Psychological sense of community in Australia and the challenges of change

Document Type

Journal Article


Kluwer Academic


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology




Fisher, A. T., & Sonn, C. C. (2002). Psychological sense of community in Australia and the challenges of change. Journal of Community Psychology, 30(6), 597-609. Available here.


Social change is a phenomenon experienced in all societies, whether from gradual passages and time and interaction with other groups, or through the more immediate impacts such as war, invasion, or physical catastrophe. How societies manage change indicates much about their abilities to survive and the type of social cohesion that will be evidenced. In this article, the authors investigate the use of common symbols and shared history as ways of either maintaining social identity and moving with change, or using them in negative ways to resist change. The case study of immigration to Australia is used to demonstrate that members of the community are able to identify a series of salient identity markers—whether they wish to accept all of them or not—as the types of knowledge that all members share. Many of the markers reflect decades of passed history, but are seen as foundational to Australia today. Although they are core to identity, they are the types of symbols that are grasped as a lifestyle under threat by those who are newcomers. Often the markers are there as more unconscious constructions, to be evoked at times of high emotion to indicate what must be “saved” for current ideas to survive. The authors discuss the meanings of these markers as ways in which the identity of members of the community has been established. But these are seen as reminders, or glorifications, of the past, and how such markers are able to be captured and (mis)used by narrow populist and extremist interest groups. The challenge of managing change is how to build forward, maintaining those markers of real social value, and incorporating the new ones that are brought by newcomers, and those that are developed together. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.





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