National Library of Australia

Culture

In just over 200 years, Australia has progressed from a penal colony struggling simply to feed and clothe its people, to a confident nation with a rich and vibrant cultural life that has also made its mark internationally.

As Australia’s voice developed in literature, art, music, theatre, architecture and other aspects of cultural life, there was a growing appreciation of Indigenous and multicultural traditions.

Many early works—by writers such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson—centred on the idea of the ‘bush’. A strong sense of connection with rural Australia continues today, though most Australians are city dwellers.

Forty-five years after the internationally acclaimed Dame Nellie Melba retired, the Sydney Opera House was opened. One of the most recognisable symbols of Australia, this was a setting worthy of the finest performances.

Although Hollywood is now bursting with Australian talent, when the Disney film Mary Poppins was released in 1964, few people realised it originated in books by an Australian woman, P.L. Travers.

The myriad stories connected with the development of Australian cultural life are exhaustively catalogued in many different forms in our libraries. More recently world firsts like PANDORA, Australia’s digital archive, PictureAustralia, MusicAustralia and Australia Dancing bring these collections to the widest possible audience through digitisation and the Internet.