Australia

Australia my home – the facts, figures, myths and the ‘yarns’.
A well educated British backpacker said to me once “Australia’s a great place … but so many things can kill you here”.

At first I thought, well I have been here for 50 plus years and it has not killed me … but on reflection I began to see what he saw. OK apart from having 6 of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world, what else was there? White pointer sharks … OK … the Box and Irukandji jelly fish with the blue ringed octopus and stone fish … yeah … salt water crocks and sea snakes … OK … the red-back and funnel wed spiders … yeah, it that it? “No that’s just the animals” he said, “What about the raging bush fires, oppressive heat, terrifying cyclones, angry seas and devastating floods?” I paid his point, but then realized that just maybe, it’s this certain living on the edge that gives the average Aussie that zest for life.

The Australian bush poet, Dorothea Mackellar, said it best in her poem “My Country” with an affirmation that speaks for all Australians –
“I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!”

So, here are all the other great and not so great things about Australia – my home

 Commonwealth of Australia

Australia is an island nation located in the Southern Hemisphere. Its continental mainland encompases about 7.7 million km2 or 3.0 million sq mi. This makes it the 6th largest country by land mass in the world. It stretches about 3,700 kilometres from north to south and 4,000 kilometres from east to west
It is also home to about 22 million people who are happy to be known as ‘Aussies’. We choose to concentrate in large numbers along the eastern and southeastern coasts, making sure never to drift too far from the beach. In fact, with more than 85 per cent of us living within 100 kilometres of the coast, is it any wonder that the beach culture has become an integral part of our laid-back lifestyle. Furthermore, looking at these stats one can see that Australia is one of the least densly populated countries in the world, with just 3 people inhabiting each km2 (7 people per sq mi).

 Australia Country Data

Country Name: Commonwealth of Australia

Location: Oceania

Capital: Canberra

Largest city: Sydney

Area: 7.7 million sq km

Coastline: 25,760 km

Arable Land: 6.15%

Independence: 1 January 1901

Population: 21.3 million (UN, 2009)

Medium Age: 38 years

Urban Living: 89% of population

Life Expectancy: 81.63 years

Major Ethnic Group: 92% Caucasian

Major Religion: Christianity – 25.8% Catholic

Major Language Spoken: 78.5%English

Education % of GDP:

86th in world

GDP per capita: 25th in world

Main exports: Ores and metals; wool, food and live animals; fuels, transport machinery and equipment

Monetary unit: 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents

Internet domain: .au

International dialling code: +61 

CIA – The World Factbook

Now human habitation in Australia is estimated to have begun about 50,000 years ago with the arrival of the original aborigines. Their descendants living in Australia today, are believed to represent the world’s oldest surviving civilization.

In recent decades however, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy, with a prosperous multicultural society. Australia has achieved excellent results in many international comparisons of national performance such as health care, life expectancy, quality of life, human development, public education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights.
Moreover, Australian cities routinely rank among the world’s best in terms of cultural offerings, livability and quality of life. In fact, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2009 Liveability survey listed five Australian cities in the top 20 places out of 140 of the world’s major centers.
Welcome to Australia
Now, for the first 100 years of European settlement, Australia was regarded as a penal colony to alleviate the pressure of the overflowing jails of England. However the Gold Rush of  the 1850s and the prosperous farming outcomes, changed the world’s view of Australia into a ‘land of opportunity’.
Australia came of age in World War 1, typified by the military campaign on Gallipoli where 8,000 young Australians known as the ANZACS lost their lives. Since the end of World War 2 in 1945, over 6 million people have left their country of birth and made Australia their home. This action has transformed Australia into a melting pot of ethnic cultures that work together to create the harmonious multi-cultural society that we all enjoy today.
Our wildlife is vast and unique. Being an island separated from the rest of the world for the past 50 million years, Australia has developed it own unique flora and fauna. The koala, kangaroo and the living fossil of the Wollemi Pine are stark examples of this.
Our geography makes the vast majority of our land, unfit for human habitation, with only 6% of the landmass being arable. Lack of water makes Australia the driest inhabited continent on the planet and keeps our population centres close to the moist coastal plains. Still, it is the vast desert and semi-arid lands that have created the legendary stories of the great ‘Australia outback‘. Geographically, Australia is an old, well worn land that has earned the title of the flattest continent on earth. Our land is made up of mostly low plateaus and deserts that contain the oldest and least fertile soils.
The website Maps of the World gives their visitors the following summary about the Aussie people, which pretty much sums us up;

“The people in Australia are well-known for their attitude towards life. The people of Australia believe in living their life to the fullest. It is this motivation which makes Australians a fun loving, courageous, talented, devoted and an adventurous nation”

Listen to our national song HERE.
Australia has no state religion and while religion does not play a significant part in most of our lives, 64% of us tick a Christian denomination of some sort when asked for a response on Census night. However, as a creed to live by and accepted by the majority of Aussies, is best summed up in the concept of ‘Mateship
The attitude to the formal religions is best evidenced in the fact that the majority of Australians choose a marriage celebrant over a minister of religion for their special wedding day.
Australians have always valued education, with 58% of the working age population holding either a vocational or tertiary qualification.
Australia Word cloud – www.Wordle.net

Being 13,000 km away from the home of the English language and dealing with life issues and a melting pot of people foreign to our mother tongue, soon had us developing our own special lexicon with its unique pronunciations. Taken on the whole this special language is known as “Aussie Strine“.

We are governed by an usual arrangement that somehow harmoniously blends the democratic will of the people with a birth appointed monarch as head of state. Add to this the fact that for just 22 million people, we have a federal government, 8 other State/territory parliaments and 700 local government authorities also passing laws, and you see why many outsiders think that we are a tad over governed.
Click Image for ‘Australia’s Jewels’

Australia is a country rich in natural resources which are in demand from the rest of the world.  Beginning with the farm produce of wool and wheat in the 19th century, Australia today is a significant supplier to the world in the commodities of coal, iron ore, uranium, beef, natural gas and the exotic opal. Economists believe that it is our exports to an expanding China that has underwritten our economy’s past 17 years of growth and has isolated us in 2009, from a technical recession that all other OECD member countries experienced.

Australians are known as early adopters of new technology. This is none so obvious than in the uptake of mobile phones with the equivalent of one registered mobile phone per person currently in play. Transport has been a difficult infrastructure to provide in a country as vast as Australia. Now with just 22 million people to pay for it, the road and rail connections across the country have been slow in coming and not necessarily built to the standards most Europeans might expect. Thankfully, air transport has overcome much of the ‘tyranny of distance’ and with our competitive airline market, the cost of air travel is now affordable to all.
Image #24 – www.flickr.com – Sydney Opera House 360o
Our cultural ties to Great Britain are strong but today our political ties are built on a strong military relationship with the USA, documented and in place under the ANZUS Treaty since 1951.  Since the 1970s, Australia has looked to our neighborhood in the Asian region to strengthen our foreign relations. Our football  team (the Socceroos) now competes in the Asian division for entry into the Football World Cup and our political leaders have secured active membership on many Asian and Pacific forums, together with influential regional associations.
While Australian’s have always excelled in sport on the world stage, we have suffered from the anxiety of never thinking we were quite good enough to match it with the best, in the spheres of arts, entertainment, literature and theatre. However, this generation of Australians no longer feel this ‘cultural cringe‘, with so many of the world’s best actors, entertainers, singers, writers and painters calling Australia home. Many observers claim that it was our handling of the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000 that really made the world sit up and take note of the talent being created in this land down-under.
Image #25 – www.flickr.com – Melbourne by night
Our capital city Canberra (400,000 people) is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and situated between the two main population centers of Sydney (4.4 million people) and Melbourne (3.9 million people). At the time of federation in 1901, when the 6 soverign states decided to become a federated nation, neither of the heavyweights Sydney nor Melbourne would agree to the other becoming the capital, so we built Canberra, a brand new capital ‘in the bush’, about half way between the two.
Image #26 – www.flickr.com – Canberra Australia – Parliament House
On the 26 November 2008, the movie “Australia” was released to the public staring Aussie Nicole Kidman (playing English woman Lady Sarah Ashley) and Aussie Hugh Jackman (playing a rough, hewn Aussie cattle drover). It is an epic adventure-romance by Aussie director Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge fame.  The story is set at the time of the Japanese bombing of Darwin during World War 11. It has a run time of over 2 and a half hours and was filmed predominantly in Bowen, Queensland for the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Click on the banner below to see a slideshow of the movie scenes and movie launch.
Image #37 – australiamovie.net – Australia the movie

 Australian History

Image #1 – comm.unt.edu – Aboriginal Dreamtime
In the beginning …

Australia’s Aboriginal people who pre-dated the current 90% European based population are thought to have arrived here by boats and land bridges from South East Asia at least 50,000 years ago, which was during the last Ice Age.

It is estimated that when Europeans discovery and settled in Australia in the 1700’s, up to one million Aboriginal people were to be living across the continent, conducting their lives mostly as hunters and gatherers.
Image #27 – reconciliationsa.org.au – Clans

Aboriginals at that time consisted of about 300 clans/nations. They spoke 250 languages which incorporated about 700 dialects. They inhabited both the mainland and the large island to the south known initially as Van Diemens Land but later changing its name to Tasmania.

Listen to Yothu Yindi sing ‘Treaty’ HERE.
Despite the diversity of their homelands – from outback deserts and tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountains – all Aboriginal people share a complex oral culture and spiritual legacy based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. Dreamtime is an aboriginal belief in a timeless, magical realm which according to their myths, was when the totemic spirit of their ancestors forged all aspects of life as the world was created.
Image #2 – uh.edu – Captain James Cook
European settlement

The 17th century saw sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north of Australia who came to know and document the Great Southern Land and in particular,  Cape York Peninsula. Dutch explorers including the navigator Willem Janszoon (Jansz) in 1606, were the first discoverers of Australia but the Dutch made no attempt at settlement here. However, when the Englishman Captain James Cook charted the east coast of Australia in 1770, he claimed it for Britain and opened up the opportunity for England to start a penal colony in this remote outpost.

So on the 26 January 1788 (now celebrated as the national holiday “Australia Day”), the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying 1,500 people arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). The 750 convicts and other personnel were under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. In the 100 years up until the end of transportation in 1868, 160,000 men and women were to come to Australia as convicts. The end of penal transportation to Australia was brought about by a campaign by the then free settlers.
From the 1790s, free settlers began a steady flow in to Australia but life was harsh for everyone particularly women who were outnumbered five to one by men in the early days and never reached parity until the late 1800s. Even more suffering was experienced by the Aboriginal people who witnessed the dispossession of their land and who were ravaged by illness and death from the introduced European diseases (i.e. chickenpox, smallpox, influenza, venereal diseases and measles). This obviously caused severe disruptions to their traditional lifestyles and practices.
 Prior to settlement by the English in 1788, there was much debate in England about their overcrowded prisons. The Prime Minister William Pitt together with King George 111 and a few other notables came up with “The Australia Solution”. Read about it HERE.
Image #4 – www.sydneyr.det.nsw.edu.au – First Fleet 1788
The prosperous 1800s

By the 1820s, many soldiers, officers and emancipated convicts had turned the land that they had received from the government into flourishing farms. The news of this new found prosperity soon encouraged many boatloads of migrants from Britian who set sail for Australia in search of the cheap land and bountiful work. These settlers, or ‘squatters‘ as they were called then, began to move deeper into Aboriginal territories in search of pasture and water for their stock and they soon spread as far as the present day Melbourne in the south, to Brisbane in the north and Adelaide in the west.

Image #3 – sydneyr.det.nsw.edu.au Gold rush

In 1851, gold was discovered in New South Wales and central Victoria. Thousands of young men and some adventurous young women were soon on their way to the new colony in search of ‘striking it rich’. They were also joined by boat loads of prospectors from China with similar intent. This chaotic carnival of entertainers, publicans, illicit liquor-sellers, prostitutes and quacks from across the world caused the British governor of Victoria to attempt to impose order via a monthly mining licence fee, which he backed up with heavy-handed troopers. This action led to the iconic bloody anti-authoritarian struggle of the Eureka stockade in 1854 which even today inspires Aussies to stand up against Government laws that have been poorly conceived. By the 1880s places like Melbourne and Sydney had become stylish modern cities, thanks to the flow on effect of the Gold Rush and farm prosperity.

nla.gov.au – Federation Maps Australia – Image #5

Federation and the World Wars

The population grew steadily in the following decades as the continent was gradually being explored. Between 1855 and 1890, six colonies developed and gained responsible government in their own right, managing most of their own affairs while all the time remaining part of the British Empire. These five new largely self-governing Crown Colonies were: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, Queensland in 1859. Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania, in 1825 and the western part of Australia in 1829. After a decade of debate and planning, on 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the nation – the Commonwealth of Australia was formed.
socialscience.tjc.edu – Image #6 – Australians at Gallipoli
While politically we became a nation on the 1 January 1901, most Australians believe that we trully achieved nationhood with the supreme sacrifice of 60,000 of our best men in fighting a war not of our choosing in countries far removed from our shores; such was the horror of The First World War. For a small nation that had until 1868 been but a penal settlement, our commitment was immense. For of the 3 million Australian men living in Australia in 1914, almost 400,000 (330,000 on active service on foreign soil) of them volunteered to fight in this war which sadly wounded three times as many as it killed.
Image #26 – wikimedia.org – ANZAC dawn service Gallipoli – ‘right-of-passage’

Still, no event shaped Australian’s psyche in the decades subsequent, than the loss of 8,000 brave young men on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey.

According to the Australian War Memorial: “Although there was no military victory, the Australians displayed great courage, endurance, initiative, discipline, and mateship. Such qualities came to be seen as the ANZAC spirit.
Many saw the ANZAC spirit as having been born of egalitarianism and mutual support. According to the stereotype, the ANZAC rejected unnecessary restrictions, possessed a sardonic sense of humour, was contemptuous of danger, and proved himself the equal of anyone on the battlefield. Australians still invoke the ANZAC spirit in times of conflict, danger and hardship.”
This battle is remembered on the 25 April each year with a national holiday and involves many moving parades and ceremonies to honor not only the ANZACs but all Australians that have sacrificed their lives in the global fight for freedom. A visit to ANZAC Cove in Turkey for an ANZAC day dawn service, has become for many young Aussies, a right of passage.
Image #28 – umass.edu Ataturk

In typical Aussie style we share that hollowed time of remembrance in a joint service with our comrades in arms from New Zealand together with our past enemies, whose victorious commander in 1914 Mustafa Kemel Ataturk and founder of the Turkish Republic, comforted the many grieving Australian mothers at the time with the words;

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 

Soon after WW1 sport became the national distraction with sporting heroes such as the racehorse Phar Lap and cricketer Donald Bradman gaining near-mythical status with their heroic and outstanding performances.
png.salvationarmy.org – Image #7 – Aussies on the Kokoda Track

Now, if Gallipoli was Australia’s defining battle of World War 1, then The Kokoda Track campaign in Papua New Guinea was an analogous nation-defining event during World War II. It was here that the inexperienced, ill equipped and vastly outnumbered 39th Battalion held back the battle hardened Japanese forces that had swept all before them until that moment. Their dogged resistance against the odds, ultimately saved Australia and turned the tide in the Pacific war.

Here is a publication of the 39th Battalion called “The Good Guts” containing a poem written by the author.
Australian forces also made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The generation that fought in that war and survived came out of it with a sense of pride in Australia’s capabilities and defined by deeds the Aussie spirit of ‘Courage, Mateship, Endurance and Sacrifice’.  (Words inscribed on the memorial in Isurava PNG)
Image #29 – http://history.state.gov/ANZUS – ANZUS Treaty
Post WW11

However, with the shock of Great Britain’s easy defeat in Asia in 1942 and the constant threat of the Japanese invasion, Australia turned to the United States as the new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has had a strong military ally in the USA, made formal by the ANZUS treaty. ‘For better or for worse’ we have honored our commitment to the spirit of that treaty and supported the USA militarily whenever asked, as any good mate would. Our support was acknowledged by the current USA administration when the Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton stated in March 2009.

“America doesn’t have a better friend in the world than Australia. A friend through good times and hard times” Hillary Clinton

Image #8 – multiculturalaustralia.edu.au – Immigrants Australia

After World War II ended in 1945, Australia encouraged extensive immigration from war-torn Europe. This action coupled with the increase in immigration from Asia with the abolition of the White Australia policy in the 1970s, saw a transformation in Australia’s demography, culture, and self-image.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants from across Europe and the Middle East arrived in Australia in the 1950s, many finding jobs in the booming manufacturing sector.
Australia’s economy grew continually throughout the 1950s with major nation-building projects being undertaken like the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in the mountains near Canberra. International demand grew for Australia’s major exports of metals, wools, meat and wheat. Middle class suburban Australia also prospered during this time, evidenced by the rate of home ownership growing from 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s.
Image #30 uq.edu.au 1967

Like many other countries in the world, Australia was swept up in the revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960s. Australia’s new ethnic diversity, increasing independence from Britain and popular resistance to the Vietnam War all contributed to an atmosphere of political, economic and social change.  In 1967, Australians voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ in a national referendum to let the federal government make laws on behalf of Aboriginal Australians and include them in future censuses. (Something that had been denied them up until that point) The overwhelming 91% YES result was the culmination of a strong reform campaign by both Aboriginal and white Australians.

Image #7 – griffith-h.schools.nsw.edu.au – Gough Whitlam
1970s to present

In 1972, the Australian Labor Party under the idealistic leadership of lawyer Gough Whitlam, was elected to power. His successful ‘It’s Time’ campaign ending the post-war domination of the Liberal and Country Party coalition.  Over the next three years, his new government ended conscription, abolished university fees and introduced free universal health care. It abandoned the White Australia policy, embraced multiculturalism and introduced no-fault divorce and equal pay for women.  However by 1975, inflation and scandal led to the Governor-General dismissing the government. In the subsequent general election, the Labor Party suffered a major defeat and the Liberal–National Coalition ruled until 1983.

The Whitlam Government in 1972, was also the catalyst  for an increasing focus on the expansion of ties with other Pacific Rim and Asian nations while maintaining close ties with Australia’s traditional allies and trading partners. The closer ties with our Asia/Pacific neighbors has been continually explored and cemented in the subsequent years to the present.
Image #31 – uq.edu.au – Mabo

The traditional right of ownership of land under native title was not recognized legally until 1992. The whole concept on which the land laws of Australia was built for 200 years was overturned in a High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2). This meant that the founding notion in Australian law of Australia being terra nullius (literally “no one’s land”, effectively “empty land”) at the time of arrival of the European settlement was overturned and that native title did exist then and so should continue to exist today.

Between 1983 and 1996, the Hawke–Keating Labor governments introduced a number of economic reforms, such as deregulating the banking system and floating the Australian dollar. In 1996 a Coalition Government led by John Howard won the general election and was re-elected in 1998, 2001 and 2004. The Liberal–National Coalition Government enacted several reforms, including changes in the taxation and industrial relations systems.
Image #9 – nma.gov.au

While Britain’s Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK, the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any British role in the government of the Australian States. It also ended the judicial appeals to the UK Privy Council. Still, Australians remain comfortable with their British ties with a English monarch as head of state because at the 1999 referendum, 54% of Australian voters rejected a proposal to become a republic.

In 2007 the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd was elected with an agenda to reform Australia’s industrial relations system, introduce climate change policies, and restore the health and education sectors.

 Australian Animals

Image #31 nla.gov.au Australian Parrots
Uniquely Australian wildlife

Australia developed its own unique fauna when it broke away from the rest of the world’s super-continent “Gondwana“, more than 50 million years ago. This allowed a range of animals to establish successful populations in Australia in a way that were unable to do so in other parts of the world. Almost all of Australia’s native mammals are marsupials. Marsupials give birth to their young and then carry them in a pouch near their belly until the infant is old enough to survive on its own.

Another unusual type of mammal is the monotreme with only 5 living species. Monotremes lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young which is acknowledged as rather privative for mammals. There are only two types of monotreme in the world – the platypus and the echidna – and both of them are found in Australia.
Australia is home to many other forms of wildlife not found anywhere else in the world. For example, we have around 800 species of birds, half of which are unique to this country. David Attenborough, the TV presenter and naturalist, calls Australia – the land of parrots.
Our marine environments contain more than 4,000 fish varieties and tens of thousands of species of invertebrates, plants and micro-organisms. About 80 per cent of Australia’s southern marine species are not found anywhere else in the world. Australia teems with native animals, and we have more mammals here than anywhere else on earth. Of all our unique animals, the three most internationally recognized icons are our Koala, Kangaroo and Kookaburra.
The Koala
Image #10 – cstl-cla.semo.edu – Koala

The koala is a unique tree-dwelling Australian marsupial; sometimes referred to as a “Koala bear” because of its similarity in appearance to a teddy bear with the soft grey fur, large prominent ears and a round face. The name “Koala” comes from Aboriginal languages and basically translated means ‘no drink’, because they don’t. Their main source of water is the dew and rain that collects on the leaves they eat.

A Koala’s diet consists almost exclusively of the leaves of a particular type of tree called a Eucalyptus. Because this is a very low-energy diet, the Koala displays very low levels of activity. They spend twenty hours a day sleeping or resting and the rest of the time is spent feeding, grooming and moving from tree to tree.
Koala young are called cubs. Koalas are soft, cuddly and tourists love being photographed with them, although Koalas have a rather disturbing habit of peeing on them. You can spot koalas all along Australia’s temperate eastern coast.
The Kangaroo
Image #11 – people.bu.edu – Kangaroo

The kangaroo is unique to Australia is our largest marsupial (animals that carry and nurse their young). The kangaroo actually appears on our coat of arms making it our most easily recognized mammal. A baby kangaroo is called a joey. Joeys are raised in their mother’s pouch, suckling from the teats inside, until they are about one year old.

The smaller kangaroos are called wallabies which is the name adopted by our national Rugby Union team. The world’s largest marsupial is simply called “Red” for Red Kangaroo.
There are 55 kangaroo species spread across Australia and live in large packs (or mobs) of around 100. Their estimated population is 40 million, which is more than when Australia was first settled by Europeans. In fact, it has been the introduction of European farming methods with its established regular water supplies that has allowed the kangaroo population to grow so dramatically. Their diet consists of grasses, leaves and other plants.
Image #32 wikipedia.org – Australia 11
Kangaroos are the only large animal to travel by hopping on their long hind legs, using their tail for balance. They can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour and can jump distances of eight meters and heights of around three metres.
The breeding adult males often fight by boxing with their front paws and kicking their back legs. Actually, it was the ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ that was depicted on the flag flying high on the mast of the yacht “Australia 11′ when Australia became the first country outside of the USA in 140 years, to win the Americas Cup.
The Kookaburra
Image #12 – bio.davidson.edu – Kookaburras

Australia’s kookaburra is the world’s largest kingfisher and is regarded as a giant of the species being 4 times the size of the average one.

There are 10 kingfisher species in Australia. Although their size differs, all kingfishers look similar. They have stout, squat bodies with large heads and long beaks. The kookaburras’ colorings of whites and browns, helps it blend easily into its environment and makes it more difficult for prey or predators to see them.
Listen to what they sound like HERE.
They’re native to Australia’s east coast and were introduced to Western Australia in 1898. Kookaburras are best known for their hysterical, human-sounding laughter at dusk and dawn.
They are territorial and often sing as a chorus to let other birds know of the family’s territory and boundaries. They can live for more than 20 years and will have the same mate for life.
Image #32 – kingslangley.ps.education.nsw.gov.au
Kookaburras are carnivores and will eat almost everything like snakes in the bush and mice and rats in urban areas. To catch its food, the kookaburra uses a wait-and-pounce technique, taking up a post with a good view and swooping down quickly in a surprise attack when the prey appears.
As a national icon, “Olly” the Kookaburra along with “Syd” the platypus and “Millie” the echidna, played its part as one of the three mascots promoting the very successful Sydney 2000 Olympic games.

 Australia’s record-breakers

Image #12 – anra.gov.au – Dingo Fence

Australians have built the world’s longest continuous fence – the dingo fence. It was constructed to keep the Dingo (Australia’s native dog) away from the sheep and runs for 5,531 kilometers through central Queensland and South Australia.

To give you some perspective on this, it’s about the same as building a fence from Paris to Beijing.
Australia is also home to the world’s longest piece of straight railway track. For 478 kilometers it stretches across South Australia’s vast, treeless Nullarbor Plain.
Image #36 – abc.net.au – Australia’s longest straight road

Australia’s longest stretch of straight road is 148 kilometers and located on the Eyre Highway in Western Australia. But this is just a tiny portion of the 2,700 kilometer sealed road that takes travelers from Perth to Adelaide.

Other Australian natural legends include Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. It is one of the wonders of the natural world being the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. It covers more than 300,000 square kilometers,  consists of more than 3000 reefs and is home to more than 600 islands. It is also home to the world’s largest oyster, weighing up to 3 kilograms.
We are home to the world’s longest earthworm, stretching up to 4 meters, which is found in Gippsland in Victoria. Also the world’s heaviest crab, weighing up to 14 kilograms, is found in Bass Strait near Tasmania. Australia also supports at least 25,000 species of plants, compared to 17,500 in Europe. That includes living fossils like the Wollemi pine and the grass tree, and brilliant wildflowers. There are over 12,000 species of wildflowers in Western Australia alone!

 Australian Geography

Image #13 – rst.gsfc.nasa.gov – Australia Climate Map
Location

Australia is located in the region Oceania on the Indo-Australian Plate at 27°S 144°E. The island continent sits between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean and is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas.

Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea are to our north, with the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and the French dependency of New Caledonia to the northeast, with New Zealand to the south-east.
The land
Our overall land size of 7.7million sq km makes Australia the 6th largest country in the world, making it just slightly smaller than that of the 48 USA contiguous states and more than 30 times larger than the United Kingdom.
Image #38 – www.ga.gov.au – Mt Kosciuszko

Australia is one of the oldest, flattest and driest inhabited continents on planet earth. Comprising continental bedrock exposed to erosion for more than 3,000 million years, and lying near the centre of a tectonic plate, gives Australia an average elevation is less than 300 metres, which is far lower than the world’s mean of about 700 metres. Australia’s highest point is Mount Kosciuszko at 2,229 m and its lowest point is at 15 m below sea level in Lake Eyre in Central Australia.

Overall Australia has had a relatively stable geological history although it continues to move north by about seven centimetres each year. The geological forces like Tectonic uplift of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia’s early history, when it was still a part of ‘Gondwana‘. Being situated in the centre of the tectonic plate, Australia has no active volcanism, which makes it the only continent on earth without any current volcanic activity. The last eruption actually took place 1400 years ago at Mt. Gambier in South Australia. We receive very few and only minor earthquakes and the Australian Alps do not contain any permanent icefields or glaciers, although they may have existed in the past.

Australia experiences extremes in climate and topography with rainforests and vast plains in the north, the snowfields of the Australian Alps in the south east, desert in the centre and fertile croplands in the east, south and south west. Almost one third of the country lies in the tropics. In all, Australia is more than one-fifth desert (40% is just sand dunes) with more than two-thirds of these undisturbed ecosystems classified as arid or semi-arid and unsuitable for settlement. It is these desert or semi-arid lands, officially know as rangelands, but commonly referred to among Australians as ‘the outback’, ‘the never-never’ even ‘woop-woop’ or ‘out past the black stump’.

Maritime
Still, with a coastline of about 25,000 kilometers and 10,000 beaches, means that there is at least 1km of beach for each and every Aussie. Our maritime claims involve 12 nm of territorial sea, a 24 nm contiguous zone and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nm which amounts to 8,148,250 square kilometers (3,146,060 sq mi). With no land boarders and such an extensive coastline, Australia has the largest area of ocean jurisdiction of any country on earth.
Image #14 – rst.gsfc.nasa.gov – Great Barrier Reef
Natural resources
Australia’s old and heavily weathered land has produced the least fertile soils meaning that only 6% of the land mass is arable land with permanent crops covering just 0.04% of the continent. Our only fertile plain is in the south-east which provides much of the nation’s food source.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometers (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world’s largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. These weather patterns correlate with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.

Australia is a country rich in natural resources: in fact it is the world’s largest net exporter of coal and accounts for about 29% of global coal exports. Other natural resources include bauxite, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas and petroleum

Image #39 – adl.brs.gov.au – Land Use Australia

Future challenges

As already stated – “Australia is a great place, it’s just that so many things can kill you”. Our natural hazards like cyclones, floods, severe droughts, rough seas and forest fires often take lives. Hazards that have been building up in our environment include soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices. Also, the raising levels of soil salinity due to the use of poor quality water is having a severe affect on our food production. Overall our major environmental threat comes from the limited natural fresh water resources that is needed to supply a thirsty land and a growing population.
International Agreements
Australia is party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban 1963, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 1994, Wetlands, Whaling, and signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol,
 Australian People
Image #15 – http://www.australians.com.au/ – Australian People – CLICK IMAGE to read just some of their stories
Famous Australian
A poll of reasonably informed people of the planet today on the most Internationally recognized Australians , would possibility generate the following list, in no particular order;
          1. Rupert Murdoch (businessman – News Limited)
          2. Paul Hogan (comedian, actor – Crocodile Dundee)
          3. Kylie Minogue (singer, actress, marketer)
          4. Mel Gibson (actor, producer – Braveheart)
          5. Hugh Jackman (actor – Wolverine)
Image #40 – dashboardwidgets.com – Olympics

Such is the power of the media to convey a sense of significance, yet behind all those bright lights are the really significant Australians – the ordinary ‘Aussie bloke’. There are the men and women of Australia who believed they can be world class without ever having to live in London, New York or Paris. Read some of their stories by clicking on the mosaic image of Aussie faces above.

We see these ‘ordinary Aussies’ at every Olympic games where Australia punches well above its weight often finishing in the top 5 nations, yet with a population of only 20 million; we see it in the 11 Noble Prize winners with the latest being Elizabeth Blackburn in October 2009 for her work in chemistry and genetics; we see it in the many inventions that germinated here but changed the world like the Black Box Flight Recorder, Polymer Bank Notes, Penicillin, Aspro, Internet WiFi, ‘freestyle’ swimming stroke and X-ray crystallography just to name a few; and we see it in our sporting teams like cricket, hockey, basketball, rugby league, netball and football that take the field with an unerring belief that they can beat the world’s best … and more than often, they do; we read about it in the stories of the ordinary ‘Aussie diggers‘ doing extraordinary things, from Anzac Cove to Afghanistan, and who match it with the best in any conflict, as friend or foe.
The term ‘Famous Australians’ is more a statement of our collective effort, than an individual award. The ‘group win’ is an important part of what makes us tick. In fact, the guy we usually send up to collect the award on our behalf, has probably drawn the ‘short straw’ (the reluctant winner … even loser). Ask the average Aussie bloke though, who they think are the really famous Australians and you are likely to get a completely different list like;
          1. Ned Kelly (Bush ranger)
          2. Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop (Surgeon, POW WW11)
          3. Sir Dolald Bradman (Cricketer)
          4. Fred Hollows (Humanitarian)
          5. and even … Phar Lap (Race horse)
Australia’s ethnic mix
Australia today is a truly multi-racial society and an ethnic melting pot with more than six million people coming from across the world since 1945 to live here. Today, more than 20 per cent of Australians are foreign born and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. In our homes we speak 226 languages. Apart from English, the most popular are Italian, Greek, Cantonese and Arabic.
For generations, the vast majority of both colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants came almost exclusively from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin. In the 2006 Australian Census, the most commonly nominated ancestry was Australian (37.13%), followed by English (31.65%), Irish (9.08%), Scottish (7.56%), Italian (4.29%), German (4.09%), Chinese (3.37%), and Greek (1.84%).
Our ethnic mix is still strongly caucasion at 91%, with Asian 7% and aboriginal 2% making up the total. The Indigenous population, being mainland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, was counted at 410,003 (2.2% of the total population) in 2001 which is a significant increase from the 1976 census, which counted an indigenous population of only 115,953.
Australia’s Population
The Australian population has a medium age of about 38 years with 19% 0-14yrs, 68% 15-64yrs and 13% over 65 years. The population growth continues at about 1.195% pa that includes a birth rate of 12.47 births/1,000 population, a death rate of 6.74 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.) and a high Net migration rate of 6.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.) (15th in the world)
Infant mortality rate is very low by world standards (196th in the world) at 4.75 deaths/1,000 live births leading to a total fertility rate of 1.78 children born/woman. Life expectancy at birth for the general population is 81.63 years with women outliving men by about an extra 5 years.
Click here to see Bush Poems

Australians love the romance of ‘the bush’ but choose the city life with 89% of us living in urban centers, and this rate of urbanization continues to grow at 1.2% per year.

“(Australians) are characterized as outgoing people, remarkably open in conversation, and amiable and easygoing. They are proud of the country they have created through hard work, but can be scathing about attitudes or behaviour they consider to be lacking in toughness. They believe in rewards for people according to their abilities, and in putting disappointments to one side and getting on with the future. They put great value on friendship, and help friends whenever possible.” Bond University, Gold Coast Australia.

 Religion in Australia

Image #16 – multiculturalaustralia.edu.au – Religion QLD

Australia has no state religion yet 64% of Australians record themselves as Christian on the Census.  The biggest religion in Australia appears to be a combination of unspecific and none (30%). This % together with a weekly attendance at church services at about 7.5% of the population, demonstrates that religion does not play a central role in the lives of a large portion of the population.

Now of the traditional main-stream religions, Catholic in most dominant with 25.8%, followed by Anglican on 18.7%. The remaining christian religions are made up of Uniting Church 5.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 3%, Eastern Orthodox 2.7%, other Christian 7.9%.
Overall less than 6% of Australians identify with non-Christian religions with Buddhist 2.1% and Muslim 1.7% being the major ones.
The war historian, CEW Bean in The Story of ANZACs 1921, got it about right when trying to understand the creed by which the typical Australian lives by;

“The typical Australian … was seldom religious in the sense in which the word was generally used. So far as he held a prevailing creed, it was a romantic one inherited from the gold-miner and the bushman, of which the chief article was that a man should at all times and at any cost stand by his mate. That was and is the one law which the good Australian must never break. It is bred in the child and stays with him through life …”

This ‘mateship creed’ is further explained in my comment HERE.

 Education in Australia

School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia. In most Australian States from the age of 5–6, all children receive 11 years of compulsory education. Many move on to complete two more years (Years 11 and 12), which contributes to an adult literacy rate of 99%.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), currently ranks Australia’s education as the eighth best in the world. Government grants have supported the establishment of Australia’s 38 universities the majority of universities receive government funding. There is a state-based system of vocational training, higher than colleges, known as TAFE Institutes, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications, and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. The ratio of international to local students in tertiary education in Australia is the highest in the OECD countries identifying that Australia is a popular place for the students of the world to complete their studies.

 Australian Language

Image #17 – www.ahajokes.com – Aussie Slang

Our national language is officially English (spoken by 78.5% of the population) but heavilly influenced by colloquial speach and a drawl that would have most people happy to classify it as its own dialect, if not language.  Other languages spoken include Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2% and Vietnamese 1%.

Australian English is a major variety of the language, with its own distinctive accent and vocabulary (some of which has found its way into other varieties of English), but less internal dialectal variation (apart from small regional pronunciation and lexical variations) than either British or American English. Grammar and spelling are largely based on those of British English.
A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. It is believed that of the 250 Indigenous Australian languages at the time of first European contact, only about 70 have survived, and many are only spoken by older people. It is estimated that only 18 Indigenous languages are still spoken by all age groups.
Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 6,500 deaf people.

 Australian Government

Image #18 – peo.gov.au/images – Parliament House Canberra

Officially our country is called “Commonwealth of Australia”, although we are better known as just the conventional short form of “Australia”. The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of powers. The capital of Australia is Canberra with a time difference of UTC+10  or 15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time. Daylight saving time is enacted by the majority of states between the last Sunday in October until the last Sunday in March. Australia is actually so wide it is divided into three time zones.

We are goverened by an unusual arrangment of Federal parliamentary democracy in conjunction with a constitutional monarchy. So we have a Queen of Australia (Queen Elizabeth II), her Governor-General representative (Quentin Bryce) together with the democratically elected  Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) governing our affairs of state. Australia first gained its independence via a Constitutional Act of the British Parliment 1 January 1901. We have had one referendum in 1999 on becomming a replublic, but the majority of Australians voted to leave thing as they were.

Federally, Australia is made up of 8 administrative divisions. Six of these are states 6 states: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and 2 are territories: Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. In most respects these two territories function as states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments. The Australian government also administers the dependent areas of Jervis Bay Territory, a naval base and sea port for the national capital in land that was formerly part of New South Wales, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Australian Antarctic Territory (covering 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent) and Norfolk Island.

Australia gained independence from Great Britain via a constitution act passed by the British Parliment in

9 July 1900 but effective on the 1 January 1901. Two national holidays are celebrated

            1. Australia Day, 26 January (the 1788 landing of the First Fleet) and
            2. ANZAC Day (commemorated as the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)

Our legal system is based on English common law with Acts of parliament created, administered and adjudicated by the Executive branch (Prime minister and cabinet):  Legislative branch: (Queen of Australia, 76 seat Senate plus the 150 seat House of Representatives and the Judicial branch: High Court (the chief justice and six other justices who are appointed by the governor general). Appeals from Australian courts to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom ceased when the Australia Act of 1986 was passed. Although the Constitution gives extensive executive powers to the Governor-General, these are normally exercised only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General’s reserve powers outside the Prime Minister’s direction was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

We the people of Australia vote for our representatives in the Legislative branch from the age of 18 and our voting is both universal and compulsory. While the monarch is hereditary, the governor general is appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the governor general

Image #19 – naa.gov.au – Australian Flag

Members of the lower house are elected from single-member constituencies, commonly known as “electorates” or “seats”, allocated to states on the basis of population. In the Senate, each state is represented by twelve senators, and each of the territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) by two. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, The party with the majority support in the House of Representatives forms government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.

Australia’s major political parties include the Australian Democrats; Australian Greens; Australian Labor Party; Country Liberal Party; Family First Party; Liberal Party and The Nationals with the major parties being Labor, Liberal and National.
Our flag is blue background with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant, together with a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth or Federation Star. This represents the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901 (the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia’s internal and external territories) The star pattern in white also represents the Southern Cross constellation seen with the naked eye in the night’s sky year round in Australia.

 Australian Economy

Image #21 – rba.gov.au – Celebrate New Years – Sydney

Australia is one of the most laissez-faire free market economies, according to indices of economic freedom. Australia’s per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the UK, Germany, and France in terms of purchasing power parity. Australia has a strong economy with emphasis on reforms, low inflation, a housing market boom, and growing ties with China have been key factors over the course of the economy’s 17 solid years of expansion.

All of Australia’s major cities fare well in global comparative liveability surveys; Melbourne reached 2nd place on The Economist’s 2008 World’s Most Livable Cities list, followed by Perth at 4th, Adelaide at 7th, and Sydney at 9th.

The country was ranked:
        •  third in the United Nations 2007 Human Development Index,
        • first in Legatum’s 2008 Prosperity Index, and
        • sixth in The Economist worldwide Quality-of-Life Index for 2005.

The Australian dollar is the currency of the Commonwealth of Australia, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu.

The Gross Domestic Product composition per sector is dominated by services including tourism, education, and financial services and makes up 69.8% of the total. This is followed by industry 26.8% and agriculture 3.4%. Major Agriculture products: include: wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits, cattle, sheep, poultry and Industries: mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel.
Australia’s location in the Southern Hemisphere also makes it ideally situated to supply counter-seasonal produce to markets in Asia, Europe and North America during their winter months. Australia exports around 65 per cent of its farm products; 60 per cent of its forest products; 98 per cent of its wool; and 51 per cent of its dairy products.

Exports commodities include : coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment shipped to Japan 22.2%, China 14.6%, South Korea 8.2%, India 6.1%, US 5.5%, NZ 4.3%, UK 4.2% (2008). Australia produces 95 per cent of the world’s precious opals and 99 per cent of its black opals. The world’s opal capital is the quirky underground town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. The world’s largest opal, weighing 5.27 kilograms, was found here in 1990.

Kalgoorlie in Western Australia is Australia’s largest producer of gold. It also embraces the world’s largest political electorate, covering a mammoth 2.2 million square kilometres.
Australia’s 85.7 million sheep (mostly merinos) produce most of the world’s wool. With 25.4 million head of cattle, Australia is also the world’s largest exporter of beef.
Import commodities include : machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products arriving from China 15.4%, US 12%, Japan 9.1%, Singapore 7%, Germany 5%, Thailand 4.5%, UK 4.3%, Malaysia 4.1%
The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST), which has slightly reduced the reliance on personal and company income tax that characterises Australia’s tax system. 

 Australian Communications

Image #20 – wikimedia.org – Southern Cross Cable

Australia has about 22 million mobile cellular phones, equivalent to one per person. It is blessed with excellent domestic and international services and supported by domestic satellite system; significant use of radiotelephone in areas of low population density and rapid growth of mobile cellular telephones.

The international country code is 61 and it is the landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable with links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. It has the Southern Cross fiber optic submarine cable which provides links to New Zealand and the United States and boasts 19 satellite earth stations (10 Intelsat – 4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean, 2 Inmarsat – Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, 2 Globalstar, 5 other).

There are 698 radio broadcast stations in Australia (AM 262, FM 345, shortwave 1) and 104 television broadcast stations. Australia has 11 million Internet hosts which is the 7th highest in the world and 11 million Australians are registered internet users.

 Transportation in Australia

Image #22 – abc.net.au – Qantas planes

Australia has 464 airports with 325 paved and 139 unpaved runways. There are 37,855 km of railways in three different gauges: broad, standard and narrow with the bulk (70%) being standard gauge.

Australia has 812,972 km of roadways which places it in the top 10 of global countries, but 60% of the road network remains unpaved. There are 2,000 km of waterways but this is mainly used for recreation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems rather than commerce.
Australia has 11 international ports and terminals located in Brisbane, Dampier, Fremantle, Gladstone, Hay Point, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Hedland, Port Kembla, Port Walcott, Sydney. Merchant marine terminals include 12 bulk carrier, 5 cargo, 1 chemical tanker, 1 container, 4 liquefied gas, 7 passenger only, 7 passenger/cargo, 8 petroleum tanker and 5 roll on/roll off.

 Australia’s Foreign relations

Image #23 – wikipedia.org – East Asian Community

Over recent decades, Australia’s foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the ANZUS pact, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum.

In 2005 Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings provide the main forum for cooperation. Australia has energetically pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation. It led the formation of the Cairns Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization, and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement and Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand. Australia is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan, with whom Australia has close economic ties as a trusted partner in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia, along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Singapore are party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a regional defence agreement. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to multilateralism along with its middle power allies Canada and the Nordic countries, and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance.

 Australian Culture

Australian culture is founded on the stories of battlers, bushrangers and brave soldiers. Of sporting heroes, working heroes and plucky migrants. It’s all about a fair go, the great outdoors and a healthy helping of irony. Today Australia also defines itself by its Aboriginal heritage, vibrant mix of cultures, innovative ideas and a thriving arts scene.
Listen to the didgeridoo playing HERE.
In recent decades, Australians of European decent have taken a much greater interest the culture and heritage of our original Australians. Interest ranges from their bush medicines to aboriginal art and to the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo.
Image #2 – anu.edu.au – Ned Kelly

Australians believe in mateship and a ‘fair go’ and have a strong affection for the underdog or ‘battler’.

Henry Lawson our famed Bush Poet once described Australia as;

‘the Great Lone Land of magnificent distances and bright heat; the land of Self-reliance, and Never-give-in, and Help-your-mate”

These values stem from convicts and early colonialists who struggled against a harsh and unfamiliar land and often unjust authority.  Australia’s most famous bushranger Ned Kelly protested against the poverty and injustice of a British class system shipped here along with the convicts. This flawed hero’s fight for ‘justice and liberty’ and ‘innocent people’ has been embraced as part of the national culture and inspired countless books and movies.
On the goldfields of the mid-1850s, diggers were portrayed in stories and songs as romantic heroes, larrikins and villains who embraced democracy. The bloody 1854 Eureka Stockade, where Victorian miners rose up against an authoritarian licensing system, came to symbolise a triumph of social equality. Later, during World War I, the courageous ANZAC soldiers who served in Gallipoli gave new meaning to the term ‘tough Aussie’.
It’s no secret that Australians are sports mad. With more than 120 national and thousands of local, regional and state sporting organisations, it’s estimated that six-and-a-half million people in Australia are registered sport participants. Not bad from a population of just over 21 million! The number one watched sport in Australia is Australian Rules Football (AFL) with its high kicks and balletic leaps, while the brute force and tackling tactics of National Rugby League (NRL) reign supreme in New South Wales and Queensland. Australia’s national Rugby Union team, the Wallabies play on the international circuit and in the Bledisloe Cup, part of a Tri Nations tournament with South Africa. Australia is a nation of swimmers and Olympic medals attest to our performance in the pool.
All summer we watch the Australian cricket team in their whites and in January, we flick channels to see the tennis Australian Open. Held in Melbourne, this attracts more people to Australia than any other sporting event. Football is a growth sport, we draw world-class surfers for the Bells Beach Surf Classic and on Boxing Day crowds gather to watch the boats sail out of Sydney Harbour for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. On the first Tuesday in November, the nation stops for the famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup while and in March rev heads converge in Melbourne for the Formula One Grand Prix. The list of sports we love goes on, and if in doubt about the rules just ask a passionate punter.
With more than 80 per cent of Australians living within 100 kilometres of the coast, the beach has become an integral part of our famous laid-back lifestyle. From Saturday morning surf-club training for young ‘nippers’ to a game of beach cricket after a barbeque, we love life on our sandy shores. We jostle for a spot on packed city beaches, relax at popular holiday spots and drive to secret, secluded beaches in coastal national parks. We go to the beach to enjoy the sun and surf or to sail, parasail, fish, snorkel, scuba dive and beach comb. It’s where we socialise and play sport, relax and enjoy romance. It’s also the site for celebration. On New Year’s Eve, revellers dance in the sand and watch fireworks at Manly and Bondi beaches in Sydney and Glenelg in Adelaide. Many beaches host citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day  and on Christmas Day up to 40,000 international visitors converge on Bondi Beach wearing Santa hats and swimming costumes. Australia’s most famous beaches – Bondi and Manly in Sydney, St Kilda in Melbourne, Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast, Cottesloe in Perth and Glenelg in Adelaide – attract locals as well as international tourists.
Since 1945 more than six million people from across the world have come to Australia to live. Today, more than 20 per cent of Australians are foreign born and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. In our homes we speak 226 languages – after English, the most popular are Italian, Greek, Cantonese and Arabic. Our rich cultural diversity is reflected in our food, which embraces most of the world’s cuisines and artfully fuses quite a few of them. You’ll find European flavours, the tantalising spices of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and bush tucker from our backyard on offer everywhere from street stalls to five star restaurants. Tuck into Thai takeaway, dine out on perfect Italian pasta, do tapas in our city’s Spanish strips and feast on dumplings in Chinatown. You can also embrace our melting pot of cultures in the many colourful festivals. See samba and capoeira at Bondi’s Brazilian South American festival, dance behind the dragon parade during Chinese New Year or stroll through streets transformed into a lively piazza during the annual Italian celebrations.  As a nation, we embrace a rainbow of religious belief and you’ll find Catholic and Anglican churches, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist temples, mosques and synagogues lining our streets.
Australia’s unique geography and relative isolation has made it a fertile ground for new ideas. In 1879, Australians developed a way for ice to be manufactured artificially, allowing us to export meat to Great Britain on refrigerated ships. In 1906, the surf lifesaving reel was designed so lifesavers could reach distressed swimmers with a rope attached to their vests. In 1929, Alfred Traeger built a pedal-powered radio as the communications for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Australians were also responsible for more everyday inventions such as notepads (1902), aspirin (1915), the pacemaker (1926), penicillin (1940) the Hills Hoist clothesline (1946), the plastic disposable syringe (1949), the wine cask (1965), the bionic ear (1978), dual-flush toilet flush (1980)anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes (1992) and long-wearing contact lenses (1999).
Listen to Australian country music station  HERE.
Long before European colonisation, the Aboriginal people were already leading the world. They invented the aerodynamic boomerang and a type of spear thrower called the woomera.
They were also the first society  to use ground edges on stone cutting tools and the first to use stone tools to grind seeds, everyday tools which were developed only much later by other societies.
From theatre to literature, Australians have a quiet love affair with the arts. We flock to the movies and our attendance at galleries and performing arts is almost double that for all football codes. Our cities play host to a huge array of cutting-edge cultural festivals, and offer music, theatre and dance performances and art exhibitions every day of the week. See traditional Aboriginal dance performance by the Bangarra Dance Theatre, throw yourself into the WOMADelaide international music festival in Adelaide and soak up theatre, ballet, opera and painting in Brisbane’s huge cultural centre on South Bank. In smaller towns you can catch performances by local musicians and see hand-made art and craft.
… and there you have it, Australia – my home. Thank’s for dropping by, but before you go … check out the YouTube song below ‘But you might accidentally get killed’ …

About the Author

Peter Baskerville was born in Australia and has lived the vast majority of his life in the country of his birth apart from a few years in Fiji and New Zealand pursuing business interests. Despite imbibing the inherent non-nationalistic attitude that naturally comes with being an Aussie, we just can’t help loving this place called Australia – its vast open spaces, its pristine beaches, its unspoiled outback landscapes, its melting pot of immigrants, its ancient heritage of the First Australians, its Anzac spirit, it mateship creed, it hard working, positive yet carefree attitude to life … yes, and even its perils, dangers and strife – we love it all. It is a long way to come, but I’m sure you will find it well worth the visit, even better, come join us … the people of the land ‘down-under’.

References and Image attribution

INFORMATION
Information source #1 – http://www.australia.com/about/AboutAustralia.aspx Learn all about Australia! Get interesting information about Australia and read up on our history, culture, movies, books and music.Information source #2 –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia
Information source #3 –https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/as.html
Information source #4 – http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/
Information source – http://www.dfat.gov.au/aib/island_continent.html – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
IMAGES
Image #2 –  http://www.uh.edu/engines/captainjamescook.jpg – Captain James Cook
Image #3- http://www.sydneyr.det.nsw.edu.au – Gold Rush
Image #4 – http://www.sydneyr.det.nsw.edu.au– The First Fleet
Image #5 – http://www.nla.gov.au/guides/federation/images/map.jpg – Australian Federation Maps
Image #6 – http://socialscience.tjc.edu/mkho/fulbright/1998/PatrickHotle/pic8.jpg – Australians at Gallipoli
Image #8 – http://www.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au – Immigrants Australia
Image #9 – http://www.nma.gov.au/ – Republic of Australia
Image #12 – http://www.anra.gov.au – Dingo Fence
Image #13 – http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect6/Australia-climate-map2.jpg – Australia Climate Map
Image #14 – http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect6/Australia-climate-map2.jpg – Great Barrier Reef
Image #15 – http://www.australians.com.au/cover.jpg – Australian People
Image #17 – http://www.ahajokes.com/cartoon/aussieman.jpg – Aussie Slang
Image #18 – http://www.peo.gov.au/images/library/0193.jpg – Parliament House Canberra
Image #20 – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons – Southern Cross Cable
Image #21 – http://www.rba.gov.au – Celebrate New Years in Sydney
Image #23 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:East_Asian_Community.PNG – East Asian Community
Image #24 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugley/1228537520/ – Sydney Opera House – CC.
Image #25 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mugley/1228537520/ – Melbourne by night – CC
Image #26 – http://upload.wikimedia.org – Dawn service ANZAC Cove – a right-of-passage
Image #27 – http://www.reconciliationsa.org.au – Aboriginal Australia Clans.
Image #28 – http://www.umass.edu/gso/tgsa/turkey/ataturk.htm – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Image #32 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_II – Australia 11
Image #33 – http://www.kingslangley.ps.education.nsw.gov.au – Sydney Olympics 2000 mascots
Image #36 – http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200910/r451603_2199641.jpg – Australia’s longest straight road
Image #37 – http://www.australiamovie.net/about/ – Australia the Movie
Image #38 – http://www.ga.gov.au/image_cache/GA11756.jpg – Mount Kosciuszko
Image #40 – http://www.dashboardwidgets.com/showcase – Beijing Olympics

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