A Diverse People
Culture & the Arts
Australia is a nation built by people from many different
backgrounds. Cultural diversity has become a touchstone of
its national identity, and one of its most important strengths
amid the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
This diversity has been nourished by Indigenous cultures,
early European settlement and successive waves of immigration
from all parts of the world. It is a source of competitive
advantage, cultural enrichment and social stability.
The competitive advantages of drawing on a diverse pool
of talent are obvious to most Australians in many areas, no
least in sport. Cathy Freeman, an Aboriginal athlete, was
named Australian of the year in 1998 after winning gold in
the 400 metres at the world athletics championships in Athens.
Tanya Van Heer, born in Sri Lanka, was a member of Australia's
gold medal winning women's 4 X 100 metres relay team at the
1998 Commonwealth Games. Australia's rugby union team currently
holds the code's World Cup. The Wallabie's nifty halfback,
George Gregan, was born in Zambia. When George flicks a pass
to number eight Tuotai Kefu, whose father came from Tonga,
the whole country cheers.
Sport has special significance in Australian culture, but
examples of excellence from diversity are found in commerce,
industry, academia, the professions and the arts.
Australians come from all around the world. About 23 percent
were born in another country and just over a quarter of the
population have at least one parent who was born overseas.
People from more than 140 countries have chosen to become
Several generations of Australians have consistently elected
governments that have affirmed the value of building a tolerant,
inclusive and culturally diverse society through policy, legislation
and public programs....
Australia's contemporary arts are as unique and diverse as
the society and continent they come from. The reflect an ancient
landscape that is home to both the world's oldest continuous
cultural traditions and also to a rich mix of immigrant cultures....
All forms of the performing arts, including music, theatre
and dance, have strong followings in Australia and have reached
new levels of sophistication and excellence in recent years.
Australia has produced an outstanding number of poets and
novelists, making Australian literature one of the most vital
branches of contemporary writing in English.
For the last quarter of a century, Australian feature films
have enjoyed remarkable success, both in terms of popular
as well as critical acclaim. Australian actors are also taking
the world by storm. In a theater near you, Australia's Russel
Crow is starring in the first blockbuster of the summer, Gladiator.
Currently showing nationwide, check your local newspaper for
times and locations.
- The arts and cultural sector now generates 2.5 per cent
of Australia's GDP.
- Australia's exports of cultural goods and services have
grown annually by an average of seven per cent...in recent
years, to total $728 million in 1998-99. Audio-visual exports
totalled $145 million.
- An estimate 850 000 people undertake paid work in arts-related
fields each year.
- The Australian Government's direct support for the arts
and cultural facilities and services is $440 million per
year (including $72 million per year in direct support for
artists through its principal arts funding and advisory
body, the Australia Council).
The previous text was an excerpt from the Australia
in brief; 2000 publication put out by the Australian Ministry
for Foreign Affairs and Trade and was reprinted with permission.
Australia America Association - Washington, DC
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Washington, DC 20009