The UnAustralian Condition: An Essay In Four Parts
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It was in the 1990s, following a flurry of the use of the expression ‘un-Australian’ by politicians, that the Macquarie Dictionary first included a definition of the term. In 2006, whilst conducting a review of the Hansard records going back 20 years, Professor Klaus Neumann found that politicians in the Senate and the House of Reps had used the term 600 times . Within the Australian parliament the term was used to describe anything from rental cars to socialism, to the imposition of import duties for agricultural equipment. So what does the term mean? In its earliest use from the mid 1850s onwards, ‘un-Australian’ was used in positive sense to describe the things that were akin to the British motherland and unlike the host country. In the 1990s, academic Joe Pugliese saw the use of the term as marking a profound anxiety about Australian identity and as signalling Australia’s failure to come to terms with its history . Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard invoked the word ‘un-Australian’ to great effect. In 2004, 28.2 per cent of the mentions of the word in major metropolitan newspapers were attributed to him by Media Monitor. Re elected to office four times, Howard took Australians into the new millennium by reinvigorating a homogeneous and one dimensional Australian identity forever indebted to its British origins. From the mid 1990’s, until the mid 2000s Australians failed to move beyond a state of mind that made a national identity contingent on the pre-eminence of the British diaspora. Thus, in this paper I argue that the constant anxiety about national identity for Australians links directly to the unresolved questions which surround diasporic belonging. I suggest that Australian national identity is condemned to oscillate uncertainly between the two terms – ‘parvenu’ or ‘pariah’– until new ways of national belonging are defined and accepted by Australians a new transnational era.