Australian Identity & Culture

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culture [n.]

1. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 2. the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. 3. Biology, the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells, etc. in an artificial medium containing nutrients. 4. the cultivation of plants.
- ORIGIN Middle English [denoting a cultivated piece of land] : the noun from French culture or directly from Latin cultura ‘growing, cultivation’; the verb from obsolete French culturer or medieval Latin culturare, both based on Latin colere ‘tend, cultivate’ [see Cultivate]. In late Middle English the sense was ‘cultivation of the soil’ and from this [early 16th century], arose ‘cultivation [of the mind, faculties, or manners’]; CULTURE [Sense 1 of the noun] dates from the early 19th century
Oxford Dictionaries

Australia has many things in common with the rest of the world. There are though, several parts of our national identity and culture which are peculiar to us. These are detailed in the sections below. They include emphasis on physical as opposed to mental achievement, the concept of mateship, Australian idiom, language and humour, … . The concept of multiculturalism is also included. Be aware culture and national identity are always changing.

This page covers topics A to L including areas such as Art & Culture, Australian Identity, Humour, Educational Activities, Australian Values, Language, … .

The Second Page covers topics M to Z including areas such as Mateship, Myths & Stereotypes, Multiculturalism, Social & Cultural Features and Sport.

Journals, databases, primary documents, reference material and other information are included where these are relevant.

A - F

Arts & Culture

The role of Arts, Music and Literature within the Australian culture.

  • About Australia : People, Culture and lifestyle
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Sections cover Innovation, Sport, Media and Creative Australia.
  • Contemporary Australian Poetry
    ‘An Introductory Sampler’. Recommendations from the ABC Radio National program Poetica.
  • Culture and Arts
    Includes sections from Arts to Recreational Activities. links to Australian stories and biographies.
  • Curator Insights
    ‘Free Podcast. Explore works from the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Australian collection and discover how local history and art intersect’.
  • List of Australian Artists
    Artists of all types and from all periods of Australian history. Wikipedia.
  • Popular Culture 1945 - Present
    History Teachers’ Association of Australia. ‘Music has been chosen as the exemplar to indicate the range of approaches and activities that can be utilised in a study of popular culture’.
  • Portrait Stories
    ‘A trusty digital companion to the National Gallery collection. Use it to peruse the portraits and learn more about the people who have shaped Australia’. App. Rated 12+.
    Portrait stories, National Portrait Gallery is an online version using ‘video, multimedia and sound to present some of the stories of the artists and subjects’.
  • The Lucky Country
    Article about Donald Horne and his book, by his son, in response to another commentary.
  • Top 10 Aussie songs [Australian Geographic]
    ‘Music has played a huge part in shaping the Australian culture. Here’s a list of the 10 most iconic Aussie songs’.

Australian Humour

What sort of humour is considered Australian ?

  • Australian Comedy
    ‘Comedy is central to Australian cultural identity. The history of Australian comedy and the distinctly Australian humour, reflects the country’s search for a national identity based on both Australia's convict origins and the convict sense of humour and also Australia’s physical characteristics’. Overview and extensive links.
  • Australian Humour
    ‘What Makes Aussies Laugh ? We don’t want to offend anyone with a sensitive nature so please be aware that the Australian Humour page contains some swear words’.
  • Australian Humour - Larrikin
    ‘Australian humour shows the fingerprints of convicts who lived their lives by challenging taboos, breaking rules and being different. Today, the humour makes some people laugh, but can also put a few noses out of joint’.
  • Australian Humour - What makes us laugh ?
    ABC. ‘One expert says it is most notable because there is no place or occasion where a good joke is considered inappropriate. So what makes you laugh ?’ Comedy excerpts included.
  • Behind the Lines - 2014
    ‘The Year’s Best Political Cartoons condenses a year of political highs and lows into 80 of the best cartoons of 2014’.
  • Bleak Gallery
    Cartoon commentary by Bill Leak.
  • Nicholson
    A country’s culture is often reflected in the cartoons about its way of life. This is one example. Cartoons by Nicholson that reflect Australian, rather than international events. Multiple items included.
  • The Loaded Dog
    Short story by Henry Lawson. Provides a good example of ‘Aussie humour’.
  • The Political Cartoon Gallery
    ‘The Political Cartoon Gallery is Australia’s largest and finest on-line gallery for original Australian political cartoons and caricatures’. Copies available for sale.
  • They’re A Weird Mob
    A quintessential expression of coming to grips with the Australian culture. The second part of the movie is found here.

Australian Identity

Identity, and what makes it, is an integral part of any culture. The following provides information about the ‘Australian’ identity.

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Australian Values

What values do Australians see as important ? Also check the sections on Mateship and Myths below.

Educational Activities

Educational units and lessons about Australian Identity, most developed by education departments.

  • Australian Identity : Art Gallery NSW
    A series of questions and activities based on several paintings including selections from Russell Drysdale and John Olsen.
  • Australian Identity : Who is an Australian ?
    Developed for secondary level by Making Multicultural Australia. All resources can be accessed, all details are provided.
  • Community and Remembrance
    BOSTES. One of their History [HSIE] units. A complete unit outline covering programming, presentation, assessment, etc..
  • Dictionary of Sydney - Education
    ‘We are pleased to extend our resources to include units of study for primary and secondary students. We believe that an understanding of Australian history cultivates a rich foundation for school students to acquire an understanding of global perspectives and to honour our past and present heritage’.
  • RacismNoWay
    ‘Programs in Schools - Promoting Tolerance, Inclusion and Diversity’.
  • This Australian Nation :
    Who are we ? What do we value ?. Presentation from Civics & Citizenship Education. Three main activities. Secondary level. Linked through use of the Australian Readers.
  • Voices of Australia
    An education resource for Australian secondary school teachers. ‘Allows for the different stories of Australian people to be heard and celebrated in the classroom. Students will increase their awareness about experiences of diversity, discrimination, race relations, friendship, and respect. Curriculum linked’.
  • We Are Australian
    A Civics & Citizenship Education unit. Multiple activities. Middle Primary up. Linked through use of the Australian Readers.
  • National Identity
    Presentation from Radio National by Sara Cousins.
  • Raffaello Carboni’s Perception of Australia And Australian Identity
    Article by G Rando on Carboni and his views of an emerging Australian identity. [Carboni was involved in the Eureka Stockade.]
  • Racism as a Function of Egalitarianism
    Multiple activities provided
  • The Road to Australia
    Mawson Primary School. ‘This is a Year 6 unit integrating History, Geography, English and Technology curriculum areas. It is aligned with the Australian Curriculum and addresses the question : Who were the people who came to Australia and why did they come ?’
  • Towards Demythologising the “Australian Legend ” : Turner’s Frontier …
    Access the complete article from the Journal of Social History via a connected institution.
  • Who’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me ?
    ‘Aims to reveal some of the important primary and secondary sources that have informed the stories, myths and interpretations behind the song. Explore the original sources that tell the multiple stories of Waltzing Matilda’. Archived site from Pandora.

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G - L

General Sites

  • Australian Culture
    Category listing for Wikipedia pages. 152 listed at time of inclusion, plus a significant range of sub-categories. Scroll down for the page listing.
  • Australian Popular Culture
    ‘Selected full-text books and articles on this topic at Questia’.
  • Australian Wisdom - Quotes by Australians
    ‘Although Australians may be descended from convicts and other underclasses of the world, it seems the underclasses have some interesting things to say’.
  • Australia’s Cultural Diversity
    Includes ‘Overview; Diversity of birthplace; Diversity of language; Diversity of religion and spiritual beliefs’. From RacismNoWay.
  • Australia’s Culture Portal
    ‘Connecting you with Australian Culture online’. Now archived through Pandora.
  • Cultural Cringe
    Origin, cultural alienation, occurrence in several countries including Australia, bibliography, references. Wikipedia.
  • Cultural Policy in Australia
    Article looking at the development and implementation of this.
  • Culture of Australia
    Arts, Sport, Attitudes, Beliefs & Stereotypes, notes, links. Wikipedia.
  • Culture of Australia [2]
  • Kew Cottages - A History
    Discover life and culture through the knowledge of the inhabitants of Kew Cottages. Done in time periods from 1887 to 2008. Each period provides information on Living, Working, Families and the Outside World. Well presented.
  • Society & Culture - National Library of Australia
    ‘The Society and Culture talks keep you in touch with the Australia of the past, present and future. From the history of settlement through to studies of the environment’.
  • What Sort of Nation ?
    Teaching unit, Discovering Democracy series.

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Indigenous Beliefs and Culture


Both the Dreamtime and other General Beliefs.

  • Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories, Year 3 and 4
    ‘This series of lessons will allow students to explore and analyse traditional Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories. Upon completion of the program, students will write their own Dreamtime stories’. Displays links to Australian curriculum.
  • Australian Dreamtime
    ‘Aborigines have the longest continuous cultural history of any group of people on Earth, dating back - by some estimates - 65 000 years. Dreamtime is Aboriginal Religion and Culture’. Explanations of these beliefs.
  • Dust Echoes
    Dust Echoes is a series of twelve beautifully animated dreamtime stories from Central Arnhem Land, telling stories of love, loyalty, duty to country, Aboriginal custom and law’. Select the remainder from the listing at right.
  • How the Kangaroo got its Pouch
    One of a number of Dreamtime stories. There are links to other stories from this page.
  • The Dreaming
    ‘The Dreaming Stories as seen on the ABC are a terrific series of animated films based on Australian Aboriginal storytelling [oral histories] that have been maintained as a body of knowledge for over 40 000 years. Children love them and adults are amazed at what they lean about Australia from each story’. Purchase details available.
  • Thukeri
    ‘This Dreamtime story s about two men who lived on the shores of Lake Alexandrina. They belonged to the Aboriginal Ngarrindjerri people’. Available as a video called Thukeri made for a secondary class.
  • Wandjina


  • 12 Canoes
    ‘We are the Yolngu people of Ramingining, in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. This website is built for us, for everyone. There are 12 stories here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now. We welcome you to know about us, about our culture, this way’. Requires Adobe Flash to run.
    Brilliant !
  • Aboriginal Culture - Introduction to Australia’s Aboriginal Culture
    Covers multiple aspects of traditional life.
  • Australian Aboriginal Culture
    ‘The pages on this website are a collection of what I read about Indigenous culture mainly in Aboriginal newspapers. Select from the [following] categories to learn more about a specific field of Aboriginal culture’.
  • Australian Aboriginal Astronomy Wikipedia]
    Also see Michael Michie’s Aboriginal Astronomy Links [books, articles, websites] and Australian Aboriginal Astronomy Project [Macquarie University].
  • Hidden Histories
    ‘Wangka Maya’s Hidden Histories Project shed new light on some of the little known stories of early contact between Aboriginal people and white people’.
  • Indigenous Culture and History
    Links from
  • IndigOz Web Directory
    ‘Attempts to maintain a catalogue of all current sites by, for, or about Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Listed by category’.
  • Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime
    ‘Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime, where Kuku Yalanji Guides could demonstrate and share their history, stories, culture, knowledge and skill with both international and domestic guests’.
  • Making Collective Memory with Computers
    ‘Indigenous Knowledge and Resource Management in Northern Australia’.
    ‘NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia in the first full week in July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week [see History of NAIDOC], and its acronym has become the name of the week itself’.
  • Our Dreamings
    ‘Our Dreamings is an interactive Multimedia CDRom. This educational resource with comprehensive educational notes and links is highly recommended for teachers, students, art lovers and anyone wanting greater understanding and appreciation of Australian Aboriginal art and culture’. The site provides other accessible material.
  • Tasmanian Aboriginal Historical Services
    Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and history with newsletter, books, articles.
  • The Flight of Ducks
    ‘Australian online documentary spanning more than 70 years. It began when F.J.A. Pockley [my father] travelled to Central Australia in January 1933 where he undertook a private camel expedition from Hermannsburg Mission to Mount Liebig. He brought back cinefilm, photographs, journals, Aboriginal objects. The collection provides insight into the end of the frontier period when there were still isolated groups of Aborigines yet to experience non-Aboriginal contact’. Click on the top duck for an index.

Guidelines for Indigenous Cultural Representation

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Includes not only general language but also information on Idiom, Slang and ‘Strine’

  • Australia Decoded
    Dictionary of Australian English. Words, phrases, acronyms. Each has a clear, and at times extensive, explanation. Choose a beginning letter from the Australia Decoded search box in the main menu.
    Highly Recommended !
  • Australian Language, Letters and Literature
    Examples of these, the influences behind them and their effects. Archived version.
  • Australian or Aussie Slang
    ‘Considering the variety of accents, & our tendency to use slang words in many situations, the slang shown here on this page should help most visitors to Australia, and give you a few laughs along the way’.
  • Australian Slang
    ‘This is an index of popular slang words and colloquial language of terms and phrases, as well as hackneyed Aussie words’.
  • Australian Slang - Speaking Like An Aussie
    ‘English is the main language of Australia but for the first time visitor or uninitiated you could be forgiven for thinking you’d come across an entirely new language’.
  • Slang and Peculiar Terms in Use in the A.I.F. 1921-1924
    ‘Compiled by the newly formed Australian War Memorial’s librarians over the period 1921 to 1924. A snapshot of the language of the soldiers who had fought for Australia and the Empire in the Middle East and Europe. Over 900 terms are included. We can get a real sense of how the average soldier spoke [the swear words that no doubt were also a central part of the soldiers’ vocabulary did not make it, although some are alluded to]. We also gain a sense of how Australian soldiers brought to the battlefields a distinct Aussie identity revealed in this language’. Australian National Dictionary Centre.
  • Let Stalk Strine !
    ‘Taken from a publication called “Strine” by Afferbeck Lauder. Published by Ure Smith, Sydney. A lexicon on modern Strine usage’.
  • Meanings and Origins of Australian Words and Idioms
    ‘A selection of Australian words, their meanings, and their etymologies’. Listed alphabetically. Australian National Dictionary Centre.
  • Strine [“Ow’re yer going”]
    History, with some examples of rhyming slang.
  • The Gold Rushes and Australian English
    A Resource for Researchers, Teachers, and Students. ‘The documents are intended to encourage students to do their own work with source material’. 13 groupings. Australian National Dictionary Centre.
  • The Vocabulary of Australian English
    ‘This document outlines some of the most important sources of Australian words, and some of the important historical events that have shaped the creation of Australian words’. Australian National Dictionary Centre.

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