What Does Mateship Mean to You?

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Writing an article some time again, I wanted to discover a synonym for “mateship.” It seems like the kind of phrase each Australian understands instinctively. And I believed I did too. But once I had to really clarify it, I drew a clean.

After wracking my mind for some time, I settled on “camaraderie,” which felt shut, however nonetheless a bit too genteel. To me, mateship conjures up gritty pictures of troopers hunkered down within the muddy trenches of Gallipoli, or vaguely cartoonish notions of blokes crowded round some beers on the pub and slapping one another on the again barely too enthusiastically. Was any of that proper? I couldn’t inform.

It seems I’m not the one one who was issue defining mateship. A bunch of researchers who just lately carried out a research on how Australians really feel concerning the time period discovered that folks had issue agreeing on a definition.

Surveying almost 600 Australians, they discovered that whereas some folks believed that mateship was mainly the identical as friendship, others thought it was a deeper bond, one thing nearer to a “sworn friend.” Others but stated it was much less about particular person connection and mirrored extra of a neighborhood spirit, serving to one another and even simply being pleasant and respectful to everybody.

A slim majority (52 p.c) thought it was extra vital in Australia than in different international locations, believing it was a “uniquely Australian way of rendering social inclusion” or “the unique underlying bond between people of shared values.” But others noticed it as “just being a good human and treating people with respect. It’s not unique” or “a nebulous social myth.”

The idea is well-liked partly as a result of it’s arduous to outline, in accordance to Benjamin Jones, a historian at Central Queensland University and one of many research’s authors, and “it can mean whatever the individual person wants it to mean.”

It’s an advanced, often-contested phrase that has developed together with Australia’s values, he stated. During World Wars I and II, it flourished as a manner to describe concepts of “white male solidarity.”

But then the second half of the twentieth century introduced second-wave feminism and the substitute of the White Australia coverage with multiculturalism. “You’d think that was the death knell for mateship. But it has quite remarkably been able to reinvent itself as an inclusive ideal that includes people of color and includes women,” he stated.

Now, it appears extra Australians establish with the idea.

The survey, Dr. Jones stated, confirmed that males who migrated to Australia or had mother and father who did associated to the idea of mateship as strongly as, or much more strongly than, different Australians — “and possibly that’s part of their almost self-initiation ritual, where they think mateship is this really prevalent thing in Australia and they go ‘I want in on that.’”

And extra ladies than males assume mateship is a key characteristic of Australian nationwide id — 70 p.c in contrast to 60 p.c. A unique research confirmed that youthful ladies have a tendency to embrace the phrase “mate” to refer to associates of any gender, whereas older ladies are extra possible to see the phrase as sexist.

But, partly due to the phrase’s historical past, Australians are distrustful when politicians attempt to harness it. Just 39 p.c of the research’s respondents stated they’d assist mateship being immortalized within the Constitution. And solely 45 p.c agreed that politicians ought to invoke it in speeches on Australia Day and ANZAC Day.

People usually see mateship as one thing above politics, Dr. Jones stated, however “when it becomes politicized, it stops being this above-politics thing and it becomes stamped with the user’s political baggage.”

“Even though Australians may generally have a positive view of mateship,” he stated, “it’s still not something politicians will ever start to harness, it’s not something that will be printed on our coins or bills or in our Constitution, because the ghosts of the past still haunt it.”

What are your ideas on mateship? Write to us at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

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