Active Thinking Topic 79  - Is There Such A Creature As An Australian?

31 March 2024

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Zoom online

Recommended Viewing: Monash University ( 22 Jan 2019) "The Australian Identity Debate – A Different Lens". Youtube @  [11 minutes]

Talking Points

1. Would you pass an Australian citizenship test? [see ]

2. In 1945 97% of Australian nationals were Anglo-Irish in a population of less than 8 million. In 2024 Australia has over 300 source nationalities and about 27 million people. What has been gained and what has been lost? Argue for & against.

3. What actually makes somebody an Australian (or any other nationality) apart from legal documents? [For example I, Thor, have no interest in mass sporting events or national celebrations, and I stopped watching TV when it changed from black & white to colour. I'm a very boring person. Do I qualify as a real Australian?]

4. How much sense does it make to insist on a single national identity?

5. In World War II the Australian government locked up all Germans, Italians and Japanese. Now non Anglos are about 40% of the population. What would actually happen if Australia were invaded?

6. Not many countries have so radically changed their core population makeup in a single lifetime. Australia is an outlier in this. Of course not everyone is happy with the cultural makeover, but there is no going back. What do you think will define "Australian-ness" into the future?

7. "Citizen of the World" is a nice ID tag adopted by some people (including me). Why would somebody make that claim, and what might they mean.

8. Some people work for large multinational organizations. The organizations themselves show little fealty to any country (marketing propaganda apart). How do the people who work for these outfits identify? Where is their loyalty? What approach does the law take to such conflicts of interest?

9. Fifty years ago and earlier it was common to say that Australians had a "cultural cringe". This was because most people had originated from England within two or three generations. To 'make it' you had to build a reputation overseas before the locals would take you too seriously (especially in artistic fields). How much of this is still true? Is overseas experience actually valued in Australia?

10. Various immigrant groups integrate socially and intermarry in Australia more rapidly or less rapidly. There are a number of reasons for these differences (e.g. religion), but most dissolve within a couple of generations. How important do you think this kind of blending is for the emergence of a more stable Australian identity? What are some forces working against the blending, and for the blending?


Extra Reading & Links:

Thor May (Brisbane, 2014) "Multicultures – communities of familiar strangers". The Passionate Sceptic website @  [note: Old HTML - won't format well on a small smart phone screen] [Quote: "When a stranger asks “what do you do”, as he fishes for the right stereotype to pin on my chest as a mark of admiration or secret contempt, I am at a loss to answer. That is, I am a man of my age, a chameleon creature accustomed to slipping amongst a kaleidoscope of roles. This plurality of role plays does not mean that I am "values free". I don't care if you wear a hijab or burn incense in a Buddhist temple. I do care for a marker such as "above all, do no harm" - not always achievable perhaps, but at least a navigation beacon. It is of central importance to the discussion in this article that my way is not everyone’s way. We all make sense of the world as best we can, then have a habit of projecting our understanding as universal truths. The article attempts is explicit about the writer's own experience, but tries also to establish a context for other, more various ways in which multicultures have been interpreted, especially in Australia."]

Thor May (5 September 2010) "Cultural Operating Systems - Thoughts on Designing Cultures". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [note: Old HTML - won't format well on a small smart phone screen] [Quote: "To those who wish to keep their "cultural operating systems", like the Korean or Russian or Thai or French, "pure", closed, proprietary, without outside influence, I say you are in great danger. Maybe your closed cultural system was elegant and refined. Maybe it has a glorious past history. But it ultimately comes from an earlier human civilization of small, savage tribal groups. Now we humans are many, crowded on a small planet, and communicating with everyone instantly. We need a different design, and that has to be an Open System."]

Wikipedia (2024) "Culture of Australia" @ 

Chris Drew (September 12, 2023) "Cultural Blending: Definition and Examples". HelpfulProfessor website @ 

Ruby Cornish and Keri Phillips (24 Mar 2023) "Harmony Week: How Australia became a multicultural nation" ABC @ 

Australian Government (23 May 2023) "Australia's multicultural policy history". Department of Home Affairs @ 

Wikipedia (15 March 2024) "Australia–United States relations" @  [Quote: "A 2020 poll by YouGov declared Australia as the most positively viewed foreign country by Americans, with 75% having a favorable opinion".]

Wikipedia (2024) "Chinese Australians" @  [Quote: "As a whole, Australian residents identifying themselves as having Chinese ancestry made up 5.5% of Australia's population at the 2021 census.]

Jens Korf (25 April 2023) "Aboriginal population in Australia". Creative Spirits website @  [Quote: "Experts estimate the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at more than 770,000 at the time of the invasion in 1788. It fell to its low of around 117,000 people in 1900, a decrease by 84%. At present, 3.2% of Australia's population identify as Aboriginal."]

Intergate Emigration (28 March 2022) "Does Australia have a good quality of life?" @  [Quote: "According to the Quality of Life Ranking from the US news, Australia has the fifth-highest quality of life globally. This ranking placed Australia above the Netherlands, Finland, Germany and New Zealand in the top 10. The top three places went to Canada, Denmark and Sweden." ]

Daniel Kemp (23 June 2020) "Foreign ownership of Australian land and water: 2019 statistics". AgriInvestor @  [Quote: "Aggregating total freehold and leasehold foreign ownership interests, China and the UK hold the largest area of total Australian agricultural land (each with 2.4 per cent), followed by the Netherlands (0.7 per cent) and the US (0.6 per cent)."]

From Here to There (12 Dec 2022) "All 8 States & Territories in AUSTRALIA Ranked WORST to BEST" Youtube @  [American viewpoint; 13 minutes]

Fairbairn Films (2019. 7.5M views ) "Everything that happens in one day for an Australian. Every Australian, they are all the same." Youtube @  [2 minutes]

Q+A ABC ( 3 Mar 2020) "Multiculturalism and the Australian Identity - Does focussing on individual identities make it hard to maintain a broader national identity? Does multiculturalism make us stronger? Has Australia ever had an established and stable identity?". ABC @ 

Counter culture (17 Aug 2019) "Australians Explain Australia - I ask random Australians to explain how true our stereotypes are. Do we really live on Vegemite, drink Fosters and have snakes in our backyards?". Youtube @ 

Monash University ( 22 Jan 2019) "The Australian Identity Debate – A Different Lens". Youtube @  [11 minutes] [Quote: "What is Australia’s national identity? As the country evolves from its European settlement roots, new generations of immigrants are arriving from Asia, changing our cultural make-up. Meanwhile, Indigenous Australians still live with a sense of pain, particularly surrounding Australia Day and the lack of true reconciliation. These are just some of the issues making us question who we are and what we stand for."]

Australian Department of Home Affairs (2024) Australian citizenship practice test" @ 

David Penberthy (April 29, 2023) "Barry Humphries: a provocateur who loved to scandalise the hand-wringers". The Australian @ 


Is There Such A Creature As An Australian? (c) Thor May 2024

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