Introduction

By Bennett, Dawn | Journal of Australian Studies, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Bennett, Dawn, Journal of Australian Studies


For more than 200 years, Australian identity has been continuously and creatively mutating. Characterised by Hudson and Bolton (1) as a 'fabulous beast' and described by White (2) as 'entirely mythical', it is--like other mythical beasts--intangible, impossible to capture, and wide open to interpretation.

From the first 'civilising' performance of orchestral music only 33 years after colonisation to the belated recognition of the multifarious nature of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian society, culture has been much-debated and hotly disputed, and cannot be contained within the notion of 'nation'. However, in the same way that multiple factors have coerced and influenced Australia's identity, culture and its expression are subject to politicisation, subvention, exoticism, perceptions of elitism, and measurement against economic indices.

This issue of JAS draws together an eclectic range of papers which touch upon Australian culture from a number of different perspectives. In the first article, Robert Crawford explores the Aussie 'ocker' as epitomised for many of us by Paul Hogan, and suggests that Australianness subsumes multiple identities into a cohesive 'whole'. Hogan arises again in John Sinclair's article. With a focus on Foster's Brewing, Victorian Railways Commissioner Harold Clapp, and food franchising in Australia, Sinclair describes the rise of the consumer industries and the influence of American entrepreneurship on Australia's national culture. Denis Cryle and Grace Johansen concentrate on the entrepreneurship of Australians George Birch, Virgil Coyle, and brothers E J Carroll and Dan Carroll, who transformed cultural life throughout regional Queensland with their venues for live performances and film.

Gillian Dooley, Bonny Cassidy and Brigid Rooney reflect on identity in Australian literature. Dooley describes the role of books in the life of explorer Matthew Flinders, for whom fiction was a source of solace and enjoyment. Cassidy presents the engaging thesis that romantic aesthetics and philosophy have a continuing place in contemporary Australian literature. The writers of contemporary Australian literature concern Rooney, who discusses the impact of globalised markets, new digital cultures and conservative ideology on writers' ability to engage with and influence the general public.

In the second part of a two-part article on foreign-language radio programs and their role in policies of immigration and assimilation, Bridget Griffen-Foley considers the needs of Australia's multicultural society. Tracing the history of Italian programs on commercial radio in Sydney, Griffen-Foley describes migrants' reactions to the programs, and political interest in their use to promote assimilation and to attract migrant votes.

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