Some Australian Myths

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Australia is a land of suburban families

"...Over the last 30 years couples in the households have risen from 28 to 37 percent and the ratio of couples with dependent children has dropped from 48 to 37 percent. Suburbia is becoming a demographic ghetto..."

Deirde Macken, 2009

Suburbia is changing from houses to apartments, eg in Sydney 40 percent of housing is either units or townhouses.

We are a healthy, sporty nation

It is estimated that at least 2/3 of men and over 50% of women are overweight; around 20 percent have some form of disability and 10% have a mental illness, mostly depression or anxiety; around 70 percent do little or no exercise.

We are anti-authority

Since 2001, the Federal government has passed 30 new pieces of legislation on terrorism, and each of the states and/or territories competes to be perceived as the toughest on crime.

We are a self-reliant, stoic people

Yet now welfare hand-outs extend to the middle-class and wealthy via the baby bonus, child-care payments, tax breaks for children, generous concessions on superannuation, first home payment, etc

Mateship is our mantra

The ideological centers of mateship include the unions (their membership has fallen to around 19% of workers) and the RSL (has around 200,000 members who are mostly older than 70). There has been a shift in focus to the individual as we are judged not by friendships but by material assets and conspicuous consumption.

Australians yearn for the Bush and its image

A century ago around half Australia's population lived in communities of fewer than 3,000 people, ie the bush. Today only 40 percent live in rural areas and 2/3 of the population lives in the 5 biggest cities on the coast. The sea-change and tree-change phenomena involve moving to the edge of the urban areas. Furthermore, 1 in 4 Australians are born outside Australia and 40% have parents who were born overseas.

We're laid-back workers in the land of the long weekend

The long weekend is now the annual holiday; 1/3 of full-time workers won't take holidays in 2009 and 60% won't take their full entitlement. According to OECD figures, Australian work the second longest hours in the developed world.

Not fussed by pomp and ceremony

Australia is no longer the land of the quiet achiever. Furthermore,

"...the number of people who want to retain the flag has risen from 57 to 65%; the crowds who attend Anzac Day at Gallipoli get bigger every year and tattoo parlours still report a rush every Australia Day for an etching of the flag on biceps and backs..."

Deirdre Macken, 2009

We are innovative

Being innovative is not part of the culture of Australian organisations, ie this is part of our cultural cringe. Some of the reasons for this are

- lack of incentive from government,

- lack of size of our markets hinders

- lack of funding (government, corporate, etc)

- tall poppy syndrome, ie innovators are not rewarded

Furthermore, the number are against us, ie

"to end up with 10 success stories you need 1,000 new companies"We only have 1,500 tech start-ups across all Australia"

Alan Noble as quoted by Patrick Durkin, 2013

NB The percentage of start-ups that are profitable (Rachel Nickless, 2016)
- Silicon Valley (8%)
- New York (6.6%)
- Australia (4.8%)

Lack of Appreciation and Understanding of Australia's Indigenous culture

It is believed to be the world's oldest surviving culture, ie over 60,000 years; with some research suggesting over 80,000 years

There are 5 major Indigenous (Australian) learning strategies that are very different to the Western ways of learning

learn by observation and imitation rather than verbal instruction, ie learn by looking and copying, not by talking

learn by trial and error rather than by verbal instruction with demonstration, ie learning by doing it, not by talking plus demonstration

iii) learning in real life, rather than by practice in artificial settings, (this is closely related to learning in wholes, not sequenced parts, or learning by successive approximation of the product)

  1. iv) learning context-specific skills versus generalisable principles, ie learning skills for particular tasks rather than learning generalisable principles
  2. v) person-orientation in learning, not information orientation, ie focus on people and relationships rather than on information

NB These kinds of learning processes require all the generations to be present, not just a group of same-age children with one adult teacher. This dimension operates as a least 4 levels, ie loyalty, adding value, working in groups and different perceptions of what constitutes a good teacher. It emphasises the concern for maintaining respect for each other and keeping the unity of the group than about content of the course

Notice the difference between the traditional and industrialised, western societies approaches to education. In the Australian Indigenous society there is more informal (largely non-verbal), real-life learning than formal (largely verbal) of the industrialised, western societies

"...Formal, verbal, decontextualised learning is very powerful, as is demonstrated by people going to the moon, heart transplants, and phone calls across the world at the press of buttons. But there is no special payout in the terms of many important matters such as promoting constructive human relationships, controlling industrial greed and maintaining ethical systems. It may even have harmed industrial societies in the sense that, for example, it has allowed us to trivialise alternative forms of learning and self-knowledge, such as intuition, mysticism or religious experience..."

Stephen Harris, 1992

Some examples

- in the Indigenous community harmonious relationships are more important than being on time.

- constant negotiation, ie

"...Negotiation is fundamental to Aboriginal learning. Negotiation is so important because of the extremely high value placed on unity and social harmony. So the idea of balancing all the demands of kinship obligations, all the obligations and rights to land, all the demands of Aboriginal personal independence weighed against loyalty to relations, and so on, is really important. The process of negotiation may in practice be more like consultation. Negotiations presupposes the participants are of equal power. Consultation implies unequal power but that all participants can generally influence decisions......Ownership of land and knowing about land, clan designs, art, ceremonies, songs, stories, loyalties to different types of relations, marrage rules, how humans complement other features of the environment, and so on, all integrated. One of these elements cannot be talked about without talking about the others. For example, people are related to bits of land in the same way as they are to other people. So maintaining right and wrong, maintaining everyone's rights and balancing all the integrated elements of society requires a 'people's first' commitment and lots of negotiation......Negotiation in English society is usually to get things done, whereas in Aboriginal society it's to keep social unity, order and balance......Negotiation being central to the learning process...... to see all viewpoint......kept in balance by negotiation, is how knowledge is seen as alive and built up by people. Knowledge is both inherited, and built (constructed) at the same time. Even in relation to timeless truths such as the great creation stories, there is an element of situated or constructive knowledge because particular people have particular ownership rights, rights to the stories and particular bits of land are related to the stories......all which affects the telling of the story

Another way to talk about negotiation is...... refusal to separate medium from the message. Truth and knowledge has to be negotiated because it is not objective- not stable under all conditions. Westerners allow negotiation of the medium, but claim that the message remains objective, all the same...... even the message is influenced by the situation. Subjective is not quite the aboriginal opposite to objective. Situated knowledge would be a better term. The message is rebuilt in each situation and by each new group of people for new carrier. This is emphasis on the embodied nature of knowledge and truth..."

Stephen Harris, 1992

(sources: Deirde Macken, 2009; Patrick Durkin, 2013)

 

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