Sydney Opera House


Uluru (Ayers Rock)


Capital: Canberra


Currency: Australian Dollar


Population:  20,434,176 (July 2007 est.)


Official Languages: English


Country Size: 7,686,850 sq km (includes some nearby islands) – almost as big as the 48 joined states of the USA.


Climate/Weather:  Generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north. It is coldest in July and hottest in January.


Official Government Website:


Official Tourism Website:


World Heritage Sites:  Australia has 17 World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the Sydney Opera House and Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.


Head of State:  The reigning King or Queen of England, represented in Australia by the gGovernor-Generalh.


Head of Government:  The Prime Minister.


Australian News Sources:



Shaking hands before a soccer (football) game.


In Australia any person can initiate a greeting, there is no formal system.  Australians are generally friendly people and they commonly greet people when they encounter them, in a shop or a pub for example.


It is always acceptable to offer a handshake to a person of either sex the first time you meet them. Hugging or a kiss on the cheek is common between family members or friends.


It is usually acceptable to greet someone by their first name, even if you do not know them and even if the person is older than you, however it is polite to use "Mister" or "Ms" first and ask the person if it is okay to call them by their first name.


Common greetings are:

g Gfdayh (a shortened version of egood dayf)


gGood morning/Good afternoonh (more formal greetings)


When greeting someone it is also customary to enquire about the person, i.e ghow are you?h This is polite and is not meant to invite a long answer.   The most common answer is ggood thanksh or gnot badh.


Getting ready for Australia Day


There are no restrictions or rules on what people wear in Australia, unless the invitation says eformalf.  Due to Australiafs vast size and ever changing climate, different types of clothing are required depending on where you are in Australia, and the time of year.  For example, the northern part of Australia has a warm to hot temperature all year round, so shorts and t-shirts will be the norm.  The southern parts of Australia can be cold in winter months, so people tend to wear many layers of clothing and warm jumpers and coats.   It is common for people from rural and regional areas of Australia who work outdoors to wear jeans, long sleeved t-shirts and broad brimmed hats as protection from the sun.


Australia does not have a specific national costume, but may dress in patriotic clothing for Australia Day (26th of January), Australiafs national holiday (see picture to the left).


A gstubbyh (bottle) of beer.


Australians are allowed to buy and drink alcohol from the age of 18.  Cold beer is a very popular alcoholic drink, because of the warm climate.  Wine is increasingly popular. It is common for alcohol to be involved in social events.  Many Australians have an alcoholic drink when they are with friends, with a meal or to relax at the end of the day.  Many young people drink, usually when they go to a pub, a nightclub or a party.


It is common to bring a bottle of wine when going to an Australianfs house for dinner. If you visit the home of an Australian, they will often offer you an alcoholic drink with your meal.  However, they will not expect you to drink with them if that is your choice.


gMeat and three veg.h (Roast meat and three different vegetables), a common meal for many Australians.

Australians enjoy a wide variety of cuisine and have many choices when it comes to meals due to the influence of multi-culturalism. For example, in one week a family might eat Italian cuisine like pasta, Chinese food like fried rice and Mexican meals of tacos.  Families often eat dinners together, usually between 6pm and 7:30pm, however, there are no specific rules. Some families will eat while watching television, while for others the dining table is a place for conversation and discussion of the dayfs activities.


Traditionally, many families had a Sunday roast of lamb or beef and vegetables as a late lunch. In cities it is very popular for people to dine out in restaurants especially on birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations. Many restaurants are fully booked Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights.


You should tell your hosts or the waiter in a restaurant if there are foods you do not eat.


Although Australians speak English, their broad accent, combined with local sayings (slang/colloquialisms), may sound like a totally different language!  Some common examples of Australian English are:


Gfday – Hello

eOw ya goinf? – How are you?


It is not uncommon for males and females to discuss sensitive or personal issues with friends of the opposite sex.  Generally, Australians are also not shy about debating or discussing controversial issues.  However, it may be considered impolite to ask people about issues such as politics, religion or money on first meeting.


Also, Australians may often use profanities (swearing) as part of normal conversation and may not realize that other people can find this offensive.



Most Australians love to make jokes and to have a laugh.  The use of sarcasm is very common, where a personfs meaning is the opposite of what they actually said. For example if an Australian said gnice hath they may actually be suggesting they donft like your hat at all. You can ask if they are joking if you are not sure.


Australians will also sometimes insult people they like – it shows that they are close and can trust them. Australians and New Zealanders will often insult each other in an affectionate way.


A traditional indigenous dance.


Dance and music were an integral part of the culture of Indigenous Australians and were utilised to teach culture, law and history.


Today, Australia has no national dance or dress, and dancing is not traditionally a big part of our culture.  Despite this, most Australians enjoy dancing, especially if theyfve had an alcoholic drink or two.  Australian males are not typically taught to dance when they are young and some can be uncomfortable about dancing publicly.  However, popular media such as TV, and immigrants have greatly influenced many Australiansf perceptions about dancing and it is now more common for Australians to learn dance styles from other countries such as Hip Hop, Latin, Bollywood and African dancing.


A young man makes fun of the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard.


Australians are usually informal in most situations and there is a tradition of equality and egalitarianism.  Although there is no clearly defined class structure within Australia, most Australians do respect people in positions of authority, especially hosts. 


However, within Australia, many people are very open and willing to criticise our government, other people in positions of power, or rules we donft understand.  Rather than seeing this as disrespectful, we see it as a good thing to have this openness and freedom. There is an expression in Australia – gthe tall poppy syndromeh which means Australians have a tendency to gcut down tall poppiesh or criticise people who have been successful.


gJuan Mannh, creator of the gFree Hugsh campaign.


In Australia it is common to see people hugging and kissing in public places.  This also includes people of the same sex, as homosexuality is well accepted in Australia. However, compared to some cultures Australians are not very physically affectionate and are protective of their personal space with people they do not know well. Male friends do not usually kiss each other. Both men and women will strongly object to an unwelcome physical advance.


Some Australians are comfortable about being naked in front of someone else of the same sex, such as in your cabin or the Grand Bath, however this varies for each person.



Australians have a generally relaxed attitude to time compared to Japanese people. However it is expected that people be on time for formal events such as meetings, appointments and structured activities and if the individual cannot attend, it is polite to let them know in advance.  


If in a group situation, it is considered rude if you are late and take the time of others in the group.


Image:Religious syms.svg

A variety of religious symbols.


With increased multiculturalism, there are a number of religions practiced in Australia today, however, the most widely celebrated Australian traditions are based on Christian beliefs, for example Christmas and Easter. Religion and state are officially separate, for example abortions are legal in most of Australia, although religion can influence politics.


Australians pride themselves as a tolerant society, especially in terms of other people's belief systems.  All religions are accepted and people are free to promote and practice their religions in the community.  However, the practice of religion is a personal one, and usually does not influence the day to day life of the overall community.



It is very common for men and women to be friends in Australia, and often male and female friends/acquaintances will socialise and spend time together.  It is also very common for men and women to live together in the same house as a way of sharing the cost of rent or a mortgage. 


Most Australians will be open about who they are dating/in a relationship with, but this can be influenced by the cultural/religious background of their family.  Australians have a variety of attitudes about relationships and there can be many reasons why an Australian is dating someone, including for marriage/long term commitment, companionship or fun.   Australians will often introduce their partner to friends/family members and bring their partner to social events soon after they begin relationships.  There are a variety of styles of relationships in Australia, based on personal opinion, culture, values and religion. Some couples will live together and have sex before they are married, while others will wait to do this until after they are married.  It is also becoming more common for couples to live together and never get married. Pre-marital sex is widely accepted.


Sexual harassment is a very important issue in Australia.  The government has laws in place to ensure both males and females are not disadvantaged or harassed because of their sex. 


Homosexuality is well accepted in Australia.  There are many different groups and clubs that exist in Australia that support and promote same sex relationships.  Although everyone is different, most young people are comfortable talking about homosexuality and many same-sex couples are comfortable about being open about their relationships and showing affection in public.  There are still many laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in Australia though.



The Australian Flag.


Aboriginal Elders at a meeting


A Torres Strait Islander young man at a traditional ceremony.


The Aboriginal flag.


The Torres Strait Islander flag.


Cathy Freeman


Aboriginal Art.



The Cover from Kylie Minoguefs album gFeverh.



Australian Surf Life-Savers.

Many of the Life-savers in Australia volunteer their time to protect people at Australian beaches.  Volunteering is strong value for many Australians, with people from all age ranges regularly participating in voluntary activities every year.


A member of the Australian Rugby Union team in action.


Australia is a very multicultural society and so, it can be difficult to make generalisations about Australiafs culture. What is considered enormalf for one person may not be normal for another. Being such a multicultural society, tolerance and respect for another personfs beliefs or living habits are highly regarded qualities.


Most of Australiafs population live along the coast of Australia in a few large cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth are the state capitals on the mainland).  These cities are the most diverse in terms of culture, religion and beliefs.  Many Australians will also take part in the cultural celebrations that come from its migrant communities, like Saint Patrick's Day, the Chinese New Year, the Thai water festival and the German October Festival.


Australian Flag

The blue of the Australian flag symbolises that Australia is an island continent.  The Union Jack in the top left corner symbolises Australiafs colonisation by the British.  The 5 white stars on the right symbolises the Southern Cross, the brightest constellation in the southern hemisphere.  Finally, the large seven pointed stars underneath the Union Jack is the Commonwealth star, with six points representing the 6 original states of Australia and the last point to symbolise the territories – the Australian Capital Territory where the national capital, Canberra is located, and the Northern Territory.


Indigenous Cultures of Australia


There are 2 indigenous cultures in Australia.  The Aboriginal culture is the oldest surviving culture in the world, dating as far back as (at least) 40,000 years.  Aboriginal people inhabited most areas of the Australian continent, long before the arrival of European settlers over two hundred years ago.


The Torres Strait Island people are from a group of islands in the Torres Strait, the area of water between Cape York, the North East point of Australia and Papua New Guinea.  Their culture is Melanesian in origin, similar to that of the coastal people of Papua New Guinea.


Although recognized as being one nationality, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have hundreds of separate dialects, lifestyle and cultural traditions that differ according to the region in which they live. Complex social systems and highly developed traditions reflect a deep connection with the land and environment.  The culture of the Torres Strait Island people is quite culturally distinct from the Aboriginal people, and has been said to be of Melanesian origin.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live and work throughout Australian society however there is a well recognised problem of poverty and disadvantage in remote Aboriginal communities.


Many Aboriginal people will not necessarily look like the traditional image but most are very proud of their heritage and may be insulted if you comment that they do not look Aboriginal.


The Aboriginal Flag

 The Aboriginal flag was created as a symbol of unity and national identity for Aboriginal people during the land rights movement of the early 1970s. It is recognised as the official flag of the Australian Aboriginal people. The symbolic meaning of the flag colours are: black which represents the Aboriginal people of Australia , red which represents the red earth, the red ochre and a spiritual relation to the land, and yellow which represents the sun, the giver of life and protector.


The Torres Strait Islander Flag

 The Torres Strait Islander flag was created as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islander people. Each part of the flag is designed to represent something about Torres Strait Island culture. Green represents the land. Blue represents the sea. White represents peace and black represents the Indigenous people.  The dhari (head dress) represents Torres Strait Island people and the five pointed star represents the 5 major Island groups. The star also represents navigation, as a symbol of the seafaring culture of the Torres Strait.


Famous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 

There are hundreds of famous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but probably the most well know around the world is Olympic gold medalist Cathy Freeman who won gold in the 400 meters at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.


Useful web sites: - Koori Mail- and Reconciliation Australia -


Art and Design in Australia

Australia has dynamic arts and design industries producing many movies, music, artworks and fashion trends which are famous on the world stage. 


Australia is developing innovative artistic initiatives in the wider community, for example, involving young people in legal graffiti projects, studying Indigenous arts throughout schools and displaying artworks and sculptures in public settings.


Although there are many sub-cultures within it, Australianfs Art and Design Scene is a growing community and represents an exciting future for both established and up and coming artists.


Aboriginal art is increasingly recognised as an important part of Australian culture.



Some examples of movies from Australia that talk about our culture and history include:


Breaker Morant (1980)

Kokoda (2006)

The Castle (1997)

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

On Our Selection (1995)

Lantana (2001)

Crackersjack (2002)

Mad Max (1979)

Looking for Alibrandi (2000)

Japanese Story (2003)

The Dish (2000)

The Man from Snowy River (1982)

Jindabyne (2006)

Gallipoli (1981)

Priscilla Queen of the Dessert (1994)

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)

10 Canoes (2006)


Some famous Australian actors include: Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Melissa George, Anthony LaPaglia, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Deborah Mailman.



Australia has a diverse music scene, and produces music from a variety of genres, including rock, pop, country, hip-hop, RnB, dance, electronic and folk.  Some examples of famous Australian musicians/groups include:


Slim Dusty

John Williamson


John Farnham


Guy Sebastian

Paul Kelly

Jimmy Little

The Cat Empire

Crowded House

Kylie Minogue

The Herd





 Albert Namitjira                              Pro Hart

 Ken Done                                      Max Dupain



 Henry Lawson                               Kath Walker

 Banjo Patterson                            Tim Winton


Popular Sports:

Australians love to watch and play sport, particularly water sports and the various codes of football, and they love going to the beach.  Some popular sports in Australia are:


 Swimming                                     Netball

 Surfing                                           Hockey

 Cricket                                           Beach Volleyball

 Rugby League                               Surf Life-Saving

 Rugby Union                                  Australian Rules Football (AFL)


Famous Australian athletes include Harry Kewell (Football), Ian Thorpe (Swimming), Cadel Evans (Cycling), Cathy Freeman (Running), Layne Beachely (Surfing)



Compiled by Daele Healy (SWY9), Emma Wooldridge (SWY15), Anne-Marie Quinn (SWY18), Eloise Brown (SWY19) and Adam Wood (SWY19) in July 2007.



© 2007 Ship for World Youth Alumni Association