Posts Tagged ‘mateship’

Bendigo Writers Festival

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

I am a guest of the Bendigo Writers Festival taking place this weekend.


On Saturday I join journalist Latika Bourke and author Paul Daley in conversation with Anthony Radford to discuss  how politics is stranger than fiction. The next morning you can find me alongside Paul and academic Judy Brett to talk about the uses of mateship, riffing off my book of the same subject.


See you there!





Guardian Australia opinion pieces

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

I had a couple of Guardian Australia opinion pieces published earlier this year, one in February on the ‘matehoods‘ hoopla and another in March based upon my address to the Australian Republican Movement.


Australia Day Eve launch of Mateship: A Very Australian History

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

My book was launched in Melbourne by the Hon. Bill Shorten, Leader of the federal Opposition on Australia Day Eve. The Sunday Age published an opinion piece from the book on the day which can be found here. Bill’s excellent speech and the extensive coverage which followed his re-ignition of the republic debate can be found here, here, here and here. The Chifley Research Centre’s Michael Cooney did a sterling job as MC – see his contribution here.

Mateship book interviews

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

I recently appeared on Channel Nine’s Weekend Today talking about ‘Mateship: A Very Australian History’ as well as on ABC Radio National’s Summer Breakfast show (my interview begins at the one hour 41 minute mark).

Mateship book feature (Courier-Mail)

Monday, January 12th, 2015

A feature on my mateship book appeared in the Courier-Mail:


Courier Mail, The (Brisbane, Australia) – Saturday, January 10, 2015
Author: Phil Brown

A new book explores our national secular religion, where mates come first, writes Phil Brown

If Australia has a national creed it is most probably mateship according to author Nick Dyrenfurth .

This Melbourne academic explores the history and influence of our “secular religion” in his book Mateship.

The book has a telling subtitle – A Very Australian History – and Dyrenfurth says that what he has written could only really be written here.

“But the strange thing is that nobody had actually written a book about the subject,” Dyrenfurth says.

“The subject has been covered to a certain degree in other books, including by Russell Ward in his 1958 book The Australian Legend, which is a classic, but no-one has focused just on mateship.” There is certainly a book in it though as Dyrenfurth , an adjunct research fellow in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University, found out.

He is the author of a number of books on Australian politics and history including A Little History of the Australian Labor Party (co-written with Frank Bongiorno) and Heroes and Villains: the rise and fall of the early Australian Labor Party.

If you sense a leaning to the left here Dyrenfurth is happy to concede that he has been “a Labor mate”.

“I have worked for the Labor Party and was a speech writer and adviser to Bill Shorten in 2013 and Bill will officially launch the book later this month,” Dyrenfurth admits.

That established it must be said that rather laudably his history and study of mateship is not partisan. His view is balanced and he acknow-ledges that neither side of politics has exclusive rights to mateship despite shearers, gold miners and unionists claiming the creed as their own as our nation formed.

Nope, mateship belongs as equally to the right as to the left and for everyone in between according to the author.

Dyrenfurth explores this dichotomy by offering us case studies of two influential prime ministers – one Labor, One Liberal – both of whom valued and emphasised mateship.

“My earliest political memories are of Bob Hawke, the Labor mate who landed in the Lodge,” Dyrenfurth says. “I was fascinated by his blend of intellectualism and larrikinism.

“Then as a young man coming to some semblance of political maturity in the mid to late 1990s I was fascinated by John Howard.

“These politicians were ideologically opposed in many ways but each was drawn to this idea of mateship as a secular creed.” Howard intrigued Dyrenfurth . On the one hand he was seeking to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia, an organisation of mates, while on the other hand he was proposing that mateship be enshrined in the constitutional preamble. That never happened but the fact that a Prime Minister wanted it to says a lot about mateship, “the eight letter word that so dominates our history”.

Dyrenfurth points out that there are plenty of books devoted to Australia’s national identity but that no-one has honed in on something that is so essential.

As he points out in his introduction, mateship is part of our creation story. Mateship, that legendary bond between Australian men, became something of a rival genesis story. Dyrenfurth goes on to write that … For better or worse, mateship is part of our cultural DNA. In a nation supposedly hostile towards spiritual or ideological dogma, mateship has acted the part of a de facto religion. Symbolically speaking, mateship is said to embody our secular egalitarian predilections.

In The Australian Legend, Russel Ward argued that the origins of Australia’s national identity were to be found in the anti-authoritarian and egalitarian values of convict society.

These traits were also exhibited by the labouring men who roamed Australia’s outback during the mid-19th Century.

Later writers such as Henry Lawson and others enshrined values of mateship in literature and Dyrenfurth explores the wider cultural context of mateship as well as the history.

The term mateship is coloured by feminist responses and Dyrenfurth points out that while both sides of politics agree about the value of mateship, there is plenty of argument about that.

“Through exploring the idea of mateship what I am really trying to do is tell a story that is uniquely Australian,” Dyrenfurth says. He is not without a sense of humour either and cites “that fabulous, funny song about mateship from Keating! The Musical” as something worth reflecting.

Meanwhile he points out that the word mate comes in handy at times. “It’s a very useful word when you are at a party and you have forgotten someone’s name.”

MATESHIP Scribe$29.99

Extract of Mateship in Saturday’s Age

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

My book Mateship: A Very Australian History went on sale on Monday and kicked off with a lengthy extract in Saturday’s edition of The Age.

Invitation: Launch of ‘Mateship: A Very Australian History’

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

It is my pleasure to invite you to the launch of ‘Mateship: A Very Australian History’. The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Federal Opposition will formally launch the book at Readings St Kilda, 1.30pm for 2pm on Sunday 25th January. Please see here for more details. Please remember that it is essential to rsvp. I look forward to seeing you all there on the day.

Pre-publication review of Mateship: A Very Australian History

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Courtesy of Books+Publishing here is a very pleasing pre-publication review of my new book Mateship: A Very Australian History (out in January):

Mateship: A Very Australian History (Nick Dyrenfurth, Scribe)
Review by Chris Saliba

Surveys of Australians continue to show that ‘mateship’ is one of our country’s defining qualities. But what does it actually mean? In this provocative history, academic Nick Dyrenfurth traces Australian mateship in all its permutations. Unsurprisingly, the honour-among-thieves mateship of the convicts proves starkly different to the mateship branded by former Prime Minister John Howard, who harnessed it politically. The early definition of mateship was as a temporary economic partnership, where tramping workers pooled their resources. Writers and poets, notably Henry Lawson, developed a romantic notion of mateship during the 19th century. Both sides of politics, labor and conservative, further adopted mateship as a propaganda tool with socialism claiming mateship as central to its ethos before conservatives took it back during World War I. By the 1950s and 60s, writers such as Donald Horne and Manning Clark were casting a more critical eye over mateship, seeing it as sentimental, racist and sexist. Nick Dyrenfurth finds Australian mateship to be a compelling national narrative, created by fiction writers and politicians, rather than a lived reality. He provides a thoughtful cultural reading of the literature and history surrounding mateship, much of which will surely be contested. This is essential reading for anyone interested in one of Australia’s key national myths.

Chris Saliba is co-owner of North Melbourne Books and a freelance reviewer.