Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Australia: struggling in the sporting arena yet strong on the international stage

By Mark McCrindle - posted Friday, 10 August 2012

Australia has not had the number one cricket team for several years. The Wallabies finished third at last year's Rugby World Cup. At Wimbledon this year, Australia had its worst result since 1938 and currently at the Olympics Australia is ranked in its worst position for twenty years. Yet while there are questions being asked, there is no national soul searching, no sense of mass mourning, and not even much visceral disappointment. All of which begs the question: why?

Australia has matured, changed, and with this Australians have developed a broader perspective and a more global outlook. There is a new self-assuredness of our place globally and a strong national identity defined beyond sporting success and the old ocker clichés. Gone is the tyranny of distance, and the insecurity of being "down under", and in its place an awareness that Australia is home to some global cities, and being on the rim of Asia, we are close to the new epicentre of the world. Any sense of our small stature amongst mega-nations has been replaced by a confident posture of being a regional influencer, a cultural exporter and a global player. Its neither plucky overconfidence, nor nationalistic pride- but rather a grounded confidence.

There is a depth to our identity in the 21st Century. The iconic language and Australiana is retained and reinterpreted with a new sophistication, and without the cringe. Certainly the old affections run deep but with these, an acceptance of Australia as a cultural hub, a fashion destination, a global influencer, a thought leader, a business innovator, and a quick technology adopter. The "snags and beer", "sheilas on the beach" Australia has seamlessly been transformed into an urban and urbane, cafe-cultured, cosmopolitan society of both sophistication and complexity. Somehow we've shaken off our adolescence and are free of any self-consciousness.


Only a people comfortable in their own skin can embrace both meat pies and foccacias. It's not club footy or arts festivals but both. There is both a love for this sunburnt country with all its iconic landmarks, yet also pride in the medical innovations, cultural achievements and business success. There's an understated confidence that welcomes the world to this unique landscape, yet has the posture to profile a culture of creativity rather than just the latest sporting victory.

Cultural diversity has come of age in Australia. You can tell because there is little self consciousness and even less tokenism expressed. Rather, the cultural mix is in our national DNA, it's part of our lifestyle- it's who we are. The fact that more than 1 in 4 of us weren't born here seems unremarkable- as though it has always been thus. From the inner urban to the outer suburban is the richness of modern Australia that has been forged through the input of so many cultures.

The new attitude has influenced our old lexicon. "No worries" doesn't mean "we don't care" but rather "we'll sort it out". The land of the long-weekend has become a nation committed to hard work without compromising lifestyle. We're care-free and laid-back perhaps, but professional, with high standards and big expectations. So the lucky country armed with a can-do attitude has become self-made yet it has kept its community spirit. We value independence but in a community-minded way. Helping out your mate and your neighbour alike still shines strongly in the Australian psyche.

From being recognised on the arena of sport to being noticed on the world stage of science, arts and technology, Australia has come of age- and no one noticed. The talented kid with the ball found meaning in a broad array of pursuits, and made a name for himself. And what's more he's still got great talent with the ball as well.

Six Shifts Defined- The Reinterpreted Australia Identity




Traditional Australia

21st Century Australia




Shift 1: Global Identity

Tyranny of distance

Close to new epicentre of world


Isolation from bustle of busy world

Home to some global cities


Independent, separated

Global connections, regional hub


insignificant, down under

Influencer, regional leader


Insecure, cultural cringe

New posture, cultural exporter




Shift 2: Relaxed Complexity

Stereotypes, clichés

Sophistication, complexity


Self deprecating, dinky-di

National self confidence, Aussie pride


Ocker, snags & beer

Cosmopolitan, marinaded steak & wine


Success in sport

Leading-edge technology, world class medical innovation, business leadership


Beach & ‘burbs

Urban, cafe culture, city cuisine, 24/7




Shift 3: Redefined Community

Diggers, cobbers, blokes, mates

Rich diversity, community engagement


Give us a fair go

Give all a fair go





Community- geographically connected

Community- culturally & globally engaged


Male, younger-middle age

Gender, generational & cultural diversity




Shift 4: Rich Diversity

Self consciously embraced, intentional engagement

Who we are, intrinsic, part of our national DNA


Culturally defined, ethno-centric

Diverse, mature, post-category


True blue= Aussie

True blue = authentic, real


Little more than food & festivals

Our national identity & way of life


Different groups & cultures

Diverse lifestyles, richness of culture




Shift 5: Urbanised Society

Outback, red centre

Urban life, built environment


Uluru, untouched beaches

Festivals, global events


Koalas & Akubras

Cafe culture, suburban lifestyles


Football, meat pies, caravans

Small business, focaccias, overseas holidays


Tradition, nostalgic, historical

Innovation, engaging, emotional




Shift 6: Confident Ingenuity

No worries- it doesn’t matter

No worries- we’ll sort it out


Land of the long-weekend, lazy

Committed, hard working & social


Care-free, laid back,

Relaxed, warm but professional


Less demanding, average quality

Casual, enjoyable yet high standards


Tall poppy syndrome

Celebrate success


Lucky country

Can-do attitude


  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

6 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Mark McCrindle is the principal of McCrindle Research and the author of three new books on emerging trends and social change: The ABC of XYZ:Understanding the Global Generations published by UNSW Press, Word Up: A Lexicon and Guide to Communication in the 21st Century published by Halstead Press and The Power of Good published by Hybrid Publishers.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Mark McCrindle

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Mark McCrindle
Article Tools
Comment 6 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy