Just Not Australian

Editor: Talia Linz
Editorial Committee: Rachel Arndt, Johanna Bear, Michelle Newton, Lola Pinder, Olivia Welch
Writers: Johanna Bear, Clothilde Bullen, Talia Linz, Susan Wacher
Proofreader: Kay Campbell, The Comma Institute
Printing: Peachy Print, Sydney

Just Not Australian brings together 20 artists across generations and diverse cultural backgrounds to deal broadly with the origins and implications of contemporary Australian nationhood. Curated by Artspace, Sydney, and initially presented there as part of Sydney Festival 2019, the exhibition starts its national tour with Museums & Galleries of NSW in 2020. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing, a timely moment to interrogate Australia’s colonial history and the complexities of presenting and representing national identity.

Just Not Australian engages with the moral and ethical undertones of the loaded rejoinder ‘un- Australian’ – a pejorative now embedded in our national vocabulary that continues to be wheeled out for certain political agendas and to propagate nationalistic fantasies of what it means to be Australian. Initially used to describe Australian landscapes that were more similar to those in Britain, ‘un-Australian’ was popularised as a derogatory accusation by both Prime Minister John Howard and One Nation Party founder Pauline Hanson. Over the years the phrase has been pitched against striking workers, communists, anti-war protestors, monarchists, migrants, asylum seekers and just about anyone seen to be violating Australian cultural ‘norms’. Its 2020 incarnation, according to current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is the ‘un-Australian’ panic buying in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

So what does this cover-all concept cover up? Predicated on an Us-versus-Them dichotomy, at its core the term is intended to exclude: what’s at stake is a sense of belonging. Yet far from a simple equation, a consideration of what’s not Australian ultimately leads to questions of what is, and it's here that the artists in Just Not Australian weigh in. Consciously enlisting tactics of larrikinism, satire and resistance, they present a multifarious nation divided across numerous issues, from immigration and border protection to land rights and Indigenous sovereignty, bigotry and xenophobia to resource exploitation and climate change.

As its title suggests, Just Not Australian also acknowledges that these matters do not just affect Australia but are indeed being addressed the world over. If 2020 has shown us anything so far it is our place in an interconnected world that desperately needs more solidarity and understanding.

Associated exhibition


Just Not Australian

18 Jan – 28 Apr 2019

The development and production of this publication has been generously supported by the Gordon Darling Foundation. The NSW regional tour is funded through Create NSW.