About Australian Culture

When I think of Australian culture, a few things immediately come to mind. First and foremost, I think of our Indigenous heritage. Aboriginals have been on mainland Australia for at least 40,000 to 60,000 years. They worked with the land (not against it) by conducting firestick farming, they told Dreamtime stories, some groups made beautiful dot paintings, others cave/rock art, and most of all they had a deep cultural and spiritual connection with the land. There are fewer Aborigines than there were before European settlement and many belong in the poorest demographic, but regardless, they are still a large part of our culture in Australia. You only have to look at a map to realise how much influence Indigenous culture has had on society, no less in town names like Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, and the Coorong in South Australia. Aboriginal languages also feature prominently in our native flora and fauna: dingo, kangaroo and kookaburra are good examples.

Secondly, I think of our language (vernacular) and accent. The Australian accent is unlike any other in the world – it is an amalgamation of the accents and people who first came to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788. These included the English, the Scottish, the Welsh, and the Irish, particularly the south-east of England and Cockneys. The children of the first convicts would have grown up around many different accents, and this would have influenced how they spoke. It would have taken time, but eventually the Australian accent became what it is today.

With the accent came a unique language and dialect – what we call Australian English. It derives primarily from British English, hence why we write “colour” and not “color”, "fantasise" instead of “fantasize”. However, new words and phrases became known. Terms like “the outback” or “in the bush” are colloquially Australian. “Bushfire” is an Australian term – “wildfire” is what is used in North America. We became adept at shortening first names and other words. Afternoon became arvo, barbeque became barbie, and present is often said as pressie. Someone named Gary will have the nickname of Gazza; someone named Barry would be Bazza, and so on. In South Australia especially we use the term “heaps good” to describe something that is better than good, something that is awesome.

This leads me to another part of our culture: our ‘mateship’. Australians are a generous sort, and if any disaster happens in our country we are more than willing to give up our pennies to help out and assist those in trouble. We also give up our time to help others in need, even if we do not receive monetary compensation from it. Wikipedia says (and I tend to agree with it!): “One result of the prevalence of the 'mateship' culture is that Australian society is stringently anti-hierarchical. Australians are expected to behave with humility and not think of themselves as better than their peers. Any disloyalty to their 'mates' is treated harshly, and is known as the tall poppy syndrome, where people who grow greater than their peers are harshly criticised as being narcissistic, or 'up themselves'. Even the most successful and beautiful Australians are eager to proclaim how ordinary they are. This egalitarian social system makes Australian society appear 'laid-back', or relaxed to visitors. Most forms of address are by first name or nickname, and only children regularly use titles such as 'Mister' or 'Sir' for authority figures.”

Other significant aspects of our culture include: an irreverent sense of humour; unique literature, cinema, music and art; our sport (Australian Rules football is not found anywhere else in the world); cuisine (vegemite, pie floaters, Farmers Union Iced coffee); and of course, multiculturalism. Australia is a melting pot of different nationalities, ethnicities, language and religion.

In fact, Australia is a vast melting pot of culture. There is no one thing that defines our culture. It is made up of so many different things, from Indigenous heritage to our multicultural society, from our language and accent to our mateship. We are laidback, generous, and stick up for our mates. We play football with an oval-shaped ball and eat vegemite on toast for breakfast with a drink of Milo. And after a day of hard yakka we come home to a crisp, refreshing beer, and settle down to watch Neighbours. We don’t generally say ‘g’day’, but give us a task to do, and we will respond with “No worries, mate!”, because no task is too big for us hard-working Aussies ;)

Links:
+ Wikipedia