Australian Identity & Culture

culture [n.]

1. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 2. the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. 3. Biology, the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients. 4. the cultivation of plants.
- ORIGIN Middle English [denoting a cultivated piece of land] : the noun from French culture or directly from Latin cultura ‘growing, cultivation’; the verb from obsolete French culturer or medieval Latin culturare, both based on Latin colere ‘tend, cultivate’ [see Cultivate]. In late Middle English the sense was ‘cultivation of the soil’ and from this [early 16th century], arose ‘cultivation [of the mind, faculties, or manners’]; CULTURE [Sense 1 of the noun] dates from the early 19th century
Oxford Dictionaries

Australia has many things in common with the rest of the world, though there are several parts of our national identity and culture which are peculiar to us. These are detailed in the sections below. They include emphasis on physical as opposed to mental achievement, the concept of mateship, Australian idiom, language and humour. The embracing of the concept of multiculturalism is also included. Be aware culture and national identity are always changing.

Journals, databases, primary documents, reference material and other information are included where these are relevant.

Other specific information relating to Indigenous culture and beliefs can be found on the Indigenous Resources page.

This page covers topics M to Z including areas such as Mateship, Myths & Stereotypes, Multiculturalism, Social & Cultural Features and Sport.

The First Page covers topics A to L including areas such as Art & Culture, Australian Identity, Humour, Educational Activities, Australian Values, Language, … .

M - R


From the earliest European settlement, this was seen as a defining characteristic of Australian culture.

  • Australian myths; egalitarianism, mateship and a fair go
    Convict Creations. ‘Mateship is a famed Australian character trait. Although critics like to point out that people in other countries also have friends, arguably no other country celebrates friendships in their national identities as does Australia. In that regard, the celebration of mateship as part of a national identity is a uniquely Australian trait’.
  • Gallipoli, Mateship, …
    “And the Construction of Australian National Identity”. Links on the role and depiction of mateship, especially in the Peter Weir film, Gallipoli.
  • Is Mateship a Virtue ?
    Essay by James S. Page that takes a critical look at what mateship is and effects this might have - are these virtues ? PDF file.
  • Mateship
    Listing of quotes and statements relating to mateship from Prime Ministers, writers, everyday people. Interesting.
  • Mateship - A Very Australian History
    ‘In the first book-length exploration of our secular creed, one of Australia’s leading young historians and public commentators turns mateship’s history upside down’. Publishers description of a book published in 2015. A review article about the book can also be found on a page at The Conversation. A newspaper opinion piece by the author of the book can be found at Warts and all, mateship helps us make sense of Australia.
  • Mateship, Diggers and Wartime - Australia’s Culture Portal
    ‘ In Australia, a ‘mate’ is more than just a friend. It’s a term that implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance’. Article, now archived.
  • Mateship might sound blokey, but our research shows women value it more highly than men
    Article providing an overview of the response to a survey titled The Australian Mateship Survey - Culture or Cringe ? which was ‘ part of a research project supported by Central Queensland University and the Australian National University’. There is even a short radio recording [7.25min.] which talks about the survey, covers reasons for the survey and details some of the results.
  • Mateship [Wikipedia]
    Historical Origins; Military context; Australian Constitutional preamble; More than friendship; Common Usage; References; Further Reading; External Links.
  • Send Round the Hat
    A series of 12 sketches most demonstrative of the concept of mateship written by Henry Lawson. A Sketch of Mateship is one specific example of the concept. Scroll down to read this section. A second site, Triangles of Life, and other stories also includes mateship stories.

Media Presentations

Includes a variety of media presentations primarily from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC].

Myths, Beliefs & Stereotypes

Information about beliefs integral to Australian culture. You should also check the Mateship section above.

  • 15 Myths About Australia, Debunked
    ‘To the rest of the world, Australia is an exotic land full of cuddly koala bears, cold pints of Fosters, dangerous animals and even more treacherous convicts. The only problem ? None of this is true. Here are 15 myths about Australia — debunked’. A second site, Debunking 12 Myths About Australia does the same thing, slightly more seriously.
  • Australian Dream
    ‘The Australian Dream or Great Australian Dream is a belief that in Australia, home ownership can lead to a better life and is an expression of success and security’. History, cultural presentations, references, links. Wikipedia.
  • Australian Folklore
    ‘This is an online version of the bibliography listed in Graham Seal’s The Hidden Culture : Folklore in Australian Society . Its aim is to help readers to quickly locate important and useful works relating to various aspects of Australian folklore’.
  • Australian Myths - Fact or Fable ?
    ‘Australian myths have very little to do with realising one’s ambition. Instead, myths based around mateship, egalitarianism and a belief in a fair go aim to achieve a peaceful society where people don’t feel either superior or inferior and where the underdogs are supported’.
  • Australian Stereotypes
    ‘Not only do stereotypes provide the behavioural model that individuals seek to emulate, they also provide a sense of commonality that makes people feel that they are part of a community’.
  • Egalitarianism
    Presentation with an emphasis on mateship, egalitarianism, a fair go. Looks at responses to these concepts. Be sure to check the additional items listed on each side, e.g. Wisdom, Humour, Strine, … .
  • Class in Australia
    A sequence of Quotes about class in Australia. Several different points of view provided.
  • Oral History and Folklore
    National Library of Australia. ‘The Oral History and Folklore Collection dates back to the 1950s and includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews and recordings with Australians from all walks of life’.

Tall Poppies


General information, award information, illustrators, link listings, more.

  • A brief history of immigration to Australia
    ‘From the gold rush in the 1800s to today's opportunities for skilled migrants : is Australia really the most successful multicultural society in the world ?’ SBS.
  • A History of the Department of Immigration
    “Managing Migration to Australia. This publication is a brief history of the Department of Immigration and captures some of the key events, highlights and challenges relating to immigration to Australia”. Includes multicultural processes [Chapter 4 especially]. 2017 version.
  • A Timeline History of Multicultural Australia
    Commentaries, speeches, documents, archival material, articles, reports, more. Multiple sections from before Australia became a nation to The Present Generation. Click on Hear Commentary for the audio presentations.
  • Australian Multiculturalism : the roots of its success
    ‘The paper starts with an examination of Australia’s history from early settlement and then the focus shifts to the unique Australian culture that has emerged today, combining the elements of past and present’. Linked to a 2012 conference on this topic. Online or as a Word download.
    You now need to be able to log in to access this site.
  • Creating a Nation : Modern Immigration Stories
    ABC Education. ‘From British child migrants to Russian émigrés, or Vietnamese refugees to Afghan asylum seekers, Australia is a nation of migrants. While people came from different places, for different reasons and at different times, they all shared the same hopes for freedom, opportunity and a better future for their families’.
  • Fact Sheet - Australia’s Multicultural Policy
    Department of Social Services. Includes a Brief History and a ‘Parliamentary statement on racial tolerance’.
  • Immigration and Nation Building in Australia : Looking Back, Looking Forward
    Transcript of a speech given in 2015. Provides an overview of migration, attitudes and more from the earliest days, but especially from 1945 on.
  • Making Multicultural Australia
    Assisting young people, parents, teachers and the community to explore Australia’s cultural diversity, tolerance and anti-racism. Research Library [3 000+ pages], audio, video, Hotwords, activities & quizzes, history topics, lesson ideas, any of their quizzes available on their Student Activities - Quizzes page.
    Exceptional presentation !
  • Multicultural Australia
    ‘Find information on Australia’s cultural diversity, including key dates and activities’. It includes a range of items from multiple sources collated by
  • Multicultural Australia - Australia’s Multicultural Statement
    Statements, examples of people who have added to our multicultural state, shared values, harnessing the advantages of our diversity and shared national interest and much more. Australian Government. A second document, a policy from several years before, titled The People of Australia [Australia’s Multicultural Policy] can be read here.
  • Multiculturalism : a review of …
    Australian policy statements and recent debates in Australia and overseas. ‘This paper provides an overview of Australia’s federal multicultural policies, briefly draws attention to state and territory multicultural policy frameworks, and reviews some key issues in recent public debates about multiculturalism in Australia and overseas, with a focus on post-immigration multiculturalism’. 4 Appendices provide several hundred inclusions to items, many of which are able to be accessed by the links provided. Parliamentary Library.
  • Multiculturalism in Australia
    ‘ Contents include Historical perspectives, Perspectives on Employment, Perspectives of Racism, Perspectives on Access and Equity, Perspectives on Ethno-specific Services and Self-help; Perspectives on Immigration and Refugee Intakes; Perspectives on the Future; and References. A paper written by Charles Koo and Gary Yia Lee and submitted to the State of the Nation Report in 1994’.
  • Our history - Multicultural affairs
    ‘Learn how we continue to sustain our national unity in cultural diversity. Australia’s multicultural policy history; A brief history of Australia's multicultural policies; more’.
  • The Immigration Photographic Archive []
    ‘Most immigrants arrived on assisted passages or resettlement programs, as child and youth migrants and through employment and family reunion programs. From the 1960s immigration schemes saw migrants from Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa settle in Australia. The National Archives holds this collection of images as the Immigration Photographic Archive [series A12111]. The collection comprises 36 000 black and white and colour images’.
  • The Success of Australia’s Multiculturalism
    An interesting speech given by the Race Discrimination Commissioner to the Sydney Institute in 2016.
  • Timeline
    ‘Explore Australia’s development as a culturally diverse nation. The timeline locator provides a snapshot of events for a given period, while the key dates section provides more detail on the history, cultural diversity, race relations and manifestations of racism in the two hundred years since European settlement’. RacismNoWay.
  • What’s in a name ?
    Policy Forum. An article written after the death of László Ürge [better known as Les Murray]. It looks at multiculturalism and the perception that name changes can be undertaken for many reasons.
  • Why Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural society
    The McKell Institute. ‘Key Points; The path to a multicultural Australia; Measuring success; Attitudes towards multiculturalism; The benefits of multiculturalism in Australia; Lifetime fiscal benefits of migrants to the economy; and Australia : the most successful multicultural nation in the world’.

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S - Z

Social and Cultural Features

There are numerous links regarding social and cultural features. Some topics have also been covered in other areas.

  • American and British Cultural Influence in the 1970s
    Transcript of a presentation. Video presentation included [Power Point format]. Scroll down the page for a Reader View.
  • Australia - Cultural life [Britannica]
    ‘Australia’s isolation as an island continent has done much to shape - and inhibit - its culture. Daily life and social customs; The Arts; Literature; Performing arts; Visual arts; Film; The influence of Bollywood and anime; and Cultural institutions’.
  • Australia - Culture, Customs and Etiquette
    ‘This guide will give you an understanding of a number of key areas including Language, Religion and beliefs, Culture & society, Social etiquette and customs [and Business culture and etiquette]’. Brief introductions to each topic followed by point descriptors for that topic.
  • Australia in the 1960s [NFSA]
    ‘The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades in world history – including in Australia. This collection highlights some memorable moments from Australia in the 1960s’. You can also access a similar presentation from the same source for the 1980s decade.
  • Australia in the 1990s
    Decade Summary, History and Politics, Society and Culture, Science and Technology. Part of My Place - Decade Timeline site which covers decades from before the arrival of convicts and settlers up until the 2000s.
  • Australian Cultural Values
    Originally written for an English Language Study course at VCE level and concentrates essentially on Australian language as part of our culture.
  • Australia’s Cultural Diversity
    ‘Information in this section is primarily derived from 2016 Census data as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Overview; Diversity of birthplace; Diversity of language; and Diversity of religion and spiritual beliefs’. Racism. No Way.
  • British and American Influences 1950s
    Effect on music, cinema, television, food, sport, national identity, more. Also covers other areas such as Music, Fashion, Sports and Entertainment.
  • Culture of Australia
    ‘Historical development of Australian culture, Symbols, Language, Humour, Arts, Religion, Public holidays, Cuisine, Clothing and apparel, Sport, Folklore, Attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes and References’. Wikipedia.
  • Face the facts : Cultural Diversity
    Australian Human Rights Commission. ‘Australia is a vibrant, multicultural country. We are home to the world’s oldest continuous cultures, as well as Australians who identify with more than 270 ancestries. Since 1945, almost seven million people have migrated to Australia’.
  • Popular culture in the 1980s
    Transcript of a presentation. Video presentation included [Power Point format]. Scroll down the page for a Reader View.
  • Social and Cultural Features of the 1960s
    Transcript of a presentation. Video presentation included [Power Point format]. Scroll down the page for a Reader View.
  • Social and Cultural Features of the 1970s
    Transcript of a presentation. Video presentation included [Power Point format]. Scroll down the page for a Reader View.


Sport and its influence has always played a significant role in Australian culture both with imported sports as well as those that were homegrown.

  • A Nation of “Good Sports” ?
    Cultural Citizenship and Sport in Contemporary Australia. A short article by David Rowe ‘exploring if it still can be assumed that sport plays a unifying role in this country’ [but may now be changing].
  • An Investigation of The Australian Passion For Sport
    It may be two , decades old, but the role of sport does not seem to have changed very much during that period and still holds its position of importance for so many people.
  • Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi : why do we love sport so much ?
    ‘Australians have a remarkable affection for their sport, an affection which has endured for well over 150 years. They love the sports they play but, even more so, they love the sports they watch – both in large numbers at the grounds or via broadcast’.
  • Australian Sport History
    Clearinghouse for Sport. ‘The development of sport, individually and more broadly, as well as the history of the various representative bodies, is a key part of Australia’s past, present, and future story’. Key messages, Impact of Sport, Legacy, Preservation, Background, Sources, Further Sources and reading [books, journals, videos and websites].
  • Australia’s Sporting Culture
    ‘Either as participants or as fans, team sport provides one of the best opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to come together. Fortunately, with four codes of professional football, three varieties of professional cricket, professional basketball, semi-professional baseball and semi-professional netball, Australia has arguably the most diverse professional sporting environment in the world’.
  • List of Australian sports films
    ‘This is a compilation of Australian films in the genre covering sports activities. Films may cover issues in sport such as World Series Cricket, 1968 Olympics Black Power salute, personalities Dawn Fraser and Phar Lap, sporting events and tours and satire. Films provide an insight into the importance of sport into Australian society. Films include fictional and non-fictional stories’. Wikipedia.
  • List of Australian sports songs
    ‘Covers songs written specifically about Australian sports, sports people, animals and sporting events. It excludes sports team songs or general songs that are anthems for sports events. Mike Brady, Greg Champion and John Williamson have specialised in writing and performing Australian sports songs’. Wikipedia.
  • National Sports Museum
    ‘This is no ordinary museum. Expect the unexpected, just like sport itself’. Information on exhibitions, collections, excursions, links to other sources, resources, more.
  • Sport Collection - National Museum
    ‘Explore Sport, Search Sport, Collection Highlights [e.g. Australian Olympic Collection]’. Check for previous exhibitions and special activities. National Museum of Australia.
  • Sport and Australian Culture
    National Library of Australia. ‘This resource is aligned to the Australian Curriculum : Health and Physical Education for Year 7, 8, 9 and 10 students. It adopts an inquiry learning approach that develops students’ skills in investigating sport in Australian society. Students will engage with a rich selection of sources and be challenged to draw their own conclusions about the role of sport in Australia’s culture and history’.
  • Sport and Politics - Australian Studies, Sport
    ‘Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year panels of three secondary students selected from schools Australia-wide, interview leading decision-makers on important current issues. This clip comes from a 2008 learning journey on the topic of Sport’. Background information, Curriculum focus, Classroom activities, Video clip, Further resources.
  • Sport and Popular Culture
    Part of a larger Contemporary Australia presentation. Transcript of a specific episode.
  • Sport in Australia
    History, Organisation, Participation, Amateur Sport, Major Leagues, Spectatorship, Sports Media, International Competitions, Events, References, Bibliography and Links. Wikipedia.
  • Sporting Greats
    ‘Australia reveres and treasures its sporting heroes. Sporting greats have inspired and united Australians, who have shared, celebrated and rewarded their successes’. Now archived - Trove.
  • Sport : Touchstone of Australian Life
    Kieren Perkins plus Martin Flanagan cover two aspects of sporting life. From the Alfred Deakin Lectures.
  • This Sporting Life
    One person’s response to those who see sport as the most important factor, when he doesn’t. While it is 16 years old, in many ways it is still as relevant now as then. Article in The Age.
  • Why is sport so important in Australian culture ?
    ‘Australians like to think of themselves as sports obsessives, a nation of people who play hard, are loyal to their team and passionate about sporting endeavour. Stefan Grun looks at the background to this sense of national identity’.

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