Happy Australia Day

The Flag of Australia, the Australian Aboriginal Flag, and the Flag of Torres Strait Islanders

Australia was discovered about 45,000 years ago when they either walked or made short sea-crossings from Papua to the north in what is now the Torres Strait. In Australia they grew into diverse cultures with around 250 languages spoken by nations such as the Koori, Murri, Noongar, Yamatji, Wangkai, Nunga, Anagu, Yapa, Yolngu and Palawah, who together may’ve numbered around 3 quarters of a million.  43,830 years later (give or take a few thousand) it was claimed, like a quarter of the planet, by the tiny, faraway island of Great Britain.

Initially, it served as a penal colony set up at Port Jackson on January 26, 1788, which is why it’s Australia Day today. 50% of the indigenous population died from smallpox within the following years. Massacres and land seizures reduced the indigenous population another 30%. Often the convicts sent to Australia were charged with minor offenses. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush began and with it, an Americanization of the language. For example, “bonanza” (borrowed from Spanish) became “bonzer.” By 1827, Australian English was already diverging significantly from British English. Author Peter Cunningham noted a distinct vocabulary and a non-rhotic accent that owed heavily to Cockney. It is typically divided into three accents which owe less to region than UK English or US English.

Broad: Exemplified by larrikins Paul “g’day mate” Hogan, Steve “crikey” Irwin.
General: The typical Australian of Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman.
Cultivated: The British-sounding manner of Geoffrey Rush or Judy Davis.

None of the examples above probably say “shrimp on the barbie” since “shrimp” are called “prawns” in Australia.

Most of the wildlife and plant life is endemic. It’s the flattest country on Earth, mostly desert and covered with the least fertile soil. It seems like wherever you go in the world, you run into loads of Australians. Luckily, theyall have multizone DVD players.


One animal that rivals the kangaroo and koala as a symbol of Australia is the dingo. However, the dingo is not native to Australia and is partially responsible for the extinction of some native Australian fauna such as the Tasmanian Tiger. It was brought to Australia a mere two or three thousand years ago by Austronesians.


I think one of the things that makes Australia so interesting to me is that it seems like some kind of Bizarro America. It has gold rushes, coastal cities separated by a wild west, beer drinking and sprint-car racing, English people waging genocidal war against natives. Remember Chris Gaines? Garth Brooks‘ alter-ego was Australian. Bizzaro! Bizzaro! Maybe that’s why Australians, as a rule, are so much better at playing Americans than the English. Do Americans play good Australians? Has that ever happened?


Australia’s first feature length, narrative film was 1906’s Story of the Kelly Gang, about the beloved bushranger, Ned Kelly. In the 1910’s, Australia produced a large number of silent films. Following World War I, however, American films flooded the market and effectively smothered Australia’s film industry.

In the 1940s and 50s, an effort was made to popularize Australian Westerns with examples like The Overlanders, The Kangaroo Kid, The Phantom Stockman and Bitter Springs.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Australia began making films with any degree of popularity. Examples include Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, and The Plumber. George Miller‘s Mad Max achieved success at home and abroad, although it was dubbed in “American” for U.S. audiences.

The 1980s were and are widely considered the golden age of Australian Cinema. The other George Miller made The Man From Snowy Creek. There was also Young Einstein, The Year My Voice Broke, Breaker Morant, Gallipoli, Dogs In Space, BMX Bandits and the film that still defines Australia for most Americans–Crocodile Dundee. In the television world, the never-ending Neighbours began.

The 1990s produced many (often campy) cult films like Flirting, Proof, Romper Stomper, Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding, Adventures of Priscilla- Queen of the Desert, and Babe.

In the past decade we’ve seen Chopper, The Proposition, Lantana, Moulin Rouge! Rabbit-Proof Fence, Wolf Creek, and Happy Feet.

The Top 20 Selling Australian Films at Amoeba (so far)

1. Chopper
2. Adventures of Priscilla-Queen Of the Desert
3. Moulin Rouge!
4. The Proposition
5. Muriel’s Wedding
6. Strictly Ballroom
7. Road Warrior
8. The Piano
9. Picnic At Hanging Rock
10. Rabbit-Proof Fence
and The Year Of Living Dangerously
12. The Last Wave
13. Mad Max
14. The Pirate Movie and Shine and Babe
17. Mad Max-Beyond Thunder Dome and Romper Stomper
19. Ghosts Of the Civil Dead
20. Happy Feet


     Slim Dusty                                          Tex Morton                                    Simon Bonney

One thing that’s interesting about Australia is that it has a strong Country Music Tradition. Oh, ‘course there’s Keith Urban (and more listenable acts like John Williamson, John Schumann), but it all began with acts like Slim Dusty (“A Pub With No Beer”), Smoky Dawson, Shirley Thoms, Buddy Williams, Stan Coster, Reg LindsayGordon Parsons, and Tex Morton, who though they reflected a strong American influence but were unmistakably Australian. The more home-grown variety, often with a stronger Celtic influence and a lyrical focus on Australia, is usually called “bush music” or “bush band music,” exemplified by the Bushwackers.

In the 1950s, Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s most famous rocker.

In the 1970s, both the pub rock and punk scenes exploded producing Midnight Oil, the Angels, Cold Chisel Radio Birdmen, The Saints, Crime & the City Solution and Birthday Party. Other artists included the Little River Band, The Ted Mulry Gang, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Olivia Newton-John.


In the 1970s, both the pub rock and punk scenes exploded producing Midnight Oil, the Angels, Cold Chisel Radio Birdmen, The Saints, Crime & the City Solution and Birthday Party. Other artists included the Little River Band, The Ted Mulry Gang, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Olivia Newton-John.

In the 1980s there were bands like Real Life, the Go-Betweens, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Men at Work, Severed Heads, INXS, Boom Crash Opera, the Hoodoo Gurus, Hunters & Collectors, GANGajang, The Divinyls, The Church, The Triffids, Icehouse, and Air Supply.

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