Donald Horne and the legacy from “The Lucky Country”

As a university student in the late 70s and early 80s, Donald Horne’s book “The Lucky Country” was well known to me. This week I had an opportunity to consider the legacy that Donald left behind. I found that although he spent much of his early life as a journalist and editor, he was in fact an amazing teacher, author and social critic. I would describe him as an extraordinary provocateur, challenging assumptions and beliefs, fostering dialogue and discussion, and eager to facilitate change for Australia to become a better country. He had hard and fast views, but he was prepared to be challenged about these, and to modify his thinking if presented with better reasons to believe otherwise.


Donald was born in Sydney in 1921 and died at the age of 84 in 2005. At university he was very influenced by the philosopher John Anderson, and the writer James McAuley. He identified strongly with the views of the Daily Telegraph newspaper and had a long association with the Packer family as journalist and editor. He wrote “The Lucky Country” in December 1964 and it was a remarkable success, with 260,000 copies sold. After working as editor for the Bulletin and the Quadrant, he joined academia in 1972 becoming a champion for social change and writing many books, articles and pamphlets. He was an ultra-conservative for a large part of his life, but he changed his views over his long life and ended up on the left.


the-lucky-country-popular-penguins“The Lucky County” is a term that has been absorbed into our lexicon. It is generally used to refer to the positive notion that we are very privileged to live in a country like Australia, however this is not how Donald used this phrase in his book.


Donald provides a scathing description of life in the suburbs in Australia of the 1960s in “On the dullness of suburbia” which he labels as “dismall”. He is also critical of the “Men who run Australia” speaking of them as second class men who are conformists, masters who cling to power but fail to lead. In “On attitudes to the state” he talks of most Australians as believing that it is the government’s job to see that they all get a fair go, but the state as motivated by self-interest. He covers “Australian oratory” which he says is characterized by the usual style of speaking as if not being interested in the topic, with no enthusiasm or rhetoric. The topic of “Immigration reform” is also dealt with by strong recommendations that there should be significant Asian immigration-very shocking at this time after World War II!


It is interesting to ponder on many of these and the other issues contained in this book, in the context of our current political times both in Australia and the USA. Donald throws down the gauntlet to intellectuals to contribute to their times in a significant manner. He demonstrates the importance of putting ideas out into the public arena, encouraging debate, taking diversity seriously, sharing this experience with others, and aiming to convert some of these into action and change.


We are a lucky country. We have such a wealth of diversity, and communication is so much easier now that there is no excuse for a lack of spirited debate, creativity and innovation. In this way conflict can result in new ideas and approaches, in growth and change, that can foster and facilitate a higher level of intellectual exchange, an enriched life, inspirational leaders, and a confident and positive community.


This is consistent with the approach to resolving conflict and approaching peace making by Creative Family Law Solutions. Join us in an intellectual debate about current issues to promote a richer society and contribute to cultural change.

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