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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Robert Manne and Cultural Identity

Robert Manne and Mara Moustafine.

Political scientist Robert Manne reflects on his parents loss of the culture of the Continent, and the European household and the Protestant Australian community in which he grew up.



Date Added:

02 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

8.7 MB






I don’t think they call themselves “new Australians” I think they were amused by the term actually. They thought of themselves really as Jewish and as people from what they called, “The Continent.” They –what they –they had lost something and what they’d lost was not so much Germany or Austria, but what they’d lost was a thing called, “The Continent.” Which was European cosmopolitan culture. Which they felt that – they felt was a great thing. They didn’t think Germany was, because Germany was the place from which they had been expelled and that had killed their own parents. But the continent was what was – the thing they’d lost and that they yearned for really. And that was culture – a sort of culture which –and they never quite over – you know, got over having lost.


Well my family’s friends were, I think mainly Jewish. Mainly German Jewish. Some of them were German actually, my mother, her best friend was German and actually – a gay hairdresser who she loved and who hated Nazism for different reasons and you know, they got on famously. And so it was a sort of mainly European or German Jewish household without many Australian friends in the house, but my own friends were almost exclusively Anglo, boys at school and in the neighbourhood. I tried – I went to Sunday School a bit, but we were a long way from the Sunday Schools in Ivanhoe, and I actually – to be honest, it was when I felt most ill at ease, because it was a very orthodox Sunday School and I – they were not at all orthodox people.


And I felt more alien there than I did at my primary school and I tried a Zionist youth group for about two weeks. Called Habanim (sp?) and I didn’t like that much either. I liked it as little as I liked boy scouts. So, my own friends were very Anglo, I had two or three Jewish friends of my age, but almost all were my close friends, were you know, Presbyterians and Anglicans and so on. No Catholics at all because the primary school at that time, there was a complete division between Catholicism and Protestantism and the Catholics almost all went to a parish school in the area.


So my friends in the neighbourhood as it happened and in the – at school were almost all Protestant. In the two places I lived, East Ivanhoe and then Camberwell until the end of high school, they were overwhelmingly Anglo places or Anglo Australian places. And we had a few migrant kids at school and there wasn’t a huge difference between them and everyone else, but – so I was aware of that. There were one or two Asians from the Colombo Plan who came to Camberwell High School, and it was interesting. It was a very new thing. But in general it was much later that you know, when I got to university that you saw the plurality of cultures really.


End transcript