Impressions and curious facts about Australia

This is a personal view based on four visits, having just returned from the most recent visit to the Sydney and Perth regions. All told I have probably been living there for a total of about 4 months and so, I think, I have a fair familiarity. However, I find that there are a number of day-to-day aspects that still catch me off guard.  For example

  • You drive on the left but all distance signs and speedometers use kilometres.
  • Many of the exotic house plants cultured in the UK grow wild on the sides of roads.
  • The wildlife frequently seems quite bizarre; startlingly coloured birds with very strange voices, and spiders that can kill humans, to name a couple of examples.
  • Beer that is lager. It is sold in bottles called stubbies or long necks, and cans of beer are called tinnies.
  • Supermarkets cannot sell alcoholic drinks, and Off Licences are called, practically enough, Bottle Shops.
  • Cafes sell delicious banana & fruit bread that is best eaten toasted and is really cake. This trip, I discovered mango and coconut bread which is magnificent.

Another impression I have is that the countryside is not well looked after. There is a great deal of litter and graffiti and many of the houses look in need of repair and some TLC. However when I returned to the UK through London Gatwick and took the train into London, I concluded that Australia is probably no worse than the UK in these respects and really both need more care and attention.

I have been doing some research on aspects of Australia and found some interesting facts that I thought I would share.

It starts with the name of the country; officially the name is The Commonwealth of Australia. This  recognises its formation from the Federation of 6 colonies; New South Wales, Victoria, South and West Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, on 1st January 1901. I had also not realised that New Zealand originally took part in the negotiations leading up to the Federation but dropped out at the last minute. Australia derives from the Latin word australis which means southern.

The large land area of Australia (7.7 million square kilometres) is well known. It is in fact the 6th largest country (in decreasing order the larger countries are Russia -now a little bigger still! – Canada, China, USA and Brazil). It is truly immense. This is illustrated by the largest cattle ranch in the world, Anna Creek in Southern Australia which occupies an area considerably larger than Wales! Australia has a population of 23 million and the land area per capita is one thousand times larger than that of the UK.

Australia was rated the most obese country in 2012 with an obesity rate of 26%. It also has the highest rate of gambling of any country, around 80% of the adult population indulging in some manner. Australia was the second country to give women voting rights in 1902.This information came from the website However, the issue of women suffrage is much more complex than this, as is detailed in’s_suffrage_worldwide. This site contains the interesting snippet that in the state of Victoria, Australia ” women were unintentionally enfranchised by the Electoral Act (1863), and proceeded to vote in the following year’s elections. The Act was amended in 1865 to correct the error”.

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