Is there such a thing as an ‘Australian identity’? If so, when and how did it develop?
I find this to be a difficult question to definitively answer. Stereotypical answers would include phrases and words like ‘the lucky country’, ‘mateship’, ‘laid back and easy-going’, ‘a love of the outdoors’ and a proud belief in ‘a fair go’ for all. But, a firm definition of an Australian identity is not so simple, in my opinion. As we “… are but a small nation in charge of a large and largely empty continent” (Salt, 2012), our identity is consistently evolving. This is due to influences of multiculturalism, as well as trying to maintain a firm grip on our roots, the British Empire. We also possess a perpetual fear of the other (xenophobia) and invasion of our national security as an island nation.
The Australian government web site sets out some clear definitions of what constitutes an “Australian identity” (see: http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-stories/australian-identity), but, in my opinion, places more emphasis on a white Australia, only minimally acknowledging some of the many other cultures that have affected, and continue to affect, our identity as a nation.
From the readings I have completed thus far in this subject, the Australian identity seems to have developed from a point of anxiety – anxiety over racial differences “… from within and without the Empire” (Metcalfe 2013, p. 2). I concur with Metcalfe, as she further states “’White Australia’ remained at the core of Australian national identity, filtering popular reactions to those influences, altering only in its manifestations” (p. 2).
I’m very interested to read what others think on this topic.
Metcalfe, L. 2013. The impact of ‘White Australia’ on the development of Australian national identity in the period between 1880 and 1914. History Initiates, 1, 2-9.
Salt, B. 2012, ‘Aussies’ identity is forged by Empty Island Syndrome’, The Australian, 26 January, viewed 16 June 2015, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/property/aussies-identity-is-forged-by-empty-island-syndrome/story-fn9656lz-1226253731716>.