Australian Generations? Memory, oral history and generational identity in postwar Australia

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Australian media pundits and popular sociologists write blithely about generations such as the Baby Boomers and Gen X, but what they are really writing about are birth cohorts who share some common life experiences and attitudes but do not necessarily share a generational identity. Drawing upon oral history interviews conducted with 300 Australians, this article argues that while a birth cohort may share historical reference points, it will not necessarily be conscious of itself as a distinctive generation. Generations are forged by dramatic shared experiences and emergent generational awareness in youth. Generational self-consciousness is then fashioned and consolidated in memory by individuals who draw upon collective representations of generational identity in making sense of their lives. This article argues that in post-Second World War Australia there has, thus far, been only one such generation, the so-called ‘60s generation’, and illuminates that argument though a life history case study that also highlights the significance of gender and intergenerational relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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