Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere
(that is the bottom half of the world).
This is why it is sometimes called the Land Down Under.
Australia is the smallest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent in the
world. It is the only country which is also a whole continent. 18.6 million
people live here.
The people of Australia are called Australians. Australians call different
parts of their country by different names:
• The City
Is any large city and its suburbs. Over 85% of the people live in
cities. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra are major
• The Country
Is the area immediately outside the city and usually includes the
surrounding smaller towns and farms. Most of what is called "the
country" is a stretch of land about 200 kilometres deep around the
eastern and southern seaboards of Australia. Upper Beaconsfield, the
Great Ocean Road , the Dandenongs, etc are in "the country".
• The Outback
Is the sparsely populated arid interior of Australia. The Australian
Outback is both harsh and breathtakingly beautiful. It's like no other
place on earth. Coober Pedy, Uluru, etc are in the Outback.
There are 6 states and 2 territories in Australia:
. New South Wales
. South Australia
. Western Australia
. Northern Territory
. Australian Capital Territory
The capital of Australia is Canberra .
Australia has lots of unusual Animals.
Australia has the largest coral reef in the world called the Great Barrier
Reef. It is stunning!.
Australians speak English. But we also have our own special words and
phrases referred to as Strine.
Australia's favourite song is Waltzing Matilda
Aborigines - The First Australians
The word Aborigine is derived from Latin and means "from the beginning".
This is the name given to the native Australians by the Europeans.
This is not the name they called themselves.
They prefer to call themselves: Koori.
The first human inhabitants of Australia were the Aborigines.
They are a dark-skinned people belonging to the Australoid group who
probably came from Asia. Nobody is quite sure how they came to Australia
around 60,000 years ago. They may have walked and sailed here from Asia.
The Aborigines were nomadic hunter-gathers. They roamed from place to
place. They hunted animals using spears and boomerangs. They also gathered
fruits, nuts and yams which they ate.
There were around 300,000 aborigines in about 250 tribal groups before the
first white settlers came. Each group had its own territory, traditions,
beliefs and language.
They all believed in the Dreamtime which is the center piece of aboriginal
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SETTLERS
The aborigine people had never seen white people until Captain James Cook
landed in Botany Bay in 1770. They were shocked to see these white people
in their strange clothes.
When the aborigines first saw the ships of the "First Fleet" enter Botany
Bay in 1778 with so many white skinned people they thought they were the
spirits of their dead ancestors (after all they were so white). In actual
fact these were the first European settlers led by Captain Arthur Phillip.
At first the Aborigines were friendly towards the visitors but were very
confused at the way white foreigners behaved:
. Why did the foreigners walk on aborigine sacred sites and dig up
. Why did they boss each other around and beat and hang people?
. Why did they chop down trees and take food without asking?
. Why were they mean and selfish towards each other and not sharing?
THE FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING
While exploring around the new settlement Captain Arthur Phillip befriended
an old aborigine man. When he returned to camp he met the old man again and
gave him some beads and a hatchet. Later that night Captain Phillip
discovered the old man taking one of his shovels and slapped the man on his
shoulder and pushed him away while pointing to the spade. The old man was
very upset and could not understand why his friend was acting this way.
Aborigines share what they have with their friends.
Captain Phillip was very careful not to offend the aborigines but Aborigine
and the Settlers cultures were so different! They didn't understand each
When the aborigines realised that the white men were not the spirits of
their dead ancestors and that the settlers were taking more and more of
their land and destroying the trees and wild life they began to fight back.
The aborigines killed a number of the settlers and even wounded Captain
Phillip in an attack. The settlers reacted by slaughtering and poisoning
the aborigines and systematically destroying the land and wild animals they
White settlers brought diseases the aborigines had never had before
(diseases which were quite common in Europe at the time).
Aborigines caught smallpox and even the common cold and died in great
numbers. Within two years smallpox had killed almost half the aborigine
population around Sydney.
The British colonists declared that before their arrival all of the
continent was terra nullius (uninhabited by humans). They used this as
justification for taking whatever they wanted.
As more and more white settlers moved in and occupied the fertile lands the
aborigines were pushed further and further away from their traditional
lands and into the harsh arid interior. Their families were broken up,
their children taken away from them and sent to be "civilised", their
sacred sites destroyed and their wild animals hunted.
The killing and exploitation of aborigines by whites continued well into
the twentieth century. The aboriginal population declined from the original
300,000 when the first white settlers arrived to only about 60,000 people
(less than the number of people that can be seated at the MCG stadium!).
Aborigines were second class citizens in their own land. They only got the
right to vote in 1967.
This is a shameful part of Australian history.
Much progress has been made over recent years to try to right the wrongs of
the past. Where possible the government has been returning land to their
traditional owners and encouraging Aborigines to rebuild their culture and
They are the single most disadvantaged group of people in Australia.
There is still a long way to go!
ANIMALS - AUSTRALIA
Up to about 250 millions of years ago the world had just one huge super-
continent call Pangaea. Animals and plants were able to move and intermix
with one another.
About 200 million years ago this super-continent broke up into two
continents (Laurasia and Gondwana).
About 60 million years ago Gondwana broke up into what was to later become
South America, Africa, Antarctica, India and Australia.
Since then Australia has been isolated from the rest of the world by vast
oceans. The animals and plants which were originally here no longer had
contact with animals from other parts of the world. They evolved
separately. That is why they are so different.
NATIVE AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS
Australia has lots very unusual animals. About 95 percent of the mammals,
70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles and 94 percent of the
frogs are found nowhere else in the world.
Find out about them here:
. Long-Nosed Bandicoot
. Black Snake (Red-bellied)
. Crocodile (Saltwater)
. Frilled Lizard
. Penguin (Fairy)
o Feathertail Glider
o Sugar Glider
. Tawny Frogmouth
WHO DISCOVERED AUSTRALIA
In about 200AD a famous Greek astronomer named Claudius Ptolemy believed
that the earth had to be balanced or it would topple over. So he figured
that there had be a land yet unknown to Europeans somewhere below the
Indian Ocean. Over time this yet to be discovered land came to be known as
|Terra Australis Incognito | [pic] |
|which means the | |
|Unknown Southern Land. | |
For many centuries people in Europe were certain that there was a land down
under (this map from 1570 shows what they thought) but nobody knew how to
get to it . They kept missing it or not realising that they had stumbled
upon it. For over 200 years hundreds of European navigators set across the
seas searching for the Unknown
They expected to find gold and other treasures.
Aborigines were the first people to discover Australia. They may have
walked or sailed here from Asia over 60,000 years age. They arrived at a
time when the northern parts of Australia had a hot humid tropical climate
much like that of Asia today.
Portuguese sailors may have sailed along the coastline of Australia as far
back as 1542. Some maps have been found which show parts of what appears to
be the Australian coastline. But there is no definite proof that they did.
In 1616 a Dutch trading ship, the Eendracht, on its way to the Indies (now
called Indonesia) bumped into west coast of of Australia. Captain Dirk
Hartog landed at Shark Bay, looked around a bit but didn't find anything
interesting. He nailed a pewter dish to a tree to record his visit. He did
not realize that he had found Australia. His is the first recorded European
landing in Australia.
Dutch sailors continued see the coastline on their trips and called this
land New Holland but didn't bother to visit it
In 1642 a Dutchman named Abel Tasman sighted an island he called Van
Diemen's Land. He did not realise that this island was a part of Australia.
He also went on to explore New Zealand.
This island was later renamed Tasmania in honour of Abel Tasman
In 1770 an expedition from England lead by Captain James Cook sailed to the
south pacific. They were supposed to make astronomical observations. But
Captain Cook also had secret orders from the British Admiralty to find the
They sailed in the Endeavour. It had a crew of 94 men.
They landed in a bay on the east coast on the 29th of April 1770. Cook
first called this place Stingray Bay, then he changed it to Botanist Bay
and finally called it Botany Bay because of all the strange and unusual
He called this new land New Wales and then changed it to New South Wales.
He claimed the land for England (even though the land already belonged to
Captain Cook was also the first European to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Actually he ran into it and damaged his ship pretty badly. He had to spend
seven weeks repairing his ship.
Canberra is a city of about 310,000 people located in the Australian
Capital Territory (ACT) approximately 200 kilometres from Sydney. Most of
the people in Canberra are employed by the federal government.
Canberra is a very young city. The plans for the city were only drawn up in
1911 and construction didn't commence until 1913.
The grand design for the city was drawn up by a relatively obscure american
architect named Walter Burley Griffin. The lake which is a central focus of
the city today is named after him.
With its imposing buildings, broad boulevards and uncluttered streetscape
(there are no billboards, in Canberra) it lacks the charm and vibrancy of
more cosmopolitan cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
FEDERAL PARLIAMENT HOUSE
The Federal Parliament House is built on top of Capital Hill. It was
completed in 1988 and replaces the old parliament house which is located
further down the hill. The building was designed to merge into the profile
of the hill itself.A stainless steel flag mast 81 metres tall surmounts the
building from which flutters the Australian flag (the flag is as big as a
double decker bus).
It cost over 800 million dollars to build and is considered to be one of
the most attractive parliament buildings anywhere in the world.
The Members Hall is at the very centre of the Parliament complex between
the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. It has a large skylight
canopy through which can be seen the stainless steel flag mast and the
The House of Representatives Chamber can seat up to 240 Members of
Currently there are approximately 148 members. They are popularly elected
for three year terms. The numbers of members representing each state is
proportional to their populations but there must be must be at least five
members from each state.
The Senate Chamber can seat 120 Senators.
Currently there are 76 senators. They are popularly elected for 6 year
terms. There are 12 senators from each state and two each from each
HISTORY OF CANBERRA
Aborigines lived around what is now Canberra for thousands of years.
1820 The first Europeans to visit the Limestones plains where current day
Canberra is located were Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Charles Throsby.
1824 Joshua John Moore took up the first land grant on the Limestone
Plains. He called his property "Canberry" after the name the local
aborigines called the place. His property was where the the Australian
National University and Lake Burley Griffin is today.
1825 Robert Campbell started a grazing station on the Limestone Plains. He
named his property "Duntroon" after the family castle in Scotland. He built
a house called Duntroon House which was added on to by his son and
descendants. It is part of the Royal Military College today.
Many other people also farmed and grazed the land around the Limestone
1901 On January 1 Queen Victoria signed the Constitution Act making
Australia an independent country. Both Sydney and Melbourne wanted the
national capital to be in their cities. So to prevent too much rivalry a
search was begun to find a new site for the federal capital.
1908 The Canberra area was selected as the future site for the capital of
1911 An international competition was launched to find the best plan for
the new city. The design by an American landscape architect named Walter
Burley Griffin won the competition.
1927 The temporary federal parliament building was completed and federal
parliament moved from Melbourne to its new home in Canberra.
1978 It was decided that a new parliament building was needed to replace
the temporary building which had been used for over fifty years.
1988 The new Parliament House was opened by Queen Elizabeth 2.
The name Coober Pedy is derived from the Aboriginal words "kupa piti",
which means "white man's burrow".
The description is apt because most people live and work underground.
Coober Pedy is located 836 kilometres (510 miles) north of Adelaide and
about 300 kilometres south of Uluru.
It is a desolate landscape devoid of vegetation and water. It is an
extremely hot place too. The entire landscape is pockmarked by the telltale
tailing of countless opal mines.
In 1915 a young boy named Willie Hutchison, who was out with his father
prospecting for gold, discovered the first opal there. Since then the town
has grown to about 2500 people.
Coober Pedy produces about 90% of the world's opals.
Because of the extreme heat during the summer almost all buildings are
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the east coast of Queensland in
Australia. It is the world's largest coral reef . It is over 2000km (1250
miles) long! It is not a single reef at all. It is made up of over 2900
individual reefs very close to each other
WHAT IS A CORAL REEF?
A coral is a tiny marine polyp. It is the living part of the coral reef.
There are many different kinds of corals. These are what gives the coral
reef its colourful appearance. Corals feed mostly on plankton. Coral grows
in warm climates where there is clear salt water and sunlight. They don't
A coral reef is a natural barrier made of the bodies of living and dead
coral. It is normally just below the surface of the water.
It is made of two parts the:
. white part is made from the bodies of zillions and zillions of polyps
which have died over hundreds and thousands of years.
. colourful part is the living part of the coral reef. It is made up of
WHO LIVES HERE?
• 1500 species of fish
• 400 different types of coral
• 4,00 molluscs (like clams and the sea slug)
• 500 species of seaweed
• 215 species of birds
• 16 species of sea snake
• 6 species of sea turtle
• Whales visit during winter
New South Wales
New South Wales is the fourth largest state in Australia. It is 801,600 sq
km in size.
About 6 million people live in New South Wales. One in three Australians
lives in New South Wales.
Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales. It is Australia's
oldest and largest city. The defining symbols of Sydney are its Opera House
and "coat hanger bridge".
Sydney is the commercial capital of Australia.
About 3.8 million people live in the greater Sydney area.
Bondi and Manly are some of the famous beaches along the New South Wales
coast a short distance from Sydney
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
The Blue Mountains rise from the coastal plains about 65 kilometres west of
Sydney. They are composed of sandstone deposited over 170 million years ago
that was then pushed up to form a plateau which was subsequently eroded by
wind, rain and water leaving spectacular gorges, pinnacles and cliffs. The
highest point is about 1100 meters above sea level.
The towering cliffs of these mountains presented a seemly impassable
barrier to early european settlers. Even today most parts are only
accessible to experienced bushwalkers.
WHY ARE THEY SO BLUE?
The Blue Mountains are covered with eucalyptus trees which constantly
release very fine droplets of oil into the atmosphere. These droplets cause
the blue light-rays from the sun to be scattered more effectively (knows as
Rayliegh Scattering) making the whole area look bluer.
Strine - Australian Slang
Australian Strine consists of words and phrases which:
• have different meanings from other English (like American English
or British English),
• we have made up ourselves or
• we have borrowed from Aborigine words or from slang used by early
The Dandenong Ranges are located approximately 40 kilometers from
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The Healesville Sanctuary is a place where you can see Australian native
animals in natural bushland surroundings. The sanctuary also carries out
research and breeding programs for many endangered animals.
There is a real cool Koala enclosure, platypus tank and snake pit too.
Here is the official web site for the Healesville Sanctuary
The Exhibits page is very good.
PUFFING BILLY RAILWAY
It is great fun riding the Puffing Billy Railway as it weaves its way up
the mountains. We even get to sit on the windowsills and dangle our legs
out the windows. If you look closely you can see some people doing just
that. Because its a stream train you get coal dust in your eyes and on your
When the weather is really dry and there is a danger of bushfires the
Puffing Billy 's steam engine isn't used. That's because a spark from its
steam engine could start a bushfire. They use a diesel engine instead.
Here is the official web site for the Puffing Billy Railway .
Every year thousands of visitors come to see the tulips at the Tesselaar
Tulip farm in Silvan.
There are many other gardens in the Dandenongs too.
Upper Beaconsfield is located 53 kms (33 miles) south-east of Melbourne in
the Dandenong Ranges on the southern foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
Upper Beaconsfield retains much of its rural heritage and atmosphere with
tree lined streets, varied eucalyptus forests, wet-lands, fern gullies and
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
The Great Ocean Road starts at Torquay (about 100kms from Melbourne) and
winds its way for 180 kms along the south-western coast of Victoria ,
It is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. It winds its
ways around ragged cliffs, windswept beaches, and tall buffs and passes
through lush mountain rainforest and towering eucalyptus.
The Great Ocean Road was started in 1918 and completed during the Great
Depression as a public works project to give returned soldiers and
unemployed people work.
Some of the sights along the way are:
. Bells Beach - a great place to go surfing and where the Bells Surfing
Classic is held each Easter.
. Shipwreck Coast - where the wrecks of over 80 ships lie on the ocean
floor. Many ships carrying immigrants to the gold fields of Victoria
floundered in the treacherous seas.
. Lorne - a popular sea side resort in Apollo Bay.
. Port Campbell National Park - One of the most photographed sections of
the road where shear golden limestone cliffs and rock formations
withstand the buffeting of fierce seas.
o Twelve Apostles -
(there are only 10 left!)
o London Bridge
(This is what it looked like before one of its spans collapsed)
o Loch Ard Gorge - where in 1878 the clipper Loch Ard was driven
into rocks during a storm with the loss of 52 lives.
. Otway National Park
. Port Fairy - a well preserved fishing village which was settled by
sealers and whalers back in the 1820s.
THE LOCH ARD DISASTER
The 18 passengers and 36 crew on the iron-hulled clipper Loch Ard had a
party on the night of March 31, 1878, to celebrate their arrival in
Melbourne the next day after a three month voyage from England. But Captain
Gibb stayed on deck all night, worried by the thick mist that obscured the
horizon and Cape Otway light. At 4am the mist lifted and the lookout cried:
"Breakers ahead." Despite desperate attempts to turn the ship away -- and
then to hold it with its anchors -- it struck rocks. water flooded in, the
masts flailed against the high cliff face before crashing down and waves
swept across the decks, hampering attempts to get the lifeboats into the
water. Only two survived -- ship's apprentice Tom Pearce and Eva
Carmichael, both aged 18. Eva's parents and five siblings were lost. Tom
drifted into the gorge where he saw passenger Eva clinging to a mast -- he
swam out, pulled her into a cave and found some brandy in the wreckage to
revive her. He climbed out of the gorge and came upon two stockmen, and a
rescue party was organised. But only four bodies -- including Eva's mother
and sister, were able to be recovered from the treacherous seas and most of
the ship's valuable cargo was lost or looted. Tom Pearce became a national
hero for his rescue of Eva, who soon returned to Ireland.
A few days after the disaster a packing case washed up in the gorge. It
contained a life-sized Minton pottery peacock destined for the Melbourne
Great Exhibition of 1880
The Outback is the arid sparsely populated interior of Australia.
It makes up almost 85% of Australian landmass. Very few humans live out
It is also sometimes called "Beyond the Black Stump".
The Australian Outback is both harsh and breathtakingly beautiful. It's
like nothing else anywhere else in the world.
A ROAD TO NEVER-NEVER
In the outback you can travel for days without meeting anyone. This is why
it is sometimes called the Never-Never: the never ending landscape; the
never ending horizon.
The land is unforgiving to the careless and foolhardy. You can die of
dehydration within hours if you are not careful.
Yes people actually do live in the outback.
Cattle and sheep are grazed on huge tracts of land called Stations (what
might be called a ranch in the USA). There are Stations in the outback that
occupy more land than some countries. Helicopters and small planes are
usually used to round up stock (the sheep and cattle) and to check fences
(dingo and rabbit fences).
A person who rounds up stock is called a Stockman.
A person who works at a Station is called a Stationhand.
The owner is called a Station-Manager
The vast distances have forced people to adapt to their isolation (some
people being more than a day's drive from their nearest neighbor). A two-
way radio and an airstrip are vital to any outback station.
Because of the great distances some children in the outback cannot attend
regular school. They learn from the School of the Air which is a special
school where the teacher and student interact via a two-way radio.
Here is a fascinating school in the outback run by the Mupuru aboriginal
community . Its really worth a visit: The Mapuru Homeland Leaning Centre
The Royal Flying Doctor Service operates a fleet of airplanes outfitted as
flying ambulances and clinics. They visit these remote locations to provide
medical services. They also provides advice over the two-way radio.
Uluru: Is a huge rock (called a monolith) that sticks out in the middle of
the flat desert. From a distance it looks like an impregnable fortress
built eons ago by some mythical warlord.
Uluru is over nine kilometres (6 miles) around and over 348 metres (1000ft)
high. It is believed to be about 600 million years old and was once part of
a huge mountain range. The mountain range has long since disappeared -
eroded away by rain and wind.
With each passing hour as the sun moves across the sky the rock changes
colour - changing from delicate mauve, blues, pinks, browns to fiery red.
It is a sacred place to the Pitjanjara Aboriginal tribe.
Devils Marbles: These massive boulders are scattered along the Stuart
Highway near Alice Springs. They glow red in the sunset. Aborigines believe
they were left by the Rainbow Serpent of the Dreamtime.
Wave Rock: Is a huge granite rock that looks like a huge wave that has been
frozen in time and turned into stone. It has been made this way by the wind
and rain water running down its sides.
Katherine Gorge: Is one of 13 gorges in Nitmiluk National Park. They began
forming about 23 million years ago as torrents of water flowing through
tiny cracks in the earth slowly eroded away the earth and rock creating
these huge gorges.
It is rich in Aboriginal art, with rock paintings representing the
spiritual 'dreaming' of the Jawoyn people, the traditional owners of the
Apart from boat rides through the Gorge, with its sheer towering walls,
there are also over 100 kilometres of walking tracks and numerous
aboriginal rock paintings to visit
The Olgas: Are enormous domes of red rock located about 32 kms from Uluru.
You can walk into valleys and gorges between the 36 rock domes and feel the
eerie mystery around you. The Aborigines call it 'Kata Tjuta'. It has great
spiritual significance to them.
The Peoples of Australia