Australian traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Australia?

Annotations on the customs and traditions of Australia, in Oceania.

Food and Economy

Food in daily life

Before colonization, Aboriginal peoples were supported by a diverse range of flora and fauna. The first settlers ate mainly meat (at first indigenous animals, then beef and lamb), bread and vegetables, particularly potatoes.

Almost all foods that are eaten regularly – except seafood – were introduced after European colonization. However, there have been considerable changes in patterns of food preferences.

In the 1940s meat consumption began to decline, poultry consumption increased dramatically after the 1960s, and there has been a doubling of seafood consumption since the 1930s, in addition to a steady increase in fruit and vegetable consumption since the 1950s.

Since World War II, the diet has diversified greatly. Each wave of immigrants has had an impact, including German, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Jewish, and Southeast Asian food and cooking styles. Olive and vegetable oils have replaced drippings and lard, and items like garlic and Asian seasonings are more commonly used.

Australian chefs are known around the world for their ‘fusion cuisine’, a blend of European culinary traditions with Asian flavors and produce.

However, certain foods are recognized as national emblems, including Vegemite (a yeast extract spread), Milo (a powdered base for chocolate milk drinks), Anzac cookies (oatmeal cookies sent to soldiers in World War I). World), and damper (a flour-based wheat bread traditionally cooked in the ashes of a fire by settlers).

Australians are among the world leaders in fast food consumption. Burger and chicken chain stores are prominent in the suburbs, having displaced traditional meat pies, fish and chips. While Australians have long been known as tea drinkers, coffee and wine have become increasingly popular.

Before World War II, Australians drank about twenty times more beer than wine; beer consumption remains high, but wine consumption has increased at a much higher rate, and the country has become a major wine exporter.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Food is not reserved for special occasions, although the religious traditions of some ethnic groups include ceremonial foods. Easter and Christmas are observed by the majority of the population. Christmas is usually celebrated as in Britain, with roast turkey, ham and roast vegetables, followed by steamed fruit pudding.

However, there is a growing trend for Christmas to involve a light seafood meal, and barbecues are also becoming popular. Instead of pudding, many people eat ice cream cakes or cold desserts like pavlova (made from egg whites and sugar).

Some people celebrate “Christmas in July,” taking advantage of the coldest month of the year to enjoy a hot traditional Christmas dinner.

Special foods are eaten among the ethnic groups to celebrate Passover or Passover. Chocolate molded products (Easter eggs) are given to children at this time.


A prevailing image among Australians is that they are very informal, laid back and family friendly. Given names are commonly used as terms of address. An ideology of egalitarianism pervades, with men, women and children treated similarly.

Attempts to appear superior to others in terms of dress, manners, knowledge, and work ethic are discouraged. A handshake is the most common way to greet a new acquaintance, and a hug, kiss on the cheek, or verbal greeting is the most common way to greet a friend. The colloquialism, “g’day” (good day), is considered the greeting par excellence.

There is an easy friendliness in public places. Personal privacy is respected and staring is discouraged, although eye contact is not avoided. Eye contact during conversation is considered polite among the general population; looking away during conversation is considered a sign of respect among Aboriginal people.

When a line forms, the newcomers must go to the end. In museums and exhibitions voices are silenced. In performance contexts the audience is expected to be quiet and attentive. Service attendants consider themselves equals to their guests, and are generally not subservient.

Australians are also resistant to being ‘served’. Food can be eaten on the street, but meals are usually eaten at a table, with each person having their own plate and eating utensils. Bodily functions are considered unavoidable but are not discussed or performed in public.


Religious beliefs

The Constitution guarantees religious freedom and, although there is no official national religion, Australia is generally described as a Christian country.

British settlers brought the Anglican belief system in 1788, and three-quarters of the population continue to identify with some form of Christianity, predominantly the Catholic and Anglican faiths. Until recently almost all businesses closed for Christian religious holidays.

Extensive immigration has made Australia one of the most religiously diverse societies in the world. Almost all religions are represented, with a significant number of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus. Many indigenous Australians have embraced Christianity, often as a result of their contact with missionaries and missions.

Religious alternatives such as spiritualism and theosophy have had a small but steady presence since the 1850s. A growing set of beliefs is represented by the so-called New Age movement, which arrived in the 1960s and evolved into the the broad alternative health and spirituality movement of the 1990s.

This has opened the way for an interest in paganism and other aspects of the occult among a minority of citizens.

Religious practitioners

In recent times there has been an increase in lay religious practitioners in Christian churches as a result of declining numbers entering the clergy. Most religious institutions have a hierarchical structure. Religious specialists are involved in pastoral care, parish administration, and fundraising for missions.

Many also maintain a host of institutions dealing with education, elder care, family services, immigration, health, youth, and prisoner rehabilitation.

Rituals and Holy Places

Each religious denomination has its own places of worship, and most expect their followers to attend religious services regularly. There has been a decline in regular church attendance among the younger generation of Christians, who tend to be critical of church policy and practice.

Places of worship are considered sacred and include places that have spiritual significance for believers. Among certain ethnic groups, shrines are established in places where saints are said to have appeared. There are many Aboriginal sacred sites, which are generally places in the landscape.

Death and the afterlife

The law requires that deceased persons be treated according to health regulations. In some religious and cultural traditions, a vigil over the body is practiced in the family home.

Funeral homes prepare the body of the deceased for cremation or burial in a cemetery. Funerals are attended by family and friends and often include a religious ceremony.

Secular celebrations

Probably the most significant national secular celebration is Anzac Day, on April 25. This is a public holiday commemorating the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. However, the event now includes participants in all wars in which Australia has been involved.

Early morning services are held at war memorials and there are well-attended street parades. On Remembrance Day (November 11), which is not a public holiday, a two-minute silence is observed in memory of Australians who fought and died in wars.

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 to commemorate British colonization, and many capitals hold a fireworks event. December 26 is Saint Stephen’s Day.

The Boxing Day cricket match is an annual event watched on television by many residents. The day is also treated as an opportunity to extend Christmas socializing, with many barbecues taking place in public parks or in private homes.

Labor Day is a public holiday to commemorate the improvement of working conditions and the implementation of the eight-hour working day. It is celebrated at different times of the year in different states.

A significant celebration takes place on Melbourne Cup Day, an annual horse racing event in Melbourne. Many people who formally attend the race and employees at workplaces gather to watch the event on television.

They are celebrated on New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. The Royal Easter Shows and the Royal Show Days, with annual agricultural exhibitions, are held in the capitals with exhibitions, competitions and side shows that highlight the rural tradition.

On Big Finals Days, the annual Australian Rules finals and national Rugby League football competitions, large crowds gather to watch the match and friends flock to watch it on television in homes and public bars.

Most states have holidays to commemorate the founding of the first local colony, and there are annual art festivals that attract local, national, and international artists, as well as multi-cultural festivals. Some states have wine festivals.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

Most people involved in the arts depend on other professions for their primary income. Full-time arts professionals often rely heavily on government funding.

The sale of works of graphic arts, multimedia and literature generate considerable income for many professionals, while the performing arts, particularly dance, often do not generate enough income to cover their costs. The Australian Council funds arts activities, provides income for arts workers and projects, and is the main source of income for dance and theatre.

The film and television industries receive significant government support and tax incentives. The government finances performing arts schools. About 10 percent of large companies provide some form of support or funding for arts or cultural events.


Since the 1890s a national literature with a distinctly Australian voice has been developing. This tradition, which focuses heavily on the bush as a mythical place in the Australian imagination, has recently been challenged by a new suburban approach to literature.

Increasingly, works by Aboriginal authors and other diverse cultural backgrounds are being published and appreciated. Australian authors have won many international awards, and Australians are said to be one of the leading nations in spending per capita on books and magazines.

Graphic arts

Painting was dominated by the European tradition for many years, with landscapes painted to resemble their European counterparts until at least 1850. The Heidelberg school was influential in the late 19th century. Social-realistic images of immigrants and the working class were favored as more “Australian” in the 1950s.

Since 1945, images of the isolated interior have been popularized by artists such as Russell Drysdale and Sydney Nolan. Aboriginal artists were recognized in 1989 with a comprehensive exhibition of their art at the National Gallery of Australia. His work is becoming more and more successful internationally.

Performing arts

Every state capital has at least one major venue for the performing arts. Playwrights have been successful in introducing Australian society to theater goers. Since the early 1980s, the indigenous performance has been supported by various theater and dance companies.

Women’s theater achieved a high level of attention during the 1980s. Styles of music, dance, drama, and speech vary significantly, reflecting the multicultural mix of society.

Annual art festivals in the states showcase local and international work and are well attended, particularly by well-educated and wealthy people. Musical styles range from classical and symphonic to rock, pop and alternative styles.

Music is the most popular performing art, attracting large audiences. Pop music is more successful than symphony and chamber music. Many Australian pop musicians have found international success.

Comedy and cabaret also attract large audiences and seem to have a large pool of talent. Ballet is popular, with over 2500 schools in the early 1990s. The Australian Ballet, founded in 1962, enjoys a good international reputation.

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