Asian influences in shaping the identity of contemporary Australia is apparent in almost all spheres of national significance.
The paper explores the Asian influences and challenges that have shaped Australia's changing national identities - from the imperial 'White Australia's' image as a European settler-society to its assumed identity as a multicultural nation, positioned alongside Asia. However as a prelude to the analysis a definite understanding of the percepts of national identity as well as an understanding of the evolution of Australia's national identity may be worthwhile.
National identity and national character of a country is an abstract concept and difficult to define. The different theoretical perspectives which attempt to define the percepts and nature of national identity are too complex and beyond the scope of this paper, however, explained in simple terms national identity refers to those aspects of social, cultural, political, economic and geographical significance to a country, which homogenizes the identity and the sense of belongingness of its people. Individuals and groups form various identities based on historical entities such as home, community, religion, region, gender and class, which offer them a sense of belonging; the unit that provides the highest sense of belonging being the nation or country. [Ignatieff, 1994 in Byung-Jin, 2003]
Hans Kohn offers a comprehensive perception of national identity, which may be of contextual significance when analyzing the national identity of Australia. He explains nationalism and national identity as a volatile entity subject to constant alterations and not fixed or self-contained unit existing objectively. Kohn considers nationality as the product of a living force in both conceptually historical and political terms, and according to him national identity comprises of elements including a common blood lineage, language, territory, political entity, ideological power, customs, tradition, and religion. More importantly it includes an essentially positive and perceptible common will -- a national spirit --which binds the people together as a nation. [Kohn, 1965] While nationality was originally limited to a hereditary group or a tribe defined by blood lineage, as nation-states evolved nationality also extended and expanded to the unit comprising a country. [Byung-Jin, 2003] Thus national identities transform organically and any change within a group identity more often occurs in an incremental way.
Evolution of Australia's National Identity
Much in line with Kohn's explication of the percepts and nature of national identity, the Australian national identity has evolved in an organic way over the past centuries. Discovered in 1770 by British sea captain James Cook, Australia became a formal European settlement by 1788, impinging its native aboriginal tribal identity. Originally designated as a penal colony, European convicts -repeat offenders who had been found guilty of minor crimes including mutiny, insubordination etc,