"L" is for the ... ...

"Lucky Country"...  Australia

This is a phrase which has been used by Australians and about Australia since Donald Horne published his book, with the ironic title of "The Lucky Country" in 1964. To explain it best, I have borrowed from the Australian Government website about this topic.

"For many Australians the phrase 'the lucky country' has a particular resonance. Donald Horne's famous words have been used in numerous ways to describe everything that is great about our nation.

How ironic then that Horne's irony was totally overlooked!

The phrase has been used to describe our weather, our lifestyle and our history. It is often invoked to describe the nation's good fortune, from gold booms to economic booms. Recently, our geographic isolation from the world's trouble spots has again seen us labelled the lucky country. It has been paraphrased by politicians - 'the clever country' - and when Kylie Minogue sings we're 'lucky, lucky, lucky', we all know what she means.

The great irony

Donald Horne remembered the night he penned those words. Within a few weeks the phrase had become the title of the book.
In a hot summer's night in December 1964 I was about to write the last chapter of a book on Australia. The opening sentence of this last chapter was: 'Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.'
That sentence was a rather brutal indictment of his country at the time. It is a direct, uncompromising and seemingly unambiguous commentary on Australia in the 1960s. Horne was critiquing an Australia that did not think for itself; a country manacled to its past; and 'still in colonial blinkers': 'If we are to remain a prosperous, liberal, humane society, we must be prepared to understand the distinctiveness of our own society'.
He was thinking about things like Australia's cultural cringe, its foreign policy and the White Australia Policy. He was, to paraphrase those words, talking about a 'not too clever country'.
I had in mind in particular the lack of innovation in Australian manufacturing and some other forms of Australian business, banking for example. In these, as a colonial carry over, Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.
Australia, Horne argued, developed as a nation at a time when we could reap the benefits of technological, economic, social and political innovations that were developed in other countries. Those countries were clever: Australia was simply lucky.
When The Lucky Country was released in 1964, most of the reading public was aware that the phrase was being used ironically. Horne lamented the fact that it had since been taken up by others and given different meanings: '... I have had to sit through the most appalling rubbish as successive generations misapplied this phrase'.

The clever country

The adoption of the phrase 'the clever country' in the political sphere is for many a catchy wordplay on Horne's 'lucky country', as well as an upbeat statement about what we need to do to compete on the world stage. Yet Horne's thesis in The Lucky Country is precisely this. He argued that, as a nation, we were lucky to develop at a time when we weren't being particularly clever.
Horne talked about the need to be more innovative and proactive, and about making decisions in our national interest. These are the issues debated by our politicians and intellectuals today under the banner of the 'the clever country'.
Professor Ian Lowe, an eminent social commentator, says in his paper The Clever Country? - external site that Australia has two options. Either 'we could continue our current economic strategies; this could be called the 'steady as she sinks' approach', or, he says, 'we could try seriously to become 'the clever country' by investing in our own future.'
Horne saw the links between the debate of today and his own words of nearly 40 years ago:
I think we should realise that 'the lucky country' provides a descriptive phrase, condemning Australia for what it was, whereas the clever country is a prescriptive phrase, suggesting to Australia what it might become.

A phrase for all seasons

A search on the Internet under 'lucky country' underlines just how many times, and in how many contexts, Horne's famous words have been used and adapted.
There are stories about sporting success ('the lucky country'); sporting failure ('the unlucky country'); asylum seekers ('the unlucky country'); poverty ('Whatever happened to the lucky country?'); and aboriginal health ('the forgotten country'), to name a few.
His words were meant as a wake-up call but were widely interpreted as an affirmation of the Australian way of life. They were meant to spark change but instead produced a relaxed approach and a 'she'll be right' mentality.
His words have proved prophetic and as Horne himself said, 'After all, the alternative to being a clever country is to be a stupid country'.

About Donald Horne

As an author, Donald Horne wrote over twenty books (including The Lucky Country), and contributed to many journals and newspapers in Australia, Britain, Europe and the United States. He became a professor at the University of New South Wales and went on to become the Chancellor of the University of Canberra. He was twice editor of The Bulletin and edited The Observer and Quadrant. He was also contributing editor to Newsweek International."

On a personal note, in many ways I do consider us the Lucky Country, we are remote from a lot of trouble spots in the world, we have a strong welfare system to care for others and many of us live happy, fulfilling lives.  Not that Australia is perfect - far from it, but it is my home and I love it.

... and on a lighter note, we have the iconic Aussie dessert (no, not the pavlova - you will have to wait for P for that one!) but the ....


This Australian culinary icon, which consists of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and liberally sprinkled with fine desiccated coconut, is believed to have been created through an accident at work by a maid-servant to Lord Lamington, the thoroughly-British eighth Governor of Queensland.


Now, if you are not sure what The Alphabet Club is all about ....

  Well, it is the brainchild of Chiara from The Grey Tail and Jo from Serendipitous Stitching and is loosely based on the premise of the movie "The Breakfast Club" - you can see the button for The Alphabet Club on my right sidebar.

On the first Saturday of each month, members of the club have "detention" and have to post about something that will enlighten others about their culture (as blogland is so diverse).  Of course, there should/could be something stitchy in there, if possible. Each month will be a different letter of the alphabet - hence the club's name - and, of course, we started with "A" and now we are up to "K"

The Alphabet Club

If you want to see what the other detainees have been up to, please have a look here.

Lots of love and hugs, 


Margaret said…
Very interesting! I'd never heard that expression the "lucky country" before, nor known where it came from. I always enjoy reading about Australian history and stuff. Love novels about Australia! That dessert looks yummy!
Barb said…
This was a very interesting post. From my friends who have been lucky enough to visit your country, I have heard nothing but praise for Australia.
Bea said…
I'd never heard the phrase "the lucky country" and it was interesting to read the dichotomy between what it was written for and how it was used popularly. That dessert however, looks yummy. I'd love to try it.
Lesley said…
This phrase was a first for me too.Very interesting to read about it.
I would not mind tring a Lamington,which I have heard of:)
Vickie said…
All new information to me Kaye. And yummy!
Thoeria said…
A very interesting post, Kaye.
I love lammingtons :) Out here, the Afrikaans term for them is "ystervarkies" which directly translates to "iron pig", but is actually the word for a porcupine :D I guess the coconut reminded them of the spikes of a porcupine!
KimM said…
Interesting post - love learning more about your country, Kaye. If I liked coconut, I'd love to try Lamington. May switch the coconut with powdered sugar for me?😃
Carol said…
Lucky or clever--all I know is that I would consider myself very lucky if I were to be able to visit Australia :) Especially is such tasty looking desserts awaited me!!
Very interesting post. It's funny how often literature and music are misinterpreted by their audience and the ironic meaning is ignored or missed altogether.
The poem Dulce et Decorum Est being taken as seriously and not sarcastically. Or Born in the USA being used as a rightwing patriotic anthem!
Melinda said…
This was so deep. And so very interesting. And I have added another thing to my "Bucket List" -- To eat a Lammington!!!!
Heather said…
Great post :)
Crazee4books said…
Hi Kaye,

Interesting post. In some ways Canada has the same "problems" and growing pains as Australia does, sharing
as we do the same connections and influences to/of England and (in our case) France.

We're not as isolated though since we share a border
with the U.S.A. We're a country who struggles to be relevant in the world and we suffer from an inferiority complex as well. We're a large country with a small, diverse population and we're blessed with an abundance
of natural resources which are desired and coveted by
other countries.

We've made mistakes in how we've treated our
native population and still struggle with that issue
with decidedly mixed results.

We have made great strides in becoming what we
are today but we have much more that we need to
do to live up to our potential.

But, like you, I am proud of my country and could
not imagine living anywhere else.

Note: "Irony" is a very difficult thing to put across
when it comes to the written word. People read
things and interpret them more the way that they
want to rather then how the writer wants them to
be read. Frustrating for the author, to say the least.

Trade you a slice of Lamington for a plate of Poutine!!!

jocondine said…
Love to Learn about your Lucky Land, very interesting post. A little hesitation about Lamington, sponge you said! ;) xxx
Brigitte said…
So very interesting to read through your L post. I had never heard the expression Lucky Country before and had asked myself what Kylie Minogue wanted to say with this word when her song came out.

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