Australian Identity Across Time

"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 air conditioning immediately elevated." Bill Bryson - American author

 "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 author

"The Australian culture is bright sunny beaches, Crocodile Dundee and all that kind of shit, and the shadow side of that is xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, all that kind of stuff that we squash down but is alive and well". Greg McClean - Australian film director

Welcome to Australia This is a peculiar country where the principles of culture appear to have been turned upside down. Australians seem blissfully unaware of the achievements of their intellectuals.... yet they will celebrate long dead horses, yobbo sportsmen, and bushrangers. They often forget the words of their national anthem..... yet  it would be wrong to say they are not patriotic as a song about a suicidal sheep thief seems to instil them with a great deal of pride. If they like you, they will not give you compliments. Instead, they might call you names like bastard, drongo or dickhead, and then laugh at all the silly things you have done. If you have red hair, you might be called 'Bluey.' If you are tall, you might be called 'Shorty.' If you are quiet, you might be called 'Rowdy.'

Perhaps these traits can be understood by looking at the country's urban history. For its first 80 years, Australia was a prison for British Convicts! These Convicts became the first colonial Australians and they subsequently laid much of the country's economic and cultural foundations. Because the Convicts were never particularly fond of the upper classes, they gained their inspiration from the underdogs and the battlers. Consequently, larrikins (street criminals) became heroes, and negative words gained positive associations.

Today, the symbolic memory of Convicts continues to shape Australia’s cultural evolution. For some concerned citizens, the Convict stigma seems to inspire an obsession with using psychological techniques to disconnect themselves from it. Such people would look at the above comments and criticise them as inaccurate stereotypes in modern day multicultural Australia or examples of "bogan" culture. Oddly, rather than actually praising migrant cultures (or even learn anything about them), they like to raise awareness of derogatory caricatures that portray Australians as ignorant, racist, sexist, and homophobic. In particular, this has made the Australian film industry quite a bizarre cultural phenomenon in that it largely consists of Australians gaining government funding to insult other Australians - their primary audience!

For nationalists, Convict history also seems to be problematic. As much as nationalists love history, there just isn't any moral resonance in pulling out grandpa's ball and chain for a street march that preserves the spirit of the founding fathers or laying down in a seductive pose in tribute to the founding mothers. As a consequence, nationalistic campaigns can't be anchored with the moral empowerment of history. This is seen every Australia Day, the anniversary of the landing of the first fleet of criminals, where Australians either spend the day having fun or arguing the need for a new national day.

To help understand the cultural peculiarities of the Australia's concerned citizens and nationalists, as well as those Australians who don't identify with either, the Convict Creations web site explores those missing links in the Australian story that, although having a significant influence in making Australians unique, have been ignored by the official textbooks.

History - AustralianAustralian CultureCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries