Word Count: 1782
“Australia is a Classless Society” Discuss.
Traditionally Australians have regarded themselves as an egalitarian society, with an ethos of a fair go for all. Being a nation initially built on convict labour, and later, free settlers followed by immigrants from many nations, Australians prided themselves on having escaped the rigid class structure of the mother country for an egalitarian new world. It is this ideal that has in fact attracted many migrants to Australia over the course of its history. This essay will discuss some of the theories and definitions of class, then examine how they relate to Australian society, and whether Australia does indeed have a class system, arguing that in many ways, it does. It will discuss people’s perception of classes and their position in them, mobility between classes, and the impact of class on health, education and crime. It will show that there is a direct correlation between class and the level of crime, the health of an individual and the level of education attained. At its federation in 1901 the new nation of Australia was founded on principles of equality, although as Belinda Probert points out in her lecture ‘Class in 2001’, (Probert, 2001) this equality did not extend to women, Aborigines or people from non Anglo races. This egalitarian belief was founded on the notion of a fair and decent wage, an ideal proposed by Justice Higgins of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1907, when he set the first minimum weekly wage. This wage 1
was to reflect the cost of living, the amount of money required by an average person for the basic necessities of life; food and water, housing and clothing. This was called the Harvester Judgment. What is class? It is a division in society of a group of people who all have a similar social and economic status. For Karl Marx this status was dependent on whether a person owned (capitalist or bourgeoisie) or used (working class...