Rediscovering Anglo-Celtic Australian culture.
The largest ethnic group in Australia according to the 2006 ABS Census is, astoundingly, UNNAMED. Anglo-Celtic Australians made up 49.31% of the population then (having to choose from five different ancestries to identify themselves as such). This post is dedicated to naming and affirming the ethnicity of the group I call my own.
By the late 19th century our ancestors had well and truly invaded and established themselves in this continent. Their brash, gung-ho spirit is captured in these famous words by A.B. “Banjo” Patterson, perhaps our best-known poet, that tell of the pivotal role of horses at the time, much as cars are today:
The Man From Snowy River
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.
Old Regret was a stallion, by the way. How curious the parallel between horses then and cars now, and our changed relationship to nature!
There is much to be said of our relationship to the nature of this land, and a similar story can be told of our brethren in New Zealand, North America and South Africa. Ah, I sense the shackles rise! How dare I refer to ‘my brethren’ overseas! If you can get past the sexism of that term and focus on the kinship in it, can you get past the racism? I imagine not. And this is the crux of the matter; we have somehow lost ourselves in the glorious journey from hobbit holes in England to global hegemony. We have become hollowed out by our sense of responsibility and have lost our soul in materialism and power.
After 200 years of nation-building Australia, many of us and especially those in parliament, show little appreciation of the true nature of the continent’s ecology; there is pity little understanding of it’s limited carrying capacity. So we go headlong into wrecking it by overloading its poor soils and scarce water supplies.
Anglo-Celtic Australian identity is, perhaps because of its subtlety, so often obscured by other cultures. Is it because of the brash prawn-on-the-barby, red-white-and-blue waving, beer-swilling raucousness of a few (mainly men) that we are incompletely represented? We clutch at icons of the magnificent ecology downunder for confirmation of who we are… yet koalas, kangaroos, white sandy beaches and potoroos do not tell the full story of what’s in our hearts.
But it’s not that complicated, in my view.
We are the benefactors of a political tradition of evolutionary change. When the English cut their king’s head off, they strove never to go there again. And out of that was born a process of negotiated change that has bequeathed upon us representative democracy and constitutional monarchy. This inheritance has from that time to this prevented those of us included in it from descending into polarized, warring camps. This method of socio-cultural evolution is what unifies us. This is the social and political process that Anglo-Celtic Aussies identify with, even if many may not be aware of it and claim to be apolitical until they look abroad to see the difference.