A Nation In Transition: A Snapshot Of 21st Century Australia

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22nd January 2010, 04:10pm - Views: 460

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                A Nation in Transition: A Snapshot of 21st Century Australia 

Friday 22 January 2010

A Nation in Transition: A Snapshot of 21st Century Australia

In the lead up to Australia Day, Social Researcher Mark McCrindle reveals

research from national surveys and focus groups on how we see ourselves as

we move into the second decade of the 21st Century.

Australia today is loved for more than its sweeping plains and far horizons. Certainly the old

affections run deep however there is more discussion on Australia as a cultural hub, a

fashion destination and a nation hosting iconic events.

It seems that Australians are comfortable in their own skin-

embracing of this sunburnt

country with all its iconic landmarks, yet proud of the cultural achievements and events,

many of which are renowned internationally. There’s an understated confidence that

welcomes the world to this unique landscape, yet has the posture to proudly list off our

cultural achievements.

There is expressed a self-assuredness of our place globally

and an acceptance of our

traditions, history and Australian Spirit beyond clichés.

The irrepressible Aussie humour comes through strongly too. It is a safe humour- witty, dry

and usually self deprecating. Current events and troubles are responded to with a laugh.

The old “stop laughing- this is serious” attitude lives on.

Our weaknesses (e.g. the old tyranny of distance and isolation) are reinterpreted

humorously as strengths. There is a depth to our reflections on 21st Century Australia. The

iconic language and Australiana is retained and reinterpreted with a new sophistication,

and without the cringe.

Our cultural identity is also being interpreted beyond the beach or sport. Multiculturalism

has come of age in Australia. You can tell because there is little self consciousness and even

less tokenism expressed. Rather the cultural mix is in our national DNA, it’s part of our


it’s who we are.  The fact that more than 1 in 4 of us weren’t born here seems

unremarkable- as though it has always been thus. Many comments celebrated the richness

of our lifestyle that comes through the input of so many cultures. The majority of Australians

believe that multiculturalism has had a positive and enriching impact in our country (83.6%). 

Approximately 9 in 10 of these positive responses identified the most celebrated aspects as



New experiences associated with the diversity of cultures (particularly food,

music and fashion);


Growth in our global influence, connections and friendships at a national,

community and individual level;


An appreciation for the sense of understanding, tolerance and unity that

multiculturalism strives to promote.

People Feature McCrindle Research 4 image

                A Nation in Transition: A Snapshot of 21st Century Australia 

Friday 22 January 2010

21st Century Australia: Summary Table

Traditional Australia

21st Century Australia

Place in the World

Tyranny of distance

Close to new epicentre of world

Isolation from bustle of busy world

Home to some global cities

Independent, separated

Global connections, regional hub

insignificant, down under

Influencer, regional leader

Insecure, cultural cringe

New posture, cultural exporter

Character & Lifestyle

Stereotypes, clichés

Sophistication, complexity

Self deprecating, dinky-di

National self confidence, Aussie pride

Ocker, snags & beer

Cosmopolitan, marinaded steak & wine

Success in sport

Leading-edge technology, world class

medical innovation, business leadership

Beach & ‘burbs

Urban, cafe culture, city cuisine, 24/7

Values & Self Image

Diggers, cobbers, blokes, mates

Rich diversity, community engagement

Give us a fair go

Give all a fair go



Community- geographically connected

Community- culturally & globally engaged

Male, younger-middle age 

Gender, generational & cultural diversity

Community & Culture

Self consciously embraced, intentional


Who we are, intrinsic, part of our national


Culturally defined, ethno-centric

Diverse, mature, post-category

True blue= Aussie 

True blue = authentic, real

Little more than food & festivals

Our national identity & way of life

Different groups & cultures

Diverse lifestyles, richness of culture

Australian Brand & Spirit

Outback, red centre

Urban life, built environment

Uluru, untouched beaches

Festivals, global events

Koalas & Akubras

Cafe culture, suburban lifestyles

Football, meat pies, caravans

Small business, focaccias, overseas


Tradition, nostalgic, historical

Innovation, engaging, emotional

Attitude & Work ethic 

No worries- it doesn’t matter

No worries- we’ll sort it out

Land of the long-weekend, lazy

Committed, hard working & social

Care-free, laid back, 

Relaxed, warm but professional

Less demanding, average quality

Casual, enjoyable yet high standards

Tall poppy syndrome

Celebrate success

Lucky country

Can-do attitude

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                A Nation in Transition: A Snapshot of 21st Century Australia 

Friday 22 January 2010

Our place in the world: 

Australians were asked how our nation is viewed around the world and almost 9 in 10

(88.3%) believe that Australia is viewed positively, or very positively, by the rest of the

world. 10% believe that we are viewed neutrally, 1.8% hold that Australia is viewed

negatively with not a single respondent stating that the rest of the world holds a very

negative view of Australia.

When compared to other countries they have visited, over 4 in 5 Australians (80.6%) stated

there is nowhere else they would prefer to live.

When asked about what makes Australia such a great place to live in, the top six responses

were the outdoor landscape (28%), local climate (27%), the Australian way of life (26%),

friendly people (22%), freedom (22%) and a peaceful and safe place to live (19%).

“We learn a lot about what we value by unpacking the term “unaustralian”. This is a new

term in our lexicon and while it is rarely defined,  it is widely understood and used. When

asked to give examples of what was “unaustralian” responses ranged from the typical:

“Serving warm beer”, “not loving sport” and “not enjoying a BBQ”, to the more

considered; “whinging”, “the culture of me, me, me”, and “not helping someone in need”.

This term is likely to stay with us as it has a tone of gravitas while being totally subjective,

impossible to define, yet being self evident.” states Mark McCrindle.

The growing strength of the Aussie spirit:

When asked how the Australian spirit has changed over the last 15 years more than two in

three (68%) believe it is as strong or stronger today, with the main changes expressed being:

Growing maturity and sophistication in our culture.

Improved tolerance and richer diversity in 21st Century Australia.

More open expressions of this Australian spirit and patriotism.

One-third (32%) believe that it has changed negatively and the top three reasons given


Rise in individualism and focus on self.

Increased sensitivity or political correctness.

Decline in values of hard work and taking responsibility.

“The Aussie spirit is alive and growing in the 21st Century. What it means to be Australian

has morphed to meet the challenges and diversity of our changing times. Australians hold

strongly to an identity and “Aussie values” yet these are more sophisticated and mature,

and represent our place in a world of global interactions.” states Social Researcher Mark


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                A Nation in Transition: A Snapshot of 21st Century Australia 

Friday 22 January 2010

Proud- and getting prouder:

Almost half (46.7%) find that as life goes on their pride in Australia remains unchanged,

while for one-third (33.8%) it is growing. Close to 1 in 5 (19.5%) feel less proud as life goes

on and interestingly the main reasons mentioned had to do with perceptions of the

Australian spirit:

Becoming too much like the rest of the world.

Too reliant on the rest of the world.

Decline of values like independence, respect for others, and a work ethic.

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi:

Our national spirit is tied strongly to our words and phrases.

When asked to give a phrase that best characterises the Australian spirit more than one-

quarter nominated,  “Good on you mate/G’day mate”. 14% stated “she’ll be right” and 9%

“Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi, Oi, Oi” or

Come on Aussie Come on”. Close behind were “Fair

dinkum/fair go”, “True Blue” and “No worries”.

Australians are very positive towards phrases like “Down under” (81.1% positive towards,

5.8% negative towards) and “true blue” (64.7% positive and 13.4% negative) however we

are divided by  the chant “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi, Oi, Oi” with 45.5% positive and 37.5%

negative towards this phrase.

“Dinky di” is viewed slightly more negatively (33.8% positive compared to 37.4% negative).

“As Australians we love our iconic phrases. Phrases that highlight our uniqueness and

community values like “true blue” and “downunder” and anything ending in “mate” are

well regarded. However there is a self consciousness and even a cringe factor which sets in

with phrases like “dinky di”, “crikey” and to some extent “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi”

writes Mark McCrindle


McCrindle Research.

Research method:

Survey of more than 1000 Australians on AustraliaSpeaks.com,

McCrindle Research’s online panel, as well as

focus groups

conducted by McCrindle Research. 

For full reports on these trends, go to:

For comment or analysis: Mark McCrindle

P: 02 8824 3422

M: 0411 5000 90

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