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Sunday, 18 December 2011



The Romans called it ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ – ‘unknown land of the South’ – long before Australia's existence was confirmed.

The Dutch sailing ship Eendracht reached Shark Bay on the western coastline of Australia on October 25, 1616, as documented on the Hartog Plate etched by explorer Dirk Hartog. The first plate is the oldest-known artifact of European exploration in Australia still in existence.

Copy of Dirk Hartog's plate in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Captain James Cook, still holding the rank of lieutenant, first sighted the south-eastern coast of what is now Australia on April 19, 1770. He spent the next few months sailing along and mapping the east coast, which he formally claimed for Great Britain on August 21, 1770, naming it New South Wales.

Isaac Smith was the first European to set foot on eastern Australian soil. Cook told him "Jump out, Isaac" as the ship's boat touched the shore at Botany Bay, which is 8 miles (13 km) south of the modern Sydney central business district.

The first eleven ships carrying 736 convicts from England to Australia under the command of  Governor Arthur Phillip anchored at Botany Bay between January 18 and 20, 1788. The land was quickly ruled unsuitable for settlement as there was insufficient fresh water. Phillip also believed the swampy foreshores would render any colony unhealthy so he decided to sail north.

Botany Bay, 1788 watercolour by Charles Gore

On January 26, 1788 the British First Fleet, led by Governor Arthur Phillip in HM Armed Tender Supply, sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on the Australian continent. The event is commemorated as Australia Day.

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson from a drawing made by Francis Fowkes in 1788.

Captain Matthew Flinders (March 16, 1774 – July 19. 1814) was an English navigator and cartographer, who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia. In 1804 he recommended the new continent be named 'Australia', as an umbrella term for New Holland and New South Wales. (The name is from the Latin ‘australis’, meaning ‘of the south’.) It took 20 years before the UK government agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

Watercolor miniature portrait of Matthew Flinders, c1800. By State Library of NSW

Until they were imported into the country, Australia did not have any members of the cat family, hoofed animals, apes, or monkeys.

In the early days of the colonial Australia most of the cooking was improvised. Pieces of meat, especially kangaroo meat were jammed on sticks and cooked over an open fire.

Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 164,000 convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. The last shipment of convicts from Britain arrived in Western Australia in 1868. Sixteen years later the United Kingdom ended its policy of penal transportation to Australia.

The State of Queensland, Australia is named after Queen Victoria, who signed the order creating its Statehood in 1859.

Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick's "Advance Australia Fair", a patriotic song that was first performed in 1878, officially replaced "God Save the Queen" as Australia's national anthem in 1984. Until then, the song was sung in Australia as a patriotic song. In order for the song to become the anthem, it had to face a vote between "God Save the Queen," the "unofficial anthem" "Waltzing Matilda" and "Song of Australia."

A dingo fence was built in the 1880s to protect Australian sheep from dingoes. It is 3,488 miles long.

The first civilian ambulance service was set up in 1892 in Brisbane, Australia. After witnessing an accident at the Brisbane Exhibition, Seymour Warrian founded the City Ambulance Transport Brigade.

The country came into being on January 1, 1901 when the British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Edmund Barton (1849-1920) was appointed the first Prime Minister.

The first Parliament of Australia opened in the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on May 9, 1901. Exactly 26 years later it moved to Canberra's Provisional Parliament House, and exactly 87 years later it moved into the Parliament House in Canberra.

On September 7, 1902, the whole of Australia was called on to pray for rain after a seven-year drought had killed livestock and dried up crops. Rain began to fall three days later.

The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities.

The name 'Aussie' was first used by Australian soldiers in the First World War. Their own colloquial name for themselves was 'Digger.'

Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs (below) (1855 – 1948) was an Australian judge and politician who was sworn in on January 21, 1931 as the first Australian-born Governor-General of Australia. He was also the first Governor-General to live permanently at Government House, Canberra.

The largest attacks mounted by a foreign power against Australia took place on February 19, 1942. More than 240 bombers and fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the northern Australian city of Darwin, killing 243 people and causing immense damage to the town, the airfields and aircraft.  It was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor, though a considerably larger number of bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor.

Remains of the Darwin Post Office after the first Japanese raid in 1942

In 1984 Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick's "Advance Australia Fair", a patriotic song that was first performed in 1878, officially replaced "God Save the Queen" as Australia's national anthem.

Green and gold were chosen as the national colors of Australia in 1984..

In 1999 a storm dropped an estimated 500,000 tonnes of hailstones in Sydney and along the east coast of New South Wales, causing about A$2.3 billion in damages, the costliest natural disaster in Australian insurance history. 

The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around February 7, 2009. They left 173 dead and 414 injured in the worst natural disaster in Australia's history. 

Fire approaching a residence in Steels Creek at 6:11 pm. By Daniel Cleaveley 


Nearly 91 per cent of Australia, totaling 2.7 million square miles, is covered by native vegetation — even its extensive deserts, which are home to plants such as saltbush.

Australia is the richest source of mineral sands in the world.

Arguably the largest state in the world, Western Australia covers one-third of the Australian continent. It spans over 2.5 million square kilometers (1 million square miles).

Western Australia is four times the size of Texas, with one tenth the population.

Australia is moving 7cm north every year. It is the fastest moving continental landmass in the world.

More than 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast.

Half of the entire population of Australia lives in three cities Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. There are only 46 cities and towns in Australia with over 30,000 people.

The only continent without an active volcano is Australia.


The prime minister, Tony Abbott, is a Rhodes Scholar who entered a seminary aged 26, before quitting and eventually entering politics.

There are twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are people. The kangaroo population is estimated at about 40 million.

The kangaroo and the emu are shown supporting the shield on Australia's coat of arms. The two animals were chosen to appear on the Australian coat of arms because they cannot walk backwards, thus exemplifying forward-thinking.

There are ten times more sheep in Australia than people.

Australia has more wild camels than any other country. They even export camels to Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s highest mountain (Mount Kosciuszko) and largest city (Sydney) are both named after men who never visited Australia.

Toilets in Australia flush counter clockwise.

Source Daily Express

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