When I was in grade seven, my teacher asked us to write about the “Australian Identity.” I sit here wishing I could go back to that project and live in that moment, rather than letting life confuse me. After years of deliberation I can’t seem to answer the question any more. I don’t know what Australia’s identity is…


By Shane Salmon, past Youth Member for Broadwater

Back in 2008, when I was in grade seven, my teacher explained to my class that our upcoming project was going to be on the “Australian Identity.” As a 12-year-old, my brain went immediately to Steve Irwin, Ned Kelly, kangaroos and the humble clothesline as potential topics. Naturally I thought these subjects were too obvious and simple, and so I set out to dig deeper. After extensive pondering, I landed on “The Great Australian Ballads”; stories which reinforce the deep-seated Australian Identity, the spirit of the nation and its people.

I sit here wishing I could go back to that project and live in that mindset, rather than letting life confuse me. The last ten years have taken my humble perception of the Australian identity and basically thrown it out the window. My perception has been challenged. Surprisingly enough, 12-year-old me didn’t know everything. After years of deliberation I can’t seem to answer the question any more. I don’t know what Australia’s identity is…

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I say this because in comparison to the rest of the world, Australia as a nation is basically a 120-year-old country. Australia signed on the dotted line 117 years ago, that means we have had only 117 years to discover who we are. For a country that is heavily influenced by the rest of the world, 117 years is not long enough for us to discover our voice – our unique voice. A voice that is quintessentially Australian. As a country we are learning, growing and making mistakes. We are finding our way in this world as most teenagers do, and one day I believe that we will find ourselves. We will have the time to find a voice as proud and irrefutable as our big brother, the United States of America, who have had 231 years to find theirs. 

The more time I spend thinking about this subject the angrier I get. In the ten years it has taken me to grow from a young 12-year-old kid to a 22-year-old adult, this young country has been without a clear leader. Earlier this year, I read an article that sparked my anger. It stated that in the last ten years Australia has not had an elected Prime Minister see out a full term. A full term is generally three years unless an election is called early.  This is what our Prime Ministership has looked like since the end of our second longest serving Prime Minister, John Howard:

Prime Minister Term length Term conclusion
John Howard 11/03/96 – 03/12/07
11yrs, 8mths and 22 days
Federal election
Kevin Rudd 03/12/07 – 24/06/10

2yrs, 6mths and 22 days

Leadership spill (July) then federal election (August)
Julia Gillard 24/06/10 – 27/06/13
3yrs and 3 days
Leadership spill
Kevin Rudd 27/06/13 – 18/09/13
2mths and 12 days
Federal election
Tony Abbott 18/09/13 – 15/09/15
1yr, 11mths and 21 days
Leadership spill
Malcolm Turnbull 15/09/15 –
(at time of writing) 2yrs, 8mths
Federal election in 2019

 

In the last ten years, we have had four different Prime Ministers forming five different governments. What makes me angrier than even these facts, however, is that the democratic voting public of this country have only had the opportunity for our voice to be heard three times! 

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I cannot begin to comprehend how this country can possibly grow and strengthen when the leadership changes with the winds. It’s like growing up with four parents, each taking turns at giving you life advice and guidance whilst explaining to you how they can do it better than the other three. This shouldn’t be the case. Stability is the only way to create a solid foundation and a solid foundation is the only way to grow. Australia needs to find its singular voice.

I believe the landscape of Australian politics has somewhat calmed in the recent years; it now allows for one voice to speak at a time and for the country to move forward in one direction.  It is going to take a long time to rebuild from the turmoil of the last decade, however, I am confident that as a nation we will learn from our mistakes and grow. I believe we will steam ahead, resolute, and one day flourish into a nation that has a proud and undeniable identity.

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