Australia is nicknamed ‘The Land Down Under’ because it lies entirely in the southern hemisphere. It is home to natural wonders such as a collection of wildlife including kangaroos, koalas and platypus found nowhere else and the largest underwater coral formation in the world, the Great Barrier Reef.
A multicultural society, it is estimated that one quarter of Australia’s population is not native born and that 43% of the population has at least one parent born overseas. As Australia was colonized by the English who began using the island as a penal colony in the 1780s, English is the official language, although many immigrants to the country continue to use their native tongues as well. Radio programs are broadcast in fifty-two languages.
The culture of Australia’s earliest inhabitants, the Aborigines, is still largely oral, although elements of their past can be seen in rock carvings and bark paintings that date back at least 30,000 years. Once a nomadic people with numbers ranging from 750,000 to 1 million at the arrival of the first European settlers, today few Aborigines live the nomadic, living-off the land lifestyle. There are over 400 Aboriginal peoples and languages known in Australia. Arts and crafts of these people are still practiced today, such as fiber art using materials like bark, human hair and various grasses. Bark painting, where ochres, yellows, whites and blacks are applied to flattened bark, is also an Aboriginal art form that is well alive today.
Due to the British heritage of the country, universal forms of embroidery are practiced extensively by many, and although Australians have no specific needlework style, they maintain some of the highest standards in the world. As the supplier of one-third of the world’s wool, Australia is known for its spinning and weaving of homegrown wool. A popular form of entertainment is speed competitions that involve sheering sheep, spinning the wool and then weaving an article.
Though most of the population lives in cities, the outback remains an essential part of the Australian psyche. Located past ‘the bush’, ‘beyond the black stump’, this wide expense of territory still represents to most Australians their rebellious and free spirit. Sports such as cricket and rugby all water sports, since most Aussies live close to the sea, are a major part of their lifestyle and they prefer to spend as much time as possible outdoors.
Australians have a distinct sense of humour and practice a casual way of life, reflected in both their clothes and their homes and they have carried those attributes with them wherever they have emigrated. Australians have been coming to Canada since 1946, before which they were listed under ‘British.’ There are over 36,000 Australians now living in Canada, according to the 2011 census.
Sponsor: Australian High Commission | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons