The Australian government has decided that immigrants need to know about mateship.

Apparently mateship is a defining Australian value, and people who won’t be mates don’t get to be Australians. Here’s what the Australian government says about mateship.

Australia has a strong tradition of mateship where people help and receive help from others voluntarily, especially in times of adversity. A mate can be a spouse, partner, brother, sister, daughter, son or a friend. A mate can also be a total stranger.

Whatever. I’m sure many of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia would have liked to been included in mateship, and helped out in times of need, instead of being turfed out.

I don’t think is possible to require people to be mates. This is not like being able to describe Australia’s system of government, or the basic values that underpin a Western liberal democracy – freedom of speech, association and religion, the equality of all individuals, the rule of law, and so on, all fairly well mapped out in political philosophy. I think that it’s quite reasonable to expect immigrants to accept the systems of governance in countries they migrate to. But telling them that they must do something that is supposed to be a freely given gift is simply incoherent.


4 responses to “Mate

  1. i think a more important event flying in the face of mateship was the tampa.

    not a lot of mateship going on there…

  2. John Howard has long been infatuated with the concept of mateship and how it is uniquely Australian. It’s not like men could be good friends anywhere else in the world is it?
    It seems that Howard and the immigration minister though up the questions for migrants.,21985,22308070-661,00.htmll

  3. Mmm, but I think this — “A mate can also be a total stranger” — is simply wrong. You can treat a total stranger LIKE your mate, but this is no different to the Bedouin treating you like a family member while under their protection. Mateship is tribal at bottom. And hence the treatment of refugees and Aborigines is entirely consistent with mateship, albeit not the glossed-up propaganda version.

  4. It seems reasonable to me to require immigrants to know about Australian values like mateship.
    An immigrant has chosen their new country, so they ought to know something about it.
    (unlike a refugee, who shouldn’t be subject to the test)
    Stephen’s comment explains the exclusion of Aborigines (but does not excuse it)