[Editor: This untitled article puts forward the proposition that the increasing population of native-born Australians (in contrast to those who came from overseas) see Australia as their homeland, leading to a growing sense of Australian nationality. Published in The Advertiser, 29 December 1892.]
[Australia is becoming every day more and more Australian]
In one sense Australia is becoming every day more and more Australian. The proportion of its inhabitants who claim this continent as their birthplace is constantly increasing. Indeed it is now almost a misnomer to call these young States colonies and their people colonists.
The pioneer colonising element is rapidly dying out, and the cessation of State-aided immigration has greatly limited the extent to which its place has been taken by more recent arrivals from abroad.
Those who subdued the wilderness and laid the foundations of a new civilisation under the Southern Cross were, in the fullest sense, colonists. Though in these lands the best part of their lives may have been spent, their children born and reared, and their fortunes made, Australia was still to them only the country of adoption, the motherland was always “home,” and their existence here, in spite of great compensating advantages, was felt to have in it somewhat of the nature of an exile.
The native Australian, now largely in the majority, does not share these sentiments. His home is the place of his birth, and its destiny is the concern of his patriotism. As his country grows in population, wealth, and general importance, the sense of Australian nationality expands with it. He does not feel himself to be a colonist, and he is not such, except so far as his position as a subject of her Britannic Majesty makes him one.
The Chief Justice lately took occasion to reprove the more eager spirits among the Australian natives who already aspire to raise a flag of their own. “There were some young men who should be more modest,” he said, “who talked much about an Australian Republic,” and he expressed the hope that the boys of the school he was addressing would ever be loyal to the Empire. It is to be feared that this admonition will not be greatly heeded by the rising generation, who do not look at the question from quite the some standpoint as their mentor.
From the path of its natural political evolution towards ultimate independence Australia might perhaps be turned aside by a well-devised scheme of British federation which would assure her the full freedom and dignity of a State without the necessity of separation from the mother-country. Otherwise in due time the “colonies” will vanish and a nation take their place, linked with the parent State only by the “crimson thread of kinship.”
The rapid increase of the native element is hastening this development, and giving more and more urgency to the plans of those who desire the alternative of Imperial unity. Says a British writer — “It is the fading class of the home-born which keeps alive the sentiment of the English connection. Every five minutes throughout Australasia an Imperialist dies, every four minutes a Republican is born.”
The last census furnishes striking arithmetical evidence of the displacement of the “old colonists” by the Australian-born in this province. When the people were counted in 1881 the number of colonists born in the United Kingdom was 88,034, or 31.46 per cent. of the whole population. Last year the total had diminished to 72,064, and the percentage to 22.49. It is noteworthy that of the whole number of British-born South Australians only 2,452 were under the age of 15. The “home-born” element, to use the term of the British writer, is therefore almost exclusively adult, and unless during the next decade our numbers are largely recruited by immigration it will have faded by the date of the next ceusus into positive insignificance.
In 1881 the number of our people of South Australian birth was 163,507, or 58.42 per cent.; ten years later the total had risen to 217,730, and the percentage to 67.95. Add to these 11,045 contributed by the other Australian colonies, or 3.44 per cent. of the whole, we have a total of 228,775 persons in the province of Australian nativity, or 71.39 per cent. of the whole population. This shows an increase of 10 per cent. for the decade.
There are great inequalities in the representation of the sexes among colonists born in the United Kingdom and other countries. Thus last year the people of English birth were 26,511 males and 21,212 females, as against 32,901 and 24,639 respectively in 1881. Scotland, too, has contributed more men than women, the males numbering 6,028 and 4,972 in 1881 and 1891 respectively, and the females 4,609 and 3,902 at the same times. In the former year the sexes were pretty evenly balanced among our Irish colonists, though even then the women were in the majority, numbering 9,186 as against 9,060 males. During the decade the proportion of the former increased, and last year the people of Irish birth were 6,507 males and 7,862 females respectively. The Germans show, on the other hand, a marked preponderance of males, of whom in 1891 there were 5,076 as against 3,447 females. The excess of the male element is still more strikingly displayed in the case of the Scandinavian section of the population, for of 1,157 people in the province last year born in Sweden and Norway only 61 were women.
As against these inequalities in the number of the two sexes hailing from other countries, it is curious to note the nearly equal representation of both among the people of South Australian birth. Eleven years ago the males numbered 81,750, and the females 81,757. Last year the total of the former was 108,276, and of the latter 109,454. It is a fact well known to collectors of vital statistics that on the average about 106 boys are born to every 100 girls, but two factors are constantly at work tending to restore the balance of the sexes — the excess of male infantile mortality, and among those who survive the dangers of childhood the greater longevity of women. These influences in establishing equilibrium between the sexes appear to have done rather more than their necessary work in South Ausralia.
Though an Australian people is fast springing up, it is, with but a slight admixture of foreign blood, of British origin. Thus last year, according to our census, no less than 302,377 of the South Australian people, or 94.36 per cent. of the whole, were subjects of British birth or parentage. The foreign element is small, and it is falling off instead of increasing, the number of persons of foreign birth being only 5.05 per cent. of the population last year, as compared with 5.76 per cent. in 1881.
More than half of the foreigners are Germans; and Swedes, Frenchmen, Yankees, Danes, Russians, Italians, Austrians, and Swiss follow in the order given. The Teutonic element has a natural affinity for the Anglo-Saxon, and no very important ethnological problem is presented by the graft of other races on the main stock.
In South Australia the aborigines are diminishing and so are the Chinese, though during the decade the latter have increased in the Northern Territory. We have, however, never run any danger in the direction of “miscegenation,” and so far as the “yellow agony” has troubled us it has been chiefly as an industrial and not as a social question.
Whatever peculiarities the Australian people may develop in the future, if its evolution continues on the present lines, will be determined almost exclusively by the local conditions of climate and changed environment. They will be, in short, simply phenomena of transplantation. The fundamental characteristics of the British race, prominent among which is the love of political freedom and a peculiar genius for self-government, will no doubt survive whatever be the minor physical and intellectual changes.
With such a splendid heritage as we possess, and with a deeply-rooted attachment to the institutions which have made the mother-country the first in the ranks of modern civilisation, we may face the future with confidence, satisfied that no change in the mere form and accidents of national life will disturb the profoundly vital national unity.
The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 29 December 1892, page 4
Also published in
The South Australian Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), 31 December 1892, p. 4