Mateship in Australian Films
Mateship has long been a major aspect of the national image as
projected by Australian films, yet the moralities of mateship and the
image of men as mates did not go unchallenged. Australian cinema as a
significant part of the whole industry of image-makers in the country,
the way it portrays mateship, the single most important mythic element
in the cultural identity of Australia, is worth analysing.
This paper first reviews the historical background of mateship in
Australia and its contemporary development. The review here serves as
a general discussion of mateship that provides the potential readers
with some basic understandings of the idea, and as background
information for the contents that I examine subsequently.
I then briefly discuss the image of mateship in an Australian film:
Gallipolis (1982). The reasons for such an approach are explained
within the section.
Finally, I compare the image of mateship in a contemporary local film,
Idiot Box (1997), with the one in Gallipoli examined earlier and argue
that the traditions of mateship are challenged in Idiot Box.
Mateship has a long history in Australia. If tracing its origins, we
need to go back to the earliest days of settlement. However, firstly,
I would like to put forward the definition of mateship 'what is
mateship?' According to Ken Inglis (1998, p416), the term mateship
does not originally come from Australia; but in the Oxford English
Dictionary, its use is mostly explained by examples cited from this
country. Also, rich entries on mateship as well as mate can be found
in Australian dictionaries. According to the Australian National
Dictionary, mateship is:
'The bond between equal partners or close friends; comradeship;
comradeship as an ideal.'
The definitions of mate, on the other hand, are distinguished by four
'An equal partner in an enterprise'; 'An acquaintance; a person
engaged in some activity'; 'One with whom the bonds of close
friendship are acknowledged'; and 'A mode of address implying equality
and goodwill; freq. used to a casual acquaintance and esp. in recent
Other dictionaries also have their definitions of the two terms.
Mate is 'Companion, fellow worker, form of address among equals,
especially sailors and labourers. 2. One of a pair, especially of
birds; fitting partner in marriage etc' (Concise Oxford Dictionary).
Mateship is 'The quality or state of being a mate. 2. A code of
conduct among men stressing equality and friendship' (The Macquarie
In his sociology paper, Professor Robert Bell (1973, p1) defines
mateship as 'the sex segregated involvement of men and it implies both
physical and intellectual exclusion of...