Tag Archives: The Great South Land

Australia

The amazing country of “the Down Under” …. “Australia” or “Terra Australis Incognita” …. the “Great South Land” which was once believed only to belong to myths and legends, until the legendary Captain Cook sailed the HMS Endeavour to discover its shores. A mythical land of strange creatures, plentiful resources, and alien culture that siezed the interests of European launching many worldwide expeditions to colonize its shores very similar to Europe’s take-over of North America … but with more convicts than puritans. I was always enchanted with this wonderful country growing up … wishing someday to live there. A big bold brave new world it is … much more “new” than “America”, albeit sharing much more commonality in landscape and commercialism than it does its closely tied British influences. Strip malls and department stores aplenty with mass-marketing commercialism lacking in historical landmarks structures, Australia resembles North America with its varied terrain, replacing the pine tree with the Eucalyptus, and the deer with the kangaroo. Yet a strikely unique culture of its own, mish-mashed with American and European influences struggling to accomodate its indigenous cultures … Australia is still building its “history” which has met numerous struggles of booms and blow-outs, and currently on one of the best economic vantage points in the world with minimal to non-existent unemployment, high pay for minimum wages, and a explosive export industry of its resources. Not only commercially prosperous, it is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations with immaculate (and empty) beaches, magnificent countrysides, and amazing panoramas. It is truly a country that lies “Down Under” in the heart of all who see themselves as explorers and adventurers. It is “the wild country” un-touched in many ways. The name itself is derived from the Latin “australis” meaning “southern”. Australia also holds claim to the modern nickname of “Oz” and her citizens are often referred to as “Aussies”.

Australia is a Commonwealth country in the Southern Hemisphere including numerous islands such as Tasmania and others in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It shares its oceans with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. Throughout early explorer history, legends would be told of this strange South Pacific landmass filled with strange creatures, exotic wonders, and riches beyond fascination. The Ancient Romans even talk of the “ancient south land” leading to many myths and legends of these mysterious shores. Captain Cook was sent to study the transit of Venus across the sky with secret orders to dispel the myth of this fabled land. He indeed after much struggle found the mysterious lands to exist, but off from the original location where it was believed to be. This land was not uninhabited. In fact, its aboriginal inhabitants had been there for over 40,000 years by various groups of indigenous with a wide range of diverse culture and language groups. These people were believed to have migrated here by land bridges and short sea-crossings from where Southeast Asia is located. Most of the indigenous were nomadic hunters and gatherers (though some were horticulturalists). These amazing cultures of complex oral culture and faiths were quite foreign to the invading Europeans who only compared them to the North American Indians they encountered when invading the Americas. Just as with the Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines had a strong reverence for the land. They also had a vast inter-connected belief in “The Dream Time“. As the Dutch first exposed the lands in 1606, mainly by sporadic visits from fishermen from the Malay Archipelago, and explorations of the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. In the 17th century, the Dutch called the western and northern coastlines “New Holland” though did not settle the area at the time. An English explorer and privateer named “William Dampier” landed on Australia’s northwest coast in 1688 and again in 1699. Australia’s eastern shores was first claimed by the British in 1770 around the time they were losing America and recognizing troubles on those shores. This was done by Captain Cook who sailed along and mapped Australia’s east coast, calling it “New South Wales” for Great Britain. It was originally settled as a penal colony in the area now known as New South Wales early 1788. Australia became a popular destination after America was lost as new resources, new exploration deals, and new prosperous offers for establishing colonies arrived in Europe. The indigenous were treated like “animals” and genocide was inflicted upon their populations. Once at a population of over 350,000 … after settlement, just like in the Americas, the Europeans decimated the numbers by bloodshed, disease, slavery, and outright murder. Some were hunted down like animals for sport. They inflicted the removal of Aboriginal children from their families in what is now called “The Stolen Generations” just like in the Americas. Unlike the Americas though, treatment of the Indigenous in many ways were worse, and most of Australia was not held responsible for their actions until the 1990’s. Traditional ownership of land with native title was not recognized until 1992. Explorations went deep into the heart of Australia and an additional 5 self-governing Crown colonies were established. The early 1850’s saw a major gold Rush to the lands “Down Under” and the Eureka Stockade Rebellion of 1854 was one of the first expressions of civil disobedience to take hold in Australia. From 1855-1890, six colonies individually gained responsible government managing their own affairs though still tied to the British Empire. These became a Federation in 1901 and the “Commonwealth of Australia” was created as a “dominion” of the British Empire in 1907. Since that date, Australia has taken on its own stable liberal democratic political system with over 22 million residents to date of this article. 60 percent of Australia’s population reside in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. The Australian Capital Territory was established (similar to the District of Columbia in the U.S.A.), with a National capital of Canberra (similar to the U.S.A.’s “Washington D.C.”). Over 55 percent of Australia’s population inhabits either Victoria or New South Wales with over 70 percent of the population clinging to the east coast of the country. Australia quickly moved up to be the world’s 13th largest economy raking high on the planet’s performance standards for human development, health care, quality of life, life expectancy, public education, economic freedon, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. As a upstanding member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, APEC, the World Trade Organization, G20, and the Pacific Islands Forum … Australia is highly involved with adding input and assistance to world industry, environment, and relations. In 1914, Australia joined Britain in World War I which had extreme losses to Australia. They joined in actively for World War II as well leading to the definition of being its own nation. Britain’s Statute of Westminster in 1931 formally ended most of the consititutional links between Australia and the UK. During UK’s defeat in Asia in 1942 when Australia was threatened by a Japanese invasion, led to Australia turning to the United States as a new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has been in legion with the United States as a formal military ally inder the ANZUS treaty. This, as well as immigration from Europe and Asia transformed Australia’s demography, culture, and image.

When the Australia Act of 1986 was passed, the final constitutional ties between Australia and the UK were severed ending any British role in the government of Australian States. Australia became a constitutional monarchy with a federal division of powers, using a parliamentary system of Government with Queen Elizebeth II at its apex as the Queen of Australia. She is represented by her viceroys in Australia, the Governor General at the federal level, and by Governors in the state level, acting in convention by the advice of her ministers. Executive authority is vested by the constitution of Australia in the sovereign, but power to exercise it is conferred by the Governor-General. The government has three branches – (1) the Legislature (bicameral parliament, the Queen represented by the Governor-General), the Senate, and House of Representatives); (2) the Executive (Federal Executive Council); and the (3) Judiciary (High Court of Australia and other federal courts). Australia has two major political groups forming government – federally and in the States, known as the “Australian Labor Party” and “The Coalition” (Liberal Party and National Party). There are independent members and several minor parties including the Australian Democrats and the Greens.

Australia has 6 states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. Australia also has two major mainland territories – The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Each state and territory has its own parliament-unicameral in the Northern Territory, ACT, and Queensland and its own bicameral in the other states. Just like in the United States, each State is its own sovereign entity, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. Australia has also pursued the cause of international trade liberalization leading to the Cairns Group and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, seeking out major bilateral free trade agreements around the world. Australia is committed to multilateralism maintaining international aid programs assisting over 60 countries with assistance. Australia has its own armed forces, called the “ADF” or “Australian Defense Forces” comprising of the “RAN” (Royal Australian Navy), the Australian Army, the “RAAF” (Royal Australian Air Force), and over 80,000 personnel. Australia is a free-market economy with a high GDP and low rate of poverty, led by its own Australian Dollar. Australia relies on tourism and trade, mostly of natural resources, mining, metals, beef, and agricultural product. Life expectancy in Australia is much higher than many other countries, with figures of over 78.7 for males and 83.5 for females born after 2006 although Australia has amongst the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and one of the highest proportions of overweight citizens in developed nations. Australia has a remarkable universal health care system known as “Medibank” that has been in play since 1975 nominally funded by income tax surcharges known as the Medicare levy, with states managing the hospitals and attached outpatient services.

Australia does not have an official language, but “Australian English” is the most commonly used. Australia also has no state religion, though over 64% of the country lists itself as Christian. Culturally, since 1788, Australia has been mostly “Anglo-Celtic” Western Culture influenced although recent distinctive cultural features on the Indigenous identity has been growing steadily. Australia is known for its arts, music, culture, history, traditions, landscape, and diversity.

Australia consists of over 7.6 million square kilometers of land mass located on the Indo-Australian Plate, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific ocean, separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. Australia is the world’s smallest continent and sixth largest country by area, as well as being the world’s largest island. Australia has over 21,000 miles of coastline. Australia is home to the world’s largest coral reef known as “The Great Barrier Reef” just off its northeastern coast. The world’s largest monolith, known as “Mount Augustus”, is found in Western Australia. Australia is also athe flattest continent in the world with the oldest and least fertil soil bases on the planet, composed of desert and semi-arid land terrain the Australian’s call “The Outback”. The rest of Australia is comprised of beaches, coastal terrain, tropical climates, woodlands, gorges, rainforests, alpine heaths, shrublands, grasslands, and “The Bush“. 85% of its non-human inhabitants are endemic with the greatest number of reptiles found in any other country. Her forests are made mainly up of Eucalypts and wattles. Australia is infamous for its monotremes such as the platypus and echidna as well as its diverse marsupials such as the Kangaroo, koala, and wombat. Australia’s climate is variable depending on the region of the island one is located, but is ravaged by the Indian Ocean Dipole and El Niņo-Southern Oscillation, and affected by various ocean currents leading to great floods and harsh droughts. Climate change is a major concern for Australia, especially of recent history, leading to Australia taking a pro-active stance in the protection of the environment as one of its most important issues.

From Museum display at Australian National Museum: “Australia’s Place in the World: Australiasia … presents to the philosophic Naturalist a more interesting field … than any other division of the globe. ~ William Swainson, 1823. Australia’s animals and plants generated extroadinary interest from Europe. The European public was amazed by the spectacular plants such as the waratah, the most magnificent plant which the prolific soil of New Holland affords’ and birds ‘superior perhaps in elegance to those of most other climes.’ Scientists were puzzled by strange plants and mammals, such as the kangaroo and the platypus, which did not fit existing classification systems.”

Flight from Canberra to Brisbane, Australia


 



 



 


Queensland, Australia


 


Australia Travel Map

Australia Travel Map

The Australia Travel Reference Map by ITMB is an all-in-one travel resource, and perfect for todays travelers This Australia map is double-sided, fully indexed and printed on waterproof paper. This Australia Travel Map
includes useful information such as Inset Map of Sydney Elevation, Hydrography,and Coral Reefs Major transportation routes National Parks, Nature Reserves and Recreation areas Extensive labeling of physical features such as mountain ranges, valleys and peaks Aboriginal Settlements Overview of the countrys history Detailed Scale of 13,600,000







 


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