Australian National Identity 1888 - 1914 A Research Report

Essay by JackStilesHigh School, 12th gradeA+, August 2009

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INTRODUCTIONDue to this nation's relatively short history, certain aspects of what it means to be "Australian" remain unclear to this day. The concept of an independent Australia, rather than a colonial outpost of Britain or a collection of six individual colonies, gradually took shape in the 1880s and 90s, and gained popularity in the years after 1901. By 1914 a distinct sense of national identity had begun to emerge and be adopted by both Australians and their politicians. The hopes and fears unique to this period played an important part in shaping its distinctive political system and national identity. Factors such as the fear of invasion, distance from Britain, the influx of foreign immigrants and the hopes of democracy and fairness all served to increase Australia's national consciousness. One idea important to this time was the use of politics to effect change and realise Australian identity. Another was the unifying factors of English language, similar ethnic backgrounds, identical moral and legal codes, Christian religion, a shared culture based loosely upon British society, and the common experiences of living in a rough and developing nation.

Out of this foundation of common ground grew an idea of nationhood that was White, Democratic and Egalitarian. Not everyone held these beliefs in common, as Tim Gurry says: "There has never been a period in Australia's history where the whole population has shared a single common national consciousness."[1] However, the sense of a White and Classless Australia was widespread and, while perhaps being more abstract and fragmented than clarified, was certainly unique and distinctive.

WHITE AUSTRALIARacism was a significant component of Australia's collective identity, and a contributing factor to its growth during the years 1888 to 1914. Thompson contends that "…the racialist beliefs of white Australians were widely and deeply held, and were, moreover, held...