Australians’ perceptions of historic events vary subtly across the country

A recent survey of Australians’ perceptions of important historic events shows some variation across states and territories. There are also some differences across gender and age.

The survey was conducted in November last year by the Social Research Centre and asked respondents (2074 of them aged between 18 and 93) to rate the ten most significant events of their lives, as well as the events that had the most impact on Australia and that evoked the most pride or disappointment. Rating highest for significance was last year’s same-sex marriage postal survey (30%), then September 11 (27%), then the 2007 Apology to Australia’s Indigenous people for the Stolen Generations (13%).

There were, however, subtle differences across jurisdictions, as is shown by the top three events in each state and territory: NSW: same sex marriage (31%); September 11 (27%); Sydney Olympics (18%); Vic: same sex marriage (32%); September 11 (27%); Port Arthur massacre (13%); Qld: same sex marriage (30%); September 11 (26%); The Apology (17%); WA: September 11 (30%); same sex marriage (28%); America’s Cup win (16%); SA: September 11 (31%); same sex marriage (28%); Moon landing (16%); Tas: Port Arthur massacre (32%); same sex marriage (31%); September 11 (29%); NT: gun law reform (35%); same sex marriage (32%); September 11 (24%); ACT: Vietnam War (15%); September 11 (14%); The Dismissal (14%).

Looking at age differences, 41 per cent of the Generation Z respondents (born post 1995) went for same sex marriage as the most significant but only nine per cent chose Donald Trump’s election. Among baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) 28 per cent said the Vietnam War and 27 per cent The Dismissal.

Then, by gender, 35 per cent of females plumped for same sex marriage as most significant, and 11 per cent for first female prime minister. The male figures for these two events were 25 per cent and not shown (less than 9 per cent).

Honest History President, Professor Frank Bongiorno, was one of the authors of the study report, along with Darren Pennay and Paul Myers. They make some comparisons between the Australian results and those from a similar survey in the United States in 2016.

Fairfax story (good graphics). The Conversation story.

26 February 2018

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