From outback heroes to Anzac legends, from Aussie battlers to noble savages - these are familiar figures in the Australian story - but is it really possible to distill identity into stereotypes? An all-women panel takes up this debate at the recent Festival of Dangerous Ideas and present a sweeping discussion on issues that concern Australia's national psyche.
This event was presented by the Sydney Opera House and the St James Ethics Centre.
Indonesian born Ien Ang is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Western Sydney.
Her work spans various areas of the humanities and social sciences and her books, including Watching Dallas and On Not Speaking Chinese, have been translated into many languages. Her most recent work, which she co-authored, is The SBS Story: The Challenge of Cultural Diversity.
Robyn Archer is a singer, writer, director, and public arts advocate. Known to many for her major stage success as "A Star is Torn," Archer is also a writer, including of political songs like "Pack of Women" and "Kold Komfort Kaffee."
Over the past decade she has been Artistic Director of several arts festivals. She has recently been appointed as Creative Director of the Canberra Centenary 2013.
Larissa Behrendt is Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology in Sydney. She is a also a practicing barrister who has previously worked with the United Nations.
She is an author of several books on Indigenous legal issues and in 2005 she won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for her novel, Home. She was recently named 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year.
Bridget Kendall is currently the BBC's diplomatic correspondent. After studying modern languages at Oxford, and then post-graduate studies in Soviet affairs, in 1983 she became a radio production trainee for the BBC World Service. Later she was the BBC's Moscow correspondent and then their correspondent based in Washington.
Amongst an array of world leaders she has interviewed are Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Jordan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Smallest continent and sixth largest country (in area) on Earth, lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans. Area: 2,969,978 sq mi (7,692,208 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 21,829,000. Capital: Canberra. Most Australians are descendants of Europeans. The largest nonwhite minority is the Australian Aborigine population. The Asian portion of the population has grown as a result of relaxed immigration policy. Language: English (official). Religions: Christianity (mostly Protestant; also Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, other Christians), Buddhism, Islam. Currency: Australian dollar. Australia has three major physiographic regions. More than half of its land area is on the Western Australian plateau, which includes the outcrops of Arnhem Land and the Kimberleys in the northwest and the Macdonnell Ranges in the east. A second region, the Interior Lowlands, lies east of the plateau. The Eastern Uplands, which include the Great Dividing Range, are a series of high ridges, plateaus, and basins. The country's highest point is Mount Kosciuszko in the Australian Alps, and the lowest is Lake Eyre. Major rivers include the Murray-Darling system, the Flinders and Swan rivers, and Cooper Creek. There are many islands and reefs along the coast, including the Great Barrier Reef, Melville Island, Kangaroo Island, and Tasmania. Australia is rich in mineral resources, including coal, petroleum, and uranium. A vast diamond deposit was found in Western Australia in 1979. The country's economy is basically free enterprise; its largest components include finance, manufacturing, and trade. Formally a constitutional monarchy, its head of state is the British monarch, represented by the governor-general. In reality it is a parliamentary state with two legislative houses; its head of government is the prime minister. Australia has long been inhabited by Aborigines, who began arriving at least 50,000 years ago. Estimates of the population at the time of European settlement in 1788 range from 300,000 to 1,000,000. Widespread European knowledge of Australia began with 17th-century explorations. The Dutch landed in 1616 and the British in 1688, but the first large-scale expedition was that of James Cook in 1770, which established Britain's claim to Australia. The first British settlement, at Port Jackson (1788), consisted mainly of convicts and seamen; convicts were to make up a large proportion of the incoming settlers. By 1859 the colonial nuclei of all Australia's states had been formed, but with devastating effects on the indigenous peoples, whose populations declined sharply with the introduction of European diseases. Britain granted its colonies limited self-government in the mid-19th century, and an act federating the colonies into a commonwealth went into effect in 1901. Australia fought alongside the British in World War I, notably at Gallipoli, and again in World War II, preventing Australia's occupation by the Japanese. It joined the U.S. in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Since the 1960s the government has sought to deal more fairly with the Aborigines, and a loosening of immigration restrictions has led to a more heterogeneous population. Constitutional links allowing British interference in government were formally abolished in 1968, and Australia has assumed a major role in Asian and Pacific affairs. During the 1990s there were several debates about giving up its British ties and becoming a republic.