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Dummies' Bullet Points to Australia

I find myself answering a lot of basic questions about Australia in emails, so I thought I'd do a quick "Dummies' Bullet Points To Australia" (primarily because I didn't want to write a full guide).


  • Australia is roughly the same size as the continental USA and Europe. I have superimposed the US over Australia so that you can get a rough picture of the size of Australia.
  • There are a little over 20 million people living in Australia (as compared to 305 million in the US). Sydney is the largest city with 4.5 million people and Melbourne is the second largest with 3.8 million people (This means that half of the population lives in one corner of the country).
  • The most common greeting is "How you going?" (but really sounds more like "Ha ya go'n"). You'll hear people say G'Day over the phone more often than in person.
  • The Aboriginal peoples are thought to have been in Australia for 50,000 years. The first European sighting of Australia was in 1606, but no notice was given to Australia until 1770 when James Cook named the Sydney region as New South Wales and claimed the area for Britain.
  • Australia was first used as a penal colony by the British. At the end of the 18th century, poverty, social injustice, child labour, harsh and dirty living conditions, and long working hours were prevalent in Britain (think of Dickens novels). In attempt to alleviate the crowded prisons and purge some of the lower class individuals, Britain setup a penal colony in Australia in 1788. It was used as a penal colony until 1848.
  • In 1850 a gold rush went through Australia. This caused a spike in immigration as people flooded to Australia to find their riches. This led to the "White Australia Policy," which was a series of laws that prevented non-European immigrants from entering the country (primarily keeping out the Chinese & SE Asians). Australia wasn't the only British colony to have race-based immigration policies as Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand enforced similar policies around the same time. After WWII, Australia began relaxing its immigration policies and finally in 1973 made a law that an immigrant could not be discriminated against due to race.
  • Australians and Aborigines have a rocky relationship (from what I can tell). Australians do not like to talk about Aborigines, but when something is said it is typically negative. Aborigines are viewed as individuals who drink a lot, take advantage of the welfare system, and fail to integrate into mainstream Australian society. The new movie Australia potrays some of this racism. In fact, between 1869 and 1969 it was practice to "steal" Aboriginal children from their parents in an effort to remove some of the Aboriginal influence from the children. This is referred to as the "Stolen Generations." Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a formal apology on February 13, 2008.
  • On January 1, 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation, and voting. The Commonwealth of Australia was born as a dominion of the British Empire.
  • For obvious reasons, Australia has been an ally of Great Britain and has a strong British influence. However, after the British defeat in Asia during WWII, Australian turned to the US for military support and has been a formal military ally of the US since 1951 and the ANZUS Treaty (The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty).
  • 21% of the world's gambling machines are in Australia (astounding when you think that Australia only has 0.003% of the world's population). Australians love to gamble. There is a dog track, casino, and horse track within walking distance of my house.
  • Since 1896, the beginning of the modern Olympics, only Greece and Australia have participated in every one. Australians typically have one of the higest medal counts per capita in each Olympics. To give you an idea how athletic Australians are, there are currently 5 Australians playing professional baseball and baseball is not even played there!
  • People drive on the left side of the street. People also walk on the left side of the sidewalk, your escalator is always on the left side, and you must look right first before crossing the road.
  • There is no penny in Australia. All purchases are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.
  • There is no tipping in Australia. No tipping bartenders, hair dressers, waiters, or cab drivers.
  • The largest land carnivore is the Dingo, a medium sized dog. However, Australia has the deadliest animals in the world. 9 out the 10 deadliest snakes, the most deadly octopus, jelly fish (which can kill you in 3 minutes), spiders, and ants (the bulldog ants can grow up to 4 cm and account for at least 3 deaths every year). Of course there is also the Great White Shark and Saltwater Crocodile.
  • 70% of the world's wool comes from Australia. Australia has over 126,000,000 sheep, which use fully half the continent for grazing.
  • Beer comes in three sizes. Middie (7.6 oz), Schooner (14.4 oz), and Pints (17.3 oz). The most common (and default most places) is the Schooner or "schoony." Middies are more common than Pints (in fact, some places think you are joking when you order a pint and think you really want a Middie).
  • The most popular sports in Australia are Aussie Rules Football ("footy"), Rugby, and Cricket.
  • Australians write dates as day/month/year and day month, year. 12/11/2008 does not mean December 11, 2008 like it does in America, rather it is 12 November, 2008. I am still having difficulty getting used to this.
  • As you may have noticed with "schoony" and "footy", Australian are keen on shortening words and adding a "y" or "o" to the end. Sunglasses are "sunnies", chocolate is "chockie", a cooler is "esky", thank-you is "ta", and afternoon is "arvo".
  • It is common to see BYO on restaurant signs. This means that you can bring your own alcohol with you to drink while eating your dinner.
  • Australia is the largest exporter of beef, veal, and wood chips. This is actually a sore point with many environmentalists as forests are cleared for grazing land and century old trees are ground into wood chips.
  • Kangaroos can't jump backwards.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 21:04 Archived in Australia

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Oh, and Kangaroos can't jump backwards. Love it.

by flints

I know there is a future in travelogues for you. Make sure you listen to some of the folk songs of Australia which often tell of the trajic feeling of being sent to "Bonnie Bay" ( I think, the Sydney harbor!)or the hazards of sheepherding or "Dancing with Matilda"(a cloth sleeping doll, life size, sometimes sent with the prisoner condemmed to Australia as company by his wife or other) or carrying the "billiebong( I think!)which is a sort of knapsack for journeys into the interior. In any event, we enjoy the notes and are glad you are enjoying this adventure. I bet you will wish you might stay a bit longer!

by Rausd

Let me help out Rausd, the bay is called botany bay, it's Waltzing Matilda, and a billabong is a small pond.
Glad you like cricket, ask your mates to explain the term "wicket" it can mean so many things, you may be a little confused and yet so fascinated.

by girds

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