Susan, you hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, Australia suffers
exactly the same ethnic traumas as the US. Our European history has been
marked by genocide, attempts to force indigenous peoples into assimilation
(utter failure), and systemised racism (the White Australia policy). In the
post-war years, the government has swung completely the other way - now I
believe we are 2nd in the world only to Israel as a multicultural society.
This, of course, has not been without difficulty and now we see the
formation of ethnic ghettos. People cling tightly to their ethnicity.
We have been very lucky here - although we are a small player in a
capitalist world and consequently sucked along in the turbulence of the
"big players", life is not too hard here. There are not the same economic
pressures that fall upon the lower classes say in the US or in developing
nations. However, in this environment of world-wide communications and
multi-national corporations, one cannot stay isolated for too long! We are
far too dependant on the market forces of the rest of the world.
More and more, we find ourselves becoming an asian nation, both by virtue
of our changing population and our trade links. As this process continues,
our "culture" will change. Like for you in the US, I cannot see that
Australia has its own distinct culture. Looking at the US, I see a strong
and very different set of cultures. Obviously, culture is not something
that can be adequately described from within!
As you describe for the US, colonial Australia has always stressed unity
and homogeneity. Only now as we see stronger ethnic groups forming within
the country do the descendants of the earlier European settlers realise
that they are not just from England, but Ireland, Wales, Scotland,
Cornwall, etc., or more likely some mixture of all of these, with some
Koori thrown in. There were Chinese, Phillipino and Japanese settlers here
from the very early days of the colony (or even before!). Maybe Vikings
too!?! (I see an image of men in furs and helmets with horns lazing in the
swelter on the beaches of far-north Queensland!)
anthony linden jones