G’day mate. Welcome to the land down under.
I was born in the Outback, which is located in the Northern Territory. This territory was transferred to the commonwealth in 1911 after being part of New South Wales and South Australia. In 1978 it became a self-governed state.
The population in Northern Territory is 169,000. The Outback is the most sparsely populated area in Australia. The natural resources in Northern Territory include uranium, bauxite, manganese and copper. Mining is the main industry and beef cattle are the main agricultural product.
In the summer, there is very heavy rainfall then practically none for the rest of the year. It is one of the driest places in the world. When it does rain, the rivers dry up again in four days. The main tourist attraction in the Outback is Alice Springs. The people wish that Darwin, the largest and capital city, would get as much attention. The reason Darwin doesn’t get many tourists in May through September is because that is when Darwin has their monsoon rains.
In the Outback we live in camps. There are approximately eighty people in each camp with fifteen houses. The camps have a big storage shed, a meeting shed, a clinic and a shower block. There are no telephones so we communicate by using a two-way radio. Outback children like myself are also schooled by radio. We learn English, science and math.
When we enter the secondary high school, we actually go to school or move into town and attend a local school. The school year starts late in January or early February. Summer vacation starts in December and lasts for six weeks. We have to wear uniforms and the girls enter through one entrance and the boys through another. School begins at 8:30am and goes until 3 or 4:00pm. After graduation lots of Aussies attend college in the United States.
The main language in Australia is English, but in Aussie-English there are many words that are different than the ones used in the United States. For example a brolly is an umbrella, a cozzie is a bathing suit, ice block is a Popsicle, jumbuck is a sheep, mate is a buddy or pal, milk bar is a soda fountain, sand shoes are sneakers, ta means thank you, dunny is an outhouse and she’ll be apples means it will be okay.
The most popular meal in Australia are barbeques. Most families have barbeques at least once a week. Each day starts off with a large brekkie (breakfast) that usually consists of eggs and snags (sausage). We also have lots of snacks like meat pies with tomato sauce, chocolate-orange sherbet balls called jaffas, fan tales, which are chocolate coated caramels and violet crumble bars or chocolate honeycomb. My favorite snack is the jaffas.
We have traditional foods for holidays. During Christmas we have coral trout, Atlantic salmon, roast turkey with bread sauce and baked vegetables. Desserts consist of plum pudding with brandy butter and tropical fruit salad. It is very common to go to the beach on Christmas Day. Traditional foods for birthdays include multi-colored marble cake, rich pavlova that is a fruitcake, butterfly cakes and bread and butter with sprinkles. For public holidays there are always barbeques. On national holidays there is feasting and dancing.
Australia is most well known for its unique animals. The animals in the Outback are kangaroos, dingoes and emus. The kangaroos, or ‘roos as we Aussies call them, are the prime symbol for Australia. The red and gray ‘roos are the largest. The gray ‘roos reach seven feet tall if not taller and the red ‘roos are at least six feet tall and very acrobatic. Adult kangaroos are usually six feet tall while the joeys are only one inch tall at birth. Kangaroos are quite timid creatures and the best kick boxers down under. They usually feed around dusk, eating leaves, grass and seeds. It is not uncommon to see a kangaroo laying along side the road. They are hit as often as deer are in the United States.
The dingo is the Australian version of the Asiatic wolf and the Indian wild dog. Protection of sheep and cattle is vital because the dingoes will kill them. The dingoes because such a nuisance that a dingo fence was put up. It covered about one third of the territory.
The second largest bird in the world is the emu. They are very social creatures. Emu eggs are the size of a grapefruit. After the female lays her eggs it is the male who sits on the eggs and takes care of the babies. They have no wings. An old Australian legend says the emu cut off her wings so she would not loose her kingship of being the greatest bird to the Australian turkey. Although emus cannot fly they can run up to 30 miles an hour. They are six feet tall and weigh 130 pounds. The emus eat roots, leave and grass. They are shy and peaceful birds.
When I graduated from college, I decided after living in the Outback most of my life, I wanted something totally different. Since I had majored in telecommunications I figured I would have a better chance of getting a job if I lived in or near a city.
I decided to move to the state of Queensland also known as the Sunshine State. There are tropical rainforests and jungles in the northeast. The Torrid Zone covers half the state and the climate is tropical all year round. The farther south someone goes the colder it becomes. Queensland is probably the most productive state. Almost half of the population lives in the capital city of Brisbane. During the summer the temperature is usually 90 degrees and drops to around 75 in the winter. It gets about 60 inches of rain a year.
Off the coast of Queensland there is the Great Barrier Reef, which is a main tourist attraction. It is the largest coral reef in the world. Its location is in the Coral Sea and it 1,250 miles long. The reef is separate from the inland by a 100-mile long lagoon. The reef contains hundreds of individual reefs, many coral gardens and some unusual marine life. In some places it is more than 400 feet thick.
The koala bear, one of Australia’s national treasure and my personal favorite, is found in northern Queensland. It is the animal that receives the most recognition. It’s scientific names means pouched bear even though it is not truly a bear. It’s a marsupial. The word koala comes from the Aboriginal language and means one who doesn’t drink. Koalas mostly feed on eucalyptus leaves. They are the only animals that can digest the gum leaves. The leaves are poisonous to many other animals. The reason koala bears can eat them is because their stomachs contain a special kind of bacteria that helps to digest them. Koala are about two feet high, have gray and brown fur, large furry ears and leathery looking noses. They are also nocturnal. Baby koala stay in the mother’s pouch for about six months. They are quite helpless until they are a year old. The government passed a law prohibiting koala hunting. Since the koala population is low koala only have one baby every two years.
Even though Australia has similar characteristics to North America it is drastically different in many ways. In the meantime I urge you to visit Australia’s sister state, New Zealand. But that’s a story for another time.