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Australian Identity Australian Identity

BrexitEurope's Struggle with Identity

American Identity
The Persuasive American Identity

Asian Identities
Decolonisation - Asian Identities

Australian LanguageLanguage and Identity

Iconic Australians
Iconic Australians

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Australian StereotypesAustralian Stereotypes

Aboriginal RightsAboriginal Rights

Racism in AustraliaRacism and Egalitarianism

Australian mythsAustralian Myths
Fact or fables?




Does Australia need a national identity?

In the trenches of World War 1, much of the western world lost its faith in national identities.  The war was started for farcical nationalistic reasons while blind nationalism saw soldiers sent over the top without bullets as their commanding officers cared more for ammunition than for lives. The loss of faith in their identities became part of culture of popular, first with the Dada art group mocking cultural icons and established traditions then later with expressionists painters elevating the individual self above all others.  (In the Cold War era, the CIA even covertly funded and promoted abstract expressionism due to the individualistic values that it symbolised.) The western "brand" thus became the brand of the individual.

Scene from 1981 movie Gallipoli. History used in popular culture to weave a vision of an Anzac identity.

Ironically, World War 1 saw somewhat of a liberation of a fledging Australian identity as the needless loss of life eroded faith the British Empire identity which had seen an Australian identity as a threat to a continued union between England and Australia.

With faith in Britain eroding, the new Anzac identity that emerged on the battlefields of Gallipoli drew upon many of the identity strands that had helped bind the union movement in the lead up to Federation in 1901 and fused them with characteristics needed to survive the horrors of war. Specifically, it was an identity that encouraged Australians to give themselves to others, to stand by each other, to stand up to authority, to live up to an ideal of believing in something greater than themselves and to be somewhat bigoted towards English people.

Despite an Australian identity being partially liberated in World War 1, the horrors of Nazi Germany in World War 2 again shook the western world’s faith in national identities - Australia included. Of particular concern was the way that Germany had fused race with national identity, which in turn caused many Australians to reflect on the way race had been fused with national identity within Australia since Federation in 1901. At the political level, the consequence was a dismantling of the Immigration Restriction Act (White Australia Policy) and an undefined policy of 'multiculturalism.'

On one hand, multiculturalism was liberating because the absence of a prescribed identity allowed different groups and individuals some freedom to create their own identity, hold on to a minority identity or chose to have no social identity at all. On the other hand, many Australians of English descent were confused about their identity because they didn’t want to be English while an Australian identity was interpreted to be inconsistent with multiculturalism. Furthermore, it was not easy to reconcile a belief in something with support for a mosaic of migrant cultures where there was almost no consistency of taboos or permissions. In a nutshell, whatever belief was asserted would be inconsistent with some beliefs of migrant cultures.

Perhaps to resolve their confusion, many Australians of Engish descent interpreted multiculturalism to mean an identity that opposes racism. This soon morphed into what is best termed an Australiaphobe. Australians with an Australiaphobe identity feared that those with an Australian identity were morally inferior bogans (low socio-economic class) that would oppress non-white races. Anglo social commentator Catherine Deveny was one such Australian. In 2010 she stated:

"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."

Deveny's actions showed that one of the flaws of identity is that there are lazy but easy ways to achieve a positive self image of the groups one identifies with but that the positive self image is often inconsistent with the ideals the identity actually espouses. In short, words are more highly valued that outcomes or substance. Deveny obviously identified as a non-racist and the easiest way for her to affirm her non-racist identity was by adopting the Australiaphobic identity. In that regard, she showed the same psychology of a man that bashed homosexuals to prove his heterosexuality but didn't necessarily have any love for women. In the same way, whites such as Deveny have never showed any respect for non-whites despite who berating fellow whites for their racism.

The development of an Australiaphobe identity didn't just result in derogatory caricaturing of the Australian identity, it also led to coercion of migrants to hold onto their ancestral cultures and associated identities. For example, the architect of the policy of multculturalism, Whitlam Minister Al Grassy, declared that something as simple as identifying one's ancestors as Australian on a census form was comparable to killing six million Jews. According to Grassy:

"It would mean there was a secret master race that considered themselves pure Australians...It would be worse than the Third Reich."

More recently, in 2016, Anglo Australian writer Clementine Ford used the cultural background of Iranian immigrant Rita Panahi to invalid her opinions when she said:

“Rita's is desperate to transcend her non-white, female, immigrant status to be seen as 'not like the rest'.”

For Ford, Panahi had morally transgressed because she had given up the religious identity prescribed by the Iranian government in favour of a more libertarian identity found in Australia. Not only was Panihi's alignment with an Australian identity a threat to Ford's Australiaphobe identity, it aso threatened her feminist identity that defined how all women should act.

The Australiaphobic identity even had an influence on popular culture where soaps, movies, novels etc made use of stereotypes and identities to create fictional characters that resonated with target audiences. One of the influences was seen in the use of negative stereotypes of Australians in Australian movies made from the 1990s onwards.  Amongst the public bureaucracy that funded the creation, distribution and promotion of Australian movies, an Australiaphobic identity had taken hold and that identity wanted to see Australians portrayed in a negative way. In 2008, this was acknowledged by Antony Ginnane, then president of the Screen Producers Association of Australia, who said that most recent Australian films were,

''dark, depressing, bleak pieces that are the cultural equivalent of ethnic cleansing."  

Within popular culture, the influence of the Australiaphobic identity was not only seen in the creation of negative stereotypes of an Australian identity, it was also seen in the almost complete exclusion of non-white faces from pop culture. Specifically, because the Australiaphobic cultural creatives didn’t want to be racist, they didn’t want to show non-whites being members of a culture that they were showing in a derogatory way. To do so would risk a negative social image being applied upon a race different to themselves. Even when the cultural creatives weren’t specifically referencing a derogatory stereotype and were instead portraying generic Australian suburbia (as is the case in most soap operas and dramas), the inclusion of a non-white face could offend some of the Australiaphobic’s sensibilities. On one hand, if the character was not “ethnically defined”, then the character seemed to have assimilated to an Australian way of life. For the Australiaphobic, this was a very negative outcome. For example, when Aboriginal actor Deborah Mailman was cast in the drama The Secret Life of Us, film producer Jeff Puser criticised the role because:

"she had exactly the same problems as white Australians."

Of course, if Mailman had been cast in a role which was defined by the statistics of disadvantage typically applied to Aborigines by academics, then the visualisation of those statistics would have had the producers being accused of racism. Furthermore, if Mailman had been cast as a sex symbol like Lara Bingle or Elle McPherson, some critics would have complained that producers were pandering for a fetish for black flesh.

The consequence of some white Australians being uncomfortable with non-whites acting "Australian" and other whites being uncomfortable with non-whites being different from "Australians" was that casting non-whites became too problematic when a mainstream audience was being targeted. Today, Australian media is almost exclusive white even though the majority of white people working in the arts probably have an identity of a "non-racist."

In the absence of a widely accepted national identity and the Australiaphobic identity being unappealing to many of the "bogan" class, a mosaic of alternative identities has emerged to satisfy the need that many individuals have for social belonging and ancestral purpose. Some of these identities are based on religion, some on political affiliation, some on sporting teams, some on gender, some on sexual orientation and some on geographic locations within Australia. Each of these identities is prone to the same blind loyalty but also individual sacrifice that was the strength and weakness of the west's national identities prior to World War 1. Specifically, the identities encourage individual members to give themselves to others, to take pride in the achievements of others, to support each other and to act in a way that can be defined as a community. The identities also lead to a blind loyalty where flaws are concealed so as not to damage the status of the identity, individuals are exploited by leaders, individuals are pressured to conform even when their heart seeks alternatives, facades of status mean more than reality and bigotry is used to elevate the status of the identity relative to a rival identity.

As well as having strengths and weaknesses, each of the identities finds itself in harmony or conflict with a national identity depending upon the views of others in the mosaic of identities. In short, some propose the mosaic of identities can easily co-exist under the umbrella of a larger Australian identity much like an Australian identity existed in an umbrella of a British trans-national identity. Others believe that the mosaic is a threat to passion for the Australian identity or the Australian identity is a threat to the mosaic. Such viewpoints were evident in the 2000 Olympics when Aboriginal woman Cathy Freeman carried the Aboriginal flag and Australian flag on her victory lap. By carrying the flag, Freeman was repeating an act that she had performed at the Commonwealth Games and which had provoked Australian Commonwealth Games boss Arthur Tunstall to threaten to expel her from the team. On the opposite side, Aboriginal boxer Antony Mundine criticised Aboriginal football players for not boycotting the national anthem on Grand Final today. According to Mundine on fellow Aborigine Lance Franklin,

“He’s thinking for the system and not thinking for his people and his heritage and his ancestors and the history of what’s happened, the dark history of what’s happened to his people.”

Cathy Freeman flags

For many people, it is very easy to have a minority identity as well as an Australian identity. Perhaps others criticise such identifications because they dilute the passion for one group which is deemed more important than others. Specifically, some want complete loyalty to Australia or the minority group.

The history of humanity is one of identities emerging, evolving, conflicting and eventually dying. Perhaps Australia is fortunate that the national identity is weak or perhaps Australia is unfortunate. Viewpoints on the question will generally be defined by an individual's relative position in a variety of alternative identities and even their individual personality that sees some people wanting to define themselves by the achievements and/or suffering of others and others wanting to define themselves by the achievements of their own hands or the victimisation they have personally endured.

Questions to think about

Does Australia need a national identity?

Consider how perceptions of an Australian identity may be influential in the following circumstances

  • An Englishman goes into a bottle store and needs to choose between a wine from Australia and a wine from France
  • An Englishman goes to a pub and needs to choose between a beer from Australia and a beer from Germany
  • An Australian and an American are travelling through the middle-east and want to to meet the locals
  • An Australian and an Italian each apply for a job as a fashion designer in Tokyo
  • A German and an Australian are travelling through China and want to to meet the locals
  • Children of Japanese, Chinese, Korean migrants study together in an Australian classroom
  • Children of Israeli, German and Palestinian migrants study together in an Australian classroom
  • A charity asks for donations after a bushfire
  • A bushfire is coming and fire-fighters ask for volunteers
  • Government wants to increase welfare payments
  • An environmental group talks about the need to save forests for future generations
  • The local movie theatre is showing Australian made films for the next week
  • An Australian soldier is sent to Afghanistan
  • An Australian swimmer wins an Olympic gold medal
  • An Australian scientist wins a Noble Prize
  • Advertisers want to develop a new buy Australia campaign
  • An economist proposes that we should only think about ourselves

What is the dominant culture?

Anglo social commentator Catherine Deveny stated:

"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."

Aussie Pride

  1. Deveny is of the same race as the individual shown above (taken after Cronulla riots). Do you think she shares an identity with him? Why or why not?
  2. Would you define Deveny as ethnic? If so, what ethnic group is she part of?
  3. Deveny is of Anglo-Celtic ancestry, used to write for the Age newspaper and frequently appears on the ABC to give her opinion on various issues. Would you define her as a member of the dominant culture of Australia? If yes, did you define her on the basis of her race, her power, her values or the institutions that she is connected with?
  4. The Charter of the ABC is to reflect the Australian identity. Why do you think the ABC would be keen to keep inviting Deveny on to its programs?
  5. How would you describe most of the people you see on the ABC?
  6. In your opinion, who has the most power to define the face and culture of Australia? Deveny or the individual above?
  7. In your opinion, whose face would most likely to be used to define Australia? Deveny's or the one above?
  8. Deveny has a great deal of power relative to most Australians. In your opinion, does being highly critical of other Australians enhance her power?
  9. How is Deveny's identity created in opposition?
  10. How does Deveny promote her own identity in relation to Australians of Asian, Southern European and Middle-eastern descent?
  11. Deveny deliberatey uses derogatory terms when referring to Australians of Asian, Southern European and Middle-eastern descent. Why?
  12. Would you define Deveny as racist?
  13. Would you describe the person above as racist? If yes, did you use something in the picture or your knowledge of the Cronulla riots to make your decision?




Timeline of the Australian identity


Aboriginal tribes

Aboriginal tribal identities were based around an animal or plant totem. Each Aboriginal person believed they had three forms which gave them a continuous life form. The totem was the form after human and then to spirit. As the cycle continued, so did the Aboriginal cultures.

There was no concept of an Aboriginal identity or Australia as one land. Each tribe was very much its own unit and reserved hostility to other tribes. This hostility to an outgroup helped maintain a strong ingroup identity.

Because Aboriginal identities were not defined along racial lines, there was more hostility between different Aboriginal tribes that there was towards the colonists that arrived in 1788. Furthermore, the prestige of the tribe was not defined according to land ownership, but according to the number of people in a tribe. For this reason, the tribe was both open to new inductees, but also intent on destroying all rivals.

"Whenever he recounted his battles, "poised his lance, and showed how fields were won", the most violent exclamations of rage and vengeance against his competitors in arms, those of the tribe called Cameeragal in particular, would burst from him. And he never failed at such times to solicit the governor to accompany him, with a body of soldiers, in order that he might exterminate this hated name. " From Watkin Tench – 1791

Expression -Paintings, customs, songs, myths, stories , war

Colonial era

Convicts, Legitimates and Emancipists

After gaining their ticket of leave, Convicts started referring to themselves as Legitimates. Their thinking was that since they had been "chosen" by the finest judges in England, they were of the few Europeans with a legitimate reason to be in Australia. Later they referred to themselves as Emancipists because it implied they had attained liberty and strove for the liberty of others. The Legitimate/Emancipist identity was maintained with hostility to the Exclusives.

Expression - Songs, flash language, tattoos, convict women mooning wowsers or 'exposing her person.'

"From distant climes, o'er wide-spread seas we come, 
Though not with much eclat, or beat of drum,
True patriots all, for it be understood, 
We left our country for our country's good:
No private views disgraced our generous zeal,
What urged our travels was our country's weal:
And none will doubt that our emigration
Had prov'd most useful to the British Nation."

George Barrington

The Landlord
W.B Gould
The Landlord

The Landlord, by Convict artist W.B Gould, shows an early expression of Australian egalitarianism. It depicts a suited man with a toothless grin. Strict convention amongst noble man of the time was a deadpan expression; especially if one's teeth were missing. Without doubt, Gould had painted an ex-convict whose desire to conform to social prestige had been surpassed by a self-effacing personality.

Note - Identity not defined along racial lines. As a consequence, hostility to Exclusives was far greater than any hostility to Aboriginal tribes.

The Exclusives

The Exclusives were free British settlers, or military officers who had left the service. The Exclusives advocated confining all offices and civic honours to Emigrants with the total exclusion of Emancipists and their offspring.

The Exclusives were extremely pro-British and maintained their identity with a strong hostility to the Legitimates/Emancipists.

Unique class system keeps the colony divided against itself.

Jan 31 Deep divisions exist within New South Wales, greatly adding to the burden of being a people isolated at the bottom of the world, and therefore needing more than ever to live together in harmony.

Historically, the greatest rift has been between the "exclusives" and the "emancipists". The first group believe that anyone who has come to the colony in penal servitude is never capable of complete redemption. These people, who tend to be among the wealthy landowners, thus see themselves as a superior class. For their part, the emancipists, who are all ex-convicts, are concerned with equality of human rights. 
Governor Macquarie, much to his peril, supported the emancipist cause, despite opposition from the forces which believed it would end respect for the law by allowing ex-convicts the normal rights of British citizens.

Since the Bigge inquiry, though, the colony has been re-established much more firmly as a prison rather than for reform, which has only worsened the tension. As well, the emancipists are divided, between those who committed crimes at home, and in Australia. This reflects a third division, being "Sterling", a name for the British-born, and the "Currency", the home-grown population. – Colonial newspaper report

Expression - English flag, English clothes, formal English speech

Note - The Exclusives saw the Aborigines as 'noble savages.' Their thinking was that Aborigines were without sin as they have never learnt it. For this reason, they wanted to prevent Aborigines mixing with Convicts.

1800 – 1850 – Convicts have children

The Native Born - Currency lads and lasses

The first native born in Australia were taunted as the 'wretched' and the lowest class because their parents had been Convicts. This discrimination was institutionalised when it came to the distribution of land grants. Whereas free immigrants were frequently given grants running in thousands of acres, the native born of Convict stock were only allowed sixty acres. 

The bush pioneer became the icon for the native born. Out in the bush, no laws ran and people were free to sing folk songs or live in equality. There was no room for elitism because people on the land needed to rely upon one another in the tough conditions. The identity was maintained with hostility to English immigrants and authority figures.

Expression - Bushranger songs, bush poetry

"Come all you young Australians and everyone besides
I'll sing to you a ditty that will fill you with surprise
Concerning of a ranger bold whose name it was Ben Hall
But cruelly murdered was this day which proved his downfall"

Ballad of Ben Hall

Aboriginal identities

As the colony expanded out from Sydney, the Europeans came into conflict with Aborigines over land. Although tribal identities remained, the Europeans started to take the place of rival tribes as the principle enemy.

Although there was hostility, there was also friendship. Some Aborigines left their tribes and formed good relations with the native born. They worked as droving hands and sang songs with the other drovers. Aside from being admired for their lyrical ability, they were admired for their bush skills. In a sense, their knowledge of the land had them admired as the protypical bushman. Reflecting the admiration for the Aborigines is the use of Aboriginal place names for rural Australia.

1850 - 1900 The gold rush years

Eureka Massacre

The Digger (Miner)

In 1853, the discovery of gold sparked massive waves of immigration. Miners from all over the world descended upon Australia and brought with them ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Although they valued self-reliance, independence and resourcefulness, they were also fiercely loyal to their mates.

Egalitarian sentiments were solidified with a dislike of the ruling colonial authorities that were deemed to be corrupt and elitist. This gave rise to a union movement. As the authorities tried to break unions via the importation of Chinese labour, the Chinese became another enemy to solidify the Digger's identity.

"The maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self-overworking diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold." Raffaelo Carboni writing about the raising of the Eureka Stocake flag in 1854

' Australia began her political history as a crouching serf kept in subjection by the whip of a ruffian gaoler, and her progress, so far, consists merely in a change of masters. Instead of a foreign slave-driver, she has a foreign admiral; the loud-mouthed tyrant has given place to the suave hireling in uniform; but when the day comes to claim their independence the new ruler will probably prove more dangerous and more formidable that the old.' Rather than 'the day we were lagged', said the Bulletin, Australia's national day should be December 3, the anniversary of the Eureka rebellion, 'the day that Australia set her teeth in the face of the British Lion'. Bulletin, 21 Jan 1888

Expression - Eureka Stockade Flag. No songs were written to glorify the Eureka Stockade. 

The Chinese

At the height of the gold rush, there were up to 100,000 Chinese people in Australia. Chinese newspapers of the time depicted the Chinese as hardworking and the other miners as lazy. Although such stories may have indeed been a reflection upon how the Chinese saw themselves, they may have also been a form of propaganda designed to persuade the Chinese not to complain about being exploited by mining companies.

When the Chinese weren't working for a company, they worked together in teams. It was said that they were very efficient at extracting gold and often went to the mine sites deserted by other Diggers, and found gold that had been missed. This was said to have infuriated the other miners.

Although most of the Chinese returned to China, some stayed and established businesses. Unlike most expat Chinese populations around the world, these Chinese seem to have integrated into the other emerging Australian identities.

Expression - Newspaper articles calling other miners lazy.

The Wowser (activist)

By the turn of the century, the anti-transportation activists of the 1850s had evolved into anti-Chinese activists. The wowsers were very loyal to the English empire and saw themselves as British rather than Australians.

Melbourne Punch, 3 May1888

The picture shows Chinese immigrants trying to get in though a door that ‘YOUNG AUSTRALIA’ is stopping with his arm. Beside the Chinese people is a poster saying ‘PLAGUE SHIP’. The bar for the gate labelled ‘COLONIAL OFFICE’ lies on the ground. ‘OLD AUSTRALIA’ points to a ship labelled ‘CONVICTS’.
The captions on the cartoon say:




Expression - Protest marches and posters likening the 'yellow peril' with Convicts. 

Capitalist and outcasts

Words of racial superiority probably did not wash with any Australian of mixed blood or those descedended from Convicts. To the contrary, the stigmisation of the Chinese probably fostered a sense of empathy. The Kelly Gang seemed to be one such group that had time for the Chinese. They were rumoured to have been helped by Chinese (although this might have been propaganda to win the public relations war against the gang.) One member of the gang, Joe Byrne, definately was on good terms because he could speak fluent Cantonese.

Some sections of the business community could also see the positive side of the Chinese. Perhaps due to the language barrier, they were less likely to join the union movement, and so allowed businesses to pay low wages.

"No one who has paid any attention to the question of the coloured races will attempt for one moment to despise either the Japanese or the Chinese. " William Higgs, Labour Party

"I look upon the whole of the inhabitants of Asia as my friends. I am perfectly willing that they should be called my friends, and I hope so long as God gives me breath that I shall have the courage to stand up for what I consider to be right for them." Edward Pulsford, Free Trade Party


Federated nation – 1900- 1950

Arthur Streeton Fire On

Arthur Streeton
Fires On

The Pioneer

The pioneer continued on the bush tradition laid by the previous generations. 

Expression - Paintings by the likes of Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts. Poetry by Banjo Pattern and Henry Lawson.

"But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, `That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.'
So he waited sad and wistful only Clancy stood his friend
`I think we ought to let him come,' he said;
`I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end," Man from Snowy River

Simpson and His Donkey

Digger (soldier)

The Digger had his baptism of fire in the Gallipoli campaign. Rather than hate the enemy, the Diggers seemed to hate the English. The Poms were seen as filthy cowards whose incompetence had resulted in the loss of life of countless Australians.

Perhaps the dislike of Poms made the Diggers better soldiers. It seems as if they felt that they had to prove their superiority over the English on the battlefield.

'Italians with whom I talked found it hard to believe that the Australians were volunteers. They understood their own position. They had been sent to Libya to win glory for Mussolini. They presumed that the Tommies were there merely to defend British Imperial interests. But why were the Australian volunteers there?

The ordinary Digger would have found it difficult to tell you. If you ever persuaded him to talk he would not have spoken of defending freedom, or removing injustice, or of saving the Empire. He might have said, "Oh, I wanted a bit of fun;" or else, "I dunno, I was fed up with my job;" or perhaps, "well, all my cobbers were joining up and so I went along too." Not much more than that. These would not be the real answers. Men may join up for fun or for a change, but if these are the only reasons, they would not go into action and fight through with bayonet and grenade when machine gun bullets kick the dust around their feet and they see the man next to them go down. If you could get the ordinary Australian to say what he really feels, it might be something like this:

"Well, I came away because I believe in a fair go and I wanted to be with my mates; because I like being able to say to a copper, 'That's all right, copper, you got nothin' on me;' because I want to say what I like when we're having a beer at the pub; because I want to do what I like with the few quid I've got in the bank; and because women and kids are being bombed in London and shot in Prague, and someday this might happen at home if we don't do something about it."

It was because they felt the battle was being fought for things like these, which mattered directly to them, that the Mallee farmer and the Kalgoorlie miner, the Bendigo bank clerk and the Sydney solicitor made the soldiers of Tobruk just as they made those at Gallipoli.' Chester Wilmont

Expression - War poetry, Anzac Day, courage on the battlefield

The Wowser (Englishman)

Once the threat of Convicts and Chinese had ended, the Wowsers found themselves somewhat aimless. Some directed their attention to campaigning against frivolous pastimes like gambling and drinking. Others found it immoral for people to jump into the ocean wearing small bathing suits.

With a dislike of these great Australian pastimes, the Wowsers remained obsessive in their support for English values, and moral empowerment.

'Wowsers and gloom-merchants are always saying that we spend too much of our time in sport.' Aussie: the cheerful monthly (Sydney, 1922)

"Yet even today, the act of jumping into the Pacific with as little as possible on the body is regarded with gloomy suspicion by the wowsers." Surf: All about It (1930)

'But members of this odd body of wowsers want the right to force their opinions on to others'. Bulletin (Sydney, 1975)

1950 - 2000- The larrikins, post-modernists

Russel Drysdale The Ruins

Russell Drysdale
The Ruins

The Aboriginal Victim

By the end of World War II, Aboriginal tribal identities had eroded to the extent that white people stopped seeing differences between Aboriginal tribes and instead began viewing them as a homogenous out-group. Names for individual tribes faded away and instead Aborigines, the generic word for an indigenous population, came into use by default.

Aborigines also stopped thinking in cultural terms and instead began to think of themselves in racial terms. Blacks were part of their in-group while all whites were the out-group invaders. Asians were in an undefined category.

Many Aborigines developed a strong identification with black power movements from America. They assimilated rap music, and the baggy style of clothes. Oddly, many Aborigines became Rastarian; except they dropped the green from the colour coding. (Rastafarism is a pseudo-Christian based religion developed by the descendents of slaves wanting to show pride in their African heritage. Its name comes from Prince Rastafari of Ethiopia. It is not possible to be Rastarian without African heritage.)

Perhaps assessments of Aborigines also went downhill in mainstream society. When the bush was held up as the "true Australia", the Aborigines were celebrated as the prototypical bushmen. As the bush lost its iconic status, so too did the Aborigines that lived in it.

Expression - Aboriginal flag, protest marches, music, Aboriginal tent embassy, defiance of white authority

"Our world was shattered by the violence of the Invasion which began when the First Fleet of British Boat people arrived in 1788. Our people were decimated, as the invaders stole our country, imposed their own laws and systems of government on our peoples, forcing our people into concentration camps called "missions". " Aboriginal activist

The Larrikin

Although Larrikins have always been popular in Australia, it wasn't until after World War II that larrikins also became national heroes. The likes of Dawn Fraser and John Newcombe commanded respect across the classes, which made their rule indiscretions difficult to criticise. The result was a change in the meaning of the world larrikin. Instead of conjuring images of street criminals, it conjured images of good-hearted risk takers.

The larrikin identity was maintained by mocking the wowser and subsequently taking delight in their displeasure. 

"Well, I'm [ever | rather] upper class high society
God's gift to ballroom notoriety
I always fill my ballroom
The event is never small
The social pages say I've got
The biggest balls of all" - AC/DC Big Balls

Expression: Praise for icons such as Dawn Fraser, Ned Kelly, John Newcombe. The music of AC/DC and Skyhooks.


Expatriate/ global swagman

While the multiculturalists tended to avoid new experiences, the expatriate went searching for them. Some went as backpackers to pull beers in a London pub. Others went as actors to America to make their fortune. Some went to Japan to establish television shows.

The global swagman's desire for new experiences gave rise to the expression that "there is nothing more Australian than spending time in someone elses' country."

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
Men at Work

I've been to cities that never close down,
from New York to Rio and old London town,
but no matter how far or how wide I roam,
I still call Australia home.
Peter Allen

Expression - Songs such as Downunder, movies like Crocadile Dundee and iconic expatriates like Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, Kylie Minogue, taking a jar of vegemite overseas, Qantas theme: "I Still Call Australia Home."

2000 onwards - Bogans and anti-bogans


The word 'bogan' originated in the 1980s in reference to teenagers that listened to heavy metal. Over the following three decades, the category was expanded. The book, "Things Bogans Like" suggests that bogan and Australalian are interchangeable terms.

Traditionally, bogan was a term that was negatively applied to people rather than a term people chose to embrace.

Expression - Southern Cross Tattoos, bumper stickers, articles that denounce tossers


Anti-bogans are by far the largest social group in Australia and hold most of the power. They do not have a clear idea about what they are, but they know they don't like bogans and are not bogans.


Area-7 - Nobody Likes a Bogan

Expression - Songs like "Nobody Likes a Bogan", books such as "Things Bogans Like", the "comedy" of the Chaser and Catherine Deveny

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