Minorities in Australian Literature

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The change in representations of minorities in Australian Literature

Australian literature consists of many representations of the ‘Australian way of life’ that are constructed by numerous national stereotypes. Various critics argue that the current literary representations of the average Australian do not embrace enough cultural diversity through the incorporation of indigenous people, females and ethnic communities. The representations of Australian people have changed dramatically over a period of time. While the first Australian literary pieces consisted of only one specific brand of person, neglecting women and aborigines, during the nation’s development and the arrival of more ethnic people, there was a rise in the representations of these minority groups. Following this, in the late 20th century to current years, these minority groups have begun to express and represent themselves through writing. Despite the most common representation of the Australian person not including these minorities, there has been a significant change in their representations through literature and the version that does not include them, is predominately used through non-literary works.

The common representation of the Australian people is a tough Anglo-Saxon male who works in labour intensive jobs. This portrayal has been used heavily to identify Australians, particularly by the current media, to build on the Australian image. The concept of this type of person representing the whole nation was formed from traditional texts in the 19th century, when the writers were almost entirely white European males and chose to write only of people like themselves. “When the ladies come to the shearing shed” and “Clancy from the overflow,” are examples of the types of literary pieces that were written in the 19th century, which focus on the white men of Australia who work in tough jobs in the outback. “When the ladies come to the shearing shed,” written by Henry Lawson in 1897 is about the reactions of Australian men when women are in their presence. The poem composes the image of masculine men who work in a shearing shed, and represents their job as noble, as women come from the city to watch them. Women are represented as delicate objects of affection that hold little importance to the story. The only time in which the women are described doing or saying something is when they comment on the appearance of the animals, “and they gush and say in a girly way, that ‘the dear little lambs’ are ‘sweet.’” This being the only thing that women say, illustrates that they did not hold any real significance to the story, and their opinions were completely left out. The way in which the women are portrayed in the poem is not necessarily negative, but they are not particularly valued characters, and are seen as the ‘other’. This is due to the attempt of a white male providing his personal opinion on the way another type of person acts, which creates a distorted representation. The men and women in this text have an obvious separation between them, and it is express that they are on very different levels, which is not an accurate portrayal of real life. “Clancy of the overflow” was written in 1889 by one of Australia’s most famous poets, Banjo Paterson. The story shares the same representation of the Australian male, who works with animals out in the “bush.” In the poem Paterson attempts to personify the quintessential Australian, and who believes every man should be which is a strong worker who is in touch with life on the land. Through the eyes of an office worker the poem represents outback life as desired over city living and working, “I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall.” Clancy, and his outback life is represented as desired by the city dweller, “And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy, like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go.” The...
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