Australian National Identity

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Identify and discuss the nature of national identity in Australia. How has/have national identify/ies been portrayed and maintained and which groups have been excluded?

The nature of Australian’s national identity has been an ongoing debate for many years. It involves how Australians see themselves, and how other countries view Australia as a whole. Throughout the country’s history, the national identity has not remained constant, and currently it is a debate to what Australian’s true national identity is.

As the original country to settle in Australia (excluding Aboriginals), British Culture has a strong influence in Australia. Australia was originally a colony of Britain, and therefore its national identity was very similar to that of an Englishman. Australia adopted the English language, government, religions, and even sports. Further, until the Second World War, the majority of all Australian trade was with the British. It is not hard to see why the British very heavily influenced Australian’s national identity in the 19th and early 20th century(3). Australia is still a commonwealth of Britain and has allegiance to the monarchy. Australia relies on Britain for general support like the Royal Navy to protect its largest coastline in the world. Britain is sill a huge part of Australia’s history and culture, so it is hard to dismiss their current influence on the country’s national identity(5). However, many Australians want to diminish their tie to Great Britain, and become a republic with no connection to the monarchy at all. This shows the desire for Australians to have their own distinct national identity separate from ties to any other country.

Australia has recently become very strong allies with the United States. The Prime Minister, John Howard, is often seen talking to the American President, George Bush, and supporting America in different policies and wars, like the war with Iraq. Our esteemed professor Tom Heenan described this relationship between Howard and Bush. He said that Bush was like the big brother, and Howard acted like the little brother that is always trying to be involved. This perception cannot be good for Australian’s national identity as perceived by other nations. Australia wants to form its national identity as a strong nation that does not rely on other countries for support.

Australia is also trying to determine where to focus its foreign policies. As mentioned previously, Howard has a strong relationship with the United States, Britain and other European nations. However, before Howard, Prime Minister Paul Keating was trying to make Australia more focused on its relationships with Asian countries(6). Keating tried to get away from America and Britain, and focus more on policy with China and Southeast Asia. As his successor, Howard stopped the progression with Asian countries and went back to focus more on western countries. With this the case, the debate is still alive today whether Australia should be considered a western-like country or an Asian nation. When this debate is answered, it will help Australians determine their national identity in an international sense.

There seems to be no lone factor that has more influence in Australia’s national identity than sport. David Carter said: “Sport is not just something Australians enjoy; it is seen as fundamental to what makes them truly Australian”(2). Sport became such a huge part of Australian culture when its cricket team would play England. The Australian team won for the first time in 1877 in what they call The ‘Ashes’. This was a huge victory for the entire country because it proved their homegrown strain against that of their ancestry in England. Even today Australians pride themselves on their national cricket team. Sir Donald Bradman was the best cricketer to ever play the game, and Prime Minister John Howard called him the “greatest living Australian”. In other countries, a statement like...
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