Australian households and

Typical Australian characteristics


Around the world, people are raised not to stereotype others. Nevertheless, they often define their own cultural identity by stereotyping themselves. Not only do the stereotypes provide the behavioural model that individuals seek to emulate, they also provide a sense of commonality that makes people feel that they are part of a community. For example, in China, the website ww.index-china.com described Chinese people as:

Behind The Red Door"peaceful, hardworking and easily contented. They respect elders, love children and are patient with their fellows. Chinese in general are reserve and humble. They believe in harmony and never look for confrontation."

It is not only the Chinese that like to self-stereotype. The Italians self-stereotype themselves as having great style, the French as having elegance, the Japanese as being hard workers, and the Spanish as being lovers of life. The stereotypes are picked up by outsiders and in turn proliferated (particularly in travel guides) where budding travellers are eager to know something about the kind of culture they are about to visit.

In Australia, there are some individuals who can likewise appreciate the benefits of a cultural identity and who have subsequently created stereotypes to affirm that identity. One such Australian is Peter Cosgrove, the Australian Governor General. According to Cosgrove,

"Without doubt the best quality we observe across the entire Australian community is a natural willingness to pitch in and have a go, to help others. We see it of course whenever there is an emergency or a worthy cause. We see it in every community volunteer organisation from the lifesavers to the bushfire brigades through to the thousands of youth and mature age sporting clubs and those great international service organisations like Rotary and many others. We see it in our professional bodies such as the police, fire and ambulance services and of course in the defence force. It is a generosity of spirit and a selflessness that is perhaps our most precious heritage to hand on to younger and newer Australians - a nation of people who care for and look out for each other."

Les PattersonLikewise, the Australian Citizenship study guide proposes:

"Australians are proud of the fact that their nation did not emerge through revolution or bloodshed, but by negotiation and referendum. "

It is impossible to ascertain the accuracy of the stereotypes. Certainly not all Australians volunteer to fight fires, guard beaches, join the army, work in a Salvation Army store, or pick up rubbish. Likewise, it could be argued that few Australians know much about Australian political history so stereotyping them as proud of it may not be completely accurate. Nevertheless, even though a stereotype may not be true in practice, it may be true in myth and for this reason belief in the stereotype is a fact in itself. Furthermore, when evoked in certain circumstances, the stereotype can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Individuals who believe it may conform to the positive social identity that the stereotype promotes. A myth of behaviour can then become a fact of behaviour. In other words, the stereotype becomes a guide about how to act and conforms people in the process.

Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner 1979) proposes that although individuals conform to stereotypes, it is usually only for a short time. Once the need for a social identity passes, the individuals exhibit their unique character traits once more. For example, an Australian may get drunk on ANZAC Day and value mateship on Australia...



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