Australia

Australia

Things to do - general

More than most other developed countries, Australia seizes the imagination. For most visitors its name is a shorthand for an endless summer where the living is easy; a place where the adventures are as vast as the horizons and the jokes flow as freely as the beer; a country of can-do spirit and easy friendliness. No wonder Australians call theirs the Lucky Country.

Every aspect of Australian life and culture, whether its matey attitudes or its truly great outdoors, is a product of its scale and population. In size, it rivals the USA, yet its population is 23 million, leading to one of the lowest country population densities on Earth. The energy of its contemporary culture is in contrast to a landscape that is ancient and often looks it: much of central and western Australia – the bulk of the country – is overwhelmingly arid and flat. In contrast, its cities, most founded as recently as the mid-nineteenth century, burst with a vibrant, youthful energy.

The most iconic scenery is the Outback, the vast fabled desert that spreads west of the Great Dividing Range into the country’s epic interior. Here, vivid blue skies, cinnamon-red earth, deserted gorges and geological features as bizarre as the wildlife comprise a unique ecology, one that has played host to the oldest surviving human culture for up to 70,000 years (just 10,000 years after Homo sapiens is thought to have emerged from Africa).

This harsh interior has forced modern Australia to become a coastal country. Most of the population lives within 20km of the ocean, occupying a suburban, southeastern arc that extends from southern Queensland to Adelaide. These urban Australians celebrate the typical New World values of material self-improvement through hard work and hard play, with an easy-going vitality that visitors, especially Europeans, often find refreshingly hedonistic. A sunny climate also contributes to this exuberance, with an outdoor life in which a thriving beach culture and the congenial backyard “barbie” are central.

Although visitors might eventually find this low-key, suburban lifestyle rather prosaic, there are opportunities – particularly in the Northern Territory – to experience Australia’s indigenous peoples and their culture through visiting ancient art sites, taking tours and, less easily, making personal contact. Many Aboriginal people – especially in central Australia – have managed to maintain a traditional lifestyle (albeit with modern amenities), speaking their own languages and living by their own laws.

This diversity of influences creates a cultural environment in Australia that is lively, energised, innovative and outward looking.

Country Australia
Visa requirementsVisa Information Unless you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you will need a visa to enter Australia. New Zealand passport holders can apply for a visa upon arrival in the country. All other passport holders must apply for a visa before leaving home. You can apply for a range of visas, including tourist visas and working holiday visas, at your nearest Australian Consulate. You can also apply for certain types of visas online. There are important things you should know before applying for, or being granted, an Australian visa. These include applying for the right type of visa, application requirements, your obligations while in Australia and the importance of complying with visa conditions. For more detailed information visit the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. Tourist visa A tourist visa is for people visiting Australia for a holiday, sightseeing, social or recreational reasons, to visit relatives, friends or for other short-term non-work purposes. There are a number of tourist visas available for people wishing to visit Australia as a tourist. Visit the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship website for eligibility requirements. ETA (Visitor) (Subclass 976) An electronically stored authority for short-term visits to Australia of up to three months. Available to passport holders from a number of countries and regions, who live outside Australia. eVisitors (Subclass 651) An electronically stored authority for visits to Australia for tourism or business purposes for up to three months. Available to passport holders from the European Union and a number of other European countries, who live outside Australia. Tourist visa (Subclass 676) A temporary visa allowing a stay in Australia of up to three or six or 12 months. Applicants can apply from both outside and in Australia. Some tourists are eligible to lodge an online application for an e676 Tourist visa. Sponsored Family Visitor visa (Subclass 679) For people seeking to visit family in Australia for a stay period of up to 12 months. Formal sponsorship by an Australian citizen or permanent resident is required. Non-Australian citizens from certain countries are eligible to transit through Australia without a visa. If you do not qualify for transit without a visa, you will need to apply for a Transit visa. Electronic Travel Authority The Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) allows people to visit Australia for short term tourism or business purposes of up to three months. An ETA is available to passport holders from more than 30 countries, regions and locations. Check the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship website for eligibility requirements. eVisitor visa The eVisitor allows visitors to travel to Australia for short term business or tourism purposes for up to three months. eVisitor applications are free and are available to passport holders from the European Union and a number of other European countries. Check the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship website for eligibility requirements.
Languages spokenEnglish
Currency used Dollars and Cents Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. If you plan to stay in Australia for any length of time or are visiting on a Working Holiday Visa or other type of extended visa, you may wish to open an Australian bank account.. Credit cards and Traveller’s Cheques Credit cards such as American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and JCB are accepted in Australia. VISA or MasterCard are commonly accepted and are both accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is not usually accepted. It is best to carry more than one type of card as not all cards are accepted by all merchants. Always carry a little cash, because many shops will not take cards for purchases under AUD$15. Merchants may impose credit card surcharges in some places. Traveller's cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries. If you do purchase them, it is best to buy them in Australian dollars as smaller shops, restaurants, and other businesses are unlikely to know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency such as US dollars or British pounds. Currency converter This handy currency converter will help you convert your own currency at the current exchange rates. Universal Currency Converter.
Area (km2) Covering a total area of 7.69 million square kilometres, mainland Australia is the world’s largest island - but smallest continent. In distance, the continent stretches about 3700 kilometres from north to south and 4000 kilometres from east to west, making it the sixth-largest nation after Russia, Canada, China, the United States and Brazil. Australia is also the only continent that is governed as a single country. It is sometimes informally referred to as an 'island' continent, surrounded by oceans. Our ocean territory is also the third-largest in the world, spanning three oceans and covering around 12 million square kilometres. We also have one of the most urbanised and coast-dwelling populations in the world, with more than 80 per cent of residents living within 100 kilometres of the coastline. Australia currently has a population of almost 23 million people.

Sports & nature

Nature Australia has some of the world's most distinctive and diverse natural environments, with unique wildlife, and spectacular landscapes, including many national parks and World Heritage Areas. In these areas you can get up close to our native plants and animals, explore wide open spaces and discover ancient rainforests on the fringe of modern cities. You can also climb snow-capped mountains and swim in some of the most pristine water environments on earth. Here are just a few of Australia’s iconic natural experiences you won’t want to miss. Ningaloo, WA Ningaloo Reef & Shark Bay, Western Australia World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in the world. It is one of most reliable places in the world to view and swim with gentle whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. They arrive shortly after the mass coral spawning in March each year. Shark Bay’s clear turquoise waters are home to humpback whales, turtles, dolphins and manta rays. See living relatives of the earth’s earliest life-forms at Hamelin Pool and walk on one of the world’s few beaches made entirely of tiny shells. Spend your day with the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia which come to the beach to be hand-fed each day. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park, an area so vast it is divided into seven distinct regions, and has six different seasons. The Aboriginal history of the Kakadu region spans more than 40000 years. Rugged soaring escarpments give way to forest woodlands, lush wetlands and open savannah plains. You’ll see millions of migratory birds in the wetlands and crocodiles sunbathing on the banks of the rivers. Swim under massive waterfalls, walk through sandstone galleries of ancient rock art or cruise the scenic billabong teeming with wildlife. It is also one of the best places to go fishing in Australia. Kangaroo Island, South Australia Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third largest island, is located just 15 kilometres off the South Australian mainland. More than a third of the island is preserved as Conservation or National Parks. The island has five significant Wilderness Protection Areas. On its wild coastline, buffeted by the Southern Ocean, you will find abundant Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. In the deserts, beaches and forests of this landscape, see sea-lions laze at Seal Bay and little penguins waddling to shore in Penneshaw and Kingscote. More than 7000 fur-seals can be seen playing in and around the natural formation of Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park, where the aptly-named Remarkable Rocks change colour throughout the day. At Vivonne Bay, officially declared Australia’s Best Beach by Sydney University researchers, you can surf, fish, snorkel with rare leafy sea-dragons, swim with dolphins or dive the shipwrecks at D’estrees Bay. Go sand surfing in the giant dunes of Little Sahara. Cradle Mountain, TAS Tasmanian Wilderness Tasmania’s isolation from the mainland has ensured the survival of many plants, animals and birds that you won’t find anywhere else in Australia. Forty per cent of the state is protected as national parks and reserves, with much of it unchanged for more than 60 million years. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area stretches for more than 1.38 million hectares and is one of the last true wilderness regions on Earth. From the rugged alpine peaks and dense rainforests in the north to the island’s remote southern tip, Tasmania has more than 2000 kilometres of world-class walking tracks including the famous Overland Track. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland The marine wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef is an explosion of colour and biodiversity that stretches for more than 2500 kilometres off the Queensland coast. It’s both the world's biggest World Heritage Area and biggest coral reef system, and the biggest thing made out of living creatures on earth. It is formed of more than 3000 individual reefs and 900 coral cays and continental islands. These create a web of life for more than 1500 species of fish, one third of the world’s soft corals, 600 species of starfish and sea urchins, six species of endangered marine turtles and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins. Blue Mountains, New South Wales The blue-hazed beauty, golden sandstone escarpments, dramatic cliffs and deep canyons of the Blue Mountains are just a 90-minute drive from Sydney. As well as a million hectares of World Heritage-listed wilderness, here you’ll find the world’s rarest tree, the prehistoric Wollemi Pine. There is also more than 400 different kinds of unique Australian animals such as the spotted-tail quoll, yellow-bellied glider, and the long-nosed potoroo. One of the best ways to take it all in is on the Greater Blue Mountains Drive, a 1200 kilometre touring journey that links 18 different ‘discovery trails’ – each one unique. Australian Alps Straddling New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, the Alps has uniquely Australian alpine vistas and year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure. Here you can climb Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak, or go hiking or biking through wildflower-cloaked slopes. Kayak and go white-water rafting on clear glacial lakes and rivers, or take a horseback adventure over the high plains in summer. In winter, go downhill or cross country skiing. You can trek through three states and seven national parks on the epic 650 kilometre Australian Alps Walking Track or do one or two day walks of shorter sections of the trail. Phillip Island, Victoria Every day at dusk, Summerland Beach in the Phillip Island Nature Park, just 90 minutes from Melbourne, comes alive with thousands of little penguins. The wild ocean beaches, sheltered bays, blowholes and caves are also home to koalas, abundant bird life and fur seals. Join a wildlife cruise to see the colony of 16000 Australian fur seals at Seal Rocks, one of the largest colonies in Australia, and spot koalas among the treetops at the Koala Conservation Centre. The Nobbies is a magnificent headland on the south-western tip of Phillip Island where you can absorb the stunning coastal views and thundering blowhole at lookout points set amongst natural sea bird gardens. Catch a wave against the backdrop of ancient pink granite at Cape Woolamai, one of Victoria's most popular surfing beaches and bird-spotting hotspots. Phillip Island forms part of the Churchill Island Marine National Park which is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Two island circuit tracks offer magnificent views across Western Port Bay and views to Tortoise Head and French Island. Australia’s National Parks Australia has more than 500 national parks covering an incredible 28 million hectares - almost four per cent of the country. Australian national parks are found in a diverse number of landscapes: from alpine regions to deserts, forests and marine areas. Like Australian Zoos, Australia’s national parks serve to protect our native plants and wildlife. They are also places to enjoy and learn about Australia’s environment, heritage and culture. Whether it’s meeting Aboriginal elders at Uluru, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef or trekking through the Tasmanian Wilderness, here are some of Australia’s top national parks to help plan your visit. Sports. Sport is an important part of the culture in Australia, with a long history in the country dating back to the pre-colonial period. Early sports that were played included cricket, Australian rules football, rugby union, horse racing and netball. Sport evolved with Australian national identity through events like Phar Lap, the Bodyline series and the America's Cup races. There are a number of professional sport leagues in Australia, including the Australian Football League (Australian rules football), National Rugby League (rugby league), Super Rugby (rugby union), the National Basketball League and Women's National Basketball League (basketball), the A-League and W-League (soccer), ANZ Championship (netball), the Australian Baseball League (baseball) and Sheffield Shield (cricket). Attendance for the AFL, A-League and NRL over the course of a single season tops six million spectators. The media plays an important part in Australia's sporting landscape. Many sporting events are televised or are covered by the radio. The government has anti-siphoning laws to protect free-to-air stations. Beyond televising live events, there are many sport television shows, sport talk shows on the radio, magazines dedicated to sport and extensive newspaper coverage. Australian sport has also been the subject of Australian made films such as The Club, Australian Rules, The Final Winter and Footy Legends. As a nation, Australia has competed in many international events including the Olympics and Paralympics, and the Commonwealth Games. The country has a large number of national teams in sports such as cricket, rugby union, rugby league, basketball, hockey, netball, soccer, softball, water polo and wheelchair rugby. Sport is played by different populations in Australia including women, people with disabilities and Australia's indigenous people. Sports and nature image

Nightlife info

Nightlife In Australia Australia is renowned for its Kangaroo and Koala population however little do people know that there is also a great nightlife. From casinos, restaurants, to barstools on the beach front you have a variety of nights to choose from. If casinos are particularly your thing then you’ll be happy to know that there are many land based casinos in Australia. Australian’s favourite games are the pokies, which you’ll know by the name of slots and which can be found in almost every pub and bar – Australians are said to gamble more on pokies per person than other country! Other than pokies Australian casinos offer all the casino classics including blackjack, poker, roulette and other table games, just visit some of the casino sites before your trip so you will know where to go. We recommend visiting this casino information site for Australians – for a directory of land based casinos as well as some useful, ‘how to’ gaming guides. In addition this New Zealand casino site has some good details on ‘bricks and mortar’ Australian casinos. Australia is packed with captivating venues to allow you all to let your hair down, in every city including Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. With its nice weather all year round, be sure to not miss out. Perth With Perth being the capital city of Western Australia, and fourth largest city it is known as paradise by day and party town by night. If you are out searching for a hotspot and looking for new people to mingle with, Perth is a must. For those who love Jazz and Blues, Universal bar is the finest place to be every night of the week for live music. For those who like to dress to impress, head to Geisha bar…this upmarket club has two bars and a dance floor that will defiantly get your heart rates up. Sydney Many people see Sydney’s best attractions as the Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge and its great bright blue beaches; but not many people know that Sydney out of all the cities in Australia has the most casinos. For those who love a challenge, other than a night at the tables there is always a chance to practice your online casino games skills at Spin Palace Australia. Here you’ll be able to find a choice of games such as pokies, roulette and poker and the advantage here is if you sign up you get a bonus of $1,000 AUD, now what Aussie can miss this? Those who would prefer a pub night out, Sydney various local bars where you can enjoy a chilled beer or two, for a bit of clubbing head to Kings Cross and Oxford Street area to dance the night away. With the drinking age limit being 18, bars and clubs can be strict on entry so it is ideal to carry some ID with you. Melbourne Melbourne is loaded with bars that suit everyone’s taste. The motto that Melbourne follows is “Go Hard or Go Home”. If you like to dance there are plenty of nightclubs in Melbourne that are open 24 hours so you can party till sunrise. If you fancy a quiet evening, there are plenty of restaurants where you can pleasantly taste the Australian multicultural cuisine. Nightlife image

Culture and history info

Australia's History. Aboriginal people dream on a timeless continent Australia’s Aboriginal people were thought to have arrived here by boat from South East Asia during the last Ice Age, at least 50,000 years ago. At the time of European discovery and settlement, up to one million Aboriginal people lived across the continent as hunters and gatherers. They were scattered in 300 clans and spoke 250 languages and 700 dialects. Each clan had a spiritual connection with a specific piece of land. However, they also travelled widely to trade, find water and seasonal produce and for ritual and totemic gatherings. Despite the diversity of their homelands - from outback deserts and tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountains – all Aboriginal people share a belief in the timeless, magical realm of the Dreamtime. According to Aboriginal myth, totemic spirit ancestors forged all aspects of life during the Dreamtime of the world’s creation. These spirit ancestors continue to connect natural phenomena, as well as past, present and future through every aspect of Aboriginal culture. Britain arrives and brings its convicts A number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, then known as New Holland, in the 17th century. However it wasn’t until 1770 that Captain James Cook chartered the east coast and claimed it for Britain. The new outpost was put to use as a penal colony and on 26 January 1788, the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying 1,500 people – half of them convicts – arrived in Sydney Harbour. Until penal transportation ended in 1868, 160,000 men and women came to Australia as convicts. While free settlers began to flow in from the early 1790s, life for prisoners was harsh. Women were outnumbered five to one and lived under constant threat of sexual exploitation. Male re-offenders were brutally flogged and could be hung for crimes as petty as stealing. The Aboriginal people displaced by the new settlement suffered even more. The dispossession of land and illness and death from introduced diseases disrupted traditional lifestyles and practices. Squatters push across the continent By the 1820s, many soldiers, officers and emancipated convicts had turned land they received from the government into flourishing farms. News of Australia’s cheap land and bountiful work was bringing more and more boatloads of adventurous migrants from Britain. Settlers or ‘squatters’ began to move deeper into Aboriginal territories – often with a gun - in search of pasture and water for their stock. In 1825, a party of soldiers and convicts settled in the territory of the Yuggera people, close to modern-day Brisbane. Perth was settled by English gentlemen in 1829, and 1835 a squatter sailed to Port Phillip Bay and chose the location for Melbourne. At the same time a private British company, proud to have no convict links, settled Adelaide in South Australia. Gold fever brings wealth, migrants and rebellion Gold was discovered in New South Wales and central Victoria in 1851, luring thousands of young men and some adventurous young women from the colonies. They were joined by boat loads of prospectors from China and a chaotic carnival of entertainers, publicans, illicit liquor-sellers, prostitutes and quacks from across the world. In Victoria, the British governor’s attempts to impose order - a monthly licence and heavy-handed troopers - led to the bloody anti-authoritarian struggle of the Eureka stockade in 1854. Despite the violence on the goldfields, the wealth from gold and wool brought immense investment to Melbourne and Sydney and by the 1880s they were stylish modern cities. Australia becomes a nation Australia’s six states became a nation under a single constitution on 1 January 1901. Today Australia is home to people from more than 200 countries. Australians go to war The First World War had a devastating effect on Australia. There were less than 3 million men in 1914, yet almost 400,000 of them volunteered to fight in the war. An estimated 60,000 died and tens of thousands were wounded. In reaction to the grief, the 1920s was a whirlwind of new cars and cinemas, American jazz and movies and fervour for the British Empire. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, social and economic divisions widened and many Australian financial institutions failed. Sport was the national distraction and sporting heroes such as the racehorse Phar Lap and cricketer Donald Bradman gained near-mythical status. During the Second World War, Australian forces made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. The generation that fought in the war and survived came out of it with a sense of pride in Australia’s capabilities. New Australians arrive to a post-war boom After the war ended in 1945, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across Europe and the Middle East arrived in Australia, many finding jobs in the booming manufacturing sector. Many of the women who took factory jobs while the men were at war continued to work during peacetime. Australia’s economy grew throughout the 1950s with major nation-building projects such as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in the mountains near Canberra. International demand grew for Australia’s major exports of metals, wools, meat and wheat and suburban Australia also prospered. The rate of home ownership rose dramatically from barely 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s. Australia loosens up Like many other countries, Australia was swept up in the revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960s. Australia’s new ethnic diversity, increasing independence from Britain and popular resistance to the Vietnam War all contributed to an atmosphere of political, economic and social change. In 1967, Australians voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ in a national referendum to let the federal government make laws on behalf of Aboriginal Australians and include them in future censuses. The result was the culmination of a strong reform campaign by both Aboriginal and white Australians. In 1972, the Australian Labor Party under the idealistic leadership of lawyer Gough Whitlam was elected to power, ending the post-war domination of the Liberal and Country Party coalition. Over the next three years, his new government ended conscription, abolished university fees and introduced free universal health care. It abandoned the White Australia policy, embraced multiculturalism and introduced no-fault divorce and equal pay for women. However by 1975, inflation and scandal led to the Governor-General dismissing the government. In the subsequent general election, the Labor Party suffered a major defeat and the Liberal–National Coalition ruled until 1983. Since the 1970s Between 1983 and 1996, the Hawke–Keating Labor governments introduced a number of economic reforms, such as deregulating the banking system and floating the Australian dollar. In 1996 a Coalition Government led by John Howard won the general election and was re-elected in 1998, 2001 and 2004. The Liberal–National Coalition Government enacted several reforms, including changes in the taxation and industrial relations systems. In 2007 the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd was elected with an agenda to reform Australia’s industrial relations system, climate change policies, and health and education sectors. Culture . Australian culture is founded on stories of battlers, bushrangers and brave soldiers. Of sporting heroes, working heroes and plucky migrants. It’s all about a fair go, the great outdoors and a healthy helping of irony. Today Australia also defines itself by its Aboriginal heritage, vibrant mix of cultures, innovative ideas and a thriving arts scene. Aboriginal culture: a rich and timeless tradition The Dreamtime is the sacred ‘time before time’ of the world’s creation. According to Aboriginal belief, totemic spirit ancestors emerged from the earth and descended from the sky to awaken a dark and silent world. They created the sun, moon and stars, forged mountains, rivers, trees and waterholes and changed into human and animal forms. Spirit ancestors connect this ancient past with the present and future through every aspect of Aboriginal culture. Rock art, craft and bark painting reveal Dreamtime stories, mark territory and record history, while songs tell of Dreamtime journeys, verbally mapping water sources and other essential landmarks. Their special lyrics have been passed down virtually unchanged for at least 50,000 years, and are often accompanied by clapsticks or the deep throb of the didgeridoo. Similarly, traditional dances reveal creation myths, enact the deeds of Dreamtime heroes and even recent historical events. Colonial myths: battlers, bushrangers and brave soldiers Australians believe in mateship and a ‘fair go’ and have a strong affection for the underdog or ‘battler’. These values stem from convicts and early colonialists who struggled against a harsh and unfamiliar land and often unjust authority. Australia’s most famous bushranger Ned Kelly protested against the poverty and injustice of a British class system shipped here along with the convicts. This flawed hero’s fight for 'justice and liberty' and 'innocent people' has been embraced as part of the national culture and inspired countless books and movies. On the goldfields of the mid-1850s, diggers were portrayed in stories and songs as romantic heroes, larrikins and villains who embraced democracy. The bloody 1854 Eureka Stockade, where Victorian miners rose up against an authoritarian licensing system, came to symbolise a triumph of social equality. Later, during World War I, the courageous ANZAC soldiers who served in Gallipoli gave new meaning to the term ‘tough Aussie’. Australian English: speaking ‘Strine’ Australians have a unique colloquial language, coined ‘strine’ by linguist Alastair Morrison (imagine saying Australian with your teeth gritted to keep out the flies) in 1966. This combines many long lost cockney and Irish sayings of the early convicts with words from Aboriginal languages. We often abbreviate words and then add an ‘o’ or ‘ie’ on the end as in ‘bring your cossie to the barbie this arvo’. We also like reverse nicknames, calling people with red hair ‘bluey’, saying ‘snowy’ to someone with dark hair, and tagging ‘lofty’ to someone who is small in stature. We tend to flatten our vowels and end sentences with a slightly upward inflection. Sporting heroes: the glory of green and gold It's no secret that Australians are sports mad. With more than 120 national and thousands of local, regional and state sporting organisations, it's estimated that six-and-a-half million people in Australia are registered sport participants. Not bad from a population of just over 21 million! The number one watched sport in Australia is Australian Rules Football (AFL) with its high kicks and balletic leaps, while the brute force and tackling tactics of National Rugby League (NRL) reign supreme in New South Wales and Queensland. Australia’s national Rugby Union team, the Wallabies play on the international circuit and in the Bledisloe Cup, part of a Tri Nations tournament with South Africa. Australia is a nation of swimmers and Olympic medals attest to our performance in the pool. All summer we watch the Australian cricket team in their whites and in January, we flick channels to see the tennis Australian Open. Held in Melbourne, this attracts more people to Australia than any other sporting event. Football is a growth sport, we draw world-class surfers for the Bells Beach Surf Classic and on Boxing Day crowds gather to watch the boats sail out of Sydney Harbour for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. On the first Tuesday in November, the nation stops for the famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup while and in March rev heads converge in Melbourne for the Formula One Grand Prix. The list of sports we love goes on, and if in doubt about the rules just ask a passionate punter. An outdoor lifestyle: beach and barbeques With more than 80 per cent of Australians living within 50 kilometres of the coast, the beach has become an integral part of our famous laid-back lifestyle. From Saturday morning surf-club training for young ‘nippers’ to a game of beach cricket after a barbeque, we love life on our sandy shores. We jostle for a spot on packed city beaches, relax at popular holiday spots and drive to secret, secluded beaches in coastal national parks. We go to the beach to enjoy the sun and surf or to sail, parasail, fish, snorkel, scuba dive and beach comb. It’s where we socialise and play sport, relax and enjoy romance. It’s also the site for celebration. On New Year’s Eve, revellers dance in the sand and watch fireworks at Manly and Bondi beaches in Sydney and Glenelg in Adelaide. Many beaches host citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day and on Christmas Day up to 40,000 international visitors converge on Bondi Beach wearing Santa hats and swimming costumes. Australia’s most famous beaches - Bondi and Manly in Sydney, St Kilda in Melbourne, Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast, Cottesloe in Perth and Glenelg in Adelaide – attract locals as well as international tourists. Multiculturalism: diverse food, festivals and faith Since 1945 more than six million people from across the world have come to Australia to live. Today, more than 20 per cent of Australians are foreign born and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. In our homes we speak 226 languages - after English, the most popular are Italian, Greek, Cantonese and Arabic. Our rich cultural diversity is reflected in our food, which embraces most of the world’s cuisines and artfully fuses quite a few of them. You’ll find European flavours, the tantalising spices of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and bush tucker from our backyard on offer everywhere from street stalls to five star restaurants. Tuck into Thai takeaway, dine out on perfect Italian pasta, do tapas in our city’s Spanish strips and feast on dumplings in Chinatown. You can also embrace our melting pot of cultures in the many colourful festivals. See samba and capoeira at Bondi’s Brazilian South American festival, dance behind the dragon parade during Chinese New Year or stroll through streets transformed into a lively piazza during the annual Italian celebrations. As a nation, we embrace a rainbow of religious belief and you’ll find Catholic and Anglican churches, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist temples, mosques and synagogues lining our streets. Australian innovations: from the Hills Hoist to Penicillin Australia’s unique geography and relative isolation has made it a fertile ground for new ideas. In 1879, Australians developed a way for ice to be manufactured artificially, allowing us to export meat to Great Britain on refrigerated ships. In 1906, the surf lifesaving reel was designed so lifesavers could reach distressed swimmers with a rope attached to their vests. In 1929, Alfred Traeger built a pedal-powered radio as the communications for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Australians were also responsible for more everyday inventions such as notepads (1902), aspirin (1915), the pacemaker (1926), penicillin (1940) the Hills Hoist clothesline (1946), the plastic disposable syringe (1949), the wine cask (1965), the bionic ear (1978), dual-flush toilet flush (1980), anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes (1992) and long-wearing contact lenses (1999). Long before European colonisation, the Aboriginal people were already leading the world. They invented the aerodynamic boomerang and a type of spear thrower called the woomera. They were also the first society to use ground edges on stone cutting tools and the first to use stone tools to grind seeds, everyday tools which were developed only much later by other societies. Culture cravings: theatre, film, books and visual art From theatre to literature, Australians have a quiet love affair with the arts. We flock to the movies and our attendance at galleries and performing arts is almost double that for all football codes. Our cities play host to a huge array of cutting-edge cultural festivals, and offer music, theatre and dance performances and art exhibitions every day of the week. See traditional Aboriginal dance performance by the Bangarra Dance Theatre, throw yourself into the WOMADelaide international music festival in Adelaide and soak up theatre, ballet, opera and painting in Brisbane’s huge cultural centre on South Bank. In smaller towns you can catch performances by local musicians and see hand-made art and craft. Culture and history image
Sydney with a local-Private guided tours in Australia

Sydney with a local-Private guided tours in Australia

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