History - AustralianAustralian CultureCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries

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Customs and Values

Australian quotes

Odd facts of Australia

Shouts and rounds

The fear of inferiority

Important social rules

Black and taboo

Australia Day
The true meaning

Anzac Day
Lest we forget

Red Earth Blue Sky





Social Innovation Australia

Social innovations in Australia

Australia’s tangible inventions have won world wide accolades but some of Australia’s social innovations have been just as influential, if not more so. Many of the innovations have come in response to some kind of social problem. Ironically, it is because Australia has had so many problems in the past that so many good ideas have been created, which have in turn made Australia such as good place.

1990 – The National Integrity System (The Queensland Model)

In every country around the world, corruption is the worst social problem because it hinders solutions to other social problems (be they poverty, environmental destruction, drug use) being successfully implemented.

Australia has a long history of corruption but out of one of the worst cases came the The National Integrity System, often called The Queensland Model, which has since been adopted by the United Nations, Unesco, the World Bank and a host of universities around the world.

In the 1980s, the Fitzgerald inquiry found widespread corruption in the ranks of Queensland politics. Among many others, four government minister and a police commissioner were sent to jail. In addition to uncovering corruption, the Fitzgerald inquiry made recommendations for how it could be prevented in the future.

Lawyer Jeremy Pope, founder of Transparency International, organised these recommendations into a 'system' which he called The National Integrity System.

1989 - Clean Up Australia Day

Activism works best when the grassroots are empowered to believe that they, not governments alone, have the ability to make the world a better place. It was that sense of individual empowerment that has led to the success of Clean Up Australia Day. People register a plan to clean up an area on the first Sunday of March every year. Others can join them to help clean it up .

The idea for Clean up Australia Day came from Ian Kiernan and Kim McKay. Disgusted by the filth in Sydney Harbour, in 1989, the two promoted the idea of an event to clean it up. The event drew enormous public response with more than 40,000 volunteers collecting some 5,000 tonnes of rubbish. The following year, the two planned Clean Up Australia Day to expand it nation wide. The state premier of NSW initially dismissed the plan and refused to support it, but the Federal government came on board.

1989 - HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme)

In most countries around the world, higher education is prohibitively expensive. This leads to serious stratification of society between those who are education rich and those who are education poor. Such divisions are in turn passed across the generations as the education rich are able to gain the social contacts, the incomes and the guidance to provide opportunities for their children that are not available to the education poor.

In Australia, the stratification has been somewhat reduced due to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme. In a nutshell, the scheme allows students to pay their university fees by taking out an interest free loan from the government for each subject they study. When the student gets a job and reaches a certain income threshold, the money owed is taken out of their salary. If they never get a job they never need to repay the loan.

HECS provided the opportunity for students to attend university who may have otherwise been denied the opportunity due to a lack of money or a lack of the intellectual prowess to qualify for a scholarship. It replaced a previous model of "free" education (government paid but student didn't) that was proving to be extremely expensive and wasteful. In addition to being expensive, free education have been criticised on equity grounds as it required labourers and tradesmen to be subsidising the education of doctors, lawyers, accountants etc who were more than capable of paying for it themselves once they got a job.

HECS was originally developed by ANU economist and lecturer named Bruce Chapman. It was introduced in 1989. The model has been subsequently varied and given different names but the basic premise of a student contribution remains.

1976 - World Series Cricket

Today, cricket is a professional game and is run and marketed as such. Fans expect television coverage to include a range of camera angles, audio and insightful commentary.  Fans of one day cricket also love seeing teams in coloured clothing and the white ball in the night sky. These aspects of the game only exist because of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution.  

In 1976, Kerry Packer made a $500,000, five-year bid for the exclusive rights to televise international cricket played in Australia. The Australian Cricket Board fobbed him off and sold the rights to the ABC for considerably less money. Meanwhile, the Australian players were becoming increasingly strident in their complaints about low salaries, especially as their time commitment increased. However in response to the player's grievances, the ACB secretary, Alan Barnes, remarked:

"They are not professionals... they were invited to play and if they don't like the conditions there are 500,000 other cricketers in Australia who would love to take their places."

Packer envisaged that a new competition could satisfy both his television interests and the monetary requirements of the players. He subsequently signed 50 of the world's leading players as his partners in crime for World Series Cricket. Not surprisingly, the defections caused a tumult to which Packer defiantly declared:

"Cricket is going to get revolutionised whether (the establishment) like it or not. There is nothing they can do to stop me. Not a goddamn thing.''

World Series Cricket featured players in coloured uniforms, white balls, batting and fielding restrictions, day/night games under lights, motorcycle helmets, body armour and best of all, the fans got a result before leaving the ground. The cricket purists were outraged and in England, the concept was criticised as a "Stupid pyjama game".

The television coverage was also revolutionised. In one giant leap, Australian TV cricket broadcasting went from mediocre, one camera, once-in-a-while coverage to full-on, multi-camera, microphones-in-the-stumps, multi-replay and super-slowmo.

Meanwhile, the ACB team was devastated by the absence of the best players and crowds fell. The ACB was forced to the bargaining table and a compromise was reached. Packer got the television rights, andof 2014, had never relinquished them.

1948 – Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Most countries around the world suffer extreme problems in the provision of health care drugs. One problem is affordability. Lifesaving drugs tend to be developed and patented by private companies. With a monopoly on the drug’s manufacture, the company can charge prices that are far beyond what an average patient can pay. A second problem is corruption. Drug companies bribe doctors to prescribe drugs even when there is dubious merit in the drug. Even if a doctor doesn’t want to be corrupt, he or she is not always in a position to scrutinise a drug’s value. As a result, patients virtually bankrupt themselves buying drugs that do little to help.

In Australia, such problems have largely been dealt with due to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, also known as the PBS. The program was developed in 1948 by the federal government and provides subsidised prescription drugs on the PBS register. Because drugs are subsidised, no Australian is economically denied access to drugs that they need to survive. Furthermore, because the Australian government buys the drugs in bulk over a single desk, it is able to negotiate lower prices than that paid by private citizens in other countries. Corruption is somewhat negated because it is only drugs that have been proven to work that are placed on the PBS register. Potentially, drug manufacturers could still bribe a corrupt government worker to place a dubious drug on the register but there are far more checks and balances to prevent corruption occurring. At a basic level, a drug company that wants to get onto the PBS register will voice concerns with another drug already on the register if they believe it its keeping their own product off the market.

1918 - Co-ordinated use of infantry, aircraft, artillery and tanks

Today, the American military strategy is based around what is known as “Shock and Awe.” The strategy involves lightening strikes and heavy use of integrated military equipment. Shock and awe evolved out of Germany’s World War 2 "Blitzkrieg" war strategy, which was in turn evolved from the integrated war strategy that General John Monash used to break the stale mate of trench warfare in World War 1.

After seeing the needless loss of life at Gallipoli,  Monash wrote about the need to use mechanical resources to save the infantry, not the other way round as was common in trench warfare of the time. In his own words:

"The true role of infantry is not to expend itself upon heroic physical effort, not to wither away under merciless machine-gun fire, not to impale itself on hostile bayonets, but on the contrary, to advance under the maximum possible protection of the maximum possible array of mechanical resources, in the form of guns, machine-guns, tanks, mortars and aeroplanes; to advance with as little impediment as possible; to be relieved as far as possible of the obligation to fight their way forward."

In the Battle of Hamel, Monash demonstrated that the protection of human life was not only justified on humanist grounds, it also was a legitimate war strategy. Hamel was a strongly fortified German defence position, which protected the area between the Villers Bretonneux Heights and the Somme River. Monash horrified both the American and British high command by proposing a strategy that involved throwing heavy war machinery into enemy territory where it could potentially be lost. Monash proposed that armoured tanks would support infantry in the advance, and in turn, both troops and tanks would be supported by advancing artillery from behind. As the troops took ground, aerial drops ensured they would be resupplied with medical equipment and ammunition. From the perspective of the traditional war orthodoxy, it was sheer madness. If the attack failed, the aircraft would simply be supplying German positions and a German counter attack would take possession of allied machinery. General Pershing, the American Commander in Chief, argued against American participation in the offensive, but Monash simply ignored his objections.

On the 4th July 1918, Australian and American troops under Monash's command took less than 92 minutes to kill 2,000 Germans, and capture 1,600 others. Australian casualties were fewer than 1,300 and the Americans were fewer than 176.

After the success at Hamel, Monash submitted plans to use a similar approach to break the stalemate at Amiens. On August 8, an allied force put Monash's plans into actions. In the previous four years, the only major breakthrough on the Western Front had been by the Germans on March 21, 1918, when they attacked and defeated the British Third and Fifth armies. With Monash's plan, it took less than 150 minutes for the allies to do what hadn't been done in the previous four years.

1918 - Preferential voting

Australia has its fair share of politically minded extremists. If they were allowed to have their way, they would descend Australia into an Afghanistan at worse or a polarised society like the US at best. Thankfully, preferential voting is an innovation that keeps them out of parliament. The system forces voters to rank candidates in order of preference. When the ballots are collectively tallied, it is the candidate that is the least hated, rather than most liked, that represents the people. It also allows voters to risk voting for an unlikely candidate in the knowledge that their two-party-preferred choice will count if the unlikely candidate failed to gain enough support. In 1998, preferential voting kept Pauline Hanson out of parliament. Hanson won 36% of the primary vote, which was 10% more than her nearest rival, yet still lost the seat.

1912 - Compulsory voting

Compulsory voting is another innovation has helped reduce the influence of political extremists. In America, voluntary voting means that the extremists are great assets to a political campaign. It is the extremists that get out to vote, and convince others to vote as well. To keep the extremists happy, the American political parties must pander to their interests, and this can result in a polarised society. In Australia; however, the extremists are not really important at all. The political party that they have chosen can simply take them for granted and ignore them. The party can then devote its resources on the swinging voters that will decide the election. As a consequence, it is the moderates from the middle-ground that need to be kept happy.

Critics of voluntary voting say it results in elections being decided by those who are often too apathetic to be informed of the issues; however, history has consistency shown that often when people become “informed” on an issue, they inform themselves of one side only and selectively seek information that further confirms their biases. They then get into power and start persecuting those who are not informed.

In addition to ensuring the moderates have a voice, compulsory voting makes it a little more difficult for extremists to pressure certain groups of people not to vote on religious or gambit grounds. As a result, a group can't lead a boycott of elections that they know they can't win but then argue that the winner doesn't represent their culture because their culture didn't vote.

1894 - Right for women to stand for parliament

After New Zealand, the Australian colony of South Australia was the first jurisdiction to give women the vote. South Australia then became the first jurisdiction to allow women to also stand for parliament. Women were allowed to vote and stand for parliament after Federation in 1901.

1856 - Secret ballot

World-wide, the secret ballot is sometimes referred to as the "Australian ballot" or "kangaroo voting". The secret ballot allows people to resist peer pressure and register their true feelings.

1840s - Integrated migration services

Migration always has the potential to cause social problems because it pits dissimilar people side by side where there is likely to be different evaluations about the migrant’s worth and different beliefs about whose country it really is. These social problems can be compounded when the migrant comes to the host country and is forced into a life of crime because no other opportunities are available.

Although Australian governments have sometimes mismanaged migration programs, on balance they have implemented policies that have allowed both migrants and native born to see the migrants as stakeholders in Australia’s future. Many of these policies, such as the Assisted Migration Scheme after World War 2, can be traced to the integrated migration policies of Caroline Chisolm in the 1840s.

When Chisolm and her husband arrived in Sydney in 1838, they were shocked by the desperate situation of migrant women. With few jobs, and few skills, many had turned to prostitution to survive. To change the situation, Chisolm established a profitable business that included the education of potential migrants in England and Ireland, overseeing of the humanitarian and health conditions on the transport ships, a loans system to help families establish themselves, and employment services when the migrants arrived in Australia. Chisolm's programs were not welfare, rather, they were programs that provided migrant women with the opportunity to show their value. Chisolm did not die a rich woman, but she died a highly respected one.




Innovation and Creativity

Thinking different

It could be described as post-Socialist but also as post Capitalist

Australian English reflects penal history and the influence of Aboriginal languages

Defying stoicism

Landscape and Identity

Creativity in the kitchen

Once were popular


""Shouting", or rather its meaning, is peculiarly Australian. The shortest and most comprehensive definition of "shouting" is to pay for the drink drunk by others." Drinking

"Australia has been hailed as a saviour of our soi-disant movie industry. So it could be, irrespective of its box office earnings, if it leads to recognition that we don't have a film industry, despite expenditure over 20 years of $1.5billion in subsidies and perhaps another half billion in tax concessions." Movies

"Australians are very difficult to impress; even if you do manage to impress them, they may not openly admit it." Social Rules

"a confused mix of landscape, animals, and Aboriginal culture, with a kind of Bible overtone." Painting

"A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop" Wisdom

"Gallipoli tends to seem strange to outsiders, as it appears to be a celebration of Australia's greatest defeat, but in essence it is rather a commemoration of those who died serving Australia in battle, be it warranted or not." Anzac

“We must be the only country in the world that marks its national day not by celebrating its identity, but by questioning it.” Australia Day

"He declared, confidently, that an immense number of women were dying for his diminutive highness, but became terribly angry, when an ugly, red-nosed publican with a hump-back, pretended to recognize him as an organ grinder strolling about with a monkey." Egalitarianism

"Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come
" Poetry