It’s been more than a decade since every man and his dog in Australia was talking about the meaning of mateship, and whether former Prime Minister John Howard was being true blue or just bogan wanting to include the phrase into his draft of an Australian constitution. Twelve years later, our sunburnt homeland is still loyal to the Queen and the use of the quintessentially Australian expression “mate” has not waned in popularity. According to Gerald Wilkes, emeritus professor of English at the University of Sydney writing in “A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms”, the use of the term “mate” goes back to the 1890s. But what exactly does an Aussie mean these days when they address someone as “mate”?
Well, just in time for Australia Day, a group of young Australians led by ad man David Gillespie decided to explain the meaning of “mate” to the rest of us.
Their video series ‘The Meaning of Mate’ offers 18 pithy definitions of the term so viewers can learn “when a bloke is about to buy you a drink, or put the boot in.” They chose to make 18 videos, because it was in 1818 that the first official celebrations of what was to become Australia Day took place. The project is the brainchild of Gillespie, a Queenslander who now calls Brooklyn home, who told Billabout he felt compelled to celebrate the distinctly Oz term of endearment because “I use it all the time!” “I would never have done a project celebrating Australia back in Australia – there’s something about being away and romanticizing things you’re far away from,” said Gillespie, who works as a senior strategist at Big Spaceship and has just started his own company, Collectors Edition. “Growing up in Hong Kong, I had this disassociation with Australia, but I feel like I’ve now become more Australian than I have ever felt in my life.” Shot in front of glorious Bondi beach, ‘The Meaning of Mate’ was made with no funding and a lot of free Aussie labor thanks to Gillespie’s supportive mates.
The quirky shorts were featured on the homepage of Australian YouTube on January 26, and star Australian producer/actor Matt Roberts, who most Aussies would recognize as “the bloke with the filthy mo in the Carlton Draught ad.” “He’s a friend, and I wanted him in the videos because he is such a larrikin. When I think of an iconic Aussie, I think of him,” Gillespie said. “That stereotype of Australians saying ‘G’Day mate!’ to each other – it’s actually true.”
By Carmel Melouney