Big stuff, old stuff, history stuff and beer stuff. Australia has it all, it’s a fact.
Australia is big. Really, really big
- Australia is the world’s sixth largest country by area. It is as wide as the distance from London to Moscow.
- The largest cattle station in Australia, Anna Creek, is bigger than Israel and over seven times the size of the largest ranch in the USA.
- Australia is home to the world’s longest fence. At 5,614 km long, it was originally built to keep dingoes away from farm land.
- The Great Barrier Reef off Queensland’s coast is the planet’s largest living structure.
- If you visited one new beach in Australia every single day, it would take more than 27 years to enjoy them all (but prior to 1902, it was illegal to swim at the beach during the day).
- The Australian Alps receive more snowfall than Switzerland. Despite this, many Aussies have never seen snow and most have never been skiing.
- Australia is very sparsely populated though: While the United Kingdom has 248.25 persons per square kilometre, Australia has only 2.66 people per square kilometre.
- How sparse is that? Well, Australia’s largest electorate, Durack, is bigger than Mongolia.
- Because more than 80% of Australians live within 100km of the coast.
- Australia’s human population is now almost 24 million, and they share the land with over 70 million sheep.
- 60% of adult Australians are overweight. 25% of Aussies are obese.
And we are a nation of high rollers
- Over 80% of Australian adults engage in gambling of some form, the highest rate in the world.
- Per capita, Australians spend more money on gambling than any other nation.
- In 1992, an Aussie gambling syndicate bought almost all the number combinations in a USA lottery. They won, turning a $5million investment into a $27million windfall.
- Australia is home to around 20% of the world’s poker (slot) machines.
- About 50% of these are located in the state of New South Wales.
- In 1880, it is thought that Melbourne was the richest city in the world.
- The average full-time salary for the Aussie worker is about $73,000 a year.
- 10% of Aussie households have a net worth over $1.6 million.
- Mining mega-magnate Gina Rinehart is Australia’s richest person. With an estimated net worth of 14.8billion, she earns about $2million an hour.
- An Australian man once tried to sell New Zealand on eBay.
Australia is a world leader and beater
- The first images from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing were beamed around the globe from Honeysuckle Tracking Station, near Canberra. The story was recounted in to a movie, The Dish.
- The 1906 Australian movie ‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’ – about bushranger Ned Kelly – is the world’s oldest example of a full-length feature film.
- In 1856, Aussie stonemasons demanded a standard 8-hour working day which went on to become a common workers’ demand around the world.
- The world’s first compulsory seat belt law was legislated in the state of Victoria in 1970.
- The Blackbox flight recorder is an Aussie invention; however, there has never been a crash of an Australian commercial airliner
- Australia is ranked 2nd on the Human Development Index (based on life expectancy, income and education).
- The world’s oldest known fossil was found in Australia. It is approximately 3.4 billion years old.
- The world’s oldest existing professional football club is the Melbourne Demons. The footy club was officially formed on 14 May 1859. Three days later, members of the club codified Australian rules football… four years before the first meeting of the English FA and the codifying of soccer.
- The largest-ever victory in an international football (soccer) match was when Australia smashed American Samoa 31-0 in 2001 as part of the Oceania World Cup grouping. These days Australia competes in the Asia grouping which is more competitive and offers more places in the World Cup finals tournament. Australia hosted and won the Asian Cup in 2015.
Exploring and pioneering is in our blood
- Chinese explorers are thought to have come to Australia long before Europeans. Perhaps as early as the 1400s, sailors came to the continent to fish for sea-cucumbers and trade with the Indigenous inhabitants.
- Captain Cook initially named the place where he first set foot on Australian soil in 1770 as ‘Stingray Bay’ due to the abundance of the said marine creatures. He later changed it to ‘Botany Bay’ in honour of the unique flora specimens collected from there by voyage botanist, Joseph Banks.
- Within days of the arrival of the British colonising First Fleet in 1788 at what is now Sydney, two French ships turned up… but too late to claim the great southern land for France.
- Australia’s first local police force was comprised of criminals. It was formed from the best-behaved convicts.
- In 1892, about 200 Australians unhappy with the local government tried to start an offshoot colony in Paraguay. It was proposed to be called ‘New Australia’.
But all that leading, beating and exploring sure is thirsty work
- European settlers in Australia drank more alcohol per capita than any other society in human history.
- Rum was Australia’s effective currency during the first 25 years of colonisation due to a lack of available coins.
- Sir John Robertson, premier of NSW in the 1800s, drank half a pint of rum each morning. He said: “None of the men who in this country have left footprints behind them have been cold water men.”
- Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a then world record for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds while he was a student at Oxford. To this day, Hawkey likes to entertain cricket crowds with his drinking prowess.
- According to a 2014 survey, Australians were the world’s biggest spenders on beer.
- According to the World Health Organisation, Aussie drinkers consumed 14.5 litres of pure alcohol per capita in 2011-12, more than twice the global average.
- However, this still only ranks Australians at #19 on the world list of alcohol consumers (who’s above us? Think Eastern Europe).
- There are 60 designated wine regions across Australia.
- The wine cask (bladder, goon bag) is a genius Australian invention.
We have a proud, but somewhat chequered, political history
- Australia was the second country in the world to allow women to vote (New Zealand was first).
- The Aussie capital, Canberra, which is located between Sydney and Melbourne, was established in 1908 and built from scratch as a compromise to the dispute between Sydney and Melbourne over which city would be the capital of the recently federated nation.
- In 2005, security guards at Parliament House in Canberra were banned from calling people ‘mate’. The ban was overturned the next day.
- 300 female convicts mooned the governor of Tasmania in 1832. It was reported that in a “rare moment of collusion with the Convict women, the ladies in the Governor’s party could not control their laughter.”
- In 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim at a beach in Victoria and was never seen again. Theories about Holt’s disappearance range from him being taken by a shark to him being taken by a Soviet sub.
- Australia was one of the founding members of the United Nations.
- In 1975, when the governor general decided the federal parliament couldn’t function properly, he sacked the entire government.
- Until 1984, Australia’s official national anthem was ‘God Save The Queen’. It was updated to ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
- In 2010, an Australian election TV debate between then prime minister Julia Gillard and then challenger Tony Abbott was rescheduled so it didn’t conflict with the finale of reality show Masterchef.
Our animals are weird. Really, really weird
- When a specimen of the platypus was first sent to back to England, it was initially believed those crazy colonials had played a joke by sewing the bill of a duck onto a rat.
- Charles Darwin was the first British scientist to observe a platypus in its natural habitat, during his 1836 visit to Australia. Upon sighting the bizarre creature, he said: “Oh! Well that would be an interesting creature to shoot.” And so he shot one.
- The spines located near the feet of the male platypus contain venom strong enough venom to kill a dog.
- Kangaroos and emus cannot walk backwards, one of the reasons that they are represented holding the shield on the Australian coat of arms.
- A kangaroo is barely one centimetre long when it is born.
- Charles Darwin never spotted a live kangaroo during his visit.
- Wombat poo is cube shaped.
- The marine box jellyfish has killed more people in Australia than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.
- Despite being home to the arguably the world’s most lethal spider – the funnel-web – there have been no deaths in Australia from a spider bite since 1979 following the development of anti-venom.
- The male lyrebird can mimic almost any noise. While being able to copy the songs of other birds, it is also known to produce pitch perfect renditions of other animals like dingoes and koalas as well as man-made noises such as chainsaws, car engines, car alarms, camera shutters, mobile phones and even a crying baby.
- No native Australian animals have hooves.
- Before the arrival of humans, Australia was home to prehistoric megafauna: kangaroos that towered up to three metres, seven metre long lizards, a marsupial lion the size of a leopard and ducks the size of horses.
And we love our unique place in the world
- Australia is the world’s only continent without an active volcano.
- Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia.
- In 1979, debris from the US space station Skylab crashed in Western Australia. The town of Esperance fined NASA $400 for littering.
- 26% of Australians were born overseas
- The global image of the laid back, happy, friendly Aussie is well deserved. The most widely spoken Australian terms are “no worries” (used by 74% of Aussies), “arvo” (meaning ‘afternoon’ – 73%), and “G’day” (71%).