Australian Culture

Other Considerations

  • Australians like to ‘take the piss’ out of each other which involves making derogatory jokes about someone to their face. One’s ability to receive the joke without taking offence is a point of esteem. Alternatively, to say the same joke while the person is absent would be seen as nasty instead of jovial.
  • Most Australians are typically quite physically active and show enthusiasm for outdoor activities.
  • Drinking alcohol is very popular in Australia. People often tend to begin drinking at young ages (under the legal age of 18), and therefore parties fuelled by excessive drinking are common among much of the youth. If you wish to excuse yourself from drinking, do so on personal grounds rather than for a reason that criticises the Australian love of alcohol. In Australian culture, drinking alcohol to the point of severe inebriation can be a point of pride, hilarity and status among their friends. Unlike other cultures in which being drunk can be shameful, Australians may happily brag about how much of a ‘big night’ they had.
  • It is illegal to smoke in many public places in Australia, including restaurants and bars.
  • ‘Mate’ can refer to both men and women. The term carries a sense of loyalty and obligation to do the right thing by one’s friend.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
It is very important to understand the significant cultural differences between Indigenous people and the broader Australian community in terms of spiritual, ecological, consensual and communal beliefs and values. Furthermore, it is necessary to recognise that Indigenous society is extremely diverse; although there may be similarities there is no one ‘Indigenous culture’.

  • Although the terms ‘Indigenous’, ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Torres Strait Islander’ are commonly used, it is important to note that these names are the legacy of colonisation. Before, during and after invasion the First Nations people of Australia identified themselves by their country such as Darug, Gandangarra, Tharawal, Eora, Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Bundjalung and so on.
  • The term ‘Indigenous’ is generally used when referring to both First Nations’ people of Australia — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is generally used by the Commonwealth Government to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a national level.
  • The term ‘Aboriginal’ refers specifically to the Aboriginal people of mainland Australia and does not necessarily include Australia’s other Indigenous population — Torres Strait Islanders.
  • Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are opposed to the term ‘Indigenous’ being used as it generalises cultures. Community Services advises against using this term where possible.
  • Outdated terms such as full-blood, half-caste, quarter-caste and quadroon are extremely offensive and should never be used when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Acronyms such as ATSI, TI, TSI or abbreviations such as Abos should never be used.
  • Do not use the words ‘Aborigine’ or ‘Aborigines’ as many Aboriginal people feel it is linked back to the terminology used in the periods of colonisation and assimilation. Instead, use ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’.
  • The first letters of ‘Aboriginal’, ‘Torres Strait Islander’ and ‘Indigenous’ are always capitalised.
  • Aboriginality is not defined by a person’s skin tone or where they live. The colour of an Aboriginal person’s skin may become lighter through different generations; it is also common for many Aboriginal people within the same family to have different complexions to each other. A person’s Aboriginality should never be judged by their skin tone. It is inappropriate to comment on the colour of a person’s skin in reference to their Aboriginality. For example, if an Aboriginal person has a fair complexion you would not comment that they ‘do not look Aboriginal’.

This information is produced by the Aboriginal Services Branch in consultation with the Aboriginal Reference Group. It was retrieved from the NSW Department of Community Services.
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