So 90% of us are 'proud Australians'. Proud of what, exactly?


Samira Farah

A new report shows that most of us think we live in the best country on earth. Perhaps that’s to be expected – Aussie pride is something you perform

National pride in Australia is abstract at times, distracts from important issues and has a tendency towards exclusion. Australians have become too concerned with creating proud Australians and have stopped focusing on what it actually means to be proud.

A report on attitudes towards national identity, released last week by the Australian National University, found that 90% of Australians have pride in their country – especially for achievements in the arts, sciences, unsurprisingly sports.


As was expected, Australians are worried about immigration, job security and the economy. Interestingly, they weren’t so proud of our democracy, our social security system, our place in the world and how the most vulnerable are treated.

So we are proud of being proud but what we are proud of, perhaps we are not so sure.

What is more telling from the report is who gets to be proud to be Australian. Aussie pride is performative – it’s something you do. How someone performs their pride is crucial in determining whether they can refer to themselves as Australian.

In other cases, it is instead how a person does not perform pride that becomes the source of contention. This was the case for Indigenous footballer and former Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, who demonstrated how the wrong performance of pride can result in one’s loyalty and allegiance to country being questioned.

Goodes, in his role as Australian of the Year, brought much-needed attention to issues facing the Indigenous community. In 2014, following the release of John Pilger’s documentary Utopia, he commented that the film made him ashamed to be Australian.

His comments were met with outrage, condemnations of being un-Australian and accusations that he was not fit to hold the coveted title of Australian of the Year.

Consider that the ANU’s report found that only 1% of Australians thought Indigenous affairs was in the top two problems facing the country today. Goodes, by drawing attention to that which most of the country would like to remain invisible, exposed Australia’s shame. The simplistic logic of his critics was that to have shame is not to have Aussie pride.

The report also points to Aussieness no longer being dependent on being born here. Instead, characteristics like speaking English and “feeling Australian” are taken to be more relevant to pride.

The report celebrates that 56% of those interviewed no longer find birthplace relevant; downplaying that a smaller half of the population still evidently support the “we grew here, you flew here” mantra.


The Reclaim Australia and anti-halal movements demonstrate how Aussie pride can manifest in undesirable ways. At the heart of this coalition of largely anti-immigrant and anti-Islam collectives is their insistence that Australian identity remains static.

The coded message is that to be Australian, you are not allowed to be proud of non-Western, non-Anglo cultures and you are definitely not allowed to perform pride of these cultures on Aussie soil in an unapproved way.

73% of those polled for the ANU believed Australia was better than most other countries, with 40% thinking the world would be better if other countries were more like Australia. So perhaps that’s unsurprising.

Reclaim and the anti-halal movement ironically may have future negative impacts on the farming industry – itself a cornerstone of Aussie pride – as boycotts jeopardise key Muslim export markets.

Discussions of pride point to a larger, never-ending conundrum: what defines Australians’ sense of self and pride in country? The message to certain communities however – Indigenous, Muslim, immigrant, refugee, non-white – is that not only is Australian identity not available to them, but that they must also remain silent about how they choose to assert their identity.

As the 10 year anniversary of the Cronulla riots approaches, it would be unwise to dismiss the very real anxieties that exist around Aussie pride, and the resurgence of fringe groups bent on enforcing and resisting any modifications to it.

Currently, Aussie pride gives some Australians something to cling to that allows the very real fragmentation of our communities to be ignored. By beating our collective chests over pride and refusing to have honest debate on what constitutes it and who gets access to it, Australians operate on a never ending pattern of exclusion.