As a mousey-brown-haired blue-eyed Australian woman, born of Australian parents who were born of Australian parents, I am a part of the main demographic my country’s media represents. My appearance is genetic. My citizenship a result of my place of birth. And yet here I am, an Aussie sheila.
My childhood and adolescence were certainly shaped by the rote of national television. I would rise to Agro’s Cartoon Connection, eat dinner between Neighbours and Home & Away, and reach the pinnacle of my weekend as Red Symons dished out another Red Faces gong. Perhaps one day Koshie and Mel will dictate my morning routine as I dream of my children’s post-All Saints equivalent Australian medical drama bedtime.
As David Morley summarises Berlant (2000) ‘through the accident of birth within a particular set of geographical and political boundaries, the individual is transformed into the subject of a collectively held history and learns to value a particular set of symbols as intrinsic to the nation and its terrain.’
Like most Australians, I was proud to be Australian. I loved the beach. I supported the Wallabies. I cried when Princess Diana died. But I’ve never been surfing. I don’t care for sports. And I like the idea of becoming a Republic. What ‘Australian’ even means to me these days I would struggle to define. Or I would shudder. Again.
For such a young country, the ‘idea of the nation as represented in its mediated culture’ (Morley, p.105) was intrinsic in ‘the construction of a sense of national identity’ (Lofgren in Morley, p.106), ‘the “cultural thickening” of the nation state’ (Morley, p.106). Yet this young country has grown and developed. Immigrants added richness and diversity Australia, and their children, second-generation immigrants, increasingly made up a significant component of the country’s populace (May, 2003).
Papastergiadis (in Morley, p.107) argues that “the symbols and narratives of the nation can only resonate if they are admitted to the chamber of the home”, yet if the symbols and narratives dictate a verandah out the front, a clothesline out the back and an old rocking chair, and the chamber of the housing-commission home they are admitted to is represented by none of these things, national broadcasting as a form of unification instead becomes a repellant.
Television was anglocentric. Indeed, until the early 1990s, multiculturalism within Australia’s national broadcasting remained minimal. When it did occur the actor’s part was ‘performed’ ethnicity, rather than the portrayal of an ‘everyday’ Australian (May, p.1). May suggests that diversification of the country’s media occurred from the late 1980s onwards, paralleling the development of a broad multicultural policy by government. Perhaps Home & Away didn’t get that agenda.
Regardless, with the Olympics now creating the spectacle-induced swell of national pride that Bondi Rescue could only dream of, Australians in all their varieties have come together. Well, they had. That was until a dismal medal count saw our ‘great sporting nation’ bow it’s head in shame, and second generation immigrants revert to barracking for the country of their heritage. My freckles and name would suggest I champion the Republic of Ireland. I don’t suppose they’re doing much better though, are they?
May, H (2003) ‘Australian multicultural policy and television drama in comparative contexts’, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Queensland University of Technology.
Morley, D (2000) ‘Broadcasting and the Construction of the National Family’, Home Territories, course readings from COMM1073, RMIT University, Melbourne, viewed 6 Aug 2012.