Cultural Learning in Australia

The skills I have gained already in Australia are incomparable to those of which I could learn back home. The most impactful skills I have attained is cultural awareness and adaptability. Australia is extremely aware and proactive when it comes to appreciating indigenous rights and individual differences. It has been something that has resonated with me profoundly and what I am extremely appreciative of learning while here. 

The United States has a strong sense of individualism, which greatly differentiates from Australia and countries all over the world. This idea of individualism is not necessarily wrong, just a different approach than how Australians view the world. One of the strongest concepts in the down under is the sense of compassion and inclusion of “mateship”. So what does mateship mean to Australians and how does it impact their identity?

Mateship represents loyalty, friendship and most importantly, equality. I’m sure you can come up with many Australian slogans, including the iconic “G’day Mate.” Mateship has been around since the early penial colonies in Australia, when convicts were abandoned and left in a new and uninhabited country. During this time, mateship represented a sense of shared experience and understanding. Now a days, Australians continue that mateship tradition in a more modern way. Rarely do Australians attribute individual achievements without appreciating those others that helped them along the way. 

New mates in Sydney!

Personally, I have felt a sense of mateship with everyone in my program and the people I have met around Australia. Going into the program, I didn’t know anyone. I was soon to learn that most students were in a similar situation. This is still one of the first programs in Sydney that has opened up since the pandemic and we all are making the most of this opportunity. There aren’t many people that will travel across the globe by themselves for an entire semester! We were all quick to bond, get to know each other and form our own sense of mateship. 

Another sense of cultural appreciation that is not so apparent in the United States is a proactive and better understanding of Aboriginal culture. The Aboriginal flag flies high next to the Australian flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and you will be quick to recognize it all over the country. In addition, when you enter different buildings including tours and classrooms Australians say an “Acknowledgment of Country” which pays respect to the Traditional Owners of the land. The quote goes as such:

Popular “Aussie” Artwork defining what it means to be Australian

“We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.”

Flags on top of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Since being here, I have learned to appreciate other people’s culture in a way I’ve never done before. My perspective on the rich history of both Australia and my home country has altered and for the better. The different types of art, landmarks, people and culture was not a feature I thought I was going to find going into Australia but is what I have taken greatly from it.