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Australian culture for Kids


The original culture of Australia can only be surmised: cultural patterns among the remote descendants of the first Australians cannot be assumed to be unchanged after 53, 000 years of human habitation of the continent. Much more is known about the richly diverse cultures of modern Aboriginal Australians, or at least of those few who survived the impact of European colonisation. (For more on this, see Australian Aborigine and related entries.) Although the effect of the arrival of Europeans on Aboriginal culture was profound and catastrophic, the reverse is not the case: broadly speaking, mainstream Australian culture has been imported from Europe, the United Kingdom in particular, and has developed since that time with very little input from Aboriginal people.

Turning to culture in the narrow sense now - culture as voluntary, often non-economic activity - there are several schools of thought. One maintains that Australia has no real culture outside of second-hand imports from Europe and the USA. Proponents of this view point to the predominance of foreign books, music, and art, and claim that home-grown products are largely derivative. Others seize eagerly on each small point of difference, and brandish relatively small parts of the Australian cultural experience (such as the poetry of Henry Lawson, Australian Rules football, or the pie floater) as if these were sufficient to demonstrate that a new and vital culture has emerged in the two centuries since European settlement.

Somewhere in between these two views may be found the great central thread of debate about Australian culture: the perennial attempt to ask and answer the question "does Australia have a culture, and if so what is it?" The obsessive preoccupation with this question has lasted decades, and shows no sign of fading.

Finally, there is what might be termed a culturally agnostic view, which holds that endlessly debating Australian culture is futile and pointless, and that the important thing is to simply get on with living and creating it. This last viewpoint is expressed in intellectual terms from time to time, but is mostly evident in the practical activities of Australians in a wide range of fields.



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