying god’s laws. Many atheists believe America is about escaping god’s laws. Texans may believe America is about the cowboy culture that refused to surrender at the Alamo. Californians may believe America is about the Hollywood dream. New Yorkers may believe America is about holding the golden lamp to the citizens of the world that want to breath free. Some Americans believe America is about self-reliance so they will oppose taxing the rich to help the needy. Other Americans believe America is able setting an example so they want to tax the rich to help the needy.

As each subculture asserts its own respective definition of American patriotism, it can come into conflict with subcultures that have a different definition. In the past, such conflicts were dealt with by simply moving up the river to found a new town or initiating a civil war. In modern times, such an option is no longer available.


In 1969, American musician Jimmi Hendrix performed a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on his electric guitar. Hendrix’s version of patriotism defined America as a land of innovation and where all people are created equal.

For many Australians, patriotism is a negative concept. In the colonial era, patriotism was a threat to British rule and discouraged accordingly. Today, a variety of justifications are used to argue that patriotism has no place in Australia. For example, at the 2007 Sydney Big Day Out (a music festival held on Australia Day) organisers argued that the Australian flag was symbolic of racism and needed to be banned. According to promoter Ken West,

"The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it."

Likewise, comedian Catherine Deveny frequently tweets her distaste for Australia with caricatures such as,

"An Australian Flag in your front yard tells everyone you're only a couple of Bundy and Cokes away from lynching a wog, slope or Arab."

There are two main explanations for the relative lack of patriotism. One is that, in the 19th century, patriotism was seen as a threat to British rule and discouraged accordingly. Perhaps as a legacy, Australian accents were banned on the state-controlled ABC until the 1970s and British newsreaders were imported to read the news. A second explanation is that Australian history lacks the glorious stories of defeating invading armies, landing the first man on the moon, or championing the good fight like America. Instead, it has 80 years of Convict transportation at its urban foundations. Striking a seductive pose in tribute to the founding mothers or donning the ball & chain in tribute to the founding fathers just doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as spilling blood in the pursuit of empire building.

Convict Nationalism

A cartoon created at the time of federation alluding to the Convict heritage and public drunkenness that made it a little difficult for many Australians to feel patriotic.


How was racial segregation in both countries inspired by opposite ends of the political spectrum?

Some states in both America and Australia practiced racial segregation; however, they were underpinned by ideology from opposite ends of the political spectrum in each country. In America, segregation was largely a right-wing policy in that it was based on an ideological viewpoint that whites were superior to non-whites. The whites wanted to keep their blood uncorrupted and non-whites in a state of under development. Most of the laws that enforced segregation were passed at the end of the civil war and continued until 1968.

In Australia, segregation was a left-wing policy that was based upon an ideological viewpoint that lower class whites were sexually exploiting Aboriginal women, corrupting Aboriginal men and generally introducing sin to the Aboriginal “noble savage.” For this reason, the laws did not punish Aborigines who had interacted with whites, rather, they punished the whites who interacted with Aborigines. (There were no laws prohibiting Australian of European descent interacting with Australians of Asian or African descent. Admittedly, after 1901, there was a dictation test that made it easy to keep non-whites out of Australia along with "undesirable" Europeans.)

As well as being left wing as it was based on a view of white degeneracy, Australia’s segregation laws were left wing in that they were based on a belief that government intervention into the social world was the best method to advance individual Aboriginal people. In the colonial era, the segregation policies commenced with the creation of "Aboriginal Protection Societies" These usually involved allocating an "Aboriginal Protector" to a region who would subsequently try to get Aborigines in school, church and employment. States later implemented policies aimed at Aboriginal advancement which included wage quarantine, prohibition on the sale of alcohol to Aborigines, laws prohibiting fraternisation between Aborigines and non-Aborigines and laws making Aboriginal children wards of the state.

In 1967, the federal government gained the constitutional power to make laws specifically targeted at Aborigines. It then used its power to dismantle many of the state laws, particularly those related to fraternisation and the provision of alcohol. All federal governments did, however, continue the left wing ideology of intervening in Aboriginal culture for the purpose of Aboriginal advancement.

Aboriginal Drinking Culture: Differences

When the sale of alcohol to Aborigines eventually became legal, separatism was a continuing legacy of the past ban on the provision of alcohol to Aborigines. The above photos show white and black Australians drinking on opposite sides of a Darwin street. Aborigines bought alcohol out of a window at the back of the bar called the “dog box”, a process of buying that originated when selling booze to Aborigines was illegal.

"All Convicts are inferior - regardless of colour" versus "all men are created equal but black men aren't men"

When America’s founding fathers declared that all men are created equal, they considered men of colour to be property, not men. Equality therefore became difficult to attain. Ironically, Australia never had declarations of equality, which in turn allowed a truer form of equality to emerge. Nearly two generations into Australia's urban era, nearly 80 per cent of the population was a Convict, Emancipist, or of Convict descent. Amongst the ruling class, all these people were inferior. Race was insignificant compared to the stigma of Convict ancestry, which in turn allowed people of colour to become icons in Australia long before they became icons in America. Billy Blue was such an example. Arguably, Billy Blue was Australia’s first icon. Billy operated a ferry in Sydney Harbour and had such a colourful personality that his frequent law infringements were looked upon with a 'benevolent ' air by police.

Billy Blue

Billy Blue - A black Convict that became Australia's first celebrity. Billy has been honoured in the naming of many streets, pubs and landmarks in Nth Sydney.

The Eureka Stockade also showed the insignificance of colour compared to the content of character. A collection of miners from a diverse range of nationalities rebelled against the British. The miners were crushed and survivors arrested. One of the men arrested was John Joseph, a black man from America. Joseph had been arrested along with other American nationals; however, because he was black, the American government did not secure his release as it did for the other American citizens. Joseph stood trial and was subsequently found not guilty by a jury of his peers. He was then was carried around the streets in a chair of triumph by over 10,000 people.

Even during the era of the White Australia Policy, an exception was made for American blacks who were allowed to migrate freely to Australia. Such sentiments were evident in the comments of Henry Lawson, a nationalistic poet of the era. Lawson wrote an essay saying the Chinese must be kept out because they were not good colonists; however, he also said:

"The American negro is already a man and brother."

Likewise, the Australian Workers' Union specifically excluded Asians and Pacific Islanders, but extended membership to New Zealand Maoris and American Negros.

It was in the boxing ring where the respective attitude to black people by whites of Australia and America first became a point of friction. From 1880s to the 1890s, the Australian boxing ring was dominated by Peter Jackson, a black migrant from the West Indies. Nicknamed the 'Peter the Great', he won the Australian heavyweight in 1896 and went on to prove himself against the best fighters from England and America. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to fight for the world championship because the white American champion, John Sullivan, refused to defend his title against a black man. Upon his death, Jackson was buried in Australia with great pomp. A huge tomb was erected along with the words, "this was a man. "

Peter Jackson versus  James Corbett

In 1891, Australian Peter Jackson (left) fought American James Corbett. The world champion of the time, American John Sullivan, wouldn't fight him because he was black.

More conflict came in World War 2 during the infamous Battle of Brisbane, which involved between 2,000 or 5,000 soldiers American and Australian soldiers fighting each other on the streets of Brisbane. The American army had a policy of segregation and restricted African American soldiers to the south side of the Brisbane River. The Australians were appalled by the segregation, and refused to support it. Local dance halls allowed black Americans to enter, white Australian soldiers drank with black American soldiers and white Australian women appeared as attracted to black Americans as they were to white Americans.

  The Australians positive attitudes towards black Americans inflamed tensions between white Americans and white Australians. It also inflamed tensions between black and white Americans. After being encouraged to see themselves as equals, black Americans tried to cross the Brisbane River, and some were subsequently assaulted and killed for doing so by American military police. In the process, the white Americans further alienated themselves from the Australian population. Ironically, the spark that lit the powder keg was Australians coming to an aid of a white American soldier being beaten by the American military police over an unrelated issue. Onlookers just saw an Australians fighting Americans and soon took sides.

Cowboys fought Indians but did stockmen fight Aborigines?

While America developed a Cowboy-fights-Indian culture that was expressed in comic books, movies, paintings, novels and children’s games, Australia never developed a similar Stockmen-fights-Aborigine culture. Instead of developing culture based on conflict with Aborigines, Australian colonists developed a culture that built its credentials by associating itself with Aborigines. For example, most Australian paintings depicting Aborigines and whites show them acting in quite a friendly manner. In regards to song, Waltzing Matilda, (a song of nationalism from the 19th century) used Aboriginal words like billabong, jumbuck and coolibah to build an Australian sounds. Furthermore, most of rural Australia was named using Aboriginal words like Canberra, Wollongong, or Ulladullah.

Cultural reflections - Cowboy battles Indian for America. Convict escapes and lives with Aborigines

The different outcome can be attributed to different environmental influences. Australia's poor soils and frequent droughts made the land unsuited to high-density farming communities. As a consequence, most colonial farmers lived an isolated existence with only sporadic contact with nomadic Aborigines for human company. It would have been unwise for these farmers to pick a fight with Aborigines when they didn't have strong communities to back them up. Furthermore, once Convict transportation came to an end, farmers lost the free labour that had been working the farms. To compound matters, settlers did not want to work on farms as it carried the stigma of Convict work. Unable to work farms on their own, farmers turned to trade with Aborigines to attain farm workers. In short, friendship was more in their interests than conflict.

Kangaroo and buffalo - One herds and is therefore easy to kill on mass. One is not.

As well as not being conducive to high-density farming communities, the Australian environment also contained a host of native animals that increased as a result of farming. The kangaroo was one such animal. The farmer's dams gave kangaroos permanent water supplies that helped them survive drought. Likewise, the cutting down of trees increased available pasture that kangaroos could graze upon. Even though farmers wanted to kill the kangaroos as pests, or build fences to keep them out, the kangaroos simply jumped the fences, drank the water, ate the grass, and then hopped back into the bush where they remained a valuable food source for Aborigines. Consequently, the colonists and natives never had to fight over food as they did in America.


Why is religion is virtually absent from Australian political life yet dominates American political campaigning?

When defining the different role that religion played in Australian politics relative to America, art critic Robert Hughes said,

"(In Australia) any political candidate who declared God was on his side would be laughed off the podium as an idiot or a wowser (prude, intrusive bluenose)." 

Perhaps the difference can be explained with history. Whereas American Christian leaders were firmly on the side of the general population, Australia's Christian leaders were very much against them. Instead of looking at the Convicts as humans to be helped, the Australian Christians looked at them as sinners to be punished. In response, the Convicts returned the hostility.

An early example of the mutual hostility can be seen in the rein of Governor Hunter. Hunter was a morals crusader who frequently ordered Convicts be flogged for petty crimes. Although the Convicts were able to put up with the floggings, they were pushed to breaking point when they were ordered to attend Church on Sundays. They responded by burning the Church to the ground. More anti-institutional sentiment could be seen in the scorn for Samuel Marsden – a reverend of the colonial era. In New Zealand, Marsden is celebrated as a great man who brought the gospel to the Maori. In Australia, he is remembered as the "flogging parson". The Convict men said of him:

"He prays for our souls on Sunday, and takes it out of bodies during the rest of the week."

Convict women also had their concerns with religious authorities. In 1838 at the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart, the governor of Van Diemens Land visited the factory and attended a service in the chapel. Entertaining the governor was the Reverend William Bedford; a morals campaigner whose hypocrisy had elicited the lady's scorn. Keen to impress the governor with a fine speech, the Reverend addressed the women from an elevated dais. Once at the dais, the 300 women turned around and mooned him.


Although Christianity is anchored in criminal symbolism, Christian evangelists struggled in Australia's penal colonies.


Differences in the social life of American and Australian universities

Universities (Colleges) provide a very good illustration of the different ideologies that have shaped American and Australian intellectual life. The most significant difference is outcomes. American universities dominate world rankings, irrespective of which ranking system is used. For example, in 2014, The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ( which ranks universities on teaching research, knowledge transfer and international outlook) had American universities occupying 8 of the top 10 places. Only five Australian universities made it into the top 100, and only one made the top 50.

There are various reasons for Australia’s poor performance relative to America.  One is that Australian universities are more dependent on government for research funding, which has produced an intellectual culture defined by advocacy rather than curiosity. This advocacy influences who gets hired, how grant applications are framed, what research gets funded and how the relevancy of the research is sold to others. Furthermore, it influences whether academics believe that students should question research or merely be passive recipients of the advocacy gospel. In 2013, Gregory Melleuish, an associate professor of history and politics at the University of Wollongong, said of the culture,

“This culture of intellectuals (has become) embedded in key institutions, including the universities, the world of the arts and the ABC. It (has become) a subculture isolated from mainstream Australia in intellectual ghettos. It is a world which bristles with hostility, negativity and nihilism.”

Not surprisingly, few people within the universities see Australia's intellectual environment as contributing to the poor rankings. For example, when explaining Australia’s low rankings in 2014, University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis attributed them to cuts in government funding.

The ratio of public to private universities is another significant difference between America and Australia. Almost 20% of American students study in private universities and these universities rank amongst America's most prestigious. These universities maintain strong links with the private sector and in turn attract the children of some of America's wealthiest families. In Australia, the federal government has traditionally wanted to maintain control over higher education. As a result, the first private university, Bond University, wasn’t established until 1989. Without private universities using various methods to elevate themselves relative to others, Australians are far less conscious of the prestige of the university they graduate from than are Americans.  

In regards to campus life, most American universities have fraternities and sororities, which may require an admission process and often culminate with individual pledges, initiations and perhaps requirements to publicly demonstrate allegiance. These societies may date back centuries and they provide significant benefits to those who join. They also make campus life highly social.

Australian universities do not have fraternities and sororities but they do have clubs and societies which can be joined by anyone who pays the fee. Most of these societies tend to be quite transient, with little history behind them. Many simply take a fee and a slice of funding but never actually organise any activities. For many students, this makes Australian university life quite a dull affair.

In regards  to paying fees, America has a strong scholarship system so that talented (but financially disadvantaged) students can attend university. Those who don’t qualify for a scholarship need to take out a loan (unless they have rich families).  Ideologically, it is a system that places responsibility on the individual to save for their education or study hard so that they can gain a scholarship. (The fee paying system has contributed to only 22% of Americans attaining a degree (diploma).)

Australian universities have few scholarships but do have a system known as HECS, which allows students to pay their university fees by taking out an interest free loan from the government for each subject they study. When the student gets a job and reaches a certain income threshold, the money owed is taken out of their salary. If they never get a job they never need to repay the loan.  Ideologically, it is a system that is designed to ensure that everyone can go to university. (The HECS system has contributed to around 30% of Australians attaining a degree).

A republic to realise the dream or to express the bigotry

America became a republic because some Americans had a dream of a country built on equality free from government oppression. It was a dream that was so contangious that it was able to rally other Americans to give their lives to make it a reality.

Australia is not a republic because those in favour of a republic have never had a dream of what Australia could or should be. For example, in 1999, Australia had a referendum to become a republic. Polls showed that 90 per cent of Australians were in favour of a republic and both sides of parliament supported a republic. The one sticking point was the republic model. Polls showed that 80 per cent of voters wanted the president to be directly elected by the people; however, the initiators of the republic wanted the president to be appointed by a two-thirds majority of parliament. To persuade the population, they stated that a direct-election model would lead to a "populist" president or would make Australia like America. In short, the “leaders” didn’t believe in a dream and didn’t have any of the patriotism to persuade. Instead, their persuasion relied of soft bigotry against America, the British royal family and even the Australian public. The soft bigotry was not enough to persuade and Australia voted no.

 Opposing prime ministers from the 1970s joined in trying to persuade Australians to become a republic in 1999.

Bill of Rights - Freedom from laws or laws to protect freedom?

In 1789, America created a Bill of Rights which enumerated freedoms not explicitly indicated in the main body of the Constitution. These rights included freedom of religion, freedom of speech, free press,  free assembly; the right to keep and bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, security in personal effects, and freedom from warrants issued without probable cause; indictment by a grand jury for any capital crime,  guarantee of a speedy, public trial with an impartial jury; and prohibition of double jeopardy.

Australia has no Bill of Rights thus has no constitutional guarantee to have the freedoms that Americans take for granted.

There are three main reasons for why Australia has no Bill of Rights. The first is that when the Australian Constitution was being written at the end of the 19th century, Australian authorities were very concerned about the threat of revolution. They didn’t want to give Australians the right to assemble, protest, criticise governments or carry weapons. Furthermore, they did they want to deny themselves the power to search members of the public.

Secondly, one of the clauses of the constitution proposed that the federal government have the power to make laws targeted at any race except Aborigines (the federal government gained the power to target Aborigines in 1967). Potentially, these race power laws would be inconsistent with a Bill of Rights.

Thirdly, contemporary activist movements to have a Bill of Rights inserted into the Constitution have usually been conceived in opposition to the “average” Australian. In short, instead of wanting a Bill of Rights to protect the average Australian, they want a Bill of Rights to protect a minority from the average Australian in a "mob" mentality. Not surprisingly, the average Australian is concerned about introducing a set of laws that are designed and interpreted by people who are hostile to them.

Eureka Gif

In 1880s, cartoons noted that even after Convict transportation came to an end, the colony was still run like it was a prison. The warden mentality that has conceived some of the proposed Bill of Rights indicates that that mentality still exists today.


Ask what you can do for yourself or what you can do with others?

Americans, and the outside world, generally see America as a highly individualistic nation. Such a perception is inconsistent with a line by former president John F Kennedy, who said:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Kennedy’s line is one of the most famous in American popular culture. Each time an American has volunteered to fight, to spread the bible, or to garner support for a political cause, they believe they are doing something for others.

In the 19th century, the propensity of the grassroots to form groups was noted by French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, who said,

"Wherever, at the end of some new understanding, you see the Government of France or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association…If it be proposed to advance some truth or foster some feeling of encouragement of a great example, Americans form a society."

Ironically, it is perhaps the expectation that individuals contribute to the greater good that results in America as a whole having a relatively weak sense of obligation to the individual, and this in turn results in a perception that Americans are selfish. For example, America's lack of state-funded health care often gave the world the perception that individual Americans only care for themselves.

Contrasted to America, Australia has strong popular support for government health care, and government welfare. Furthermore, Australians have a strong propensity to volunteer to guard beeches, fight fires or clean up after a disaster. With a greater sense of the social supporting the individual, some people believe that Australia appears less of an individualistic nation than America.

Taking the piss and laughing at ourselves

In myth, many Australians believe that Australians can laugh at themselves while Americans are thin skinned. Such myths were somewhat undermined when the American sitcom The Simpsons created the episode Bart versus Australia. The show portrayed the first Australian prime minister as an unnamed convict with his shackled wrists raised in triumph! It also showed the Australian flag with a bare bum being given the boot.

Australian flag as designed by the Simpsons

The Australian flag as designed by the Simpsons. Perhaps there is an element of truth in a boot kicking a bare arse being a defining feature of Australian cultural life.

First Prime Minister of Australia

The Simpsons portrayed the first prime minister of Australia as an unnamed Convict. In truth, the first prime minister was a drunk but not a Convict. Most Australians don't know his name.

Despite the mythology of being able to laugh at themselves, many Australians did not find the jokes to be funny. For example, the Newcastle Herald's James Joyce was outraged by the episode and wrote:

"Who are the Americans trying to kid here? I agree Australia has its faults, as does any other country. But laughing in our face about it, then mocking our heritage was definitely not called for. It embarrassed and degraded our country as well as making us look like total idiots".

All things considered, the episode showed a fair interpretation of Australia’s nuances. Specifically, most Australians don’t know the name of their first prime minister so it was somewhat culturally respectful of the Simpsons to show they didn’t know his name either. As for depicting him as a criminal, in truth, he was a renowned drunk but did not spend any time in jail. Ironically, considering that an Australian expression proposes that having a politician in one's ancestry is far worse than having a Convict, there was nothing really defamatory about showing him in shackles.

As for the bare bum on the flag, Mooning has long history in Australia and a great deal of cultural life revolves around authorities metaphorically sinking the boot into Australians. Furthermore, it has to be said that Australians have a propensity for lewdness that vastly exceeds that of America. This lewdness has shocked foreigners. For example, prior to the Sydney Olympics, American commentator Phillip Weis wrote,

“Australian culture feels as grotesque as The Day of the Locust. There’s no sense of a high culture anywhere, and extreme characters abound. TV ads are often leeringly sexual "These are the only balls you’ll see at our health club" says an ad for a women’s workout center, focusing on some tennis balls.

Because the Simpsons have (usually) been a very popular sitcom in Australia, it can be argued that Australian and American humour has a great deal of overlap but perhaps many Australians may not be as thick skinned as myths propose.


The extent of government involvement in the economies of Australia and America

Socialism is best thought of as government ownership of industry to achieve social justice. The level of socialism in a country reflects something about the ideological beliefs of the community as well as the government's belief in itself to guide society for the better.

In America, there is some socialism but it has largely been rejected in favour of an economy that is perhaps best described as national capitalism. Internationally, the American government works to further the interests of American companies and it may use military force, sanctions, subsidies and protectionist legislation to do so. Domestically; however, American governments not only try to ensure that the private sector supplies most of the goods and services, they also enforce laws to ensure that the market operates according to principles of competition, not the abuse of power.

For the first half of the 20th century, Australia’s economy was best described as protectionist and socialist. The protectionist policies ensured Australia's unions would not be undermined by companies importing foreign labour and that Australian industries would not be subjected to competition from foreign produce. The socialist policies also ensured that governments would have a monopoly on education, transport, telecommunication, banking and power generation. Commencing in the 1980s, the protectionist and socialist policies were dismantled in favour of economic liberalism.

Blockbusters, stinkers and movies that have no ending

America has the world’s most internationally successful movie industry. Although American movies have diverse settings, complications and plot lines, a commonality between almost all is that they finish with a bang or at the very least, have happy endings.

Saving Private Ryan, an anti-war that follows the typical American narrative of a climatic event and the happy ending (mission complete)

Unlike America, Australia doesn’t have an industry that is internationally successful or even domestically popular. Government intervention is to blame. Initially, it came in the form of censorship. At the start of the 20th century, Australia was building a very commercially successful industry based on stories of Convicts, bushrangers and the Eureka Stockade. Concerned about the social ramifications of the movies, the NSW government banned movies with a bushranger plots. This killed off the industry nationwide.

In the 1970s, the industry had a revival on the back of art house films, quirky comedians. The movies had a significance difference from those produced in America and more like those produced in France as they often didn't have a happy ending. This made the movies less about entertainment and more about theme. For example, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) used the Australian bush as a setting to explore the gradual breakdown of polite norms. While partaking in luncheon on the mysterious and dangerous Hanging Rock, three of the girls defied orders to explore. They never returned. There were suggestions that they may have been murdered, kidnapped, molested, fallen down a ravine, or somehow swallowed by a kind of supernatural force but the answer was never resolved, thus leaving the audience hanging.

The mystery of Hanging Rock is never resolved, leaving the audience hanging

In 1981, Peter Weir’s Gallipoli combined the Australian environment with a historical myth to produce a movie that was not only hugely successful, but hugely influential. The movie was based around the mateship between two athletes that were drawn into World War 1 under different circumstances. The first third was set in the Western Australian outback, where the land’s harsh and punishing nature provided points of comparison with the second third of the movie, set in Egypt at the base of the pyramids and then the final third, set in Gallipoli itself. Like Picnic at Hanging Rock, it also broke from the traditional narrative structure because there was no climax where the good guys won or were saved just in the nick of time. Instead, the movie finished with a freeze frame of the one of the athletes being shot. When Gallipoli was released, the Anzac myth seemed to be dying, but Gallipoli helped redirect it onto a path where it became arguably the most central myth to the Australian identity.

The Gallipoli campaign did not have a happy ending and neither did the movie.

These strong foundations were further built upon with the release of Crocodile Dundee (1986). Like other Australian movies, Crocodile Dundee made heavy use of environmental symbolism, but rather than use it to symbolise something negative or harsh about Australians, it used the environment to symbolise something positive. Specifically, the environment was used to symbolise a kind of freedom from restriction and norms that was refreshing in the regimented world of the New York high life.

Crocodile Dundee became the most successful Australian movie in history. In addition, it helped create a positive image for Australians around the world. Wildlife documentary makers such as Steve Irwin subsequently traded on the crocodile image to push into the American market, and tourists from all over the world travelled to Australia to experience the friendly culture and beautiful environment. Qantas alone had to increase their number of San Francisco to Sydney flights from 25 per week to 40 per week.

Although the appeal of Hogan's character was widespread, it was not universal and some concerned citizens voiced their dissent. For Geoffrey Barker of the Melbourne Herald, Hogan's character reinforced international perceptions that "Australians are gauche, provincial and philistine".

Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee showed the power of a movie to have an impact far beyond ticket sales.

With Crocodile Dundee showing the power of moves to shape impressionsand cultural values, the Australian government again intervened. In 1988, Labor treasurer Paul Keating scrapped the unbiased system of tax concessions that had proved successful and announced it would be replaced with funding for film distributors, sales agents, and broadcasters.

Keating's change hit independent film makers hard. Firstly, the loss of tax concessions made film making less profitable. Secondly, if film makers didn’t toe the government line, they would have to compete against moviemakers that would. Not only did this mean competing for audiences, it also meant competing for news coverage. Thirdly, and worst of all, the movies promoted by government were stinkers and damaged the image of the Australian industry. Throughout the 90s, Australian audiences just developed an expectation that if the movie was Australian, it was going to be critical of Australians and so they started avoiding them. Had it not been for government help, these movies would not have been made, let alone become so prominent in public attention. Columnist Frank Devine explained the type of industry that government control gave Australia:

“we don't have a film industry, despite expenditure over 20 years of $1.5billion in subsidies and perhaps another half billion in tax concessions.

What we've ended up with, instead, is a government arts program.

Australia's official movie agency has backed 1049 projects. Only seven became movies that attracted enough ticket-buyers to turn a profit. In short, Screen Australia (its new name) has picked 1042 losers” (1)

Variances in English accent according to race, location, ideology, class and gender

The diversity of accents in a country is a reflection upon the country's diverse social identities. In America, different regions and different races speak English with different accents. The northern regions speak with what is known as a general American accent. The southern regions speak with a southern American Accent. The differences in speech are believed to have originated in the American civil war.

In addition to regional variance in language, America also has racial variance. Some African Americans have a distinct dialect known as ebonics. Not only is the accent different, so is the syntax. For example, instead of saying, "there are apples" or "there is water", they will say "there be apples" and "there be water."

 In Australia, there is no variation in accent according to region, race, or socio-economic class. Instead, the accent varies according to ideology and gender. Two Australians can grow up side by side but end up speaking different versions of Australian English. 10 per cent of Australians speak with what is known as a broad Australian accent (Bob Hawke.) These people usually have a positive attitude to Australia. Around 80 per cent speak with a general Australian accent (Nicole Kidman.) Around 10 per cent speak with a British received accent (Malcolm Fraser.) These people may proudly declare that they don't say "g'day". The Australian men who speak with the accent have a negative attitude to Australia.

Contrary to myth, Australia has no regional variance in accent. Each Australian city has roughly the same mix of the three accents. Likewise, children of migrants do not speak with ethnic accents. As for Aborigines, many continue to speak pre-colonial languages and don't speak English at all. Of those that speak English, the majority do so with Paul Hogan style broad Australian accents.

Finally, Australia does not have a socio-economic difference in speech. Billionaires born with silver spoons in their mouths are quite likely to speak with the same accent as tradesmen.


Differences in the political systems

Australia’s urban society commenced in an extremely polarised manner. On one end of the spectrum there were the "pure" settlers and on the other there were the Australians of Convict decent. Unlike Australia, America’s urban society commenced in a relatively harmonious form. Pioneers found solidarity in their church groups.

The different origins shaped evolution over time. Australian politics has evolved to become relatively homogeneous while America has become extremely polarised. Although Australia has ideological divisions, the two main parties promote basically the same thing. They are no where near extreme as the ideological divisions of America's Democrat and Republican Parties.

Australia became less polarised because it introduced political measures that made it difficult for extremists to gain political representation. Compulsory voting was one such measure. In America, voluntary voting means that the extremists are great assets to a political campaign. It is the extremists that get out to vote, and convince others to vote as well. To keep the extremists happy, the American political parties must pander to their interests, and this can result in a polarised society. In Australia; however, the extremists are not really important at all. The political party that they have chosen can simply take them for granted and ignore them. The party can then devote its resources on the swinging voters that will decide the election. As a consequence, it is the moderates from the middle-ground that need to be kept happy.  Consequently, both parties position themselves as moderates.

Preferential voting is another innovation that keeps extremists out of Australian parliament. The system forces voters to rank candidates in order of preference. When the ballots are collectively tallied, it is the candidate that is the least hated, rather than most liked, that represents the people. In the 1990s, the system kept the extremist Pauline Hanson out of parliament even though she won the most votes in her electorate.


Racism is not always easy to define. In fact, both Americans and Australians would agree that the other is a racist nation. Ironically, while both nations would accuse the other of racism, and would concede racism exists in their country, there is very little racist intent in either country. The best evidence of the lack of intent is the media of both countries. The media can be seen as a mirror of its readers. If a media outlet is criticising racism then it is a fair sign that their audiences identify themselves as not being racist. Of course, the media may promote policies that cause racism, but intent and outcome are not always the same. Neither the Australian media, nor the American media, has journalists stating that racism is good.

A good example of the different approaches to racial relationships came in a 2009 skit on the Australian television show, Hey Hey its Saturday. A multi-racial group of Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds performed a tribute to the Jackson five. The tribute involved painting their faces and dancing around like buffoons. The performance was well within Australian cultural sensibilities to not take oneself, one’s social group, or any social group, too seriously. (The performers were from highly educated and culturally diverse backgrounds. Ironically, the man who played Michael Jackson was a plastic surgeon.)

One of the judges of the skit was American Harry Connick Jr, who found it deeply offensive. For Connick Jr, it referenced the Black and White Minstrels and the days where black people were made to look like buffoons. However, because Australia never had the Black and White Minstrels, and always had people making themselves look like buffoons, the act was one of equality.

The failure to predict that Connick Jr would be offended could be traced to Australian egalitaianism. Australians are in the habit of treating everyone the same, which often means they fail to learn about the cultural differences of people from other nations. In other words, the producers of the show just treated Connick Jr as they would an Australian without considering the fact that he was not.


Hey Hey it's Saturday and the Jackson Jive

Praise and insults

Americans tend to be very complimentary people. They may praise others for their artwork, sporting ability, ideas or their country’s achievements. Although the American’s willingness to praise others could be seen as a sign that Americans are easily impressed, at times it is difficult to believe the sincerity of their praise.

As a nation, Americans have an outstanding record of achievement and surely the achievements of people from other countries would seem diminutive in comparison. Perhaps Americans have decided that being polite is superior to being honest. Alternatively, perhaps they have become so accustomed to hearing compliments that they just can't stop themselves from being complimnetary as well.

Australians are quite different from Americans in the praise regard. In Australia, you are far more likely to get a criticism than a compliment. Even if Australians are impressed, they often keep their admiration to themselves. Accoding to one website on Australian business culture:

"Australians are very difficult to impress; even if you do manage to impress them, they may not openly admit it."


The insular world policeman

Whenever there is injustice in the world, it is America that is asked to help. When Christians were persecuted in Egypt, it was the Americans who answered their call. When the Koreans were faced with execution at the hands of a communist invasion from the north, it was the Americans who gave them a fighting chance. When mainland China threatened to invade Taiwan, it was the Americans who let the mainland know that such a use of force would not be tolerated. John Langmore, an Australian politician, used the American willingness to help as a distinguishing feature between Australia and America. In his own words,

"Americans maintain their sense of being God's own country with a manifest destiny to lead the world to freedom and democracy. Australia has no global ambitions, and those related to the region are for stability and economic advancement rather than dominance."

While America's good deeds have won it some admiration, it has also made it many enemies. Many in the Islamic world sees it as meddlesome, or only after its oil reserves. Some south Koreans see America as responsible for keeping their nation divided. Most Vietnamese see Americans as muderers. Many African countries, who America hasn't helped, accuse America of forgetting about them.

American foreign policy, whether it be motivated by money or a genuine desire to help, has now seen Americans soundly disliked the world over. Not surprisingly, most Americans have no desire to leave America and experience the condemnation that most countries have for them.

Because Australia has only involved itself in foreign issues to show support for a major power like Britain or America, it has been sparred most of the hostility directed at Americans. (*Facilitating the independence of East Timor from Indonesia is perhaps a minor exception. As a result of the facilitation, many Indonesians now hate Australia. Even some East Timorese hate Australia on the grounds that Australia didn't come soon enough, or it only did it to gain a better deal for its resources.) Because Australia has generally lacked the power to interfere in other country's affairs, Australians are not as disliked as Americans.

To have white Christmas traditions in the middle of summer

Due to the prevalence of American media in Australia, many Australian Christmas traditions follow the white Christmas theme even though Christmas falls in the middle of summer. Consequently, it can be strange listening to people sing about snow when the temperature is hot enough to fry an egg. Furthermore, when the temperature is 40 degrees, the last thing people want to do is open the door of an even hotter oven to extract a Christmas ham or pudding.

Sometimes people try to get the northern hemisphere Christmas spirit with lights, charity and carols. Again, the Australian environment is a little problematic. Because it doesn't get dark until 9pm, it can be a bit difficult taking the kids on a tour to see some Christmas lights before bedtime. Furthermore, helping a needy person always feels much better when the needy person is freezing in the snow. It just doesn't provide the same emotional gratification when it is hot, and the needy person looks like a bogan whose been kicked out of pub for having too much to drink.

The hot weather is also having an effect on the design of the Christmas tree. In the northern hemisphere, the Christmas tree is of great importance due to the amount of time a family spends indoors around it. But in Australia, families spend more time outdoors on verandas and barbecue areas where the tree is never seen. Consequently, the tree is often some stringy shrub that has only been included because it's the "traditional" thing to do.


Questions to think about

Land of Liberty

Comment on what others think

Look at the comments made below. For each one you agree or agree with, find evidence in America and Australian culture to support your position.


Australians have a tendency to be loud and obnoxious when they are beered up, which in my experience, is much of the time. They're descendants from pockets and cut purses, and as we all know, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. Michael Carey - American

As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American. Douglas Adams - English

Australian culture feels as grotesque as The Day of the Locust. There’s no sense of a high culture anywhere, and extreme characters abound. TV ads are often leeringly sexual "These are the only balls you’ll see at our health club," says an ad for a women’s workout center, focusing on some tennis balls Phillip Weis- American


They are not a nation of snobs like the English or of extravagant boasters like the Americans or of reckless profligates like the French, they are simply a nation of drunkards Marcus Clark - English

The first thing you notice about Australian culture is that it’s pathetically thin..... The thinness means that modern Australia has fallen for American culture in a way that no one else could....Mimicry is a point of pride." Philip Weiss - American

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

Australians love an underdog. We love people who are humble, down to earth, almost embarrassed by their own successes.  We love Ian Thorpe, who is not only a decent young man, but who can just get on with the job without all the pomp and ceremony that Americans love to employ. We love Susie O'Neil, sweet, quiet, hard-working. Michael Diamond - could you possibly see a more humble person than this?

We don't boo Yanks because we think they are better than us. We boo yanks because they think they are better than us. Nicole Beatty - Australian

"Americans maintain their sense of being God's own country with a manifest destiny to lead the world to freedom and democracy. Australia has no global ambitions, and those related to the region are for stability and economic advancement rather than dominance" - John Langmore (Australian politician)

"I don't think of myself as either American or Australian really, I'm a true hybrid. It's a good thing for me because both of them are really good countries." - Mel Gibson (actor)

This is a true republic, the truest, as I take it, in the world. In England , the average man feels he is inferior, in that he is superior: In Australia he feels that he is equal. " Francis Adams - minister to Britain (1861-68) and son of American president John Quincy Adams.

" Australian settlements ... had been formed out of the crucible of British social ferment. Australian colonization followed the Industrial Revolution in Britain and reflected many of the social innovations which it had made. The development of large-scale enterprise, the deplorable conditions of work in the factories and mines, and the high tariff on the import of grain had created a class which, if it did not fundamentally repudiate the liberal philosophy, at least desired a radical transformation of the theory of liberalism in the direction of greater social and political justice."(Professor Richard Rosecrance of the University of California)


FRANK DEVINE, Baz pulls it off with punters


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