Australian Stuff

Australian States and Territories

Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania. (Abbreviations: WA, NT, SA, Qld, ACT, NSW, Vic, Tas.)
 

Australia, its states and capital cities

Some slang terms for natives of various states:

Queenslanders: Bananalander, Canecutter.
Victorians: Yarra-yabbies.
Tasmanians: Taswegians, Tassies, Apple Islanders.
South Australians: Croweaters.
Western Australians: Sandgropers, Westralians.
NT: Territorians.
 

A Guide to Ozspeak:

a-b
Ankle-biter - young child. ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (or a soldier thereof). Barrack - support, cheer (as in sport.) Baths - public swimming pool. Bewdy - good. Big Smoke - city. Bikie - what a Yank would call a "biker". Bikkie - biscuit, or money. Big bikkies - lots of money. Biro - ballpoint pen (of any brand). Biscuit - what Yanks call a cookie, (what they call biscuits are scones, while their scones are buns) Blue - fight. Bonnet (of car) - hood. Boot (of car) - trunk. Buckley's chance - no chance at all. Built-in wardrobe - closet.
c-d
Caravan - mobile home towed by a car. Chemist - drug store. Chips - crisps. Chips - french fries. Chips - chips. Chook - a member of the fowl family. Cinema - movie theatre. Clapped out - ruined/useless. Constable - policeman of bottom rank ("officer" in the USA). Cotton (roll of) - thread. Crank - idiot. (Feeling) crook - (feeling) ill. Dacks - trousers. Dag - humourist. Drawing pin - thumb tack. Drongo - dill.
e-f-g
Egg on - encourage.  Flannel - wash-cloth. Flat - apartment. Flicks - movies. Footpath - sidewalk. Fruiterer - person who runs a shop that sells fruit. Galah - a fool. Gander - have a look at. Gear stick - stick shift. Go for your life - request granted, go ahead. Grill - broil. Ground floor - floor of building level with the ground (called the 1st floor in the USA, similarly 1st floor in Australia is second floor in USA, and so on.) Guernsey - jersey/jumper (usually "Football guernsey")
h-i-j-k
Jackaroo - apprentice worker on a sheep or cattle station. Jumper - sweater. Jug - pitcher. Kark it - die. Kiosk - booth.
l-m-n
Lift - elevator. Lock-up - jail. Lolly - money, or a sweet. Lorry - truck. Matilda - swag/bluey/pack/what a tramp carries. Mobile phone - cell-phone. Nappy - diaper. Nick - good conduct, or steal, or jail. Noah's ark - shark. Nong - fool/idiot. Nosh - food.
o-p-q
Ocker - rough, ready, strine-speaking Australian. O.S. - overseas. Overcoat - topcoat. Oz - Australia. Ozzie (never pronounced "Ossie") - Australian. Paddy wagon - police van. Parka - ski jacket. Petrol - gas(oline). Pikelet - hotcake. Poloneck - turtleneck. Pom / Pommie - person from Britain. Poof/poofter - a homosexual. Post - mail. Premier - state governor. Punt - bet/gamble. Queue - line (of people).
r-s
Rack off - leave...NOW! Ringer - shearer, or look-alike. Ripper - good. Road surface - pavement. R.S.L. - (abbreviation for "Returned Servicemen's League", an organisation of one-time military personnel.) Root - have sex (and now you Americans know why the Australians around you crack up when you say how important it is to root for your team.) Rubber - eraser. Septic - American. Spanner - wrench. Station - thing a train stops at, or a ranch. Strine - Australian ("Strine" being an exaggerated phonetic rendering of the word "Australian".)
t-u-v
Tap - faucet. Tea towel - dish towel. Tin (of food) - can. Togs - clothing (for sporting activities, usually). Torch - flashlight. Trailer - open tray towed by a car. Tram - street car. Underground - subway. Ute - utility vehicle, a pickup truck.
w-x-y-z
Wag - comedian, practical joker. Windscreen - windshield. Yahoo or Yobo - slob, loud-mouthed fool. Yank - a native of the USA, any part, north or south. Zebra crossing - pedestrian crossing, indicated by white bars painted on the road, each rectangle of white and black of equal size. Zed - the way the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced. Zonk - dud. Zonked - tired, or fell asleep.
 

The Flag:

Australian flag

The Australian Blue Ensign, (see left,) was first flown on 3 September 1901, above the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne, Victoria. In 1953 the Flags Act was passed, formally establishing the Australian National Flag. Between 1901 and 1953 a lot of political and bureaucratic stuff happened, briefly the following: From 1901 the Blue Ensign was flown at Commonwealth establishments, and the Merchant Flag (the same, only with a red field instead of blue) everywhere else. This went on happily until 1941, when Prime Minister Robert Menzies encouraged the flying of the Blue Ensign everywhere on land, and the Commonwealth Red Ensign on merchant vessels. Menzies went off the idea of a red flag, even though he considered red the colour of Empire, because that was the colour communists liked. (And if you want to argue with that, check his autobiography.) This is why what was once known as the Blue Ensign is now called the Australian National Flag, which is blue.
Much fur flies when it comes to discussing the changing or retaining of the Australian National Flag, particularly among people for whom the preceding stuff in this section comes as news. A familiar cry heard is "what flag did our servicemen fight and die for in two world wars?". And the answer is: the Union Jack.
The Union Jack occupies 25% of the Australian flag, with the rest being taken up by the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross. The big star has seven points, each state being represented by one point, and the Australian territories by just one.
The New Zealand flag is similar, only has no Commonwealth Star, leaves out Beta Crusis, and has the remaining four stars red with white borders. Other countries sometimes confuse the two, which can cause (and has) embarrassment on official occasions.


Language differences noticed within Australia:

I spent the early years of my life living in various places up and down the Eastern coast of Australia. In the course of this, it came to my attention that certain words were not used the same way everywhere. Is the strip of grass between the footpath and the road called a nature strip or a verge? Is that shop over there a milk bar or a deli? Is this thing called a lightglobe or a lightbulb? Are the suitcases you lug around called luggage or port?
 

Accents:

Australia is one nation and one continent, with no borders other than state lines. English is spoken pretty much the same all over. (That said, there is something called "the Great Australian Drawl" - spoken mostly by Outback people with lots of time on their hands - which is impossible to reproduce here.) Books have been written on Strine, attempting to reproduce - phonetically - English words spoken in an Australian accent. The word "Strine" itself is supposed to represent the word "Australian". Naturally, as far as any Australian is concerned, we do not speak with any accent at all. (Other people speak with accents, not us.) Among other things we are supposed to pronounce "day" as "die", but they sound like two separate words to me.

How to pronounce "castle": To say "Newcastle" (the place near Sydney) just say "new car sell" (only faster, with emphasis on the "car") and you pretty much have it. To say "Castlemaine" (of Wild Colonial Boy fame) just say "Kass El Mane" (only faster) and you pretty much have that too. If you are in either of those two places, that is how you had better pronounce it. Now you know how "castle" is pronounced in Australia.

New Zealand (NOT a part of Australia, either geographically or politically) lies to the east of Australia, and the way English is spoken there is almost identical to here. Differences are hard to spot even when listened for by us. Most notably, however, New Zealanders tend to pronounce "sacks" like "sex", and "six" as "sucks". (Australian comedians impersonating New Zealanders are guaranteed to drag in the number "66" somewhere.)

Anybody can put on an English accent. In a Japanese language class we amazed our teacher when - for some reason I forget - we all started talking like upper-crust British. "Australians can talk properly!" she exclaimed in amazement, being able to understand every single word clearly for the first time in this country. We pointed out that this was true, but that a bloke would feel like a bit of a nong talking that way all the time. (The scene reminded me of the "Clams got legs!" joke in the B.C. comic strip.)
 

Discoverers:

Archeological discoveries keep pushing the date of their arrival back further and further, but the Aborigines were here at least 40,000 years ago. The Chinese may have visited around 1400. The most notable of recent visitors were Tasman (1642), Dampier (1688 and - obviously not being able to get enough of the place - 1699), and Cook (1770). Although not even the first Englishman on these shores, Cook is frequently touted as "the man who discovered Australia."
 

A Bass Strait Bridge:

Proposed bridge across the Bass Strait At the moment the only way to cross the Bass Strait - which has some of the roughest weather in the world - is by sea or by air. A bridge between mainland Australia and the island-state of Tasmania is feasible. (In 1938 the Americans built a bridge covering 190 km from Homestead to Key West in Florida. In 1969, Louisiana built a single causeway over 38 km of water at Lake Pontchartrain.)
A Bass Strait bridge could leap-frog across a chain of small islands between southern Victoria and North Eastern Tasmania, where the water is comparatively shallow. (The Tasmanian aborigines most likely arrived this way, before the rising post-ice-age sea-level cut the state off.) The bridge would most ideally run from Wilson's Promontory to the Hogan Group, from there to the Kent Group, then to Craggy Island, Craggy Rock, and to Flinders Island. Leaving Flinders Island, the bridge would pass through Cape Barren Island and Swan Island, and hit Tasmania north of Gladstone. The total distance travelled would thus be 240 km (150 miles), with 156 km (97 miles) being over water. The longest bridge span would be 45 km (28 miles), and the deepest water would be 67 metres (220 feet).
 

Geography

A mountain chain runs down the Eastern side of Australia - the Great Dividing Range. Most of what lies to the west of this range is a hulking great desert, and in the more climatically friendly strip of land to the east is packed most of the country's population. Any rain that falls in the "red centre" of Australia either evaporates, or runs into huge salt lakes (the largest being Lake Eyre) and then evaporates. Once in a while somebody suggests doing some work in the mountains, and diverting some eastward-flowing rivers so that they drain inland instead, and restore the inland sea that existed in prehistoric times.
 

The Southern Cross:

                                                    *      Alpha Crusis
 

                                                                  *   Epsilon Crusis
                                *
                       Delta Crusis
                                                                                                                        Coal sack
                                                        *     Beta Crusis              (Black and starless - to the eye - area of sky)
 

                                           *
                                  Gamma Crusis

The above is a rough ASCII representation of the Southern Cross, designed under Netscape on an 800 by 600 display.

Australian flag
(See the Australian flag for a more realistic representation of star positions and brightness.)
The really big star on the left on the flag is the Federation Star, the points symbolising Australian states and territories, and does not represent an actual celestial body.) Underneath the Southern Cross in the sky, lined up pointing to it, are two bright stars. These are:
                                                                                      *      Beta Centauri (330 lt yrs distant)
 

and

                                                                                                    *  Alpha Centauri (4.3 light years distant)
                                                                                              (Next door neighbour, and most likely nearest star
                                                                                                                          to have planets.)
 

Inventions:

Among other things, Australians invented the motor mower, rotary hoist, poptop can, wine cask, brick veneer, ready-mix concrete, pedal radio, the torpedo (sold for £100,000), refrigerators, and the flight recorder. Our inventors seem to have a notorious time getting backing by industry in their own country. One example: The solarphone is owned and run by the Japanese, but was invented in 1980 in Australia. Australian industry turned it down. The last I heard, the Chinese were looking at it.
 

Telephones:

When I started the first version of this page, Australian telephones were digital-only, with no alphabetic characters on the dial/number pad. It was not always that way, and is not that way now. "Enter a word" phone numbers are on the return, in the touch-tone, programmable, email capable, texting compliant, 1800-numbers era.

Recently, on a film set, I came across a couple of 1950s-at-least telephones, with the dials displaying red figure "1"s and having differently-arranged letters – with "Q" being left off altogether, and the zero having "Z" and no other letter. I think the reason the "word numbers" were put to pasture the first time around was telephone popularity, which forced the constant adding of digits to existing numbers, quickly making nonsense of any words in use.

I am old enough to remember some telephones having no dial at all. All calls with these were operator-connected. I have seen none of these at all since the mid 1950s.

A joke heard on an American sit-com once was "What's the number for 911?" In Australia the number for 911 is 000. Triple zero immediately puts you in touch with an operator who can connect you to police, ambulance, or fire brigade. The reason for this as the emergency number is the same as the British 999. It can be easily dialled by touch in total darkness, when there is too much smoke to see, or when the dialer is blinded. I do not know how well this works with digital telephones. Without looking, where is the "0" button located on the dialling pad?

The majority of calls to 000 are invalid. Apart from the outright hoaxes there are the non-emergencies (EG: "I want an electrician"), and people who just hang up. These days soft drink dispensers are hooked in to phone lines, to automatically advise base when they are running low. Consequently, by far the most frequent 000 calls are from malfunctioning Coca Cola machines.
 

Food:

Every country in the world can claim its own unique food item. Then there's us. Well, I suppose we can lay claim to damper. Damper is made from flour, baking powder, water and salt – cooks well in a camp oven – served with golden syrup.

There was an advertising jingle a while back that went "Kangaroos, meat pies and Holden cars!" It was put out by the always American-owned Holden company, trying to appeal to the Australian sense of nationality. (Kangaroo meat, along with emu, has only relatively recently been marketed for human consumption. Some people object to our national symbols being eaten, although never had any problems in all the years kangaroo meat was used in pet food.) Try eating a Holden and tell me how you get on. Meat pies, now....

During my first trip to England, I bought a meat pie at a pie stand, and was surprised to find that it remained solid after I bit into it. Inside the crust, Australian pies are mostly gravy. My earliest memory of a pie is of one my father reheated in the kitchen stove, and whose contents started to ooze through the pastry and down my fingers as I picked it up, even before I could take a bite. I think the pie companies have discovered cornstarch since then, but today even people in pie commercials, while going into raptures about "the great Australian taste", hold the pie vertically as they eat, so nothing yucky drips out. By Australian law only 25% of a pie has to be meat, from any source – sheep, cow, camel ... just so long as it is not anything from the wild – be it offal, offcuts, or gristle. Occasionally a consumer affairs group will go on a pie-analysis binge, and discover a number of companies which do not feel too bound by that 25% limit either. All sad, but also true.

You may have heard of something called a "pie floater". This is a meat pie served in a bowl of pea soup. It might sound mildly disgusting, but everyone I know of who has tried it raves about it. For a long time the floater was found only in South Australia, only in Adelaide, and only from one particular pie stand. It was still nationally famous. The original version of this article was put up a number of years ago, and I now hear the floater, and variations thereof, is available in many more places around the country, though I have yet to come across any of them.

Money:

When Australia converted to decimal currency in 1966, (to dollars and cents - from the original pounds, shillings, and pence) there were objections to the changeover on the grounds that some people would lose out on fractions of a penny/cent during the two-year change-over. (There were twelve pence to the shilling, but one shilling equalled ten cents, meaning some people lost out when certain uneven numbers were rounded off.) When the one cent and two cent pieces were finally given the axe, all cash transactions being rounded off to the nearest five cents, there was not a peep out of anybody.

Before 1966, we used the system of pounds, shillings and pence (abbreviated L.s.d.), with 12 pence to the shilling, and twenty shillings to the pound. Five pounds ten and sixpence halfpenny was written £5/10/6½. Oh yes, there were also halfpennies, just to make my life more miserable. The farthing (worth half a halfpenny) had vanished before I was born. ("Halfpenny" was pronounced "haip-knee" for some reason...probably the same reason "threepence" was pronounced "thrippence." And two pennies made up "tuppence".)

And then there were guineas. (One guinea equals one pound one shilling. Five guineas equals five pounds five shillings, nineteen guineas equals nineteen pounds nineteen shillings, and so on. Work out 5,575 guineas 17 shillings and tuppence, divided by 271 guineas 5 shillings and fourpence halfpenny. Do not use a calculator. Abacuses are out too. Do not bother to ask me or tell me the answer, I am just glad to have left this sort of thing far behind.)

The decimal system kicked in on 14 February 1966, boosted by a cartoon character called Dollar Bill. Calling a note of currency a bill (as the Americans do) never took off in this country, however. A five dollar note is a five dollar note. One dollar (these days) is a one dollar coin.

The long standing custom of putting small coins in Christmas puddings quickly died after 1966, when the new coins caused the surrounding pudding to turn green.

When it was announced we were going decimal, the basic unit of the new currency was to be called a "royal", made up of 100 cents. There was such a strong reaction against the proposed name, however, that it was hurriedly ditched. The USA gave us the dollar rights around the same time we went into Vietnam. Some people at the time saw a connection.

The decimalisation of the currency went over so well that our weights and measures system went metric in 1974. Meantime, the USA, which decimalised its currency 200 years before we did, still clings on grimly to the imperial system.
 

Buckley's:

"You have two chances, one of them is Buckley's." "You have two chances, Buckley's and none." "You got Buckley's, mate." All these expressions mean one thing: Your chances are so slender you have no hope. It goes back to (a) a convict named Buckley who escaped into the bush in 1803, and (b) a nationally famous department store called Buckley & Nunn's, opened in 1851. From the popularity of the store evolved the punning phrase "You've got two chances, Buckley's and none." ("Nunn", get it?) There is another variation unique to Melbourne: "You have two chances, and both of them are in Bourke Street."

In December 1803 a convict and former military man, William Buckley, escaped into the bush, and was proclaimed to have "perished miserably in the woods." Thirty two years later, in 1835, at a small encampment recently set up by John Batman, William Buckley walked in out of the bush. As he recovered the use of the English language, Buckley revealed he had been adopted by an Aboriginal tribe who thought he was a dead man named Murrangurk returned to life, had witnessed tribal wars, had seen the bunyip, and that there was imminent danger of an Aboriginal attack on the camp. Acclaimed as the "wild white man", he was eventually given a pardon, returned to society, married, and moved to Hobart. (Note that many early Aboriginals really did believe white men were dead Aborigines come back to life, that Buckley's adoption by a tribe checks out, and that massacres of blacks by whites and vice versa really did happen back then.) The chances of anyone coming through what he did were regarded as being very slim. To achieve the near-impossible required one to have "Buckley's chance." One department store later, and the Buckley name is firmly part of the English language, (well, the Australian part of the English language) surviving both man and store.


The Poms:

The Poms (or Pommies) are natives of the British Isles. (Call one a Pommie to his face, and whether or not you get to keep your teeth depends a lot on the tone of your voice.) The term derives from "pomegranate", being used in the 1910s as rhyming slang for "immigrant". There are an incredible number of stories explaining the word, one of the more popular being that the early convicts had the letters "P.O.H.M." (for "Prisoners of His Majesty") stencilled on the backs of their prison uniforms. Actually, the early convicts wore ordinary clothing of the day, and had no uniforms. Also there is no written record of the term "Pommie" being used prior to the twentieth century.
 

Trams:

In Melbourne there are three methods of rail transport: Tram, light rail, and train. There is a joke explaining the difference between the three: "If it comes late, it is light rail. If nothing comes for an hour, and then three show up at once, it is a tram. If it does not come at all it is a train." A light rail vehicle is basically a long, segmented tram. It can often be seen travelling along rails once used by the metropolitan train system. However trains never "came ashore" to travel on the roads like the light rail does. You all should know what trains are, but in my travels overseas have seen some rather bizarre things being called "trams". Ours look something like San Francisco cable-cars. In fact, some of our trams have even been sold to San Francisco, where they are being used as cable cars. There have been no cable-drawn trams in Melbourne since World War II supply shortages forced an end to the cables involved. Melbourne is one of the last places in Australia where trams share the roads with car and bus traffic. Sydney is another Australian city which no longer has trams, but which has left a legacy in the language from the time when it did: "Shot through like a Bondi tram." (Meaning "Left very quickly".) Having never seen a Bondi tram, I can not personally testify as to how fast they really travelled as they shot by. Something like a light rail on a train line, I would assume. Melbourne light rail

(Note added Christmas 1999: Just off the train in Sydney, on a stopover while coming back to Melbourne from Brisbane, I had the wits startled out of me by a tram. Apparently their monorail is not enough. I have no idea how far the Sydney tram service extends or will extend. Bondi?)

Trams travel on rails recessed into the road, and draw power from overhead power lines. In the past, visitors have left the country still wondering what made that occasional "whing-ding-ding-ding" sound (compressors recharging the compressed-air brakes) and that really weird smell that sometimes came when the tram stopped or slowed down (the odour of friction-heated sand after being dropped onto the rails for wheel-traction during braking).
 

Politics:

Australia is governed from the capital city of Canberra. As Australia's economy grew on the strengths of sheep, wool, and the discovery of gold, one of the names originally proposed for Canberra was "Wool-gold". Fortunately it was decided to go with the Aboriginal word for "meeting place".

The Australian head of state is the Governor General, whose duties are mostly ceremonial. (It was a big shock for a lot of people when one day he exercised his theoretical powers by sacking the elected government, installing the opposition in its place, and calling a public election.) He is appointed to the position by the Prime Minister, (although I believe the actual rhetoric goes along the lines of his being appointed by the Queen under the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government.) The head of government is the Prime Minister, with his Cabinet. There are two Houses of Parliament, these being the House of Representatives and the Senate. Before becoming law, bills pass through the lower house, and then are presented before Senate.

Each state has its own government, consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate. The leader of the state is called a Premier.

Each shire or municipality has a council or local government led by a Mayor or President, each with his or her own council.

Australia is the only English-speaking country on the planet where voting is compulsory.

Frank Ford - the Prime Minister of Australia who lasted eight days. Something of a record.

Australia uses the preferential voting system. Voters put numbers on the ballot slip, 1 next to the candidate preferred, 2 next to next preference, and so on down to the person least desired. When the ballots are counted, if no candidate gets more than half the first preferences, the candidate with the fewest preferences is eliminated. The second preferences from the loser's voting cards are then counted and included. This goes on until one candidate has an absolute majority.

Australians do not vote for the Prime Minister directly. Australians just vote the members of political parties into office, and the majority party votes in the Prime Minister as leader. (The post of Governor General is not voted for at all, but appointed.) In 1999 there was a referendum which could have turned Australia into a republic, replacing the Governor General with an elected President. Few argue that it was who was to do the electing which lost the push for change. Had the ballot paper been along the lines of "Do you want Australia to be a republic, and if so which of the following models do you prefer...?" things might have turned out differently. However the wording on the ballot paper was chosen by the openly monarchist Prime Minister, and Australia was asked to choose between the present system or one where a President was elected by the houses of parliament, take it or leave it. The three loudest arguments in the "No" case were "Don't let the president be voted in by politicians, as they are a bunch of crooks and can't be trusted", "If you don't understand the ballot, vote no to be on the safe side", and the more popular "If you personally want to vote for the President, don't vote for this model". Oddly enough, nobody has ever objected to the Prime Minister not being directly elected by the public.
 

Flora and Fauna:

The Australian dragonfly is the fastest flying insect. It has been clocked at 36 miles per hour.

The Australian koala is not a bear. Why so many people overseas call koalas "koala bears" goes back to some sort of confusion created by toy manufacturers and Teddy Bears.
The koala has the world record of smallest brain mass in relation to body weight of any animal on the face of the Earth.
The word "koala" means "Does not drink". They get all their moisture from the food they eat. That's what it says in all the text books. The only trouble is, I have seen one of the things take a drink.

The dingo is not a native dog. It arrived along with the first humans to reach Australia. Experts quibble over whether it arrived with the very first wave of immigration, or a little bit later. Either way, it has been around for tens of thousands of years. (Trivia: "Dingo" originally meant tame dog. "Warrigal" was the term for a wild dog.) The dingo differs from most other dogs on the planet in its breeding frequency and the fact that it does not bark.

Kookaburra

The kookaburra is a bird unique to Australia, which can be heard on the soundtrack of almost every Tarzan movie ever made. (From what I gather the director of an early jungle movie knew it was an Australian bird, but liked the sound it made and used it anyway. Ever since, the same bit of sound-track has been used in innumerable movies where the African jungle is depicted, jarring Australian audiences every time.) Kookaburras have a reputation for killing snakes, although I do not know anyone who has seen one do this. (I do, however, have a first-hand account of one buzzing a barbecue and stealing a sausage.)

Kangaroos have been known to drown dogs. They will flee like hell from any threat - mothers will even dump joeys out of their pouches in a panic to escape - but when they reach a sufficiently deep body of water like a stream, they have been known to stop dead and tread on dogs with their big feet, until the dog drowns.

In the process of filling an ecological niche, in one part of Australia there is a species of kangaroo that has taken to climbing trees. It is not really built for the role, and the chief cause of death for these creatures is falling out of trees. Check back in another few million years, when they should be starting to get the hang of it.

There has long been a story going around of the tourist driving in the outback (or through the bush, whichever version you encounter) who ran over a kangaroo. Assuming the beast was dead, the tourist decided to take a novelty photograph by first dressing the roo in his coat, and propping it up against his car. The kangaroo woke up, and bounded off with the man's coat, travellers cheques, passport, and a vast amount of cash. There has since been a movie where this basic situation happens. The incident sounds like the stuff of urban legend, but the 19 October 1986 Times identifies the tourist as Emilio Tarra, a crewmember of the 1986 America's Cup race in Perth, driving towards Adelaide.

The word "kangaroo", literally translated, means "I do not understand what you are saying." (As in, "Hey, what's that animal called?"  "Kangaroo!")

I have heard doubt expressed that the above story is true. At the time the First Fleet landed, there were something like 3,000 tribes. Consequently the number of languages in use was around 3,000. Since then a number of tribes and languages have ceased to exist. Today, it is rather hard to find which native language "kangaroo" comes from, let alone what it means. (And while we are at it, the universal Aboriginal means of indicating direction back then was by jutting out the lower lip. A pointing finger meant nothing. Consequently a number of places today have Aboriginal names that translate into "finger" or "hand".)
 

Native Australians

The last Ice Age dropped sea levels enough to make access to Australia much easier by walking and island-hopping. Consequently the country was inhabited for at least 40,000 years before the coming of the white man.

These days there seems to be some confusion over whether to call native Australians "Aborigines" or "Aboriginals", and those who are not confused are not necessarily using the same word as other non-confused people. I have even received email from readers of this page, asking for the correct term.

My Style Manual for Authors Editors and Printers of Australian Government Publications, Second Edition is quite specific. It should be "Aboriginal" (singular noun), "Aboriginals" (plural noun), and "Aboriginal" (adjective). "Aborigine" as an alternative to "Aboriginal" is "not acceptable", but "Aborigines" as an alternative to "Aboriginals", is.

According to my Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary:
ãbori'ginal adj Indigenous, existing or present at dawn of history or before arrival of colonists or invaders. ~ n Abori'ginal inhabitant. ãboriginês (-z) n.pl. Aboriginal inhabitants, plants, etc. (also found in sing. ãbori'gine).

From memory, my high school dictionary (purchased second-hand and which did not have an entry for "computer") also defined "aborigine" as "primitive". Although not adjusted for political and general correctness, the dictionary was probably not all that ancient. It was as late as 1967 when, following a referendum, Aborigines were granted full Australian citizenship, with such rights as being allowed to vote and drink alcohol.

The expression of shared identity of the native people of Australia is "Koorie".
 

Other Stuff:

Australia is the smallest of the seven continents on Earth.
Area: 7,682,300 square kilometres (Roughly the same size as the USA, less Alaska and Hawaii, or twenty-four times the size of the United Kingdom, or three-quarters the size of Europe.)
Highest part: Mt Kosciusko, 2228 metres above sea level.
Lowest part: Lake Eyre, 15 metres below sea level.
Coastline: 36,735 kilometres (including Tasmania.)
Population: 20,000,000 (in December 2003)
Climate: Temperate/Equatorial.
Longest river: The Murray.

The word "Australia" comes from the Latin "australis", meaning "southern".

Water goes down the American plug hole clockwise (this from a number of personal 1989 USA observations).
Water goes down the Australian plug hole ... clockwise (this from watching my bathroom sink emptying, just now.)

The Grand Prix was held in Albert Park in 1953, 1956, 1996... (1996 was the 23rd in Victoria).

In Australia businesses do not have to accept silver coins over $5.00 worth, or $1 coins over $10.00. (And before copper coins went out, there was a 20 cent ceiling on them too.)

Postcards were first issued in Australia on 1 October 1875, at Sydney GPO.

Australia's first charitable organisation was the New South Wales Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Benevolence in These Territories and Neighbouring Islands. (Founded 1813)

The didgeridoo is a hollowed out wooden musical wind instrument. Native Australians produce them from a 150 cm long 5 to 10 cm diameter branch by burying it in a termite area. After the termites eat out the inner core the instrument is shaped and decorated. Due to the method of playing (pressing the lips into the mouth of the instrument and using the lips as a double reed) it is technically a member of the brass family, namely a wooden trumpet.

Link on this image to the Vegemite siteVegemite is a yeast product, black, and is usually spread on buttered toast at breakfast. It is also a by-product from the making of beer. Although conceived as far back as 1922, for some reason it never seems to have caught on with non-Australians. (American s.f. writer David Gerrold, trying it for the first time, looked at us and asked "Mothers feed this to their children?") It contains a lot of salt, and keeps for a long time. (Nonetheless, someone I know succeeded in growing mould in a jar of the stuff that was so old its price tag was marked both in shillings and in cents, putting its date of manufacture in 1966.) While maybe not breaking sales records out of the country, it does seem to be developing an international reputation. (I last noticed it getting plugged on the U.S. t.v. show Sliders, which seemed to think it was some kind of aphrodisiac). All this said, vegemite is not the only breakfast spread in this country. Other brands have names like "Marmite" and "Promite".

There are lots of old science fiction stories where the first rocket to the moon is launched from Woomera Rocket Range, but astonishingly few people seem to know things really were sent into space from there.

Australia's first satellite was called WRESAT (Weapons Research Establishment Satellite). It was launched from Woomera on 29 November 1967 on a U.S. Redstone rocket, and was placed in a near-polar orbit. It re-entered over the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland at 11:34 GMT on 10 January 1968, after 642 orbits.


Link to another website: Australian background, at http://www.aussiecon3.worldcon.org/oz/index.htm


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