Beefeaters, Bobbies, and a New Varangian Guard? Negotiating Forms of "Britishness" in Suburban Australia


  • Sara Wills University of Melbourne
  • Kate Darian-Smith University of Melbourne


Nationality, British, Kate Darian-Smith, Sara Wills, HIC, 2004


The recent emergence of "Britfests" provides a point of departure for investigating the complex transitional narra­tives of migrancy, ethnicity, and "belonging" among British migrants in modern Australia. We argue that the recrea­tional representation of "Britishness" at these events reflects broader trends in the re-imagination of "Britishness" in Australia now a source of popular and scholarly debate. Such events are seen as representative of a newly-emergent sense of identity among British migrants - an organic reawakening of "community" pride, nationhood, and sense of privilege in a society that publicly proclaims a multiculturally-hued nationalism. We explore the ramifications for identity formation among British migrants, particularly as located in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston, as a situ­ated example of how ethnic and national identities may be expressed. Local contexts can shed new light not only on the ways in which conceptions of "Britishness" are formed and negotiated by migrants in an Australian context, but also on the broader British diaspora in nations shaped by the historical processes and legacies of British imperial­ism, colonization, and migration.1

Author Biographies

Sara Wills, University of Melbourne

Sara Wills is an Australia Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne, exploring themes of memory, place, and identity among post-Second World War British migrants in Australia. Sara also teaches in the area of immigration studies, multiculturalism, and refugee issues, and is a Research Fellow at Melbourne's Immigration Museum. She has published widely on issues relating to Australian immigration and cultural identity, as well as the "red/green" thought of William Morris.

Kate Darian-Smith, University of Melbourne

Kate Darian-Smith is Director of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne, where she also teaches in the Department of History. She has written and edited books on Australian cultural and social history, and is particularly interested in the intersections between social memory, commemoration, and identity. She is writing on ideas of community and place in rural Australia, especially in relation to the enactment of these at agricultural shows, and has an interest in the cultures of settler societies within the British imperial world.