Why are we Australians so socially conservative?

By the standards of the Western Anglosphere, Australians remain quite socially conservative. Why?

I wonder if it is not due to our original ethnic composition. I think the groups that have peopled Australia have been all unusually socially conservative, and this has helped form prevailing attitudes.

The main groups were Irish, Scots and working class English. Then, later, we had an influx of southern Europeans, from places like Calabria and Greece. Then Serbs and Croats, and then Lebanese and Vietnamese.  None of these groups are noted for their “progressive” social views.

Any thoughts?

21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by slumlord on December 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Australia is a profoundly unintellectual society, the thinking man is a rarity and social pressures tend to view such a man as a smart arse.
    Hung Lee, the Vietnamese comedian, described how Asians, when wanting to fit in, pretend to be good at sport and dumb at maths.

    This does have the advantage that the population, as a whole, is resistant to intellectual faddism as it is anchored in “yob” culture. This disadvantage of this, though, is that an “intellectual” Australian finds the country a cultural and intellectual desert and starts singing the praises of Europe or emigrating.


    • Posted by Leigh on April 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      I concur!


    • Posted by Zeta on June 10, 2016 at 6:10 am

      Does having been a penal colony have anything to do with that?


    • Posted by Sophia on December 23, 2017 at 3:16 am

      This is the classic self-entitled opinion of an idiot. Not only do you believe yourself superior to others (which, may I say, is the definition of a “yob”), but you refuse to look past shallow stereotypes. Tell me, have you ever met an actual Australian? We are not unintellectual, nor are we racistly “patriotic” as you seem to be. Education is free and the government helps students pay for university and gives them an unlimited time pay the remaining amount. As a result, we are not an unintellectual society, but I’m afraid those who believe themselves superior to others are very ignorant indeed. Ignorance is a sign of a lack of intellectuality and, if anyone is at fault, all hands point to you.


      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on December 23, 2017 at 6:06 am

        I doubt that “slumlord” will see this comment, so I will just say that he is an Australian himself. I also think he is wrong, but he is a good thinker generally.

  2. I should add that, as a social conservative myself, I am happy that Australia is socially conservative. I am just trying to account for it somehow. Original ethnic composition seems a possibility.


  3. Posted by slumlord on December 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I’m a social conservative as well David.

    Yob culture does have both its pluses and minuses. With regard to original ethnic composition, i.e Anglo Celtic, well the sad fact is most of the Anglosphere governing class still comes from that group and one things for sure, it certainly isn’t socially conservative.

    Australia’s social conservatism, I believe, stems from several unique factors.

    1)Being isolated.
    2)Genuine material prosperity for the working classes, which in a way legitimises them and their societal voice.
    3)Genuine democracy, i.e the choice the lowest common denominator.
    4)Being a migrant destination for people from the bottom rung of their societies. Poor people are conditioned to be socially conservative by necessity. Australia has simply absorbed so many of them that they have flavoured the national culture. It needs to be remembered that we are both a socially very conservative culture whilst politically very liberal.


    • John Howard once said that Australians are tolerant but conservative. I think that says it very well.


      • Posted by slumlord on December 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

        I must admit though, I do get a palpable sense that the tolerance is rapidly evaporating. I think the Muslim community has to be thankful to ASIO and the Feds. Should there ever be a “successful” terrorist act, I think the country would turn savage and demand blood.

  4. I believe slumford is right in his analysis. I would add being isolated is probably one of the main factors as you tend not to copy other countries as we frequently do in Europe. I went to Australia one year and a half ago, and I quickly realised how much more conservative the Aussies are in general. It made me quite envious, to be fair. My own country, France, is a hotbed of socialism and hedonistic liberalism.


  5. Posted by Kathy on December 5, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Hey, David! How’s it going?

    This is off topic, but I just read this comment of yours over at “The Social Pathologist”.. and.. it just cracked me up.

    “It is not really an improvement for the church to go from the view that sex is something rather animalistic and undesirable, to the angelistic view that it is some kind of spiritual meeting of souls on (mutually) orgasmic clouds of bliss. Sometimes a root is just a root.”

    Woo hoo David! .. Gee I love how you tell it like it is. Straight as a gun barrel..I’m like that myself. Maybe an Aussie trait, eh?


    • Yes, I seem to be regaining my sense of humour, which disappeared for a couple of years.

      I do think we Australians bring a down-to-earth contribution to the Internet debate. You should check this too. I was only trying to be funny and now the Americans (!) are arguing intensely about scripture, all because I made a joke about a “benign tumour”:


      I have blogrolled your blog, Kathy, but I can’t comment there because it seems to require a Google Account.


  6. Posted by Kathy on December 6, 2010 at 4:46 am

    Tanks David.

    Actually it’s just a Claytons Blog, mate.. Never reall went anywhere with it. Just posted some pics of birds in flight.. (The feathered variety.. lol)

    I guess I just prefer commenting on other blogs that I find interest me..


    • OK. You should check out that thread over at Full of Grace, Kathy. I can’t believe it, and I am just going to leave it alone. All because I made a stupid joke.

      Americans take everything so bloody seriously.


      • Posted by Alte on December 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

        I laughed, and I thought your assessment was spot-on.

      • Posted by Kathy on December 8, 2010 at 2:09 am

        Yes, David, you are right, I think. Americans have a different kind of a sense of humour.

        Aussie humour is more akin to British humour. We can be quite sarcastic, and we tend to take the piss out of one another in a good natured way. I think most Americans don’t get that and take us a tad too seriously.. 🙂

  7. yeah nice


  8. I think it also has something to do with our relative geographical isolation from the rest of the Western world. Australian xenophobia, which I for one pride myself on not cultivating, is widely documented. Nothing breeds conservative values like a fear of the unknown or different. Plus I read somewhere that wealth breeds conservatism. Why the Scandinavian nations depart from this, I’m not sure.

    I often lament that Australia isn’t somehow the tolerant, progressive and wealthy Scandinavia of the Southern Hemisphere. Fortunately, I believe repressive politics in this country will die out with the Baby Boomers – many of whom ironically indulged in plenty of progressive culture during an again ironically wealthy post-World War Two period. Unfortunately, in the meantime Gen X and Y are in many ways merely that generation’s servants.


    • Posted by Leigh on April 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      I am a Gen X baby and I’m nobody’s servant, I can tell you that much. Back to the topic at hand however, I find Australia excruciatingly conservative. I would love to emigrate to Europe but alas, am stuck on this bloody island. Maybe ‘Southern Cross’ from France will let me take their citizenship? We can do a swap. I would love that!


      • Posted by Marcel on September 21, 2015 at 5:42 am

        Oh really the same European countries whose multi-cultural enrichment has managed to even destroy Sweden, with an open borders immigration policy, which has risen rape crime by 1400% and overall violent crim by 300%

  9. Posted by Zeta on June 10, 2016 at 6:14 am

    Australia should consider itself lucky it is surrounded by a lot of water.


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