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Culture Essay - The Complexities of Australian Cultural Identity

Cultural identity is a difficult topic to investigate in the modern epoch. With the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, many countries began to envision themselves within a nationalist discourse as opposed to one that focused on religious differences. However, this becomes much more difficult to define within multicultural modern nation states such as Australia. Formally defined by its British colonial past, Australia has emerged as a cross-cultural state. While it still strongly identifies with tropes of Anglo-Celtic ancestry, Australia has become a cultural mosaic that has incorporated people and their cultures from all over the world into their own.

According to most students and scholars of nationalism, chief cultural identifiers include gender, race, location, nationality, history, sexuality, language, ethnicity, religious beliefs, aesthetics, and even cuisine. Therefore, when approaching cultural identity in largely immigrant-based countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, one has to take into account a number of complex factors. Who is an Australian? What does it mean to be an Australian? What are the national values of Australia?

Due to Britain's relative late colonization of Australia, the original settlers of the nineteenth century had to develop a set of values to survive in the wilderness. As such, egalitarianism, an irreverent sense of humour, and informality became touchstones of the Australian personality in juxtaposition to the formal social behaviours of the British aristocracy and gentry. As a result of such informality, Australians are known for being very open and welcoming to foreigners. Over 43% of Australians were either born abroad or have at least one parent who immigrated to Australia. Moreover, Australia was one of the first modern states to grant women's suffrage in the 1890s. Because of such openness, Australia has successfully built a cultural identity based on equality and justice.

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