Australian National Identity

Cover - Australian National Identity
  • Australian National Identity
  • Volume 313
  • Editor: Justin Healey
  • Print book ISBN: 978 1 921507 24 3
  • Year: 2010

Australia is a young and culturally diverse nation which often struggles with how to define its national identity. What does it mean to be an Australian? What are the values and symbols that represent Australian citizenship and patriotism? This book presents a range of opinions on how the national identity has been shaped through Australian citizenship, symbols and values: multiculturalism, tolerance (a ‘fair go’), national symbols (including the flag debate), British colonial influence, indigenous heritage and dispossession, freedom and democracy (including the republic debate), egalitarianism, the landscape (beaches and ‘the bush’), mateship, larrikinism, the Anzac spirit, sporting obsession, outdoor lifestyle, our image overseas, and what it means to be ‘un-Australian’. When does patriotism become provocation? Do we as a people have an ideal or actual view of our collective identity, or should we in fact embrace and celebrate multiple identities?

Chapter 1: Australian Citizenship, Symbols and Values

Chapter 2: Opinions on Australian Identity

Glossary; Fast Facts; Web Links; Index

Fast facts:

  • Australia’s multicultural society includes its Indigenous peoples and migrants from some 200 countries.
  • Australia is a tolerant and inclusive society – a nation built by people from many different backgrounds. Vietnam, China, Greece and the United Kingdom are among the main countries from which Australians have migrated. Cultural diversity has become a touchstone of Australia’s national identity.
  • The Australian Government’s multicultural policy addresses the consequences of this diversity in the interests of the individual and society as a whole. It recognises, accepts, respects and celebrates our cultural diversity.
  • Australia’s unique environment has many native plants, animals and birds that exist nowhere else in the world. The country is actively committed to conserving its natural heritage and has a range of protection procedures in place. Despite the vast size of the continent, the majority of Australians live on the coast and in major cities. Around 75% of Australia’s population lives in urban areas.
  • In 2006, more than 270 ancestries were separately identified by Australia’s population. The most commonly stated were Australian (37%) and English (32%), while other main ancestries included Irish (9%), Scottish (8%), Italian (4%), German (4%), and Chinese (3%).
  • The 2006 Census found that 3.1 million people (16% of the population) spoke a language other than English at home, an increase of 285,000 people or 10% since 2001.
  • Citizenship is a relatively recent concept for Australia as a nation, having its origins in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 (Cwlth). Prior to this, Australians were British subjects.
  • Since the inception of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 (Cwlth) in January 1949, more than three million people born overseas have acquired Australian citizenship.
  • The Australian National Flag was first flown in 1901 and has become an expression of Australian identity and pride. The flag is an important part of national occasions such as Australia Day, Anzac Day, and Australian National Flag Day.
  • The Australian National Anthem, proclaimed in 1984, identifies Australia at home and overseas. It unites the nation and is a public expression of joy and pride in being Australian. The Australian National Anthem is used at important public ceremonies, sporting and community events.
  • Since the late 1800s green and gold have been popularly accepted as the national sporting colours, both locally and around the world. In 1984 green and gold were formally recognised as the national colours.
  • The Commonwealth Coat of Arms symbolises the ownership and authority of the Australian Government. It was granted in a Royal Warrant in 1912.