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Australia’s shared values, based on freedom, respect, fairness and equality of opportunity, are central to our community remaining a secure, prosperous and peaceful place to live and have helped Australia to become one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies.

While shared to some extent by many other countries, these values have been adapted to Australia’s unique setting, shaped 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. These values define and shape our country and culture and are a reason why so many people want to become Australian.

Australia’s first inhabitants were the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have the oldest continuous cultures and traditions 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 all around the world, all of whom have made their own unique contributions to Australia and its way of life.

The statement of shared values does not seek to make everyone the same with the same beliefs. These values have been promoted and discussed by Australians over many years and have helped Australia to welcome millions of people from many ethnic groups and traditions.

The aim is to help new residents and prospective Australian citizens understand the basic values that have helped to create and sustain our successful multicultural society. In Australia, people have many freedoms. However, 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.

Our values

Respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual

In Australia, individuals must respect the freedom and dignity of others, and their opinions and choices. It is against the law to be violent towards another person. Violence of any kind, including verbal and physical abuse, is illegal. Australians believe in peaceful disagreement and above all the right to be safe and free from violence and intimidation.

Freedom of religion

Australia has no official national religion and people in Australia are free to follow any religion they choose. The government treats all citizens equally, whatever their religion or beliefs. However, religious practices must not break Australian laws. People in Australia may also choose not to follow a religion. Religious laws have no legal status in Australia. Australian law must be followed by everyone in Australia, including where it is different from religious laws.
Religious intolerance is not acceptable in Australian society. All people should be provided equal opportunity to pursue their goals and interests regardless of their ethnicity or religion as long as they are obeying Australian law.

Freedom of speech

People in Australia should be able to express their ideas freely, so long as it is within the law. In Australia, people are free to meet in public or private places for social or political discussion. People are also free to say and write what they think about any topic and to discuss their ideas with others. Newspapers, television and radio outlets have the same freedom.

It is never acceptable to promote violence against another person or group of people (such as because of their culture, ethnicity, religion or background) because it is against Australian values and law. It is also illegal to make false allegations or encourage others to break the law. Other people’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression must be respected, as long as such expression is lawful.

Freedom of association

In Australia, people are free to join or leave any group voluntarily as long as it is within the law. People are free to join any legal organisation, such as a political party, trade union, religious, cultural or social group. Individuals cannot be compelled to join an organisation or forced to leave it. Australians can gather freely with others, including to protest against a government action or an organisation.
Australians are allowed to peacefully protest against the actions of the government, because tolerance of peaceful public protest is an essential part of democracy. However, all protests must be within the law. This means they must be peaceful, and must not injure any person or damage property.

Commitment to the rule of law

All Australians are protected by our laws and legal systems. Australians recognise the importance of laws in maintaining a peaceful and orderly society. Under the Rule of Law, all Australians are equal in relation to the law and no person or group is above the law. In Australia, everybody should obey the law and not break it at any time, otherwise you will face penalties. You should follow the law even if no one is watching. Australian laws apply to all people in Australia. This means regardless of your background or culture, you must follow Australian laws.

Parliamentary democracy

Australia’s system of government is a parliamentary democracy. Our laws are determined by parliaments elected by the people. This means that Australian citizens are involved in how the country is governed. The power of the government comes from the Australian people because Australian citizens vote for people to represent them in parliament.

Equality of opportunity for all people

Australian society values the equal rights of all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, race, or national or ethnic origin. There are a number of laws in Australia that protect a person from being treated differently from others.The law is applied in Australia so that people from different backgrounds are not given preferential treatment. Men and women have equal rights in Australia and should be provided equality of opportunity to pursue their goals and interests. It is against the law to discriminate against a person because of their gender.Both men and women have the right to make their own independent choices about personal matters, such as marriage and religion, and are protected by the law from intimidation or violence.

A ‘fair go’ for all

In Australia, we believe that everyone deserves a ‘fair go’ and people should not be limited by any kind of class distinction. Everyone, regardless of their background, is given an equal opportunity to achieve success in life. Ensuring that everyone has the same legal rights is an important aspect of fairness in Australian society. What someone achieves in life should be a result of their hard work and talents.

Many new migrants in Australia have become leaders in business, their profession, the arts, public service and sport through their hard work and enterprise. Mutual Respect and tolerance for others Australia values the principles of mutual respect and tolerance. This means listening to others and respecting their views and opinions, even when they are different from your own. People should be tolerant of each other where they find that they disagree. Racism has no place in Australia. This includes creating or sharing racially offensive material on the internet or other publications and making racially abusive comments in a public place or at a sporting event. If you experience racism, you can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. See the Human Rights Commission.

Compassion for those in need

Australians value ‘mateship’. We help each other in times of need. For example, this might mean taking a meal to an elderly neighbour, driving a friend to a medical appointment, or visiting someone who is sick, frail or lonely. In this spirit of mateship, Australia has a strong tradition of community service and volunteering — to look out for each other and strengthen the community. Volunteering is a great opportunity to share knowledge, learn new skills, and increase your integration into and sense of belonging to the Australian community. There are many opportunities to volunteer in Australia.

English as the national language Australian society values the English language as the national language of Australia, and as an important unifying element of society. People living in Australia should make an effort to learn English. It is important to learn to speak English because it helps to get an education, a job, and better integrate into the community. It is essential for economic participation and social cohesion.

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On Thursday 29 February 2024 the Australian Values Program and its online engagement channels will be closed. We would like to thank everyone who shared their stories or engaged with the Australian Values Program in its three years of operation through the website, X, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

The values will continue to hold their place in our diverse and inclusive community through other initiatives, as well as playing an integral part of the visa application process and Australian Citizenship test. For more info visit the Australian Values page.