Australia’s national icons range from the sublime to the commonplace - from stunning natural and man-made wonders to humble food items like Aussie meat pies and a yeast-based spread called vegemite.
There is no absolute agreement on what constitutes a national icon - that elusive ‘thing’ or concept that is regarded as quintessentially Australian or instantly recognisable as uniquely Australian.
However, one thing is certain: stocktakes of popular Australiana are not limited to the great or the pompous and, in that sense, they reflect the innate irreverence and individualism of many Australians. What other country, for example, would include in its Olympic Games opening ceremony a sequence that commemorates mountain horsemen (the Man from Snowy River), a colonial fugitive (Ned Kelly) and a humble backyard lawnmower, as Sydney did for the 2000 Olympics.
Most Australians would include on their lists of national icons natural wonders such as the Northern Territory’s huge monolith, Uluru, man-made architectural marvels like the Sydney Opera House and the country’s unique kangaroos and koalas. But their lists would be just as likely to include a cricketer named Don Bradman, a mighty racehorse called Phar Lap, a bushranger (outlaw) named Ned Kelly and a hat called Akubra, as well as the Aussie meat pie, Vegemite., and a sponge cake square dipped in chocolate and coconut called a lamington.
A 2007 survey of 400 Australians (appropriately known as the ‘Top Taste Lamington Aussie Poll’) found that meat pies were the most popular Australian food, followed by lamingtons. Swimming champion Ian Thorpe received 33 per cent of the votes for Australia’s favourite iconic celebrity, followed by entertainer Kylie Minogue. The ‘ute’, or utility truck, which started out as a farm vehicle in 1932, was voted Australia’s best invention, followed by the Hills Hoist (a clothes-drying line).