The question asked more and more frequently today with regards to the ‘multiculturalism’ question and the nationalist question is simple: ‘What is Australian culture?’ – The Nativist Herald now will provide the summary answer to that question.
Australian culture is an agrarian, racially-centered, rugged self reliant, hard, honest-working, family and community sentimentality which had been raised up out of planting Anglo-Celtic culture in some of the most harsh and isolated conditions in the world, too did it grow out of its colonial experience with multi-racialism and colonial industrialism.
Geographic separation from the rest of the world saw a culture which was expressed in class-distinction, fervent individualism and vanity transform into an ‘egalitarianist’ , ethnocentric, community-based, paternal culture. The sheer distance between Australia and Europe ( Often four months by ship ) saw the necessity for the creation of a self-reliant community, where the ideological obsession for ‘individualism’ and ‘distinction’ was thrown out as redundant and harmful to the well-being of the colonies.
The idea of ‘mateship’ which people regurgitate today without a proper understanding, was formed during this colonial period. It was during this time when there was no real ‘social security’, there was no Centrelink, there was no large and established fraternal organisations: It was the men of the field and track who were mutually the only means of support.
Cattlemen and shearers traveled across the land from station to station with little but what they could carry on their backs or their horses, they shared their meals, drinks, stories and laughs. The harrowing solitude of the Australian outback, and the danger of lurking Aborigines was overcome by these pioneers banding together; it was during this period in which the distinctions of the old-world were often thrown away, Irish, Scots and Englishmen all of a similar class threw in together, they were white and they were all ‘mates.’ regardless of their heritage; this of course never did away with the ‘casually racist’ humor of Australians – our boisterous male cultural norms found their origin in old drovers having a laugh with one another, always with a distinct sense of irony and good spirit.
Necessity did not permit for men to be genuinely prejudiced and stern against mingling with those from other European nations; as ‘The Bulletin’ recorded in 1887: “By the term Australian we mean not just those who were merely born in Australia. All white men who come to these shores with a clean record and who leave behind them the memory of the class distinctions and religious differences of the Old World; all men who place the happiness of their adopted land before imperialism are Australians” This was the source of the creation of the explicit ‘Australian’ identity; no longer Scots or Anglos but Australians, with Scotch ancestry, or English ancestry.
Henry Lawson details the rugged conditions endured by the shearers; and details where really we get out ‘hard and honest-working’ ethos from:
WE WANT the man who will lead the van,
The man who will pioneer.
We have no use for the gentleman,
Or the cheating Cheap-Jack here;
We have no room for the men who shirk
The sweat of the brow. Condemn
The men who are frightened to look for work
And funk when it looks for them.
We’ll honour the man who can’t afford
To wait for a job that suits,
But sticks a swag on his shoulders broad
And his feet in blucher boots,
And tramps away o’er the ridges far
And over the burning sand
To look for work where the stations are
In the lonely Western land.
He’ll brave the drouth and he’ll brave the rain,
And fight his sorrows down,
And help to garden the inland plain
And build the inland town;
And he’ll be found in the coming years
With a heart as firm and stout,
An honoured man with the pioneers
Who lead the people out.
( An Australian Advertisement, 1890 )
This White Australian identity carried on, spending years separated from the culture of Europe, finding its own ethnic sense of identity, world-view and purpose. After conquering the blue mountains, the vast interior was opened up for settlers of all stripes, many of whom brought wives and daughters with them – the blessed motherhood of the White Australian Natives. Townships and larger sheep & cattle stations opened up for a greater discovery of agrarian lifestyle which would characterise very much the view all other nations view of Australia, a warm and protective country-side community swimming in a lake of sheep, kind women and wheat-fields.
Egalitarianism in the Australian sense has never been about the presupposition of ‘equality’ between all men, women, races etc – it has been about the fundamental social courteousy of treating every white man with a sense of decency and respect. We know fore-mostly that ‘racial equality’ was never of Australian sentiment, our very first elected Prime Minister Edmund Barton said famously in 1901:
“I do not think either that the doctrine of the equality of man was really ever intended to include racial equality. There is no racial equality. There is that basic inequality. These races are, in comparison with white races – I think no one wants convincing of this fact – unequal and inferior.
The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman. There is a deep-set difference, and we see no prospect and no promise of its ever being effaced. Nothing in this world can put these two races upon an equality. Nothing we can do by cultivation, by refinement, or by anything else will make some races equal to others. “
Australia’s experience with multi-racialism in the 19th century saw the necessity for White Australians of all ethnic groups to band together under a single banner and motto; a ‘White Australia’ – our colonial experience led to the Lambing Flats Rebellion, The Clunes Rebellion and ultimately the Intercolonial Conference of 1888 which saw Australia’s leading statesmen declare that coloured migration to Australia must absolutely end for the welfare of workers and the well-being of our culturally cohesive, national community.
Australian egalitarianism extended to all white men as described in the 1887 edition of the Bulletin previously; it was a social courteousy that was almost new in its age; where previously in many nations of Europe there was a strict social order between financial classes and blooded aristocracy; for us today it is hard to understand that in England or France the nobility would not have an interest in conversation with a pleb or peasant, The peasant could risk his tongue by opening his mouth without invitation by an aristocrat.
Australian ‘egalitarianism’ ensured working men saw the rights to have a day in court; the rights and ability to own their own parcel of land and ultimately the right to standards of employment and that could sustain a Godly family.
Australian culture took very strongly to the sense of community and family. Whorehouses were a difficult find in rural colonial Australia – unlike the debauched Americans across the pacific – Australian men saw it very important that standards of civilisation were established which would make families possible.
Communities were built from the outset of the church more often than not, You will always find “Church St” in a Colonial Australian town, it was the main road in which the pioneers erected a church, and from which sprung-forth righteous family life, and large families. The average birth rate of Colonial Australian families was very high; with 42.4 children born each year per 1,000 people in 1861-65. The Australian countryside was full of bustling families, this necessitating a sense of family-community life which strongly took hold into the national mindset right until the advent of feminism in the 1960s.
The paternal culture of Australia was observed in our history of forming extra-governmental institutions like fraternal organisations and trade unions, these playing a very active role in Australian life. It is estimated by the turn of the 20th century, more than 30% of people were members of a fraternal organisations, likely even more belonging to working unions. Australian culture was characteristically one of good kinds of leisure: Wool-shed dances for the youths, Bowling clubs for the men, Church groups and Women’s associations for the wives.
Australian institutions raised and fed by the circumstance of agrarian living went on to oppose the radical industrialists whom often from abroad had another view of Australia; a high-density, smoke-stacked city in which men grovel like wage slaves to the beat of an assembly line. Not that there’s anything implicitly wrong with factory work; but in the past, like it is today – the combined circumstance of land monopolies existing and capital being cluttered into the major cities; Australia during the 19th century fought to master the art of preserving rural Australian life; it was infact an article of federation that the ‘drift to the cities’ would be stopped, and policies put in place to see to the welfare of farmers and agrarian towns.
Australian culture beyond these matters is very much a question of our arts; Our famous painters include Tom Roberts, George Collingridge, Benjamin Duterrau, Aileen Dent among others. Our musicians include Alfred Hill, Peter Dawson, Claude Carnell, Roy Agnew, Percy Grainger among aothers. Our cuisine beyond its British roast pattern took on new forms in Pavlova, Lamingtons, Jaffas and Colonial Damper.
To the modernists who say Australia ‘has no culture’ ; shame upon them, We have a long-standing history and set of moral standards, a way of life deep rooted in our colonial heritage and European roots. Australia means advancement of family, community and race.