What are the symbols that define us as Australians? Symbols are often used to represent a distinctive national identity, but we all have our own ideas about what they are. Moreover, national symbols change over time as attitudes and values shift.
Here at the National Museum of Australia we have identified eight symbols which we think many Australians will connect with.
The newly completed Defining Symbols of Australia project presents these symbols to our audiences in a panel exhibition, available to any organisation to display. We see this new exhibition as an opportunity to provoke discussions, and to generate ideas from all Australians on what objects they think represent us.
The exhibition builds on a previous display, Symbols of Australia, which the Museum created over 10 years ago. In reviewing the symbols chosen then – kangaroo, wattle, billy, Holden car, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Vegemite, flag, Southern Cross, Uluru and boomerang – we realised that Australia has changed in the intervening years. And so have our symbols.
Our new selection reflects changes in society and in our communities. We have retained icons like Uluru, the flag(s), kangaroo and wattle, and added the Sydney Opera House, booka, suitcase and fire truck.
The Museum hopes that each time Defining Symbols of Australia is displayed in a new location, new ideas will be generated and different symbols discussed and debated. We don’t have the final say on what symbols matter to Australians, and we look forward to participating in a national conversation.
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