Australian is an adjective that refers to a nation, a citizenship, a society and a culture. These are not all the same, though the heat in the use of the term often tries to imply they are of equivalent meaning and place in society.
Australia as a nation was created in 1901 through an Act of the British Parliament. The first thing the Australian nation did was to define who could be Australians. They did this through the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 which defined who could not be an Australian – it could not be anyone whose skin was coloured (yellow, brown, black), in particular it could not be an Asian.
Australian citizenship was created in 1948. Before that Australians were British subjects.
Australian society is a growing thing – not everyone who is part of Australian society is a citizen, and there is a great variation among the values and behaviours that are included in Australian culture.
Australian is made a hot word when it is used to differentiate a certain set of beliefs or behaviours from people who are said to be “not-Australian”.
Australian culture has its own myths, which are stories we tell ourselves about our heritage and values. In the twenty-first century there are many ways of being Australian, that is, meeting the obligations of citizenship.
10 March 2002