Australia’s Identity and the Values Debate

It’s been another sad week in Australia for values-pumping with the Opposition Leader advocating a values respect clause for incoming migrants and tourists before a Government policy announcement this weekend for would-be migrants to have a knowledge of English, Australian history, values and customs.  A quote in today’s Age from the PM says “the test was a step away from zealous multiculturalism and a reassertion of an Australian identity… Cultural diversity should never come at the expense of a clear, strong, compelling national identity”

Which Australian identity is the PM advocating?  At the Future Summit in Brisbane this year, there was a great presentation on the different elements of Australian identity.  Just as each individual does not have one identity (for me I am father, husband, friend, futures consultant, blogger, worker, etc), so Australia does not have one identity.  It actually has six general identities and different people see Australia as closer to one of these identities than another.  These identities tend to be exclusionary – as by their definition, they unite within and exclude others who do not conform.  The six are:

  1. Renewed past – valuing tradition and what was great in the past.  Focus on assimilation to traditional values.
  2. Lucky Country – value our past success, our mateship, our country/place/resources
  3. Oz Park – We are who we are, Brand Australia, Multiple stories, Media and Tourism – think Steve Irwin (RIP)
  4. Innovative Australia – green, adaptive, cultural awareness and innovative under adversity
  5. Glocal – global values rather than national interest, spiritual, GPI rather than GDP
  6. No Australian Identity – global village, technology connected, world currency, online presence, I am my own brand. 

There are winners and losers in each identity.  What is your favoured identity?  I am more 4 and 5 but most Australians would be 2 or 3.  Tourism Australia favours Oz Park, mining lobby favours Lucky Country, PM has a lot of Renewed Past, and this is part of the reason why the Innovative Australia identity struggles.

The critical element here is that the notion of identity is actually less important than the notion of intentionality.  Defined identities tend towards stability and are past-oriented (we are who we are) whereas intentionality drives towards a vision (who do we want to be).  In the words of Richard Hames who closed the Future Summit 2006, how do we create value, difference and worth in the world? 

The media statements are all about who we are and how we want to portray that to the world, rather than who do we want to be and how will we make a difference and add value to the world.

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2 Responses to Australia’s Identity and the Values Debate

  1. v says:

    blah, whatever.

  2. dr charles heller…

    […]Australia’s Identity and the Values Debate « Knowledge Futures[…]…

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