Friday 1 January 2016

Best of the ACW Archives: Mates Matter

Among the things I like to consider when writing historical fiction are the cultural idioms and colloquialisms of a particular era. One of the great ones for Australians has surely been ‘mateship’.  Although ‘mate’ is a term which has been used for centuries in working-class British english, it surely came into its own in Australian culture during the World War 1, and depicted the bonds that were forged between those who served together in battle. Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick, the stretcher bearer during the Gallipoli campaign, who used a donkey to carry wounded soldiers from the front lines, exemplifies the spirit of mateship. John Howard, as Prime Minister in 1999, used the term in a Draft Constitutional Preamble … We value excellence as well as fairness, independence as dearly as mateship.

'Mateship' denotes equality, loyalty and friendship.

I’m wondering if this is a word that may be losing some of its earlier meaning as Australian society  becomes more and more diverse, with many different cultural backgrounds. Perhaps there is less sense of common ground, or less that brings about the bonding which occurred between those in the trenches of war. Although I’m sure the value of friendship has not decreased, it may be changing in quality.

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