Sometimes a particular question or comment can stick in your mind.  Last year on Q&A (an Australian talk-show), an audience member expressed concern that the character of Australia was changing because of the number of immigrants who did not speak English.  She felt that her seven-generations of family and Australian history had been pushed aside and asked how we ensure the Aussie spirit and culture that made this country great is not lost? 

By implication, the questioner placed her family’s history, and others’ like her family, above the First Australians and migrants who contributed so much to Australia’s prosperity.  I was perplexed as to what it was about the Aussie spirit and culture that made Australia great?  Do they really go together?  Here are a few suggestions that I came up with.

The first thing that sprung to mind is that we have great beaches.  Apparently, they are up there with the best beaches in the world.  Unfortunately, I don’t think our Aussie spirit or culture made the beaches great, although it is possible that the beaches did influence the Aussie spirit and culture.  So while we continue to have good beaches, then maybe our Aussie beach culture won’t be lost?

The second thing that sprung to mind is that Australia is a country rich in natural resources.  There have been several times in our history when Australia has benefited from a resources boom.  For example, during the global financial crisis, the continued development of the Chinese economy and the associated demand for Australian resources, as well as unrelated government infrastructure spending, provided a soft landing for the Australian economy.  I’m not sure that the Aussie spirit or culture had  much to do with Australia’s good fortune.  It struck me as more good luck than good planning.

Well it must be the Aussie spirit of mateship then?  It’s great, mate!  We are there for one another through thick and thin, even while we take the piss out of each other.  It’s the Aussie spirit — the enduring ANZAC spirit — that was first forged during conflict and hardship on the shores of Gallipoli.  Meanwhile on the home front, that spirit of mateship can also be represented by the continuing cuts to foreign aid, because we need to care for our own first.  Or perhaps, it is best illustrated by the time the wheel-nuts locked on my car, and my car spun out of control up an embankment at 100ks an hour, whereupon a dozen cars drove past, failing to provide assistance.  The only people who stopped to help me were an ex-pat American couple.  Well, they could speak English so it figures.  Or maybe it’s best illustrated by the time I tripped and fell flat on my face in the carpark, right next to a parked car with the driver inside and that driver then proceeded to drive around me so he could exit the carpark.  Clearly the driver could not speak English otherwise he would have stopped to help me, right?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point.  Proficiency in English does not guarantee that you are a decent human being.  There are kind and gracious people in all cultures.  I really think it is time that we Aussies stopped falling for our own advertising.

Yes, the ethnic and cultural make-up of our country is changing.  But, people’s attitudes and views are influenced by a broader range of factors than just culture, like their education, their income, their view of their social status, their upbringing, whether they live in the city or the country, how much exposure they have had to people of other cultures, etc.  Notwithstanding this, there will be a clash of cultures from time to time as Aussies from different ethnic backgrounds learn from one another.  The question is can we, all Australians, work together with goodwill to reconcile our differences within the constraints of the law?

I appreciate that there are forces at work that make people anxious.  Our income/wages have declined in real terms, the casualization of the workforce continues unabated, our GDP per capita has declined and people feel, not unsurprisingly, that they are worse off.  Infrastructure development has been inadequate to cope with population growth, which has largely been driven by immigrants and temporary residents.  However, it is unfair to blame people, who have applied and been accepted as residents, for these pressures.  This is a broader issue of the appropriateness of government policy.

Each of us should examine our conscience about how we treat people of different cultures.  And while we are at it, we should be big enough to pay tribute to all those migrants, as well as the First Australians, who we often treated appallingly, and yet without whom Australia would not be as strong and vibrant as it is today.  We should also not take every suggestion for historical clarification as a personal affront, or as a re-writing of history.

I think we owe it to ourselves to decide what sort of country we really want to be.  Do we want to be a compassionate or a racist one?  If we value compassion over fear, we should definitely call out racism and xenophobia when we see it.  I recall the occasion when my husband and I went to the local supermarket wearing our ‘ethnic’ clothing that we had worn to a folk festival.  We got ‘the look’.  If that is all it takes, then god help us!  I think we are braver than that.  At least, I hope so.

school
If this is the future of Australia, then we are very lucky.

 

26 thoughts on “Making Australia Great

  1. “Believing our own advertising!”. So true. It’s that booster propaganda that has made America stupid again and that same simple minded patriotism seems to go down everywhere. Give the idiots flags! Talk hockey and Canucks beam with pride……as if that makes all Canadians great again? WTH? Wave a flag, mention a soldier, go to a football game and everyone in the US feels…..what, exactly? Brainwashed? Conned? Or just fooled some of the time? They don’t feel stupid because they ARE too stupid to know better.
    They feel pride being a blind, unthinking follower while ‘playing hard 110%’ AGAINST the other guy. “You ain’t with us? You against us!”. GWBush.
    Brainwashing the brain-dead doesn’t make anyone great again.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I took my life into my own hands questioning the myth and legend of the Aussie spirit, Dave. Word will get out. 🙂

      It is hard for people to be different. They want to fit in. What do they have if they don’t have their (sometimes silly) friends. There are some really intelligent people in the US and Canada (everywhere really). They are just not as loud as the ra-ra crowd.
      By the way, the Australian cricket team (or parts thereof) have been caught cheating (ball-tampering). We are supposed to be good sports too. It goes on.

      Like

  2. You can’t expect much from a nation that was founded on the backs of a bunch of exiled convicts, abused Irish orphans and unwed mothers. I always try to be nice to my Aussie neighbor even though I know she’s from a radically different culture and her English is appalling, always talking about “cuppas,” “chooks” and the like. 😉 think people (small minded people) are always afraid that expanding their world means losing something. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it and concur with your position. Have you come across a book by Rebecca Huntley called ‘Still Lucky’? I am attending a discussion group through U3A where we are looking at all these issues. Not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. I have to bite my tongue a bit as I get quite stirred up
    Cheers
    Lorraine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lorraine. That means a lot. I was really rather nervous about writing the post. In fact, my husband warned me not to go there.

      I thought I should read Donald Horne’s book, the Lucky Country. Sounds like I should add Rebbeca Huntley’s book to my list too. Thank you for letting me know about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Tracy and I agree with you on all counts. I can understand why you were nervous, but really, we should be able to say what we think on these matters. Having said that, I do quite a bit of lip biting in the small town I live in. I wonder if Martha has been exposed to Vegemite?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jane., for the comments and for the support. Sometimes it is worth keeping quiet, because it doesn’t change anything anyway. 🙂

      I don’t know whether Martha has tried vegemite. 🙂 I was going to mention it in my post because it is the one area where the culture and greatness does come together I think. But for brevity sake I decided to leave it out. I have never heard of anyone who likes it that hasn’t grown up with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting and thought provoking post. We live in interesting times. The silence of one voice is more deafening than that of a million, who speak with one voice and one language, around the world.

    By the way, my little jar of Vegemite goes everywhere with me! Check out my post, ‘Love, Broome’!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Change is often scary, especially when people think it is a change for the worse. But the bottom line is really rather simple: treat other people as you would like to be treated. Think of how hard it is to go to a new country to live, and to try to adapt to a new culture. That might make it a bit easier to cut the newcomers some slack.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very thought provoking Tracy. Many very valid points. It is hard to come up with answers, people are so diverse and the ones that filter to the top ie politicians and CEOs are the ones that make decisions good and bad. I try to sift out what I want to believe. At the moment it is all about the cricket, the media are loving getting their teeth into that one. The good is Vegemite is back in Aussie hands. Lots to love about our country, but we shouldn’t get complacent and love our neighbours no matter what their colour or creed

    Liked by 2 people

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