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Defining Australia in the Perspective of a Non-Australian


As a fifth semester college student of English major who is currently taking Australian Studies subject, I am quite perplexed when my lecturer asked us, the students, to write an article with “Defining Australia” as the topic. I tried to read a module given by my lecturer about Australia, in which in the module it discusses topics such as “Whose Australia” and “Defining Australia” itself. At first, I thought of looking for solid references and making an article so scientifically it worried me. In the end, I decided that I’d just write my own opinions and viewpoints of what is the real definition of Australia. In this essay, I will try to state one basic yet complicated problem and link it with the way whether or not we can define Australia concretely. So here it is, Defining Australia in the Perspective of a Non-Australian. Perhaps, in this essay, I’d also explicitly share my thoughts about how the concrete definition of countries in the world can be explained.

One of many basic facts that I know about Australia is that Australian people celebrate Australia Day on 26 January. While this may seem unusual and be treated just like any other countries’ national day, I noticed that this is not the case for some people, or maybe cultural groups, in Australia. As James Walter states, “Press coverage of this day for any year shows uncertainty about both the nature of the ceremony and exactly what it is that is being celebrated” (Walter, 1989 as cited in Whitlock & Carter, 1992). Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. Because it marks the day of colonization, Aboriginal Australians often feel that the celebrations on Australia Day exclude them. So, how is it that we call it “Australia Day” when the day itself does not have a sense of ceremony and of “Australia” that will have meaning for all Australians? This alone is enough to prove that there will not be a concrete definition of Australia.

What I mean by “concrete definition” is an explanation that is acceptable for all people of the country without any exception, one that does not cause conflict or disagreement, as well as one that can be used in all aspects of what make a country a country (its politic, economic, cultural background, etc.). In my opinion, I think it is impossible to create a concrete definition of a country, especially if the country has many different cultural groups that also have different historical backgrounds. Take the Aboriginal Australians, for example. For them, 26 January 1788 was straight-out invasion and it is not something that they should be celebrating about.

Therefore, in the end, there is no right or wrong definitions of what the “real” Australia is. It all depends on the people, on how they see Australia. Even if there are some definitions that can be accepted by the society, I believe it is not a “concrete definition” but rather a definition based on individual aspect of life. For example, the definition of Australia based on its political system, the definition of Australia based on its economic condition or, as Richard White states, the definition of Australia based on what a national identity’s function is, whose creation they are, and whose interests they serve. Australia is not mine or yours or theirs, Australia is not this or that, but Australia, in my own opinion, as long as there is justice and equality for all cultural groups, is a country where the people stand when they are united and fall when they are divided.

Source by Fransisca Marta

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