While indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Australians have a rich and diverse cultural history dating back at least 50,000 years, contemporary Australian culture is strongly Western and it has been heavily patterned by its relatively recent British colonial past. The nation-state known as Australia only came into being in 1901, and its way of life has been strongly influenced by differing waves of immigration across the last 200 or so years of its modern history. Contemporary Australia is formally English-speaking, relatively multicultural, and is often regarded as “egalitarian”. However, multiculturalism is not uncontested, and business and politics remain dominated by men of Western European origins.
Hofstede1 noted that Australia scored low on Power Distance (PDI). There is relative informality in workplace communication, and hierarchy tends not be a defining characteristic of interactions within organizations. Australians are, however, highly individualistic on Hofstede’s Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV) spectrum. Society is relatively loosely-knit, and people tend to focus on looking after themselves and their immediate family. In the workplace, employees are commonly expected to be self-reliant, display initiative, and merit-based employee appointment and promotion dominates. Privacy and individual freedoms are valued. On the Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS) dimension Australia tends to the ‘masculine’, and this is evident in competitiveness in sport and other aspects of life. Australia is decreasingly sexist; however, gender can still prove a barrier to career progression and leadership. In terms of Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI), Australia has an intermediate score and this reflects a dominant culture that displays moderate tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, but is rule-governed. Moderate risk taking is the norm. While Australia scores low on Long Term Orientation (LTO), traditions and norms remain quite important and this is seen in the low score for Pragmatism. Finally, Australia has a high score on the Indulgence versus Restraint (IVR) dimension, and Australians are generally quite optimistic, indulgent and pleasure seeking.
The following provides more details on the six Hofstede dimensions of Australian culture:
Australia scored an intermediate level on this dimension and slightly higher than the USA at 46. This indicates that Australians display a moderate tolerance for uncertainty or ambiguity but prefer to be rule-governed and more likely to plan in order to reduce uncertainty.
1Source: Hofstede scale: http://geert-hofstede.com/australia.html