Do non-Europeans share Aussie values?

Do non-Europeans share Aussie values? To answer this, you have to know what ‘Aussie values’ are. You might immediately think of values like:

  • Mateship
  • A fair go for everyone/equality
  • Integrity
  • Stoicism

You might also think that the person who has these values is:

  • Brave
  • Practical
  • Doesn’t complain or whinge in hard times
  • Gets on with life in the harsh Australian climate
  • Easy-going and laid-back
  • Loyal to friends and family

That’s because these values and traits are highlighted in many of the early history books about the colonisation of Australia by ‘white Europeans’.

For example, over fifty years ago historian Russel Ward wrote the book, The Australian Legend (1958), in which he traced the origin of values, traits and behaviour which some of us still tend to think of as ‘typically Aussie’.

He described the ‘typical’ Australian as practical and stoic, thanks to the ‘convicts and Celts’ of the early colonial period who headed to the bush. According to Ward, living and surviving in the Australian bush demanded ingenuity, versatility, endurance, bush hospitality and mateship. It also turned ‘Europeans’ into ‘Australians’ who were patriotic, loyal, believed in a ‘fair go’ for all, and were always willing to have a go at solving problems.

Does this mean that Aussies with a non-European heritage can’t share these values as well?

There’s no reason why not, especially when you think that:

  1. not many Australians live in the bush these days, but we still think of suburban Aussies as having these values, and
  2. many people who weren’t born in Australia (or Europe) have faced adversity without complaint, are loyal to their ‘mates’, and in fact share all the values listed above because these are human values, not just Aussie values.

They’re also values that are included in the Australian government’s Multicultural Policy. This policy draws attention to the national characteristics of ‘equality and a fair go for all’ AND acknowledges that Australia’s multicultural composition has shaped Australia’s national identity.

In other words, there’s a bit of give and take, with both Aussie values and the values of those who choose to call Australia home combining to create the Australian identity in a multicultural society.

Inevitably, not everyone agrees that multiculturalism is a good idea, and some even believe that non-Europeans can’t adopt Aussie values and the Australian way of life.

For example, recent violence on a Melbourne beach was linked back to multiculturalism by some individuals and groups, with comments like:

We’re getting a lot of multicultural visitors from outside the area coming to our beach and a lot of time the different cultures don’t mix.

Add into the equation large numbers of people from drastically different cultures and races from the Third World, and the “diversity” mix can become more even divisive and more violently explosive. When the government imports large numbers of young adult males from war-torn African countries, with experiences of violence, rapes, and murders, one could ask the rhetorical question “What could possibly go wrong?”; the answer, of course, is increased social mayhem and violence.

The stereotypical image of beach-loving Aussies is common around the world, partly because Australian tourism authorities pushed this picture in the 1980s. Therefore, violence on beaches could easily be misconstrued as the inability of ‘non-Europeans’ to understand and respect Australian norms and values.

Unfortunately, violence occurs in many societies – but there can be many reasons completely unrelated to multiculturalism. In fact, blaming multiculturalism for this violence is just another example of some people seizing the opportunity to point out differences between Australians and non-Europeans. These comments aren’t based on fact, and ignore two important things about Aussie values and multiculturalism:

  • Over the last two centuries migrants have arrived in Australia from around 200 European AND non-European countries. It’s this diversity and interaction that has contributed to the uniqueness of the Australian identity today.
  • There’s nothing uniquely Aussie about the values of fairness and equality which allow all Australians to enjoy the cultural and social benefits that cultural diversity can bring.

The beach incident is one example of how the Aussie (and human) values of fairness and equality were ignored when multiculturalism became the scapegoat. The publication of one onlooker’s unsubstantiated opinion that ‘the different cultures don’t mix’ was seized by some extremists as the perfect opportunity to ‘prove’ that even the locals believe violence is culture-related. Follow-up reports emphasized the violence/multiculturalism connection rather than presenting a balanced view from other members of our diverse Aussie society. This is not ‘fair’ reporting, nor does it reflect the equality that is part of the Aussie identity.