Australian identity - is it relevant anymore?
Australian identity - is it relevant anymore?

Australian identity - is it relevant anymore?

In this day and age, what does it really mean to be an Australian - and is this even an important or relevant question anymore?

There are certainly national and cultural symbolism and stereotypes that are recognisably Australian, but they are often exclusive in their very nature and do not represent the religious, cultural and ethic complexity of this nation.

Australia's national symbols and revered national places showcase ties with Britain. Australia is loyal to the British Crown with the head of state derived from the hereditary line of the British monarchy. Australia's flag, ceremonial days, oaths of loyalty and citizenship ceremonies are inextricably linked to Britain.

Whilst indigenous imagery is celebrated locally and internationally through music, art and festivals, it was not until 1967 that aboriginal people were afforded basic citizenship rights and counted in the national census.

The exclusion from Australian citizenship classification provided for the development of an Australian stereotype that has, in many cases, led to discrimination and a subversive writing out of certain sections of society from Australia's history.

The myth what makes an Australian is shaped by society's dominant ideologies. Australia's convict origins have been variously written in and out of history.

It was once considered shameful to have a convict ancestor, but today it is a badge of honour. The anti-authoritarian character of bush ranger Ned Kelly, saw the development of a stereotypical Australian as being Anglo-Celtic, male, brash, brave and a larrikin.

Other Australian characters that emerged included the ANZAC legend, the bronzed Bondi volunteer lifesaver and the Aussie battler. Even the heroic portrayal of the local volunteer firefighters form part of the continuum of Australian myth-making.

These stereotypes make it difficult for those who do not meet the requirements to have a sense of belonging to the nation. I have often felt this way, as I've been told on a number of occasions that I don't "look Australian", which I often find perplexing.

And yet, when in Scandinavia, I'm often asked for directions by tourists - so other stereotypes are obviously at play.

One must realise that national identity is very much a man-made construct designed to create a sense of belonging to fictitious families called nations.

Unifying people for the common good is wise politics, but on the other hand, it can become a serious impediment to cooperation on a larger scale.

And as national boundaries become far less important through globalisation, and people become more mobile, intermix and interbreed, stereotypical physical attributes ultimately become more and more diluted.

Australians are global citizens. A DNA test can certainly prove this. I was rather chuffed to recently discover my links to Scotland, Ireland, England and Norway.

From the comfort of an Australian's home, one can order and enjoy food from Italian to Japanese, while watching a documentary set in Nepal on a television made in China.

Australians have a responsibility to this planet to think beyond national borders. We all belong to a variegated tribe of brothers and sisters with whom to identify, and with whom to feel home with. We can become so much richer through sharing and contributing values and ideas across national borders.