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Is Canberra a Strict Class Stratified or Caste Society?

By aussielyn 16 September 2012 36

Whilst watching the Raiders Vs Canberra and listening to the ABC radio there was an interesting comment from Warren Ryan. He stated that during the warm up that the forwards and backs did it separately as it reflected the class society of Canberra. Wozza is a very astute RL commentator and this I found intriguing being an amateur historian.

In researching ‘Homes for the Workers, the History of the Narrabundah Prefabs” historian Ann Guglar said to me that there was the inherent public service lower public service areas like Ainslie and areas for tradesman like the camps and the prefabs. There was always this divide between the public sector and private sector as both despise & distrust each other. Segregation was in place.

Many RiotACT flamers like to have a go at Narrabundah & Charnwood residents as they are seen as low life public tenant suburbs. Tradies, retail & hospitality workers are vilified because of the low standards of service they provide. As a low level temp in the public service I provided good support to top level SES people, who were sometimes appreciate, but was treated with contempt by the middle levels.

Do people think Canberra is a more class-stratified society than the rest of Australia? Is there a lord and serf mentality?

What’s Your opinion?


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36 Responses to
Is Canberra a Strict Class Stratified or Caste Society?
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Masquara 9:58 pm 17 Sep 12

Truthiness said :

How many thousands of people worked on the poverty line so you could save $20 on a pair of shoes?

The entire world has been arranged to support our life style, we are the rich westerners the world’s poor labour in service to. The sad thing is that we are too dazzled by the super rich, too normalised into excess, to even acknowledge how rich we actually are, and how many people suffer to keep us comfortable.

I take it you didn’t donate to the “surgery for Ed” campaign? : ]

banco 7:29 pm 17 Sep 12

Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney are way worse in my experience.

switch 6:26 pm 17 Sep 12

Masquara said :

Confident women on high wages are entirely happy to date tradies!

You mean as in they like a bit of rough, or for a permanent relationship

Masquara 5:37 pm 17 Sep 12

farnarkler said :

I think there is a definite class structure here. From friends experience, a lot of women in the APS won’t date tradesmen and they won’t date a bloke in the APS who’s a lower level than them. Perhaps that’s too much a ‘micro-view’ of Canberra.

Um don’t be deceived; APS women are very often raised-bogans and lacking confidence around “class”. Confident women on high wages are entirely happy to date tradies!

Truthiness 3:48 pm 17 Sep 12

There is undoubtedly a high cost of living here, housing is very expensive, that’s the luxury of living in a gated rich community. For that cost you get a house built to Australian building codes by qualified tradesmen and using materials which meet our standards, all the modern conveniences and a nice suburb surrounded by rich people to compare ourselves to. Luxury.

Even our cheapest foods are luxury goods, a bag of home brand flour has passed so many quality control standards that you could feed it to a king. We wash ourselves in drinking water, we throw out more food than most humans ever see.

And these things we buy, made for us by low wage servants in other countries, our computers assembled for us, our dinners caught, cooked, packaged and shipped to us by servants so cheap we don’t even acknowledge their service to us. How much work was done for you today? How many thousands of people worked on the poverty line so you could save $20 on a pair of shoes?

The entire world has been arranged to support our life style, we are the rich westerners the world’s poor labour in service to. The sad thing is that we are too dazzled by the super rich, too normalised into excess, to even acknowledge how rich we actually are, and how many people suffer to keep us comfortable.

Myles Peterson 3:39 pm 17 Sep 12

@aussielyn

Experiencing discrimination in other parts of Australia, many Irish moved to Canberra during its establishment, got themselves jobs and sunk down roots. Some are now onto their third and forth generation, own original properties in areas like Griffith and are doing very well.

On top of that, there’s definitely an “old school” grouping of established families here, some in business, some public servants, many in both. Knowing the right people is extremely helpful for getting jobs in the public service, which isn’t a meritocracy from what I’ve seen.

Narrabundah College produces a fascinating mix of people from different SES backgrounds, diplomats’ kids, Eddies, St Clares and Grammar drop-outs, poor kids from the caravan park and nearby ‘burbs and public housing estates – a real melting pot of Canberra’s various “classes.”

Just some random observations.

Truthiness 3:20 pm 17 Sep 12

On a broader scale there is undoubtedly class warfare, its just that we are all relatively rich here, so we are sheltered from the worst of it.

Thing is, most people don’t mind a little inequality, it seems fair that people who do more get more, as long as we’re all on a level playing field then things should work out. The problem with this world view is that the people at the very top aren’t on the same field as the rest of us, they aren’t even playing the same game. They aren’t earning a few million for working hard, they are playing with trillions like toys, and we aren’t used to even thinking at that scale, so we cease seeing the extent of the inequality. A trillionaire is worth as much as a million millionaires, is anyone really worth that much? We don’t even notice the people who wield such wealth, they have largely bought themselves immunity from scrutiny.

When you look at a world rich list, most of the truly powerful people aren’t on it. Take the Walden family, ostensibly the richest in the world. Given that the Walmart company only exists thanks to the huge debt which must be continually approved by the banking family the Waldens married into, it seems fair to say Walmart is not actually controlled by the Waldens, but by individuals whose personal wealth is not indicative of their actual economic influence. The waldens may have accumulated billions of IOUs, but they aren’t the ones writing the IOUs in the first place.

There are unnoticed titans, who toy with trillions, who play at high roller tables we can’t even see. Banking and insurance families who have accumulated power over centuries, who control the entire economic paradigm, control even the billionaires and corporations by controlling their debt. At this scale actual money ceases to matter at all. They exist above and beyond nationality and currency, they can just make more out of nothing and lend it out at interest, so the only thing that matters to the invisible trillionaires is power. It doesn’t matter how we are ruled or what policies our governments make, as long as we use their economic system, they are still in control.

It’s class warfare, my class is winning,
but they shouldn’t be.” – Warren Buffet

Conan of Cooma 2:50 pm 17 Sep 12

They did it up in the Snowies during the scheme, and it still dominates the APS workplace here in Canberra, so I don’t see why footy should be unaffected.

Tetranitrate 2:44 pm 17 Sep 12

Truthiness said :

If the average Canberran could take their wage to Thailand, they could definitely afford Thai servants. If the average Thai person brought their wage to Canberra they certainly couldn’t afford Canberran servants.

I am fairly certain there is even a visa class for house servants, mostly used by the embassies. If the average Canberran had a room to keep them in, I’m sure they could afford to have servants shipped in.

Complain all you want about purchasing power, the reality is you have more purchasing power than most towns on earth. If we chose to subsist on rice we could each afford enough to feed hundreds if not thousands of people. The lack if perceived purchasing power is largely because we spend on luxuries.

The average Canberran earns $200+ a day, the average human survives on a hundred times less. We are all rich here.

Rubbish.
My rent is a likely hundreds of times (in $ terms) as much as some of the poorest people in the world pay as well, and having a roof over ones head is not a luxury.

Unless you’re in the public housing system, even the cheapest accommodation in Canberra (renting a room in a share house) is going to cost significantly more than the median income of someone in a lower middle income country like Thailand and easily many times the income of people in much poorer counties.
Say… 160 or so a week, add in bills (water, electricity and gas) and you’re easily at $9000 a year – that’s hardly living in the lap of luxury.

I don’t doubt that we have a much higher standard of living, but even PPP adjusted incomes really don’t tell the whole story. Taking raw incomes and saying “Durrr we earn X times as much we so rich” is just intellectually lazy.

HiddenDragon 2:33 pm 17 Sep 12

The pithiest thing I’ve ever heard said about sport as an indicator of class is that a player who switches codes to Union learns that youse is (sadly) not the plural of you.

Comments from others on this thread, and my own experience, would suggest that class consciousness, status-seeking, social climbing, energetic aspirationalism, gold-digging and various other charming human behaviours are at least as prevalent in Canberra as in any other place. For me, the most interesting divide is between those Canberrans who are, in their tastes and language, noticeably Americanised and relatively (or at least on the surface) egalitarian, and those who (regardless of where they were born and grew up) still look to Old Blighty – whether it be the Bloomsbury/Notting Hill-on-the-Molonglo fantasies of some, or the Home Counties tweeness and preciousness of others (usually of a more mature vintage). For the Old Blighty brigade, the cultural cringe, and an apparent wish to be more British than (many of) the British is very alive and very well, and tends to go with more overtly sniffy attitudes. That said, a “whatever” or “as if”, delivered with an “as seen on TV” American twang, by some young women, can be every bit as patronising as a snooty English put-down.

Of more immediate interest, I think the decision of ACT Labor and Greens to introduce a new rates and taxes system, with a “progressive” element, has the potential, at least, to bring the politics of class into an area of public policy which has hitherto been essentially bipartisan in this town. Happily, the ACT Liberals have yet (so far as I know) to resort to terms such as “class envy” and “class warfare” in their attacks, but ACT Labor’s defence of the new system has had a hint of the language of class politics to it. Time will tell whether it nudges the Canberra polity towards a slightly more traditional class divide.

DrKoresh 2:27 pm 17 Sep 12

Truthiness said :

On a global scale, pretty much every Australian is in the top 2%, even on the dole you’re one of the richest people on the planet. Its damn hard to starve in Australia, its possible, but you’d have to be giving it a red hot go. What we think of as poor is not the same thing as poor elsewhere, not even close.

By and large, poor people can’t afford to live in Canberra. The average rent alone in Canberra is twice the dole, let alone all the other costs of living here. We have some artists, pensioners and youths who manage to eek out an existence amongst our excess, but most simply move away to somewhere cheaper.

The only real class divides present here is stratification of the upper class, the divide between those of us who are merely wealthy and those with what is commonly referred to as “f*** off money”. It ends up being the difference between aspiring millionaires and multimillionaires.

The vast majority of humanity would consider us all rich.

It is damn easy to mooch in this city, I must say.

Truthiness 1:31 pm 17 Sep 12

If the average Canberran could take their wage to Thailand, they could definitely afford Thai servants. If the average Thai person brought their wage to Canberra they certainly couldn’t afford Canberran servants.

I am fairly certain there is even a visa class for house servants, mostly used by the embassies. If the average Canberran had a room to keep them in, I’m sure they could afford to have servants shipped in.

Complain all you want about purchasing power, the reality is you have more purchasing power than most towns on earth. If we chose to subsist on rice we could each afford enough to feed hundreds if not thousands of people. The lack if perceived purchasing power is largely because we spend on luxuries.

The average Canberran earns $200+ a day, the average human survives on a hundred times less. We are all rich here.

MartianMick 12:50 pm 17 Sep 12

Truthiness said :

On a global scale, pretty much every Australian is in the top 2%, even on the dole you’re one of the richest people on the planet. Its damn hard to starve in Australia, its possible, but you’d have to be giving it a red hot go. What we think of as poor is not the same thing as poor elsewhere, not even close.

By and large, poor people can’t afford to live in Canberra. The average rent alone in Canberra is twice the dole, let alone all the other costs of living here. We have some artists, pensioners and youths who manage to eek out an existence amongst our excess, but most simply move away to somewhere cheaper.

The only real class divides present here is stratification of the upper class, the divide between those of us who are merely wealthy and those with what is commonly referred to as “f*** off money”. It ends up being the difference between aspiring millionaires and multimillionaires.

The vast majority of humanity would consider us all rich.

SWEET AS BRO !!! I’ll just go by noodles at thailand prices and get myself a thai servant becvause I’m aussie and so rich ! Whats that ? I have to buy things at Australian prices ? What is that ? Purchasing power of the dollar is rubbish. Damnit,

Truthiness 12:32 pm 17 Sep 12

On a global scale, pretty much every Australian is in the top 2%, even on the dole you’re one of the richest people on the planet. Its damn hard to starve in Australia, its possible, but you’d have to be giving it a red hot go. What we think of as poor is not the same thing as poor elsewhere, not even close.

By and large, poor people can’t afford to live in Canberra. The average rent alone in Canberra is twice the dole, let alone all the other costs of living here. We have some artists, pensioners and youths who manage to eek out an existence amongst our excess, but most simply move away to somewhere cheaper.

The only real class divides present here is stratification of the upper class, the divide between those of us who are merely wealthy and those with what is commonly referred to as “f*** off money”. It ends up being the difference between aspiring millionaires and multimillionaires.

The vast majority of humanity would consider us all rich.

jase! 12:16 pm 17 Sep 12

MartianMick said :

it is more likely those women will have new boyfriends…

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