Notions of Nationhood

Portable patriotism. (Source: Stephen Barnett/[Flickr](

Portable patriotism. (Source: Stephen Barnett/Flickr)

Today, ideas of national identity, patriotism, community and equity come to the fore in the Australian imagination (sharing real estate with flags and barbeques, perhaps). Drawing on events held during the past year, we’ve put together a list of viewing recommendations for your public holiday.

Prior to the arrival of Captain Cook and cohort, Australia’s indigenous population carefully managed their environment, making use of fire to rejuvenate the land and manipulate the movement of fauna, historian Bill Gammage explained.

The appearance of European colonialism planted the seed of today’s reconciliation debates. We explored this debate - covering treaty, social justice and opportunity - in our Not Sorry Enough discussion. Larissa Behrendt discussed the challenges of overcoming indigenous disadvantage, while Sarah Maddison presented an argument for how mainstream Australia can move beyond white guilt.

*A South Australian Corroboree* (1864) by WR Thomas, from the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. *(Source: WikiCommons)*

A South Australian Corroboree (1864) by WR Thomas, from the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. (Source: WikiCommons)

Iconic storyteller Thomas Keneally presented his take on early nationhood and Australia’s regional racism in his Lunchbox/Soapbox presentation in December. Race and Aboriginal politics were amongst the myriad topics addressed in a marathon two-hour interview between Paul Keating and Robert Manne, with some of Keating’s sentiments echoing Manne’s earlier polemic regarding our national political complacency. Also cautioning against complacency, Susan Mitchell spoke of the potential disaster of a Tony Abbott victory.

We held many discussions on the state of our democracy. We asked whether it was broken, dumbed down or going nowhere fast, and for how long we might remain the lucky country. Tim Soutphommasane presented his case for why progressives should embrace National Service, and one of our Intelligence Squared debates focussed on the question of whether our soldiers should be in Afghanistan.

In a series of events, we paid tribute to our country’s literary heritage, whilst writerly alumni of the University of Melbourne’s Janet Clarke Hall celebrated their colleagues. As for contemporary literature, the 21 titles comprising the 2011 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist provide a compelling picture of our nation’s writers today.

Finally, in our So Who the Bloody Hell Are We? series we explored the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. Doubtless, many such stories are being shared as you read this.

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