Australia was shaped by Scottish migrants – and their thinking is still important today.

The Scots valued political and personal freedom, egalitarianism, education for all, and the use of human reason for assessing whether an idea works and whether authority is justified. Those were key ideas from the Scottish Enlightenment.

Many influential roles, including 17 positions in Australia’s first parliament in 1901, were held by the early Scots. Many Victorian institutions, schools and cultural organisations have roots in Scottish cultural heritage.

Indeed Scottish cultural heritage so shaped and integrated with the fabric of modern Australia that the distinctiveness of Scottish cultural identity is often overlooked.

Scottish cultural heritage thrives in Victoria today through the many associations that are coordinated through the Scots of Victoria Coordinating Group. It is celebrated through Scottish clan societies, highland gatherings, highland pipe bands, highland and Scottish dancing, Robert Burns clubs, Scottish / Caledonian societies, Scottish Gaelic, the publication of the Scottish Voice, plus more.

Australians with Scottish heritage are still abundant. At Australia’s 2016 census over two million people – more than 9% of the total population – identified themselves as having Scottish ancestry. A 1996 study of the ethnic origins of Australians found 5.3 million people with Scottish ‘origins’.

Scottish cultural heritage – true to its egalitarian values – is open to Australians from all backgrounds. The outward symbols (such as tartan or the bagpipes) are widely enjoyed – and they remind us that Scottish cultural heritage shapes a better Australia today.