Australia 101

Australia is a well-developed, affluent, well educated, and industrialized country that supplies its own basic food needs while exporting large quantities of foodstuffs and mineral products. It is also one of the world's most urbanized and technologically advanced societies.

 

It is smothered in gorgeous coastlines, white sand beaches and beautiful countryside. One visitor recently described Sydney as "the beauty of San Francisco, the energy of New York, all placed on South Beach".  Whether you go sailing on Sydney Harbor, watch the sun rise over the Coral Sea, whale watch at Byron Bay or just soak up the sun on the Gold Coast, you will not go home disappointed.

Snapshot

You will not be tested on these, but we thought you might like to know some basics about Australia.

 

TOTAL AREA

7,682,292 square kilometers (2,966,133 square miles) - about the same size as the USA.

CAPITAL: Canberra (inland from the East Coast and halfway between Sydney and Melbourne).

 

POPULATION

24 million (yes, we know this is not very many people for such a big place and in fact, Australia has the lowest population density in the world).

 

ETHNIC COMPOSITION

Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world with almost one in four Australian residents born overseas in one of 200 countries. Indigenous Australians make up 3% of the population.

 

LANGUAGE

English.

 

RELIGIONS

25% Roman Catholic; 17% Anglican; 19% All Other Christian denominations; 6.5% other (Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hinduism), 22% no religion.

 

GOVERNMENT

A federal democracy. The person in the top job is known as the Prime Minister and his name is Malcolm Turnbull (who has very close ties to Bond University). Just like in America, there are two primary political parties which in Australia are called the Liberal Party (currently in power) and the Labor Party.

 

SHOWING OFF

Australia is where wi-fi was invented (you're welcome) and has generated 14 Nobel Prize winners in the fields of science, medicine, literature and immunology. Australia is also the world's largest island and is the only country that is also a continent. It also has more beaches (10,685 in total) than any other nation. Australia was one of the first places in the world where women were allowed to vote (in 1894) and allow women to be elected to government. And best of all, Australia is consistently voted as one of the best countries in the world to live (along with Norway, Finland and Switzerland). But who wants to live in those freezing cold places?

Australian History

Australia's original inhabitants, the aborigines, arrived in a series of migrations from Southeast Asia more than 40,000 years ago. There were as many as 600 distinct groups of aborigines living throughout Australia when Dutch mariners explored parts of the west and southern coasts in the early 17th century.

 

Although traders from Asia had probably been making contact for centuries, aboriginal culture and language survived untouched by the outside world until 1770, when Captain James Cook claimed the eastern coast for Great Britain . The British landed at what became Sydney in 1788 and founded a penal colony (a place for criminals) under Captain Arthur Phillip.

 

The first free settlers arrived in the struggling new town of Sydney in 1791.

 

Australian soils and climate, with the recurrent droughts that plague the land to this day, were better suited for large-scale grazing than for farming. The most successful and dramatic transformation of the Australian continent occurred in the 1830s and 1840s, as squatters established huge sheep properties. Paying only a small amount per year for a license, squatters could claim virtually as much land as they wanted.

 

From 1830 to 1850, wool exports rose from £2 million to £41 million (back when the official currency was still the English pound). With new immigrants and the growth of the capital cities, each serving as the major port for its region, Australian colonies began to agitate for self-government, a measure of which the crown granted in 1850. Following the discovery of gold a year later, the number of free people emigrating to Australia multiplied many times over.

 

In principle, the official colonial policy throughout the 19th century was to treat aborigines as equals, with the intention of eventually converting them to Christianity and European civilization. The Governor of the time, Governor Macquarie, established a school for aboriginal children. Such well-intentioned acts, however, were infrequently supported.

 

Where graziers sought lands for their sheep runs, the aboriginal communities of hunters were made to retreat into the drier interior. Forced to survive on even scantier supplies of food, aborigines were steadily reduced in number. By the 20th century their traditional lifestyles were confined to the Northern Territory, Queensland, and the western regions of New South Wales.

 

It was not until the 1960s that aborigines were afforded full citizenship rights. As governments have subsequently pursued policies of land rights and reconciliation, aboriginal Australians today constitute about 3 percent of the population. Their own distinctive black, gold, and red flag is recognized by the Federal Government.

 

In 1896 women of South Australia won the right to vote (one of the first in the world) and the right to be elected to government (also the first in the world). In 1901 the colonies, which by that time totaled six, agreed to federate as the Commonwealth of Australia. New Zealand withdrew at the last moment, leaving New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania , South Australia , and Western Australia as the founding states. The new government convened in Melbourne until 1926, when it was moved to the Federal Capital of Canberra.

 

The Great Depression of the 1930s was a time of high unemployment and widespread suffering in Australia . Its effects were felt longer and more deeply in Australia than in many other countries.

 

During World War I, Australia sent tens of thousands of soldiers overseas, more than half of whom were killed or wounded. During WWII, Australians served in all theaters of the war, with the bloodiest fighting in the jungles of New Guinea, where a Japanese invasion of Australia was narrowly averted. Darwin and several other northern Australian towns were bombed. In the Korean War (1950–53) Australian forces served with the United Nations, of which it was a founding member. During the Vietnam War (1959–75) Australian forces supported the United States.

 

After WWII, there was more than two decades that was generally regarded as a golden era of prosperity. The population exploded after the war as hundreds of thousands of immigrants were encouraged to make Australia home.

Safety

Australia is a relatively safe country. Handgun ownership is very rare in Australia and all firearms are licensed and tightly controlled. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since 1996 (after which Australians voted to eliminate almost all firearms). The cities are patrolled by police and well lit at night. Many foreign visitors to Australia often comment on the overwhelming feeling of safety they feel when traveling in Australia.

Throughout the country, 000 is the number to phone for all police, medical, fire, and other emergencies. 911 will not work in Australia.

 

Healthcare

Australia is one of the worlds leading medical nations and excellent medical care is available. Most Australians are covered by a national health insurance system (called Medicare) which some Australians supplement with private health insurance. Visitors to Australia are not covered under the Medicare system and your current health insurance usually doesn’t extend to treatment outside of your country. As a student in Australia, you are required to purchase temporary health insurance for the duration of your stay (which you pay upfront with your tuition fees). It's like a top tier health insurance plan but costs less than $40 per month.

 

People

Australia is a relatively new nation. Australians of European ancestry have developed a culture and attitudes that are distinct from those of their forebears. They 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, and can be scathing about attitudes or behavior 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. As a result of their colonial past, they have a love-hate relationship with the English, whom they call "poms." Australians have a passion for sport and leisure.

 

About 22 percent of the population is under age 15 (and about one-third is under age 20), while the proportion of those over age 65 (12 percent) is low for the developed world. That means not very many oldies.

 

About 90 percent of the people are European. Approximately 60 percent of the white population have British or Irish roots, but other Australians are from a variety of nationalities, including Italian, Croatian, Chinese, Indian, South American, and Greek (Melbourne has the largest Greek population outside Greece). About one-fifth of the population was not born in Australia. Aborigines make up 1.5 percent of the population.

 

Music

Australian's listen to a variety of music styles from the United States and England, however, the Aussie home grown sound is exceptional. Some of the Aussie bands and artists that you may know are AC/DC, Sia, Gotye, Iggy Azalea, Jet, The Vines, Empire of the Sun, Wolfmother, The Temper Trap, Powder Finger, Silverchair, Natalie Imbruglia, Kylie Minogue, Savage Garden, Men at Work, INXS, Midnight Oil, Little River Band, Air Supply, Yothu Yindi, Divynals, Keith Urban, Crowded House and Olivia Newton-John. However, there are loads of local Australian singers and bands that you haven't heard of that are superstars in Australia and who's music you are sure to like when you are down under. Australian's love rock, pop, metal, hip hop, rap and dance music (pretty much everything).

 

Film and TV

Some Australian actors you may know include Sam Worthington, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Simon Baker, Toni Collette, Eric Bana, Naomi Watts, Portia di Rossi, Heath Ledger, Sam Neil, Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Hogan, Isla Fisher, Guy Pierce, Elle Macpherson, Rachel Griffiths, Judy Davis and Melissa George.

 

Some Australian created or made in Australia movies you may know are Mad Max (Academy Award Winner), The Matrix (all three), Mission Impossible 2, Babe (Academy Award Winner), Shine (Academy Award Winner), Priscilla - Queen of the Desert (Academy Award Winner), Strictly Ballroom, Crocodile Dundee, The Phantom, Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia, Star Wars and Scooby Doo (which was filmed on location at Bond).

 

Sports

Australian's love sport and are amongst the most competitive in the world, which is even more amazing when you consider the total population is only 23 million people. On the international sports scene, Australian's are champion swimmers, tennis players, cricket players, rugby players, horse racers and motor sport racers.

 

Summer sports in Australia include cricket, beach volleyball and basketball. Winter sports include Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union, Rugby League, soccer and field hockey (no ice, just grass).

 

Food

Aussies refer to their home as the "Lucky Country," which is apt when it comes to Australia's abundance and variety of food. They are blessed with many exotic fruits, a huge variety of fish, some of the best lamb and beef in the world, and, thanks to the immigration rules, almost every sort of cuisine from around the world.

Apart from Italian, Greek, and Lebanese food, which is now firmly established in Australia, Asian cuisine is having a major effect. Thai and Chinese food is particularly popular.

 

Australia is also a serious coffee-drinking nation. However, the Australian coffee drinking tradition is quite different from the US and is more like Italy with most coffee being served in sidewalk cafés in china cups.

 

As for food served in bars, don't count on it. Many Australian pubs regard the consumption of food as an unnecessary distraction from solid beer drinking. But many more pubs are caving in to the trend of the gastro pub.

 

A short note about Australian beer: Reputed to have the highest per capita beer consumption in the world after the Germans, Australians drink an enormous range of beers, including lager, bitter, and stout. Each state has its own principal brewer. In NSW (New South Wales) it's Tooheys, in Victoria it's Carlton and United Breweries (brewer of Fosters), in Queensland, its' XXXX (pronounced 4X), and so on. A new generation of boutique brewers such as Red Back, Coopers, and Hahn have also sprung up.

 

Ordering beer at an Australian pub is complicated (but as a bright young college student, you are bound to learn to master it very quickly). Tap (draft) beer is served in glasses called schooners, ponies, pots, handles, midis, and even glasses. If in doubt, ask for a bottle of beer from the bar fridge. Most Australians drink straight from the bottle: you'll have to ask for a glass.

 

Drink driving or taking drugs and driving is considered a very serious offense by the Australian police and random breath testing (for both alcohol and drugs) is a common site on many Australian roads at night. Oh, and by the way, the legal drinking age in Australia is 18.

 

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected or practiced in Australia. At first-class restaurants, however, it is customary to tip food and drink servers up to 10 percent for particularly good service. That's a refreshing change, isn't it?

 

Wildlife

Animals that are unique to Australia are:

 

- Kangaroo

- Koala

- Platypus

- Emu

- Dingo

- Wombat

 

Measurements

The metric system of weights and measures is standard throughout the country. Distance is measured in kilometers (speed is measured in km/h), meters (about 3.5 feet), centimeters (just over ¼ inch) and millimeters (really small). Weights are measured in kilograms and grams. A kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.

 

Electricity

Electric current is 240/250 volts, 50 Hz. The three-pin outlet is different from that of other countries, so you may need an adapter to use electrical devices from overseas.

 

Driving

Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of all roads and highways and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car (except in postal vans). The maximum speed limit in towns and cities is 60 km/h (35 mph), and 100 km/h (62 mph) to 110 km/h (68 mph) on highways. Seat belts are mandatory.

 

Transportation

Getting around Australia is pretty much done the same way as in the USA and Canada. You either fly, catch a bus or train, or drive. Australia has 2 main domestic airlines, Qantas and Virgin. Public transport trains, buses and ferries are widely used and very effective and inexpensive for getting around town or going across the country.

 

Time Zones

To help with US time conversions, the Gold Coast (where Bond University is) is 7 hours behind Pacific Time, 8 hours behind Mountain Time, 9 hours behind Central Time and 10 hours behind Eastern time, but it is tomorrow already. How's that for a head spin. Therefore, if it's 4 pm on Tuesday in Los Angeles, it's 9 am on Wednesday on the Gold Coast (and all Eastern Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne).

 

There are three time zones across Australia. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns (all on the East Coast), for example, are 9 hours ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT) while Perth (on the west coast) is only 7 hours ahead of GMT, and Adelaide (in the middle) is 8½ hours ahead of GMT.

 

Talking Aussie (How to Speak Australian)

Almost all Australians speak English, although immigrants often use their native languages at home (much like in the USA) and in their social clubs. Aborigines once had more than 250 languages, but only about 50 have survived in teachable form.

 

Australians use some terminology not used in American English. For example, "rubbish" means garbage; "over the road" means across the street; a "rubber" is an eraser; and the hood of a car is a "bonnet," while the trunk is a "boot." Australians have also introduced their own colloquialisms and idioms, such as "No worries, mate" (No problem, pal), and "prang" (an auto collision). Australians make great use of diminutives, shortening words such as university to "uni," kindergarten to "kindy," and television to "telly."

 

There are roughly 1,500 Australian slang words so there are almost enough of them to constitute an entire language.

 

Climate

There are very few temperature extremes in Australia, making it a year-round destination. The northern section of the country is in the tropics, where there are two seasons-wet and dry-while the temperate regions to the south have four distinct seasons. Australia's seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. For instance, December through February is summer in Australia.

 

The Gold Coast (where Bond is) has great weather and is summer all year long.

 

- Subtropical with 287 days of sunshine annually.

- Summer temperatures range from 66 to 83 degrees

- Winter temperatures range from 48 to 69 degrees

- Water temperatures range 64-81 degrees

Money

The basic monetary unit is the Australian dollar (A$) which is made up of 100 cents (exactly like in the USA). Coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as $1 and $2. Notes are available in dollar denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The current exchange rate for the Australian dollar (AUD) can be viewed here.

 

Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are traveler's checks.

 

If you have a debit or credit card from a North American bank, these will work fine in Australia for all purchases and cash withdrawals.

 

You can also open an Australian bank account and then wire transfer money from home to your Australian bank account.

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