Bushfires bring out the best in the Australian community

From Andrew Phillips, National Chairman:

Very few could deny that one of the strongest traits amongst Australians is the ideal of “mateship” and the willingness to help when others in the community are “doing it tough”.

This trait, although not as obvious in modern Australia still comes to the fore in times of calamity such as the floods and cyclone damage we witnessed in Queensland, the horrendous fires down in South Australia and Victoria and, most recently, the fires that swept through southern Tasmania.

I have observed the response to such events over many years and have always been heartened by the fact that some Aussies will see the needs of those who have lost all and feel motivated to do something, anything, to help their countrymen and women get back on their feet. I recall the response to the fires around Eyre Peninsula some years back, people collecting clothing, household items, long life food and supplies for stock owned by farmers whose properties had been devastated by the wall of flames that ripped through the area. For months after the event, people were joining work crews and travelling across the state to offer their labour to rebuild fences and stock yards for our state’s primary producers.

These responses at community level provide faith in the idea that the compassionate nature of Traditional Australia still exists. However, what has been overwhelming to witness was the reaction by Tasmanians to the plight experienced by their counterparts in the southern part of the state on the Tasman Peninsula following the fires around Dunalley. A state with a population of little over 500,000 hit the ground running even before the fires had been brought under some semblance of control.

Across the state, people were utilising social media to coordinate relief efforts and donations of much needed supplies for those who had lost everything. Tasmanians would come forth offering the use of utes, trucks and boats to ferry supplies to those trapped on the Peninsula — all without the interference of government bureaucrats. A local radio station managed to raise over $125000 in less than 50 hours and even local unions diverted their interest from their usual internationalist position and gave generously to the needs of their local community.

The reaction on the part of Tasmanians far outweighed the size of their population and it was a response for which they should be commended. This sense of community, which is often more noticeable in rural areas across the country, started me thinking about the reason for this altruism, why it appears so strong in that state and why it is not quite so evident in urban areas throughout the nation.

There is an observation made by a Professor of Political Science at Harvard named Robert Putnam who conducted a decade long study of how multiculturalism affects social trust. He discovered that the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities “don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions”.

An interesting observation on the part of an advocate for multiculturalism . . .

It is also more interesting when put into the context when one looks at the demographics of regional Australia, and the state of Tasmania specifically. Regional Australia has always been the bastion of Traditional Australia and has been slower to embrace change. When one considers that the majority of Tasmania’s population is located outside of urban areas, not to mention that demographically it is overwhelmingly of “traditional stock”, with 97% of the population claiming their ancestry as either Australian, English or Irish — it gives some food for thought. In addition, looking at figures for those born outside of Tasmania, 47% were born in the UK with others coming from New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. It would appear the more homogeneous a society is, the more unified the community. Having a sense of community encourages altruism and a sense of obligation towards the wider community — simply because it engenders a sense of belonging.

When one considers what kind of country in which we want our children raised, one with a sense of compassion, a sense of community and harmony — it may well pay to observe the dynamics of regional Australia and give consideration to implementing a similar approach to our immigration policies.


  1. Stan Claypole says

    Great article, Andrew!

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