Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere
(that is the bottom half of the world).
This is why it is sometimes called the Land Down Under.
Australia is the smallest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent in the world. It is the only country which is also a whole continent. 18.6 million people live here.
The people of Australia are called Australians. Australians call different parts of their country by different names:
· The City
Is any large city and its suburbs. Over 85% of the people live in cities. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra are major cities.
· The Country
Is the area immediately outside the city and usually includes the surrounding smaller towns and farms. Most of what is called "the country" is a stretch of land about 200 kilometres deep around the eastern and southern seaboards of Australia. Upper Beaconsfield, the Great Ocean Road , the Dandenongs, etc are in "the country".
· The Outback
Is the sparsely populated arid interior of Australia. The Australian Outback is both harsh and breathtakingly beautiful. It's like no other place on earth. Coober Pedy, Uluru, etc are in the Outback.
There are 6 states and 2 territories in Australia:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
- Australian Capital Territory
The capital of Australia is Canberra .
Australia has lots of unusual Animals.
Australia has the largest coral reef in the world called the Great Barrier Reef. It is stunning!.
Australians speak English. But we also have our own special words and phrases referred to as Strine.
Australia's favourite song is Waltzing Matilda
Aborigines - The First Australians
The word Aborigine is derived from Latin and means "from the beginning". This is the name given to the native Australians by the Europeans.
This is not the name they called themselves.
They prefer to call themselves: Koori.
The first human inhabitants of Australia were the Aborigines.
They are a dark-skinned people belonging to the Australoid group who probably came from Asia. Nobody is quite sure how they came to Australia around 60,000 years ago. They may have walked and sailed here from Asia.
The Aborigines were nomadic hunter-gathers. They roamed from place to place. They hunted animals using spears and boomerangs. They also gathered fruits, nuts and yams which they ate.
There were around 300,000 aborigines in about 250 tribal groups before the first white settlers came. Each group had its own territory, traditions, beliefs and language.
They all believed in the Dreamtime which is the center piece of aboriginal culture.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SETTLERS
The aborigine people had never seen white people until Captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1770. They were shocked to see these white people in their strange clothes.
When the aborigines first saw the ships of the "First Fleet" enter Botany Bay in 1778 with so many white skinned people they thought they were the spirits of their dead ancestors (after all they were so white). In actual fact these were the first European settlers led by Captain Arthur Phillip.
At first the Aborigines were friendly towards the visitors but were very confused at the way white foreigners behaved:
- Why did the foreigners walk on aborigine sacred sites and dig up aborigine graves?
- Why did they boss each other around and beat and hang people?
- Why did they chop down trees and take food without asking?
- Why were they mean and selfish towards each other and not sharing?
THE FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING
While exploring around the new settlement Captain Arthur Phillip befriended an old aborigine man. When he returned to camp he met the old man again and gave him some beads and a hatchet. Later that night Captain Phillip discovered the old man taking one of his shovels and slapped the man on his shoulder and pushed him away while pointing to the spade. The old man was very upset and could not understand why his friend was acting this way.
Aborigines share what they have with their friends.
Captain Phillip was very careful not to offend the aborigines but Aborigine and the Settlers cultures were so different! They didn't understand each other.
When the aborigines realised that the white men were not the spirits of their dead ancestors and that the settlers were taking more and more of their land and destroying the trees and wild life they began to fight back.
The aborigines killed a number of the settlers and even wounded Captain Phillip in an attack. The settlers reacted by slaughtering and poisoning the aborigines and systematically destroying the land and wild animals they lived on.
White settlers brought diseases the aborigines had never had before (diseases which were quite common in Europe at the time).
Aborigines caught smallpox and even the common cold and died in great numbers. Within two years smallpox had killed almost half the aborigine population around Sydney.
The British colonists declared that before their arrival all of the continent was terra nullius (uninhabited by humans). They used this as justification for taking whatever they wanted.
As more and more white settlers moved in and occupied the fertile lands the aborigines were pushed further and further away from their traditional lands and into the harsh arid interior. Their families were broken up, their children taken away from them and sent to be "civilised", their sacred sites destroyed and their wild animals hunted.
The killing and exploitation of aborigines by whites continued well into the twentieth century. The aboriginal population declined from the original 300,000 when the first white settlers arrived to only about 60,000 people (less than the number of people that can be seated at the MCG stadium!).
Aborigines were second class citizens in their own land. They only got the right to vote in 1967.
This is a shameful part of Australian history.
Much progress has been made over recent years to try to right the wrongs of the past. Where possible the government has been returning land to their traditional owners and encouraging Aborigines to rebuild their culture and lives.
They are the single most disadvantaged group of people in Australia.
There is still a long way to go!
ANIMALS - AUSTRALIA
Up to about 250 millions of years ago the world had just one huge super-continent call Pangaea. Animals and plants were able to move and intermix with one another.
About 200 million years ago this super-continent broke up into two continents (Laurasia and Gondwana).
About 60 million years ago Gondwana broke up into what was to later become South America, Africa, Antarctica, India and Australia.
Since then Australia has been isolated from the rest of the world by vast oceans. The animals and plants which were originally here no longer had contact with animals from other parts of the world. They evolved separately. That is why they are so different.
NATIVE AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS
Australia has lots very unusual animals. About 95 percent of the mammals, 70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles and 94 percent of the frogs are found nowhere else in the world.
Find out about them here:
- Long-Nosed Bandicoot
- Black Snake (Red-bellied)
- Crocodile (Saltwater)
- Frilled Lizard
- Penguin (Fairy)
- Feathertail Glider
- Sugar Glider
- Tawny Frogmouth
WHO DISCOVERED AUSTRALIA
In about 200AD a famous Greek astronomer named Claudius Ptolemy believed that the earth had to be balanced or it would topple over. So he figured that there had be a land yet unknown to Europeans somewhere below the Indian Ocean. Over time this yet to be discovered land came to be known as
Terra Australis Incognito
which means the
Unknown Southern Land.For many centuries people in Europe were certain that there was a land down under (this map from 1570 shows what they thought) but nobody knew how to get to it . They kept missing it or not realising that they had stumbled upon it. For over 200 years hundreds of European navigators set across the seas searching for the Unknown
They expected to find gold and other treasures.
Aborigines were the first people to discover Australia. They may have walked or sailed he