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A Diverse People

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 Australian citizens.

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....

Culture & the Arts

 Sydney Dance Company in ''Free Radicals'' (Sydney Dance Company/Lois Greenfield) 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.

Here Are Some Facts You Might Not Know

  • 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.

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