The New ‘Progressive’ Nationalism

A new form of nationalism has emerged on the Australian Left. It is a nationalism that centres the perspectives, histories, spirituality, and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s national identity. The new form of nationalism was very much on display as new ALP, Teal, and Greens members of parliament performed their first speeches for the new parliamentary term.

Rather than trying to balance Aboriginal perspectives with more traditional conceptions of Australian identity, many progressive new members simply ignored any positive aspects of the Anglo-European contribution to Australia.

In general, the narrative seems to go something like this:

1/ For 65,000 years, the Australian continent was home to a rich and enduring culture. This culture provided the continent with its first scientists, doctors, artists, and astronomers. Therefore, this culture’s perspectives on every issue must be given particular weight.

2/ This enduring culture was then suppressed by British colonisation and the period from 1788 to approximately 1972 is one of great darkness.

3/ Finally, we arrive in the 1970s, when the Whitlam Government ended immigration restrictions and implemented multiculturalism. Finally, a more diverse nation allows the country to redeem (just a little bit) the sins of its past.

In this framing, the unique role of Anglo-Celtic or British Australians in building, settling, farming, Constitution-making, fighting, and defending the Australian continent is neglected and ignored. In this narrative, Anglo-European Australia is something of which we are to be ashamed. It constitutes a darkness bound on either side by the lightness of indigenous Australia and multiculturalism.

While 35 new MPs were elected to the 47th Australian Parliament, I have selected a few each from the groups that broadly can be seen as constituting the progressive sectors of Australian politics. These groups are the ALP, the Teals, and the Greens.



New Reid member Sally Sitou began with the obligatory acknowledgment of country:

‘I stand here on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and I represent an area that is the land of the Wangal people.’

Not a single first speech from the progressives began in any other way. All events, be it a political speech in parliament or a game at a sports stadium, need to open with a ritual acknowledgment or welcome, no matter how frequent these events might be. What began as small acknowledgments at occasional events of significance has become ubiquitous in Australian life. However, this has happened slowly and without much discussion. It’s assumed that those who critique these practices are engaged in a culture war. Still, there was never a debate about incorporating Aboriginal symbols and ceremonies into Australian public life. 

Sitou (left) then endorsed the need to incorporate the ‘voice’ of Indigenous Australians into the Constitution (‘enshrine their voice in our Constitution’). This call was echoed after the acknowledgments of country of all three Teals and ALP members covered in this article.

Sitou concluded the opening section of her speech with a very bold assertion of the new progressive nationalism. She said:

When I acknowledge country, I’m reminded that I am but a small addition to a long and continuing history. I am a custodian for the present so that future generations may also care for this country.

In this framing modern Australians can join in and participate in the ongoing culture of indigenous peoples. However, it is not clear that it’s acceptable for non-indigenous people in Australia to claim indigenous culture as their own. For Sitou though, that’s just what a good Australian does.

Sitou then jumps to the dismantling of White Australia and how it enabled the welcome of her family into the country. At no stage in her speech is there an appreciation for the democratic culture and society that developed in Australia from 1788-1970. In the new progressive nationalism, this foundation stone is never to be honoured.

The new Swan (WA) member, Zaneta Mascarenhas (right), initiated her first speech by proclaiming, ‘ It’s astounding that we have the oldest continuous culture right here. Australia’s connection to country, family and knowledge will be critical to help us navigate our future.’ Mascarenhas seemed to be suggesting that Australia’s future is intimately tied to harnessing the knowledges of Indigenous peoples. This may or may not be the case and whether or not the customs of the British foundation of the Australian state might also provide a pathway forward seems unimaginable.

Like Sitou, Mascarenhas jumps to a condemnation of Australia’s twentieth-century immigration regime:

When my Goan Indian parents went to the embassy in Kenya they said to my dad: ‘You have the right skills, but you’re the wrong colour.’ This situation, of course, was because we still had the White Australia Policy in place.

While a member like Macarenahas has every right to celebrate the White Australia Policy’s downfall, she seems uninterested in the culture that formed a nation so many people like her parents desire to come to. Since we have only recently started to ‘listen’ to Indigenous perspectives, might it be possible that there was something good and noble in the foundations of Anglo-European Australia?

Finally, the new member for the wealthy denizens of Higgins, Dr. Michelle Ananda-Rajah (left), ascribed insights to Indigenous Australians that are unknown to the rest of us:

Self-interest is out, and the national interest is in, but it’s planetary and interspecies interests that are trending. Our First Nations people have known this for eons.

Horrible Western imperialism and capitalism are responsible for the potential destruction of our planet. Only listening to First Nations can save us… that seems to be the theme.

Interestingly, for these MPs, in 2022 to be an excellent Australian patriot means celebrating indigeneity and multiculturalism. The development of the modern Australian nation from 1788 onwards can only be mentioned positively if one condemns its policies. Strangely, these three new Labour MPs seem uninterested in their own Labor movement’s English and Irish radical origins. This is a pity because the trade union movement and its achievements are a positive legacy of Western civilisation in Australia (the concept of Western civilisation should not just be a ‘right-wing thing’).


The Teals

To their credit, the Teals’ speeches reveal they know there may have been some good things happening in Australia during the period of darkness. But, of course, they still needed to genuflect toward the original custodians.

North Sydney MP Kyleah Tink ensured we knew that she not only supports the ‘voice’ but also ‘treaty and truth for our First Nations.’ Fortunately, a treaty is unlikely to impact any waterfront properties in Kirribilli.

Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel displayed that she is much more in touch with woke trends by reminding us that the lands on which she lives and works are ‘unceded.’ Since it is compulsory in many public sector and corporate settings to do a land acknowledgement, a good way to show your sincerity is to add that they are unceded.

Kate Chaney (Curtin in WA) sought inspiration from the First Nations on the environment:

We need to learn from the perspectives of our First Nations people’ because ‘Their sense of the long term brings a deeply sophisticated knowledge of a society in delicate balance with its natural resources, in tune with the cycle of time. This was dramatically interrupted by the painful arrival of a people with a linear view of time. Even in Western cultures the concept of time as linear is only 500 years old, but it’s deeply embedded.

At least Chaney (right) does recognise that Western science and technology have brought advancement (‘This concept of progress has provided incredible leaps in life expectancy, population growth and interconnectedness’) but suggests we now need a new paradigm. Once again, we can see an almost religious quality ascribed to the perspectives of First Nations. A caste of people who must always be acknowledged as the source of wisdom. Chaney & Co always feel comfortable critiquing the broad Western tradition, but it’s impossible to imagine them ever critically interrogating indigenous cultures.

Some Teals did break the mold in paying tribute to Australian forebears. Daniel referenced her electorate’s namesake, Vida Goldstein, noting that she had been “a peace advocate, an activist, a politician” who had been the first woman to stand for the national parliament. It seems that movements for woman’s equality were able to develop even in the great Australian darkness.

Dr. Monique Ryan (Kooyong in Victoria) paid tribute to her blue-ribbon Liberal predecessors in Kooyong. She provided a positive description of the liberalism represented by Menzies:

Those men were all true liberals. They recognised that open markets are the best way to boost prosperity. They were committed to protecting individuals’ rights.

The society informed by such a philosophy could not have been so bad.

The Teals seem to have a much more positive vision of Australia’s past than the new Labor members. But, of course, their nationalism still centres on indigenous perspectives.


The Greens

The Greens are a different ballgame altogether. No quarter is given to Anglo-European Australia at all.

Elizabeth Watson-Brown (Ryan in Queensland) committed herself to a treaty and spoke only of the “shameful truth of our history.” No gratitude is expressed to the culture from which she has herself emerged.

The member for Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather (right) , can only speak of “so-called Brisbane.” He paid tribute to the “warriors” who resisted and continue to resist colonisation but did not bother to make a passing reference to the man after whom his electorate is named. Sir Samuel Griffith was a crucial player in drafting the democratic Australian Constitution under which we have lived for more than a century. While not perfect, it provides avenues for activists like the Greens to seek redress and change for their various issues.

For a party whose leader cannot abide being seen in the presence of the Australian national flag, this lack of respect for the cultural foundations of the Australian nation is hardly surprising, nevertheless it is profoundly disappointing. Moreover, the type of nationalism exhibited by the Greens does not even try to develop a positive outlook on Australia’s colonial past; instead, it adopts in its entirety the perspective of the most radical subset of Aboriginal activists.


A few conclusions can be reached from these first speeches. First, many new Labor members conceive of a national identity with an indigenous foundation and a modern multi-ethnic character. Since Labor played a role in dismantling the period of darkness, they express pride that a whole kaleidoscope of ethnicities and cultures can share a continent with the world’s oldest living culture.’

The Teals essentially share the progressive Labor perspective. Still, Chaney, Daniel and Ryan are so embedded in the elite community of European Australia that they cannot help but recognise the liberal and progressive aspects of our national heritage.

Finally, the Greens find nothing redemptive about Australia’s settlement and development. Instead, they want our symbols and forms of government radically overturned to empower First Nations and make up for past injustices. They do not seem to have a goal of equal citizenship and opportunity for all the continent’s inhabitants, but rather a special role and power for the hundreds of First Nations tribes. It is tragic that those who have benefited so much from Australia cannot find it in themselves to be grateful for some element of their heritage.

What should conservatives do?

To his credit, Tony Abbott (inspired by Noel Pearson’s reflections) did try to formulate a conservative perspective on national identity suitable for the times. Abbott argued in 2014 (and often since) that:

This country we created, as a matter of undisputed fact, has an Indigenous heritage, a British foundation, and a multicultural character, and it’s high time that this reality was recognised in our Constitution.

He wanted a preamble that expressed this statement. This was his idea of constitutional recognition. Abbott’s plan was always going to fail. In seeking indigenous input on the proposal, any chance of symbolic recognition was rejected. Voice, treaty, and truth became the demand of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Of course, putting such a detailed formulation of national identity in a preamble would be a grave mistake. Indeed, this was the conclusion of the Referendum Council in 2015. They instead opted for advocating an extra-constitutional declaration. But at least Abbott attempted to develop a coherent understanding of national identity on the conservative side of politics. Unfortunately, too many centre-right politicians fail to engage meaningfully in these discussions. While they are right to prioritise practical economic and security issues, leaving the field  to the progressive forces is wrong.

In an opinion piece exploring the results of the last federal election, George Megalogenis suggested the Uluru Statement from the Heart could provide the basis of a new Australian identity. However, this stance would mean that Anglo-Europeans and other Australians would have to genuflect towards Aboriginal culture in their civic culture and observances. While an Anglocentric national identity of the pre-1970s era is obviously never coming back, it is essential that the British and European foundations of the Australian achievement are proudly celebrated, acknowledged, and understood. Anything less is a lie about our country.

Fortunately, Abbott and Howard understood this problem to some extent. The most significant difference between conservative-minded Australians and those in the progressive quarters is their outlook on a future Australian relationship with Indigenous peoples. Right-leaning Australians assume that through equal citizenship and economic opportunity, Aboriginal peoples will become just like other Australians while preserving their own cultures if they choose to do so. The Progressive quarters see the ‘First Nations’ as a permanently separate category of citizens entitled to special rights due to indigeneity. Aboriginal people could be the wealthiest group in the country, but they would still be entitled to a voice and treaty due to their indigeneity.

Right-leaning politicians in Australia should do more to understand the new nationalism of the progressive quarters and offer a compelling counter-vision. Pure focus on the rational low ground of economics and security leaves the cultural field to forces with a posture of hostility to crucial foundation stones of Australian heritage.

Lucas McLennan is a Melbourne-based Secondary school teacher of English and History. He has a Master’s Degree in Education History

23 thoughts on “The New ‘Progressive’ Nationalism

  • RobyH says:

    All of this is offensive. Cede is to give up. All land has been ceded. It has not been formally ceded – which would be by treaty but it certainly was given up. There was no requirement to have a treaty nor any grouping capable of one.

    The British built this country. Australia was not created by the Aboringal hordes. Aboriginal culture does not enrich the life of our country and in reality no longer exists. It is merely a remnant attached by partial descent aboriginals to high western civilisation.

    There must be millions of Australians who don’t ever want to hear a welcome to our own country again.. surely the pendulum must swing back.

  • Daffy says:

    Do I detect unvarnished hypocrisy in politicians or indeed civil servants who solemnly intone that the dirt under their feet is ‘unceded’, then proceed to illegally (in their terms) govern upon it. They should either quit their post, or quit their treason against the Queen.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Perhaps a majority of “no” votes in the coming referendum would make the politicians and those who want to see what apartheid looks like first hand think, but the majority will probably vote “yes” and and drive another nail into the coffin of our democracy.

  • Paul W says:

    White people invented the concept of Australia and being Australian. Being Australian meant being born white in Australia. But the word Australian is hardly even used in this essay. Australians never called themselves by another name and yet here are called ‘Anglo-Europeans’.

    You rightly lament the decline of Australian nationalism yet you also erase it: the slogan of federation was ‘one people, one destiny.’ Apparently there was no Australian people. You then wonder why the radical Left have chosen to attach themselves to the out-loud and proud Aborigines. Don’t be a coward and say it clearly. White people invented Australia and if they can’t be bothered respecting the people who made their existence possible then they should leave.

    But the radical Left hate white people and therefore won’t respect them.

  • geoff_brown1 says:

    “Oldest living culture?” Doesn’t that title belong to the San Bushmen of Southern Africa, with over 100,000 years?

  • Farnswort says:

    “Like Sitou, Mascarenhas jumps to a condemnation of Australia’s twentieth-century immigration regime”

    It is telling how Australia is singled out for condemnation for its once restrictive immigration policies while the present immigration policies of Australia’s northern neighbours are ignored. Practically every Asian country maintains ethnically restrictive immigration and citizenship policies. As Geoffrey Blainey noted in his book “All for Australia”, Australia has opened its doors to Asia while Asian countries continue to discriminate. Blainey made the observation: “A family of Australians, of European descent, would now have faint chance of emigrating, if it so wished, to any Asian land.” This situation remains. It is impossible for a white Australian to become a citizen of India or China. Yet this double standard is rarely acknowledged.

  • Ceres says:

    All women bar one. Hate to say it but my fellow females are increasingly pains in the neck with their endless trendy, seeming and caring feelings, for all things non white.
    .. And to this quote “Voice, treaty, and truth became the demand of the Uluru Statement from the Heart” I would add “Voice treaty, truth and FINANCIAL recompense became the demand of the Uluṟu….etc

  • Biggles says:

    Further to Paul W., I recently had to make a slight change to my Centrelink details. I found that, as a white man of English, Scots and Irish descent, I am listed as ‘non-indigenous’! When you realise that what I call ‘Abwank’ is deeply ingrained in government policy, you know we ‘non-indigenous’ citizens have been badly betrayed.

  • Mark says:

    Where is the analysis of the Coalition? The liberal party supports almost unfettered legal immigration and it was John Howard who opened the floodgates despite all opinion polls at the time showing nearly everyone in Australia across the political landscape supporting only very small levels of immigration. Demographics = destiny and with 80% of immigrants voting for left wing parties, within a generation, the coalition will be dumped into the dustbin of history with the demographic revolution they initiated spelling their doom. We were never asked and this demographic change has been forced upon us which would be unthinkable in any other non western country. Ironically, both Labor and Liberals are unconditional supporters of ethnostate Israel and it seems they care more for that country than white Australians.

  • Michael says:

    Yes, this seems to be the issue. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as ethnicities within a multicultural Australia of undifferentiated citizenship. Or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as First Nations peoples with a unique, Constitutionally privileged status, and with the rest of us relegated to the status of second Australians. That’s what the voice debate is really about; it’s nothing to do with consultation on matters affecting indigenous people, which could be implemented by any number of means, including a legislated body. Constitutional recognition is all about enshrining a special status, with special privileges, for a group of Australians based on their ancestry. It is a complete anathema to modern, multicultural Australia, a central plank of which is that when you become an Australian citizen, you have exactly the same political and legal rights as any other Australian, regardless of whether your ancestors were never born here, have been here for five generations, or for 500 generations.

  • geoff_brown1 says:

    Michael, I’ve already seen non – indigenous Australians described as “Second Nations.”

  • rosross says:

    None of it is rational and none of it is sourced in historical realities. Which makes it so much more difficult to challenge because reason is trying to connect rationally with that which is unreasonable and irrational.

    Inconvenient facts are ignored, such as the reality that the many different peoples called Aborigines were also colonists, invaders and occupiers. We all came out of Africa so they were no different to any other Homo Sapiens.

    With Homo Sapiens in Europe from around 200,000 years ago, Asia from 120,000 years ago, after probably millions of years of evolution in Africa, what makes 40,000 years of Homo Sapien Sapiens presence in Australia so remarkable? Aboriginal peoples were not even unique in the world in failing to evolve beyond stone-age hunter-gatherer lives.

    So, if Aborigines and Europeans are equally colonisers in what we call Australia, why is one deemed evil and the other deemed noble? Which takes us back to the Hunchback of Woke where the unreasonable and the irrational hang from the spire of virtue signalling.

    So, whose cause does it serve to demonise the modern Western world in such a way?

  • rosross says:


    Many women also reject this Woke madness and a lot of men support it. I do not believe it can be divided on the basis of gender.

  • Farnswort says:

    “Interestingly, for these MPs, in 2022 to be an excellent Australian patriot means celebrating indigeneity and multiculturalism. The development of the modern Australian nation from 1788 onwards can only be mentioned positively if one condemns its policies.”

    Anglo-Celtic Australians are becoming homeless in the country their ancestors built. Official narratives focus on Indigenous or post-1970 multicultural elements, almost completely ignoring the majority people and culture that forged the modern Australian nation-state. When Anglo-Celtic Australia is mentioned, it is solely in a negative light.

    Our ruling class discourages even the mildest expressions of nationalism among Anglo-Celtic and European Australians. Yet the same ruling class has effectively embraced a form of hard “blood and soil” nationalism focused on Aboriginal Australians. Indigenous people, we are told, have a deep, spiritual connection to their fellow kin, their culture, their ancestors and the land that must be respected and maintained at all cost. Special consideration is also granted to recently-arrived migrant minority groups, who are encouraged to celebrate their ethnic cultures and pursue their own group interests under the banner of ‘multiculturalism’.

    Eric Kaufmann has argued that white liberals practice a type of ‘white exceptionalism’, whereby European-derived peoples are held to a different standard to every other group. Kaufmann poses the following questions:

    “… is it racist for a white person to vote for reduced immigration? Is it racist for whites to identify with a caucasian racial image as a group symbol? Save your answers. Now let’s change the questions. Is it racist for a Chinese-American person to favour increased Chinese immigration to grow the size of their community? What about for Hawaiians to identify with a Polynesian racial image as a symbol of their group? Now recall your answers. Even if you answered these questions consistently, if you are white, you probably cringed when completing the first set.

    Let’s explore this discomfort, because it explains why western mainstream elites are unable to defuse the tensions driving national populism. There is no sensible reason for answering the questions differently. Our cultural cringe can’t be a logical response based on a consistent definition of racism.”


  • Farnswort says:

    Thanks to Lucas McLennan for this thought-provoking article.

  • Farnswort says:

    Mark, I agree. The Coalition is woeful, particularly on immigration.

  • Petronius says:

    The best thing for these radical people is just to ignore them.

  • PT says:

    Geoff, you’re quite right. The reality is that “oldest living culture” is really just another way of saying “the most primitive culture”,
    with the aboriginals essentially still living in the Palaeolithic! The San (or !kung or bushman) certainly live where the oldest remains of modern people have been found and are usually considered to be direct descendants tells of the original modern human population. It’s often cited that they have in their population the so called distinct physical traits of other races. BUT they have the bow and arrow, which supposedly gives their advancement beyond spears and spear throwers. So Aboriginal people who never developed the bow and arrow (and didn’t have any exposure to people who did to be able to copy it) are thus the “oldest living culture”. Sounds better than “least advanced”, but it’s essentially what they’re saying!
    I also find it incredible that the same people who grizzle that the monarchy is “out of date” and the British origin stuff is “living in the past” can drone on like this about the “oldest living culture” without irony.
    The truth is that aboriginal issues and interests are the excuse, and not the end. They’re invoked to provide some sort of moral validation for things that various people want for other reasons. In the past they went on about “the working class”, but it’s been decades since I’ve heard anyone from the left talk about this regularly, and even when it occasionally surfaces (such as in the Greens recent huffing and puffing over minimum wage earners) it’s still somehow made subservient to “woke politics” (such as prioritising “female dominated workspaces” like teaching).
    To my mind the ease and completeness with which the old constituency of the left has been abandoned, indeed demonised, should be a warning to aboriginals, the alphabet soup and “immigrant groups” that these people are not solid supporters and will stab you in the back as soon as it suits them to.

  • MungoMann says:

    My own opinion is that at present we should just refuse to accept the notion of a ‘breakup’ of Australia along ethnic and/or racial lines. Whenever we are confronted by any of this Labor/Teal/Green claptrap we just tell them , “That’s Un-Australian, mate”. This un-Australian slur used to carry weight and if we don’t throw it around enough at these Philistines who are undermining our society they will succeed. We need to write and deliver our own Acknowledgement to Nation (or Place) . We need to standup and not blindly accept the suicide of our nation…….But if all fails and the Old Australia succumbs, then it’s time to adopt the Red Ensign as our flag, accept ourselves as Second Nations peoples (Torres Strait Islanders will be designated by us as Third Nations peoples as they only joined Aust (QLD) in 1879) and get on with our lives in the 37% of Australia not under Native Title. In some ways it will be a great relief as the economic, moral and ethical burdens we have had to carry to integrate Aboriginal & TSI peoples will be lifted from us – it’s every Nation for itself now…. And our lives will blossom as we are the smart, hard working ones – the inheritors of Western Civilisation. It will be a new Golden Age for Second Nations peoples…..until of course when it is interrupted by the arrival of the Chinese landing craft in HRH King Pearson’s Nation of Capyorkia…

  • pmprociv says:

    We are in the early stages, the exponential growth phase, of an epidemic of rampant, mindless, knee-jerk virtue-signalling, But what I’d really love to know, is the real estate holdings of all those politicians who bleat on about “unceded” lands. Do they intend to hand back their properties? If so, to whom, exactly? And do they realise that, pre-1788, the most densely inhabited parts of our continent just happened to be where our CBDs and urban areas are now situated? Or, instead of ceding back their current holdings, maybe they’d prefer simply to pay rent, in perpetuity? That’s the natural and inevitable destination towards which this is all heading.

  • Searcher says:

    I was bodily assaulted by a man who said to me that it was because I am a ‘white anglo’. I needed surgery and hospital time as a result.

  • bomber49 says:

    Those critics of the old world should remember that if it not were for the sacrifices of Anglo-Celts of the 1940s we would now be celebrating The Emperor of Japan’s birthday and all the rights and freedoms to actually criticise the past would not exist. And the children of immigrants would not exist, other than offspring of the new conquerors, the Japanese.

  • Farnswort says:

    Good point, bomber49.

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