The defining feature of today’s Australia is not only the cultural diversity of its people but the extent to which they are united by an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia. Within the framework of Australia’s laws, all Australians have the right to express their culture and beliefs and to participate freely in Australia’s national life.At the same time, everyone is expected to uphold the principles and shared values that support Australia’s way of life. These include:
- respect for an equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
- freedom of speech and association
- freedom of religion and a secular government
- support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law
- equality under the law
- equality of men and women
- equality of opportunity
- a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect, and compassion for those in need. Australia also holds firmly to the belief that no one should be disadvantaged on the basis of their country of birth, cultural heritage, language, gender or religious belief.
Given the diverse nature of today’s Australia, some people question whether there is a ‘typical’ Australian. There is, of course, no shortage of popular stereotypes, some of which contradict each other. For example, some people see Australians as egalitarian, irreverent people with a deep suspicion of authority while others regard them as mostly law-abiding and even conformist. Some people, particularly those living overseas, believe Australians live mainly in country areas, the Australian outback or the bush. In fact, more than 75 per cent of Australians live a cosmopolitan lifestyle in urban centres, mainly in the capital cities along the coast.
Others see Australians as people who live in a ‘lucky country’ who love their leisure, particularly sport, both as spectators and as participants. In fact, Australians are among the hardest-working people in the world with some of the longest working hours in the developed world.
Another common perception of Australians is that they are informal, open and direct and say what they mean. They are also seen as people who believe in the principle of giving people a fair go and standing up for their mates, the disadvantaged and the underdog.Many of these popular images have some truth to them and most Australians conform to at least some of them. But Australians, like people everywhere, cannot be so easily stereotyped. There are ‘typical’ Australians everywhere. But they are not all the same.
- More than 6.5 million migrants have settled in Australia since 1945. English is the national language, but other languages are valued.
- Australia is predominantly Christian, but people are free to practise any religion they choose.
- Around 88 per cent of Australians go to at least one cultural event each year. More than 11 million Australians aged 15 or over take part in sport or other physical activity.
- Australia has one of the most diverse cuisines in the world but has no national dish