How do Australians see themselves?

How do Australians see themselves?

I see us as a nation of essentially good people.

I mean, yes, we do have some problems.

There are problems with how a very vocal minority view asylum seekers. For immigrants to come here, there are obviously no borders you can sneak across - you either fly here, or you boat here. "Boat people" is a problem the media have been playing up for ages, and now we are keeping people in offshore detention centres that have been slayed by the UN. But the majority of us find this situation deplorable, as we understand what the term "asylum seekers" means, and we don't buy into the awful term "illegal immigrants". But we don't own newspapers, so it's not our opinion that's in your face.

We also have a problem with institutional racism. We have a government that, despite having said sorry for things like the Stolen Generation, are still housing Indigenous Australians in truly awful conditions, and subjecting them to quite clearly discriminatory behaviour.

These are problems that desperately need to be addressed. We are a nation of immigrants - go back not even 10 generations, and aside from full blooded Indigenous Australians, we all have ancestors that came from overseas. It is despicable that we treat both those wanting to enjoy the "lucky country" and those who actually own it so dismally.

But we are otherwise a good people.

In Melbourne and Sydney there may not be a sense of community. But I live in Brisbane, and it's more like a country town than a sprawling metropolis. We are friendly and kind. We look strangers in the eye, and we smile. We help people in need. We know our neighbours.

We are a nation who famously loves a "little Aussie battler". We give to drought relief programs, because we know we are nothing without our farmers. We give generously to groups that support troops returning from war, even though this is a job the government should be doing.

Our military lends support when needed. We have a large peacekeeping force which has helped to bring peace and stability to countries in need.

We are proud to be Australian, but we admit we can do better. We fiercely love the land we were born on. This poem by Dorothea Mackellar sums this up better than I ever could.

And finally, this is where Steve Irwin was born and raised. We can't be a bad bunch if someone that completely awesome grew up around us, can we.


It is a difficult question in a country where at any one time over 25% of the population were born overseas for the last 60y. It depends very much on who you talk to and how old they are.

I happen to be a 5th generation Australian who has spend most of their working life overseas. Every time I visit Australia the less and less I identify with it. The Australia easily I identified with disappeared about 1980 to 1990 while I was working as a post-doc overseas. I came back and my country had gone with the wind. Perhaps it was because I am an only child and the cousins I had were about 15 to 25y older than me. Most are now dead.

Today 40% of the population of Sydney were not born in Australia. A colleague of mine says modern Australia has the social coherency you would expect of a hotel. I think she is right.


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