A battler is an Australian colloquialism referring to "ordinary" or working class individuals who persevere through their commitments despite adversity. Typically, this adversity comprises the challenges of low pay, family commitments, environmental hardships and lack of personal recognition. It is a term of respect and endearment intended to empower and recognize those who feel as though they exist at the bottom of society. The term has seen recent use in mainstream politics to describe a demographic section of the Australian people.
The term "Aussie Battler" generally refers to working class Australians, specifically, those who feel they must work hard at a low paying job to earn enough money, is actually well respected by Australian society at large as they stoically face perceived financial hardships, in spite of Australian workers being among some of the highest paid and resourceful in the western world. The concept of an "Aussie battler" is an example of self-aggrandizing language, designed to counter feelings of stigma or inadequacy, and to bolster confidence in being a member of the Australian underclass. It refers to an Australian who continues to struggle in the face of hardship. It is a term of respect and endearment, not simply used to assess someone's financial situation; the ordinary working-man earning a living against the odds. The common variation little Aussie battler further adds to the notion that the battler is at the bottom of society, working under bigger things above.
In Australian English, the concept of a "battler" is a power word similar to the concept of the "hardworking family". It is used by various political personages and entities for their own purposes. Where in one context a person may use the term to refer to people of low socioeconomic status to call for greater welfare, others may use it to refer to a family saving for a private education to call for government payments to private schools.
Some individuals are self-defined "battlers" without fitting the above definition because of their own interpretations of "earning enough money." Social scientist and author Michael Pusey has described this as "Middle Class Battler syndrome" because these "battlers" earn more than the average wage but see expensive homes and consumer goods as necessities. As a result, they have very little disposable income after servicing debts for these items. Despite the self-inflicted hardship, the myth of the "battler" remains.
Use in political rhetoric
Following the election of the conservative coalition government under the leadership of John Howard in 1996, the phrase was adapted and widely adopted within Australian public discourse. Howard scored a sweeping victory at the 1996 elections, an achievement some commentators explained by reference to his winning over many traditional Labor Party voters, whom they now termed "Howard's battlers".
The term was allegedly popularised by Andrew Robb, the 1996 Liberal Party campaign director, who used it to describe those blue-collar voters who felt ignored by Labor and who were successfully targeted by the Liberals during the election campaign.
In a radio interview in 2004, Howard was asked what he thought a 'battler' was and replied that:
|“||... it's not an exclusive definition, the battler is somebody who finds in life that they have to work hard for everything they get... normally you then look at it in terms of somebody who's not earning a huge income but somebody who is trying to better themselves, and I've always been attracted to people who try to better themselves.||”|
- New Zealand Oxford Dictionary Oxford University Press, 2005
- "Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian Words: A-B, Battler". Anu.edu.au. Archived from the original on 5 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- Sekiya, Noriko. "Aussie `battler' as a cultural keyword in Australian English" (PDF). Griffith University. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- "Joyzine: Australia Decoded". Artistwd.com. 2 September 1912. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- Goodonyamate: A dictionary of Australian Slang Archived 9 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "ABC Radio National: The Spirit of Things - Hope and Happiness". Abc.net.au. 1 June 2003. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "The Experience of Middle Australia: The Dark Side of Economic Reform". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- Journal of Australian Studies, Issue 55, 1997, Abstract Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Exclusive (7 August 2007). ""Rudd Labor battlers dump Howard", The Daily Telegraph, 7 August 2007". News.com.au. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "Reform dressed up in greasy overalls", The Australian, 21 May 2005[dead link]
- "Brendan Nicholson and Jason Koutsoukis, "Howard's battlers a broad church", The Age, 19 May 2004". Melbourne: Theage.com.au. 2004-05-19. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "Jane Holroyd, "Howard Bush's 'battler'", The Age, 7 September 2007". Theage.com.au. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-02.