Australian culture in multicultural Australia has many faces. Sue Ellson from the Newcomers Network explains what it means to her to be Australian and why it is something to celebrate and share with our multicultural friends.
You sometimes hear: ‘There is no culture in Australia – that is only in Europe.’ I disagree.
There is so much to celebrate and enjoy about Australian culture in multicultural Australia. Of course, we can cherish our Indigenous heritage. We can also reflect on our more recent history to understand what it is to live and work in Australia today.
My personal history started when I was born in Adelaide, South Australia in the 1960’s, and I moved to Melbourne, Victoria in 1994. As a child, I grew up in the southern suburb of Morphett Vale, a location shared by many ’10 Pound Pom’ families who had migrated from the United Kingdom. The family next door was born in France. When I moved to West Beach as a teenager, I was next door to various other Australians born in Greece and Italy. To this day, I am still quoting English expressions thanks to the vernacular shared in my family history over multiple generations.
Moving to Melbourne saw me face to face with many more cultures – most noticeably Asian and Indian but in more recent times, many more individuals from the Middle East, South America, USA and South Africa.
I am proud to declare that most of my friends in Melbourne were born in another country or another state in Australia and I have the luxury of enjoying many harmonious relationships despite our diverse backgrounds, opinions and modus operandi.
A significant part of my work involves working with people from other countries and helping them find work in Australia. So to help you understand Australian Culture, I would like to share my observations on the Australian Experience.
After travelling overseas in 2010, my own perception of Australia as one of the best countries on Earth was cemented. Here’s why:
Australians volunteer – Yes, almost every Australian you meet will be giving their time or talents to a community, sporting, faith group, civic enterprise or a cause that is near and dear to their hearts. They do this willingly to make Australia a better place, and without their contribution, we would not continue to improve.
Australians are pioneers – Yes, we have a much smaller population than most countries, so to create a new opportunity, product, technology, innovation or even sales, we need to think ahead, go against the grain, challenge the status quo and make new paths. Some of the greatest inventions in the world were created by people living in Australia.
Australians strive – Yes, we understand that if we want a better life or world, it is up to us to do something about it. Our persistence and determination sees us constantly aim for the next goal, the greater good for our community, our country and the world. There is no reason to plateau once we achieve success – we look for the next thing that will make life for our fellow man better. We find a way.
Australians regulate – Yes, for some people, you will view Australia as a ‘Nanny State.’ I say ‘thanks Grandma!’ We all know that Grandma has wisdom, experience and gumption – so she knows that unless rules are put in place, children will not learn. We need regulations to ensure that our new standards are maintained and that there are penalties for non-compliance. At the end of the day, we are aiming for a fair and just life for all rather than the success of the rich at the cost of the poor.
Australians are human – Yes, we remember our past and when a lot of change occurs all at once, we are a little hesitant. We are friendly and polite as a general rule, but we won’t give you our whole heart until we fully trust you – but then you will have us as a loyal friend for the rest of your life. Connect with us through our passions and interests because we love sharing these with others. Don’t rely on us to do it for you – but politely ask us how and we will show you the way.
Australians look different – Yes, there is no ‘typical’ Australian appearance. Whilst I have an Anglo-Celtic background, I am not more Australian than any other person born here. I am not entitled to any special favour and your physical appearance does not mean you are not Australian.
Australians want equality – Yes, we will always strive for equality, equity and fairness. A fair go. Every person living here has rights and responsibilities. It is not okay to be racist, discriminatory, selfish or exploitative. Australians are free to practice their own faith provided it does not contradict our local laws. Legislation has been created for the common good. Remember this!
Australians speak up – Yes, at work, we are direct. You may find it a little confronting to hear us speak our minds at the boardroom table, use a first name when talking to our manager or socialising with our work mates on the weekend. If we ask a question, we expect an honest answer. Yes means yes and no means no. Do not tell us yes if the answer is no. We will argue with the government and the media if it helps us change Australia for the better.
Australians are proud – Yes, when we travel, we tell people how wonderful life is in Australia. We explore the world looking for new information to bring back here to make us even better. We always imagine ‘retiring’ here when we decide to stop working as we remember the joy of our youth and the comforts of our life.
Yes, I am an Australian. Thanks to my education and technology, I am a citizen of the world. I can eat any food I want, wear any clothes I want and live in any approved building design house. I can dance, sing and practise my faith. I can walk the streets knowing that my safety has been generated by fallen heroes and the local police. That society’s regulations do their best to create a safe community for my children. I love Australia.
What have I missed? What other things about Australian culture do we need to celebrate and share with our multicultural friends? I do not live in a gold fish bowl virtual utopia; I realise that there is still much to be done in Australia to overcome various social, economic and personal issues, but on the whole, the above is a summary of my view on Australian culture in multicultural Australia.
Sue Ellson BBus AIMM MAHRI is the Founder and Director of Newcomers Network, a socially responsible business providing information, events and advocacy for newcomers and networkers. With representatives in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, Newcomers Network helps people live, work and network in their new location. Sue is also the Founder and Director of the Global Mobility Network, an international portal of information, links and resources for Global Mobility Professionals, the Camberwell Network for people who live, work or network in Camberwell, the Convenor of the International Human Resources Network Victoria for the Australian Human Resources Institute and a regular feature writer for various publications. Connect directly to Sue via LinkedIn.