Australia (1901- ) is either the largest island or the smallest continent. Or both. It is also a country that was once part of
the British Empire. A place of strong beer and good weather.
Aristotle argued for the existence of Australia: there must be unknown land far to the south to balance out the known land in the north. Ptolemy even put it on his map – not as fact, but as theory. The place came to be called Terra Australis Incognita – the Unknown Land of the South.
The theory turned out to be right. Australia is south-east of India and south of China. It is on the opposite side of the world from America, where it is known as “The Land Down Under.”
Because Australia is a world unto itself, it has strange animals you see almost no where else, like kangaroos, koalas, wombats, platypuses and emus.
Australia is as large as America without Alaska yet it has fewer people than California: it is much drier than America.
The middle of the country is flat and dry – too dry – while the south-east is like Europe. In between is a vast land of grass where sheep live. There are more sheep than men in Australia. The north is wet and warm: it lies in the tropics. Australia has no great rivers.
Most Australians live in one of four cities along the sea: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in the east and Perth in the west. The seat of government is Canberra, which is more an overgrown suburb than a city.
Australia is an English-speaking, largely Christian country. There are more Protestants than Catholics, but less than half the country is Protestant. It has a parliamentary-style democracy. The Queen is the head of state. Some wanted to make Australia into a republic not too long ago, but most wanted to keep the old girl on.
Australian English comes from the streets of London: it is closer to Cockney than the Queen’s English. Because it left Britain later, it is much closer to British English than American English is.
Australia was kept safe by British warships before the Second World War and by American ones since. Australia has fought with both in wars overseas.
Before the Second World War Australia feared British influence. Now they fear American influence.
You see this in a backward way in their spelling: the Labor Party spells its name in the American fashion: it was so spelled in the early 1900s when British influence was high. But now, with American influence high, everyone writes the word in the British fashion as labour.
Like South Africa, much of Australia’s wealth comes from mining.
The British began to settle Australia in 1788. The first settlement became what is now Sydney. At first Britain sent prisoners. Many were people would could not pay their debts – being sent to a land where gold would later be discovered.
The aborigines came to Australia thousands of years before the British. They still live there, though now only one Australian in 40 is an aborigine. They look like the people of south India, but darker. Their hair is black and almost straight.
– Abagond, 2007.
- Posts about Australia
- The Anglo world
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