+1 Recommend
1 collections

      If you have found this article useful and you think it is important that researchers across the world have access, please consider donating, to ensure that this valuable collection remains Open Access.

      Prometheus is published by Pluto Journals, an Open Access publisher. This means that everyone has free and unlimited access to the full-text of all articles from our international collection of social science journalsFurthermore Pluto Journals authors don’t pay article processing charges (APCs).

      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      Australian attitudes towards innovation, work and technology: Towards a cultural explanation



            Australia, despite its G20 status, has not been performing as well in innovation in high-technology sectors as its educational levels and sustained growth would suggest. Australia has found it difficult to emerge from an economy based on resources and agriculture to a services economy based on knowledge and the application of technology. Several reasons have been put forward over the years. This study considers one reason that has not been considered in any detail – culture and national identity. In this paper, we look closely at a number of artefacts of popular culture from the late 1800s to the present day (such as art, poetry, song and film). These continue to underpin Australia's national identity, despite the multicultural and multiethnic nature of modern Australia. This study argues that the current Australian attitude to work, technology and innovation is strongly rooted in the egalitarian and anti-authoritarian ethos associated with what has been termed the 'Australian legend' or the 'pioneer legend'. A national discourse with emphasis on hyper-masculine hard work as opposed to education and innovation has favoured policies to assist the resource and agricultural sectors of the economy, rather than sectors capable of creating greater value.


            Author and article information

            Pluto Journals
            1 March 2021
            : 37
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/prometheus.37.issue-1 )
            : 54-68
            [ 1 ]Faculty of Business, Law and Arts, Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Queensland
            [ 2 ]Public Policy, Griffith University, Brisbane
            [ 3 ]School of Information and Communication Technology, Griffith University, Brisbane
            [ 4 ]Faculty of Business, Law & Arts, Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Queensland
            [ 5 ]Faculty of Business, Law and Arts, Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Queensland
            © 2020 Pluto Journals

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Custom metadata

            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics


            1. Abbott, T. (2015) 'Interview with David Speers, AM Agenda, Sky News', Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia, 13 May, Transcript ID 2447.

            2. Alexander, F. (1967) Australia since Federation: A Narrative and Critical Analysis, Thomas Nelson (Australia), Melbourne.

            3. Allen, C. (1997) Art in Australia: From Colonization to Postmodernism, Thames & Hudson, London.

            4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Research and Experimental Development, Business, Australia, 2013–2014, Catalogue number 8104.0, Canberra, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

            5. Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2015) The National Innovation and Science Agenda, available at http://innovation.gov.au/page/agenda (accessed July 2017).

            6. Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2017) Australia's National Science Statement, available at http://www.science.gov.au/scienceGov/NationalScienceStatement/index.html (accessed June 2020).

            7. Australian Department of Innovation Industry and Science (2018) Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Grants, available at https://www.business.gov.au/assistance/cooperative-research-centres-programme/cooperative-research-centres-projects-crc-ps/ (accessed August 2020).

            8. Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2019) Science, Research and Innovation (SRI) Budget Tables, available at https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/science-research-and-innovation-sri-budget-tables (accessed August 2020).

            9. Baehr, W. (2002) Founders, Classics, Canons: Modern Disputes over the Origins and Appraisal of Sociology's Heritage, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick NJ.

            10. Bailey, M. (2017) 'Matt Barrie says doomed Australia needs “an Apollo programme”', Financial Review, 20 September.

            11. Bean, C. (1911) The Dreadnought of the Darling, Alston Rivers, London.

            12. Borrello, E. and Keany, F. (2015) 'Innovation statement: PM Malcolm Turnbull calls for “ideas boom” as he unveils $1b vision for Australia's future', ABC News, 7 December, available at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-07/pm-malcolm-turnbull-unveils-$1-billion-innovation-program/7006952 (accessed October 2020).

            13. Brett, J. (2003) Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class: From Alfred Deakin to John Howard, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

            14. Burgess, S. (2015) 'Gender and sexuality politics in the James Bond film series: cultural origins of gay inclusion in the US military', Polity, 47, 2, pp.225–48.

            15. Carroll, J. (1992) 'Mateship and egalitarianism: the failure of upper middle-class nerve' in Carroll, J. (ed.) Intruders in the Bush: the Australian Quest for Identity, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp.14–37.

            16. Clark, J. (1986) 'Naturalism and nationalism' in Clark, J. and Whitelaw, B. (eds) Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond, International Cultural Corporation of Australia, Sydney, pp.128–49.

            17. Cornell University (2016) The Global Innovation Index (GII) Conceptual Framework, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, available at: http://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_gii_2016-annex1.pdf (accessed June 2020).

            18. Cornell University (2019) The Global Innovation Index 2019: Creating Healthy Lives – The Future of Medical Innovation, Cornell University, Ithaca NY.

            19. Cory, S. (2014) 'Judgment day for Abbott on science and research funding', The Conversation, available at https://theconversation.com/judgement-day-for-abbott-on-science-and-research-funding-26684 (accessed July 2017).

            20. Curthoys, A. (1997) 'History and identity' in Hudson, W. and Bolton, G. (eds) Creating Australia: Changing Australian History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, pp.23–38.

            21. Davison, G. (1992) 'Sydney and the bush: an urban context for the Australian legend' in Whitlock, G. and Carter, D. (eds) Images of Australia, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, pp.191–204.

            22. Davison, G. (2012) 'Rethinking the Australian legend', Australian Historical Studies, 43, 3, pp.429–51.

            23. Day, D. (ed.) (1998) Australian Identities, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne.

            24. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (1999) Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP Radio Interview with Mike Carlton Radio 2UE, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, 23 March, available from http://pmtranscripts.pmc.gov.au/release/transcript-11107 (accessed July 2017).

            25. Dixson, M. (2000) The Imaginary Australian: Anglo-Celts and Identity – 1788 to the Present, University of Sydney Press, Sydney.

            26. Dodgson, M., Hughes, A., Foster, J. and Metcalfe, S. (2011) 'Systems thinking, market failure, and the development of innovation policy: the case of Australia', Research Policy, 40, 9, pp.1145–56.

            27. Dyrenfurth, N. (2007) 'John Howard's hegemony of values: the politics of “mateship” in the Howard decade', Australian Journal of Political Science, 42, 2, pp.211–30.

            28. Elder, C. (2007) Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

            29. Fiske, J., Hodge, B. and Turner, G. (1987) Myths of Oz: Reading Australian Popular Culture, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

            30. Forbes, B. (2017) 'Introduction: finding religion in unexpected places' in Forbes, B. and Mahan, J. (eds), Religion and Popular Culture in America, University of California Press, Oakland CA, pp.1–24.

            31. Garnaut, R. (2016) 'Vested interests are killing our capitalist economy', Financial Review, May 23, available from http://www.afr.com/news/politics/national/capitalist-democracy-has-fallen-on-hard-times-in-the-early-21st-century-20160523-gp1d46 (accessed July 2017).

            32. Hartz, L. (1955) The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since the Revolution, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York.

            33. Hattam, V. and Lowndes, J. (2007) 'The ground beneath our feet: language, culture, and political change' in Skoronek, S. and Glassman, M. (eds) Formative Acts: American Politics in the Making, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA, pp.199–219.

            34. Hirst, J. (1992) 'The pioneer legend' in Carroll, J. (ed.) Intruders in the Bush: The Australian Quest for Identity, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp.14–37.

            35. Horne, D. (1964) The Lucky Country, Penguin, Ringwood, Victoria.

            36. Inglehart, R. (1997) Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.

            37. Jenkins, J. (2007) 50 Years of Rock in Australia, Wilkinson Publishing, Melbourne.

            38. Laffin, J. (1986) Digger: The Legend of the Australian Soldier, Macmillan, South Melbourne.

            39. Matzenik, A. (1987) 'Dorothea Mackellar: a memoir' in Dredge, C. and Strang, B. (eds) My Country and Other Poems, Viking O'Neil, Ringwood, Victoria, pp.4–10.

            40. Menghetti, D. (2005) 'Invention and innovation in the Australian non-ferrous mining industry: whose technology?', Australian Economic History Review, 45, 2, pp.204–19.

            41. Morris, P. (1983) 'Australia's dependence on imported technology – some issues for discussion', Prometheus, 1, 1, pp.144–59.

            42. Nicoll, F. (2001) From Diggers to Drag Queens: Configurations of Australian National Identity, Pluto Press Australia, Annandale, NSW.

            43. Noble, D., Charles, M. and Keast, R. (2017) 'Towards a collaborative competency framework to enhance public value in university-industry collaboration', Public Money and Management, 37, 5, pp.373–7.

            44. Oakes, L. (2016) 'Laurie Oakes says national party showed how federal election campaign is done', Herald Sun, 22 July.

            45. Office of the Chief Economist (2020) Chapter Overview: Business Innovation, Commonwealth of Australia, available at: https://publications.industry.gov.au/publications/australianinnovationsystemmonitor/business-innovation/index.html (accessed March 2020).

            46. Pickard, J. (2010) 'Wire fences in colonial Australia: technology transfer and adaptation, 1842–1900', Rural History, 21, 1, pp.27–58.

            47. Proimos, A. and Wright, S. (2005) 'A pilot study of venture capital investment appraisal in Australia', Journal of Financial Services Marketing, 9, 3, pp.272–86.

            48. Ray, J. (1981) 'The new Australian nationalism', Quadrant, January–February, pp.60–2.

            49. Rutherford, J. (2000) The Gauche Intruder: Freud, Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy, University of Melbourne Press, Carlton South, Victoria.

            50. Ryan, N., Charles. M. and Tuffley, D. (2017) Australia's Industrial Development Agenda: Contemporary Trends in Australian Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, available from https://www.curtin.edu.au/research/jcipp/local/docs/Innovation-Agenda-Curtin-Corner-June-17.pdf (accessed July 2017).

            51. Shane, S. (1993) 'Cultural influences on national rates of innovation', Journal of Business Venturing, 8, 1, pp.59–73.

            52. Sinnewe, E., Charles, M. and Keast, R. (2016) 'Australia's cooperative research centre program: a transaction cost theory perspective', Research Policy, 45, 1, pp.195–204.

            53. Southcott, J. (2010) 'Nationalism and school music in Australia' in Hebert, D. and Kertz-Welzel, A. (eds) Patriotism and Nationalism in Music Education, Routledge, Abingdon, UK, pp.43–57.

            54. Splatt, W. and McLellan, D. (1998) The Heidelberg School: The Golden Summer of Australian Painting, Viking O'Neil, South Yarra, Victoria.

            55. Tehan, D. (2017) 'The minister for veterans' affairs and defence personnel', Q&A, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 8 May, episode 13.

            56. Thomson, A. (1989) 'Steadfast until death? C. E. W. Bean and the representation of Australian military manhood', Australian Historical Studies, 23, 93, pp.462–78.

            57. Tiffen, R. (2017) Disposable Leaders: Media and Leadership Coups from Menzies to Abbott, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney.

            58. Tranter, B. and Donoghue, J. (2007) 'Colonial and post-colonial aspects of Australian identity', British Journal of Sociology, 58, 2, pp.165–83.

            59. Ward, R. (1978) The Australian Legend, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

            60. Warhurst, J. (1993) 'Nationalism and republicanism in Australia: the evolution of institutions, citizenship and symbols', Australian Journal of Political Science, 28, special issue, pp.100–20.

            61. White, R. (1981) Inventing Australia: Images and Identity 1688–1980, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

            62. White, R. (1997) 'Inventing Australia revisited' in Hudson, W. and Bolton, G. (eds) Creating Australia: Changing Australian History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, pp.12–22.


            Comment on this article