How much do you know about Australia? This page will help you learn about these wonderful people who are often called Aussies. Australia is the smallest of the seven continents! Did you know that its population is 18 million people? And did you know that it is a continent and a country? Although it is surrounded by both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, much of the country is either desert or dry grassland.
Australia was originally inhabited by native people called Aborigines (ab-or-ridge-in-ees). In the 1600's the Europeans "discovered" Australia and explored the land. In 1770 Captain Cook "claimed" it as a British colony. The prisons in England were over crowded, so they decided to move prisoners to faraway Australia. When the Europeans began to populate Australia, many of the Aborigines were moved from their original homes and many of them died from diseases brought by the Europeans (much like what happened in America with the Native Americans).
There are many unique cuisines in Australia. One group is made up of the food that they grow. Here is some food that they grow on farms:
- And rice
These are just some of the crops grown in Australia. They are used to make many different dishes and products. For example, grapes are used to make the famous Australian wines.
Because Australia has a mixture of cultures, there is also a mixture of cuisine found there. Foods from many different countries are available there. You can find Asian dishes, curries from India, classic English dishes, BBQ, and even American fast food. Because of the early British influence, dishes like plum pudding and fish and chips are still popular in Australia.
There are also many unique foods that are very popular. A "Sausage Sizzle" is onions and sausage, covered in tomato sauce on white bread. Vegemite is also popular. It's a salty black spread made from yeast and vitamin B. It's usually served on bread. Even hamburgers can have an Australian twist. When you order a burger with everything on it in Australia, you’re likely to get lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, beetroot, grilled onion, bacon, fried egg and pineapple! Meat pies are made of meat folded into dough. In South Australia, you can buy a "Pie Floater" which is a meat pie served upside down on a bed of pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. Some sweet treats include a Boston Bun which is a spiced bun with coconut frosting, or a Pavlova which is a meringue dessert that's crispy on the outside and soft inside, usually topped with berries or other fruits.
There are four popular languages in Australia and they are English, Chinese, Italian, and Arabic. The official language though is English. Most Australian words were made by the British; the others were made by the Aborigines. The Australian English is different than British English. The British, who "discovered" Australia, needed to make new words for the new plants and animals. The other words that they used were from the Aborigines. Some of the words from the Aborigines are kangaroo and koala.
Today "G'day mate!" is still a popular greeting in Australia. The pioneers who were in Australia created a large vocabulary. Some of their words are:
- Farms were called "stations"
- The owners of the farms were called "squatters"
- A group or herd of animals were called a "mob"
- A wild horse would be called a "brumbie"
- The inside of Australia is called the "outback"
These are just some of the words that the pioneers added to the common language.
For about the last 50 years Australian culture has been strongly influenced by American and Asian culture. Two examples of what these cultures brought to Australia include television and cinema.
Australia also has unique literature, cinema, opera, music, painting, theater, dance, and crafts. They have achieved world wide recognition in these areas.
One famous star from Australia was the famous Steve Irwin. Better known as the "Crocodile Hunter." His love and respect for animals made him a star. Saving animal after animal he became more and more famous. Since his recent accidental death after being stung by a manta ray, his daughter Bindi has decided to carry on his work through a new TV show. The country has given us some additional stars such as:
- Nicole Kidman (in a movie called The Golden Compass)
- Russell Crow (in the movie Gladiator)
- The late Heath Ledger (in the movie Brokeback Mountain)
Did you ever see movies like Crocodile Dundee and Kangaroo Jack? Those were movies about Australia.
When people picture Australia, one of the most famous places that people picture is the Sydney Opera House.
Australian Christmas is in the middle of summer. Their summer goes from December to February. Their fall goes through March to May. Winter goes from June to August. Spring goes from September to November.
Because Australia is such a big country you can be skiing down the mountain at the same time someone else is swimming in the ocean. At the same time, another person can be huddled under a raincoat during the wet season in another part of the country.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent. Water is a very precious resource to Australians because of droughts, which can last for a long period of time. When this happens, there is not enough water for people to use for farming practices, and it can threaten the life cycle of plants and animals. It can also increase the chance of bush fires. These fires have resulted in the loss of many lives and millions of dollars in property damage.
In Australia's tropical regions, the wet season lasts about six months in the summer and spring. Australians created a full-length waterproof bailing and riding coat in 1898. The coats were created to protect sailors on sailing ships and then made longer for horse riders. They made wrist straps to prevent their arms from getting cold, and they also stopped the water from getting in. The fan tail in the back of the coat was made to cover the saddle of the horse. The coats were originally made from the light weight sails of the ship. They waterproofed the clothing by applying linseed oil to the cotton. Word spread from all the sailors to people working on the land. The coats kept them "dry as a bone." A company called Driza-Bone was established in 1898. They remained Australian owned and continued to manufacture genuine Australian made products. In 1933, they registered the trademark name of Driza-Bone. Driza-Bone riding coats were worn at the opening ceremony of the 2000 summer Olympics in Sidney by the stockmen and stock woman. And finally, these famous coats have recently made an appearance at the 2007 APEC Summit were the 21 attendees posed in front of the Sidney Opera House. It looks like this famous piece of Australian clothing is here to stay!