To maintain a stable and peaceful community, Australians are expected to uphold the shared values and principles that underpin Australian society.
These values provide the basis for Australia’s free and democratic society. They include:
• respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
• freedom of speech
• freedom of religion and secular government
• freedom of association
• support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law
• equality under the law
• equality of men and women
• equality of opportunity
• a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect and compassion for those in need.
While shared to some extent by many other countries, these values and principles have been adapted to Australia’s unique setting, shaped and modernised through the settlement in Australia of millions of people from all over the world. Although they may be expressed differently by different people, their meaning remains the same.
Australia’s first inhabitants were the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whose unique culture and traditions are among the oldest in the world. The first migrants were mostly from Britain and Ireland and this Anglo–Celtic heritage has been a significant and continuing influence on Australia’s history, culture and political traditions. Subsequent immigration waves have brought people from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, all of whom have made their own unique contributions to Australia and its way of life.
This statement of shared values and principles does not seek to make everyone the same with the same beliefs. In fact, respect for the free–thinking individual and the right to be ‘different’ are foundations of Australian democracy.
The aim is to help new residents understand the basic values that have helped to create a society that is stable but at the same time dynamic; cohesive yet diverse.
In Australia, people have many freedoms. However, in taking advantage of these freedoms, everyone is required to obey Australia’s laws, which have been put in place by democratically elected governments to maintain an orderly, free and safe society.