Who are Australians?

by Narelle Webber on Saturday, 18 May 2013

Myself an Australian, this is a really tough blog to write, as, where do you start with a country as vast and multicultural as Australia?

The stereotypes…

What stereotype comes to mind when you think of Australia? You probably aren’t alone if a Caucasian person of European descent first comes to mind.  Even Tourism Australia likes to paint this picture (check out the infamous promo video which caused quite a stir a few years ago here).

What stereotype comes to mind about Australians?

A common stereotype is that Australians:

  • Are sport mad (for Cricket, AFL: Australian rules football, and horse racing)
  • Are most passionate about ANZAC day: our heritage and history from World War 1
  • Love BBQs (sure, we eat prawns (shrimp) but most often we’ll eat red meat)
  • Can all surf and are into Surf Life Saving

It’s still true that most of Australia’s 23.45 million current inhabitants are Caucasian but what’s often not known is that Australia today is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and its demographics and therefore Australian culture are continuing to evolve rapidly.

Over 100 years ago, Australia was mostly populated by people from the UK in addition to Aboriginal Australians (about 4 million in total). By 2011, things were vastly different; the national Census revealed that over a quarter (26%) of Australia’s (nearly 23 million) population was born overseas and a further one fifth (20%) had at least one overseas-born parent. About three quarters of Australians speak English at home. Aside from this, the most commonly spoken languages include Mandarin (1.6 per cent), Italian (1.4 per cent), Arabic (1.3 per cent), Cantonese (1.2 per cent) and Greek (1.2 per cent). The reality is that the definition of what is “Australian” is changing fast and every generation brings a slightly new perspective.

Australian Aboriginal indigenous author and inventor, David Unaipon is featured on the $50 note

However long before Europeans explored and “discovered” the island continent a little over 200 years ago, Australia’s traditional owners had shaped the land, just it had shaped them. Today, about 3% of Australians identify with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island heritage. The story of Australia’s Indigenous people is long, diverse, vibrant, poignant, proud and everything in between. Certainly, Indigenous Australians were treated shamefully in the past and there is still much to do in today’s society to bridge the inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.  In fact, the average lifespan of indigenous Australians is 10-17 years younger than that of other Australians.  However there have been some incredible indigenous leaders such as Albert Namatjira and more recently Mick Dodson as well as role models like Cathy Freeman (indigenous Olympic athlete and gold medalist) and Aaron Pedersen in today’s society which gives hope for the future.  If you are participating on the ISV Australian Adventure Tour you should definitely make the most of your experience at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, where you can get a taste of Australia’s rich Indigenous culture and history.

In terms of religion, Australia respects the right to religious freedom. Nearly two thirds of the population claim at least nominal adherence to a Christian-based religion, with Easter and Christmas being national holidays.  Nearly one third of Australians do not identify with any religion and the remaining population is a diverse group that includes fast-growing Islamic and Buddhist communities. It is illegal to discriminate against someone’s religious beliefs in Australia.

Australia today is a very multicultural place. We are proud of our country and will love talking to you about it!

You will find that Australians are generally friendly and informal in their speech, attitudes and dress. It is common for Australians to address others by their first names. In Australia men and women are regarded equally. They mix freely socially and compete for jobs on an equal basis. In many instances they share accommodation and as a consequence contribute equally to expenses, cooking and cleaning. Australians are known for being easy going, friendly and for loving the outdoors.   And yes, many of us do actually surf!

You can learn so much about Australian history and culture just by talking to the locals and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on your ISV program. Australians are proud of their country and will love teaching you about it.

To learn more about ISV’s program in Australia visit our website.

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/category/pre-departure-info/


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