How to teach what it means to be Australian

How to teach what it means to be Australian
September 24, 2014
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Kevin Donnelly

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Celebrating diversity is only feasible when there is a willingness to commit to the values and beliefs that underpin and sustain tolerance.
Celebrating diversity is only feasible when there is a willingness to commit to the values and beliefs that underpin and sustain tolerance. Photo: Andrew Quilty
Now that Islamic State terrorism has arrived on our soil it’s time to ask the question: what does it mean to be Australian? Continue reading

Australia is a team worth being on

Australia is a team worth being on

Team Australia isn’t a bad side to be on.
Team Australia isn’t a bad side to be on.
LAST month, Prime Minster Tony Abbott declared that migrants needed to sign up to “Team Australia”.

“My position is everyone has got to be on Team Australia — everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first,” he said.

His critics pounced and his comments were derided as jingoistic or, worse, interpreted as a threat. You’re with us, or against us. Our way, or the highway. Continue reading

The great Australian Speech Impediment

The great Australian speech impediment
August 4, 2014 – 12:15AM
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Dean Frenkel
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Australia has a national speech problem that nobody is talking about. Despite a healthy rise in literacy and numeracy rates over the past century, most people, including the Prime Minister, still have poor speech skills. Yet this is not widely acknowledged as a problem.

Though verbal expression training is an essential skill for everyone, it is largely absent from our school system and, on the whole, standards of communication are unacceptably low. While Australians are usually more charmed than bothered by this, it should be considered as a national speech impediment. Continue reading

Is Aussie slang dying out?

Is Aussie slang dying out?
After flourishing in the 20th century, slang is going through a quiet phase. Is it merely dormant – or are Australians taking themselves more seriously?

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Gary Nunn, Monday 26 May 2014 14.02 AEST
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Thongs with Australian flags sit on the field
Australia is progressing from a colloquial lexicon to one reflecting the gravitas of a country viewed with greater global credibility. Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
From “fair dinkum” to advancing fair, Australia is on an interesting linguistic journey. Once known on a global scale for skulling a tinny in the arvo and having no dramas because she’ll be right, Australia’s lexicon, it appears, is changing. Continue reading

Liberals pick a fight over history wars again

Liberals pick a fight over history wars again
November 8, 2013 – 7:55AM
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Tony Taylor
Political meddling with the history curriculum is vandalism that undermines democracy.

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Illustration: Andrew Dyson.
Illustration: Andrew Dyson.
Federal politics: full coverage
I see a headline like this, “Report backs Rudd’s bias claim” (The Age, November 7) about News Corp’s political tendencies, it reminds me that Donald Rumsfeld was not so daft after all with his mantra about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

Derided at the time, Rumsfeld knew a thing or two since the known known part clearly comes into play when we think of News Corp and Kevin Rudd, never mind News Corp and Julia Gillard.

We also know something else about one particular News Corp organ.

In recent years The Australian, together with a small number of fellow conservative players, has been pushing an inaccurate and ill-informed campaign on how we understand our past.

This campaign has come in the form of a culture war against the history curriculum, a war blamed on the left but perpetrated by the right. Continue reading

Hugh Mackay, social commentator, ‘The Good Life’; how our values are reflected in our language

What this has done is produce a culture that promotes “personal identify and individuality at the expense of connectedness and cooperativeness and communality and even at the expense of egalitarianism,” says Mackay. “We are now caught up in the marketing of brand ‘me’”, much to our detriment. Signs of this include the proliferation of the prefix ‘my’ in front of everything and the huge popularity of social networking sites like Facebook which Mackay refers to as “a bragging medium. One of the signs of the damage that’s being done by the ‘utopian complex’ is this obsession with me and how I’m feeling.”

He notes that author Lily Brett has hit on a couple of words that are symptomatic of our predicament, one being ‘excellence.’ “Everything now is a ‘centre of excellence’: a primary school, a car show room, excellence in mental health care. We hope that everyone is doing their best but excellence is an exception,” says Mackay. As is ‘awesome’, another word that’s way overused. For example, when I called Telstra the other day, the operator replied, “that’s awesome” when I told her my name. “So the language has been ramped up to match this idea,” Mackay says.