Every country has a set of values that they identify with, which becomes the core aspect of the culture that the region produces. In Australia, people value honesty more than anything else, according to a recent report by the Australia Talks National Survey (ATNS).
In their survey, ATNS asked a simple question – if you have to choose three words that capture aspects of your identity, what would they be? The word “honesty” topped the list when the opinions of both genders were taken into consideration. For men, “honesty” was at the top, followed by “caring” and “friendly.” But for women, “honesty” was only secondary. Instead, they chose “caring” as the most important value. Women ranked the words “mother” at the fifth and “female” in the sixth position. Men were seen to be less bothered about their gender as they valued “male” only at the 15th position and “father” at the 22nd position.
Men chose a wider range of words to describe themselves — about 2,200 of them. In comparison, women used around 1,600 words. According to Elspeth Probyn, professor of gender and cultural studies at the University of Sydney, the words selected by the survey participants are an indication of the change and instability of the current environment. “These are the things that reflect the so-called Australian values… Integrity is also highly rated, at a time when most people don’t trust politicians,” she said to ABC News.
Another survey conducted by NCLS Research in association with Edith Cowan University also reported similar results. The most important guiding principles among Australian adults were found to be peace, honesty, and true friendship in the first three spots. When asked what they live for, almost 84 percent of Australians replied that they live for their children, spouses, and other family members. Among retired men and women who lived in rural areas and belonging to the lower socio-economic group, the value orientation was found to be on “order” at a personal, social, and national level. Women were found to be more oriented spiritually than men. In contrast, men were found to be most focused on self-enhancement.
“The values of egalitarianism and mateship have often been the focus of commentary on the Australian way of life. They continue to be among the most cherished of Australian values… True friendship is deeply valued, as is ‘a fair go,’ the equality of opportunity for all people. Most Australians place considerable stock on social justice, although there are many interpretations as to what this means,” Dr. Philip Hughes, a senior researcher with the Australian Community Survey project, said in a statement (NCLS).
Values under threat
The Australian Department of Home Affairs recently issued a warning that the country’s values were under threat due to increasing foreign interference, declining trust in public institutions by citizens, and challenges to social cohesion. It stressed that confidence in the government can only be maintained through orderly migration and strong borders. A report by the department asked that migrants be assimilated into Australian values to prevent communal radicalization.
“All migrants are strongly encouraged to become fully integrated members of our society, while also being able to celebrate, practice and maintain their cultural traditions within the law, free from discrimination… English language proficiency is a key contributor to better employment and educational outcomes, social participation levels, and helps provide an overall sense of belonging to the Australian community,” the department stated (The Australian).
The report highlights the Christchurch massacre as an example of what could happen in case social cohesion crumbles and people get radicalized. It also raised an alarm that some states were asserting authoritarian models of governance rather than a rule-based on democracy.