Australia has a rich culture and carefree, casual, and adventurous lifestyle. The Australian culture is a result of many different factors including its dark past as a penal colony, the fact that it is located half a world away from its counterparts, the fabulous climate, the people's struggle with the land and environment, and its multicultural blend. Australia's culture is as diverse as its people. One day you can walk the streets of a modern, cosmopolitan city with its colourful street entertainers, sophisticated cafes, and food outlets of just about any nationality you can think of. The next day explore the great outback with its red soil, strange wild animals, and enormous cattle stations where there is many a character in akubra and drizabone. Or take a walk with an Aboriginal guide and learn about the oldest continuous civilisation in the world. Enjoy a beer in a country pub with some of the locals, lie on golden beaches and get a tan, or enjoy some of the local entertainment at a local theatre or free concert in the park just for example.
Australia has an informal culture and Australians love their casual lifestyle. Suits and ties are still required of city businessmen and there are dress codes in restaurants, hotels, etc but generally the rule is casual and comfortable. Dress codes are usually only in place to prevent those arriving in shorts, singlets, and thongs or even bare foot.
Australian beach culture is well known around the globe. More than 80% of the population live around the coastline and there is nothing they treasure more than the beach. Images of Australia's lifesavers, topless sunbathers, and bikini-clad Gold Coast meter maids are very familiar to tourists. On a sunny, summer weekend, Australian beaches are filled with people of all ages, swimming, soaking up the sun, surfing, building sandcastles, fishing, or taking part in any number of water activities. There are dangers in the water like stingers, sharks, and strong tidal rips, so be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and cover your nose with zinc cream. The hat is very handy and always swim in patrolled areas between the red and yellow flags. Australians don't just love the beach but the outdoors in general and always enjoy a outing or bbq.
You will find that most Australian folk heroes are sportsmen or sportswomen. Some of the greats include the Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser, Rugby League player Wally Lewis, the great racehorse Pharlap, and tennis players like Rod Laver. You will, however, find other folk heroes that aren't related to sports. These mostly include people who stood up for what they believed in, rebelled in other words. Among these you find Peter Lalor who led the Eureka Stockade uprising and the famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, who was hanged for murder and theft. There is no telling who Australians will hold up as a hero and I am guilty myself of idolising the likes of Ned Kelly and Peter Lalor. Another catgory of folk heroes concerns the great Aussie battlers such as veterans of World War I and the great sheep shearer, Jackie Howe.
Visual arts have played an ever increasing role in the last 30 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been brought to international attention while artists such as Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd have helped shape the image of Australia.
Australian dance theatre companies are winning acclaim world wide particularly with companies like the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre. And how can we forget the Tap Dogs with their innovative style of tough Aussie working class males tap dancing.
Besides dance theatre already mentioned, ballet has had a huge following in Australia since Anna Pavlova toured in the 1920's. The Australian Ballet has a fantastic reputation while graduates from its school are found in many of the worlds major companies.
Opera Australia is the third largest opera company in the world and Australia has produced opera greats such as Dame Joan Sutherland and Dame Nellie Melba. Classical music is not forgotten and there is a professional symphony orchestra in each capital city. It is rock and pop music, though, where Australians have carved out a huge international success. Some well known artists to make it big internationally include Savage Garden, Regurgitator, Kylie Minogue, Natilie Imburglia, Silverchair, John Farnham, Olivia Newton John, Bee Gees, ACDC, Easybeats, INXS, John Paul Young, Men At Work, Mental As Anything, Tina Arena, Whitlams, and Yothu Yindi. Aboriginal music is also not forgotten on the international stage and the didgeridoo is very familiar the world over. Below is a page containing some of my favourite traditional folk songs, some of these are rather humorous.
For a brief time (1906-1911) Australia was the largest film producing country in the world. Australian film is gaining a growing influence in foreign film festivals in recent years. Films to recieve international acclaim include Babe, Shine, Sirens, The Piano, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Mad Max, Muriels Wedding, and of course, Crocodile Dundee. Australian film makers such as Peter Weir and Bruce Beresford are also taking centre stage while actors like Geoffrey Rush, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Bryan Brown, Paul Hogan, Cate Blanchett, and Judy Davis, are well known and respected. Australia has progressed in recent years to provide state of the art film making facilities and a number of American films like Mission Impossible 2 and The Matrix are now being made Down Under.
Radio and Television
Australian television has also come a long way in recent years and now exports programs like Neighbours, Home and Away, Bananas in Pyjamas, Water Rats, Murder Call, Halifax, and many others. The local multicultural and multilingual channel, SBS, is unique in the world. Half of the programs on this channel are in languages other than English.
Australians love new technology and in the last 25 years, Australians have taken to new technological innovations faster and more enthusiastically than any other country. For example, there are now over one million homes that have cable television which was only introduced a few years ago. It is believed that in three years there is the same level of penetration that it took Britain to reach in eight years.
Australian literature is very important to the understanding of Australian culture. Internationally known Australian authors include Thomas Keneally, Peter Carey, Colleen McCullough, Bryce Courtenay, David Malouf, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton, and Kate Grenville. Leading Australian poets include Henry Lawson, Bruce Dawe, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson, Judith Wright, Geoff Page, and A.D. Hope. The Australian publishing industry is worth more than $1 billion, with over half of the books produced coming from Australia. I am adding another page which will highlight some of my favourite bush poetry.
This topic is covered below on a page of its own.
I have already mentioned some of the Aboriginal culture in other topic areas but am yet to mention their family bonds, corroborees, dreamtime, and the importance of their art. Family is very important to Aboriginal people and bonds are maintained throughout their lives. They forge strong family ties and also strong ties with the land. This bond with the land is closely linked with their way of life and expressed in sacred meetings known as corroborees. At corroborees, stories are told that are handed down from generation to generation and they are told in dance, song, and music. Corroborees are a sacred part of the Aboriginal culture and those who participate wear body paint to represent who or what they are depicting in the stories. The music for corroborees is provided by didgeridoo or the beating of sticks. Stories of the dreamtime tell of past life and the dreamtime is believed to be timeless. The Aboriginal people believed in dreamtime spirits who created the land, people, and everything else. Dreamtime stories are depicted in cave paintings and engravings. Aboriginal art is the oldest continuing art tradition in the world. This art includes bark paintings, rock and cave paintings and engravings, weaving, sculpture, and tools that are painted and etched for ceremonies. The traditional art of the Aborigines depicts stories of the dreamtime and their original ancestors and, in fact, their art was more important with regards to telling stories than it was as art. Urban or modern Aboriginal art won't usually relate to the dreamtime and contains a western influence.
Australians are generally easy going in nature but they do have some hates. Among these is what they call the tall poppy syndrome which is people who take excessive pride and vanity in their own achievements. People too big for their boots will be rejected puclicly. Admiration follows those that are unpretentious. Probably a result of the convict past, Australians have an enormous dislike of snobbery and pretentiousness. Rather, they believe in having a fair go and forgiving errors. They also take a great pride in their country and resent anti-Australian sentiments.