Public opinion and government stance on highly charged issues do shift; sometimes remarkably quickly (Australia’s gun control policy), other times after long and arduous intergenerational efforts (the women’s vote and policies on Indigenous Australians).
As the same sex marriage debate rages, we reflect on the historical campaigns that changed our nation.
Women Get the Vote
Australia was the first country to give white women the right to vote and the right to stand for election.
Judging by the Australian women’s suffrage campaign’s 33 year long lifespan, its success was a result of elbow grease and serious perseverance, rather than unusually feminist men down under! Suffrage campaigner Vida Goldstein was pivotal to the campaign’s success, from helping her mother gather 30,000 signatures for the 1891 Monster Petition, to turning down multiple marriage proposals to dedicate herself to the cause.
Interestingly, there was a 41 year lag between women’s eligibility to run for parliament and the election of a woman.
Attitudinal and policy changes towards Indigenous Australians have been incremental and hard won, and remain a work in progress. However, common historical understandings have come along way from the long running institutional denial of the existence of Stolen Generations.
However, it wasn’t until 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made news around the worldby issuing a heartfelt, formal apology to Indigenous Australians, particularly the Stolen Generations, in an attempt to “deal with this unfinished business of the nation...to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul.”
Powerful music, literature, film and other artwork about the plight of Indigenous Australians, from Rabbit Proof Fence to Archie Roach’s award winningsurvival ballad, have been pivotal to improving cultural understanding, where government has lagged behind.
Howard’s Gun Control Legacy
Sometimes tragedy is a catalyst for change, as was the case in the aftermath of Tasmania’s infamous 1996 Port Arthur massacre, the worst mass shooting in Australian history.
Research shows that the buyback has saved a huge 200 lives per year; no wonder even Howard’s critics applaud his gun control legacy. The US National Rifle Association, on the other hand, are not fans.
Throw another shrimp on the barbie!
On a lighter night, throw another shrimp on the barbie, would you? It’s a phrase so synonymous with Aussie culture that while those born after 1984 may be unaware of its origins, they’ve heard it everywhere from the Dumb and Dumber movie, to this Meat and Livestock Australia ad which attempts to set the record straight about what really goes on the barbie.
The oft-misquoted phrase – originally “I’ll slip another shrimp on the barbie for you” – was made famous by a pre-Crocodile Dundee Paul Hogan in Tourism Australia’s 1984 “Come and Say G’day” advertisements.
The campaign, which promoted Australia’s laid back attitude, beautiful natural landscapes, and friendly blonde bikini babes, made such an impact that holiday visa applications to Australia from the US went up by 54% in the year after its release.
"We basically didn't have an image before Hogan's campaign. We were seen as a zoo, you know, interesting marsupials and no people,” reflects then tourism minister John Brown.