Australia

history

 

Australia was uninhabited until stone-culture peoples arrived, perhaps by boat across the waters separating the island from the Indonesia archipelago more than 40,000 years ago. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English explorers observed the island before 1770, when Captain Cook explored the east coast and claimed it for Great Britain (three American colonists were crew members aboard Cook’s ship, the Endeavour).

On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day), the First Fleet under Capt. Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney, and formal proclamation of the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales followed on February 7. Many but by no means all of the first settlers were convicts, condemned for offenses that today would often be thought trivial. The mid-19th century saw the beginning of government policies to emancipate convicts and assist the immigration of free persons. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to increased population, wealth, and trade.

The six colonies that now constitute the states of the Australian Commonwealth were established in the following order: New South Wales, 1788; Tasmania, 1825; Western Australia, 1830; South Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and Queensland, 1859. Settlement had preceded these dates in most cases. Discussions between Australian and British representatives led to adoption by the British Government of an act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900.

The first federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901 by the Duke of York (later King George V). In May 1927, the seat of government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city designed by an American, Walter Burley Griffin. The first session of Parliament in that city was opened by another Duke of York (later King George VI). Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942, which officially established Australia’s complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs. Its passage formalized a situation that had existed for years. The Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last vestiges of British legal authority.

Climate and Weather

Australia is a large, comparatively dry, and sparsely inhabited continent, almost as large as the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Australia, the only continent that consists of a single nation, is also the only inhabited continent which is isolated from all others (total coastline exceeds 22,000 miles). Average elevation is about 985 feet, which makes it the flattest continent on earth. This is among the prime reasons for sparse annual rainfall–16.5 inches, which is less than two-thirds the world average (26 inches). Further, the rain falls mainly on coastal regions: forty percent of the surface gets less than 10 inches per year, and annual evaporation exceeds annual rainfall on about three quarters of the land. Overall runoff is less than half that of the Mississippi basin; Australia has no navigable rivers of any commercial significance.

 

In general, the country is warmer than the U.S. (the northern one-third is in the Tropics, the rest in the Temperate Zone). Temperature extremes are much less pronounced. Sydney’s average daytime temperature in the coldest month (July) is 59°F; in the warmest month (January), 81°F.

 

Australia Flag

When Australia became an independent nation in 1901 it needed a flag to identify itself to the world. A competition to design a national flag was won by five strikingly similar designs. Apart from a minor change in 1908, the flag has remained unchanged since then. The flag first flew from the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 3 September 1901. This date has been set aside as Australian National Flag Day. The flag has accompanied Australians to the ends of the earth – it has been with them to war and on missions of peace; it is often seen on sporting fields of the world and on the roof of the world, and currently flies in Antarctica and in East Timor.
Flag Date of Adoption

20 February 1903 – Flag approval announced by King Edward VII

Australia Flag Description

is blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth Star, representing 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 remaining half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars The Australian Flag comprises three distinct parts: the Southern Cross, the Commonwealth Star and the Union Jack. The background of the flag is blue. On the right-hand side are the five white stars that make up the Southern Cross constellation as seen in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere. Four of the stars have seven points, and one has five. The large white star in the bottom left-hand corner has seven points, one for each of the six states and one for the territories. This symbolic star is called the Commonwealth Star. In the upper left-hand corner is the Union Jack, Great Britain’s flag. Australia has kept the Union Jack in its flag as a reminder of where many of the early settlers came from and because Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth.

Flag

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Flag Date of Adoption

20 February 1903 – Flag approval announced by King Edward VII

Flag History

When Australia became an independent nation in 1901 it needed a flag to identify itself to the world. A competition to design a national flag was won by five strikingly similar designs. Apart from a minor change in 1908, the flag has remained unchanged since then. The flag first flew from the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 3 September 1901. This date has been set aside as Australian National Flag Day. The flag has accompanied Australians to the ends of the earth – it has been with them to war and on missions of peace; it is often seen on sporting fields of the world and on the roof of the world, and currently flies in Antarctica and in East Timor.

 

Australia Interesting Facts

  • Aborigines were the inventors of the boomerang. There are two kinds. The hunting boomerang is two feet long, with a slight curve at one end and sharp edge on the other. The other is used in competitions. It is lighter in weight, with a more noticeable curve, and returns when thrown. Both are made of wood and decorated with carvings or painted designs.
  • According to the Aborigines, the world was originally flat, featureless and grey. Then huge creatures awoke and wandered the earth. As they hunted for food and dug for water, they created mountains, valleys and rivers. This period is known as the Dreamtime. Aboriginal life began in the Dreamtime. Once creation was complete, the creatures disappeared.
  • An American architect, Walter Burley Griffin, won an international competition to design the city of Canberra.
  • Australia is a federation of six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) and two territories (the Northern Territory and the Capital Territory, where Canberra is located).
  • Australia pioneered the use of bank notes made of plastic (polymers). They last four times as long as regular paper notes and provide greater security against counterfeiting. Australia now exports plastic bills to other countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.
  • Because Australians spend most of their spare time on the beach or participating in outdoor activities, they have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. It is common to see surfers and lifeguards wearing a thick coating of white zinc on their lips and noses to protect them from the sun.
  • Because strong currents along the coast make swimming dangerous, specially trained lifesavers patrol Australia’s beaches. Lifesaving clubs, first formed in Sydney, are staffed with volunteers. They hold competitions to test the speed and skill of lifesaving teams.
  • Each August, an unusual race is held in the Outback near Alice Springs. It is called the Henley-on-Todd boat race. Because water is rarely found in the Todd River, racers must carry their boats along the dry riverbed.
  • In 1977 three million Australians voted in a referendum for Advance Australia Fair to become our national anthem (the choice of 43 per cent of voters) and that it was officially proclaimed in 1984
  • One of Australia’s greatest gifts to the world of music is the renowned operatic soprano, Joan Sutherland.
  • One School of the Air in the Northern Territory serves an area of more than a million square kilometers. It calls itself the world’s largest classroom.
  • The Aborigines consider a certain type of insect larva, known as a “ witchetty grub,” a delicacy. Found at the roots of the acacia plant, this grub is white and the size of a baby carrot.
  • The Australian accent is known as “ Strine.” This word is thought to be the word “ Australian ” spoken through closed teeth. Some scholars say this pronunciation came about because of the need to keep one’s trap (mouth) shut against blowies (blow flies).
  • The colorful coral of the Great Barrier Reef is made from a liquid emitted by trillions of tiny sea creatures called coral polyps. This liquid eventually hardens and becomes shell-like. There have been campaigns to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, since its popularity as a tourist sight has led to its deterioration.
  • The name of Canberra, Australia’s capital, comes from the Aboriginal word for meeting place. It is located between Sydney and Melbourne.
  • The Trans-Australian railway line, the second longest in the world, was built between 1912 and 1917 to join Western and Southern Australia. The surveyors who mapped out the route used camels to travel across the harsh desert terrain of Southern Australia, including the Nullarbor Plain (nullarbor means “no trees” in Latin).
  • Ayers Rock rises from the desert in the middle of Australia. It is far from any large city.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is the longest coral reef in the world. It lies beneath the shallow ocean waters of Australia’s east coast.
  • The roof of the Sydney Opera House is designed to appear like the sails of a ship.
  • When a child loses a tooth they put their tooth under their pillow and wait for the Tooth Fairy to take their tooth and bring them money.
  • When an Aboriginal child loses a tooth their family helps them put their tooth inside the shoot of a pandanus seedling so that when the pandanus grows into a tree, their tooth will grow too. There are spirits in the pandanus leaves that will look after them while their tooth is growing.

Many Australian Birthday parties are barbeques as the weather most of the time is not very cold or long in the winter. In Australia the children eat a dish called “Fairy Bread.” This is a popular snack and is buttered bread covered with tiny, sprinkles known as “hundreds and thousands.” In Australia they speak English, so they say “happy birthday” like all countries that speak English. Being given the key to the house is still considered an important sign of coming of age in Australia. This takes place when someone turns the age of twenty-one. The young man who was given the key to the house is said to be given permission to come and go as he pleases and to stay out as late he liked.

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