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What Is Australia Known For?

Both a continent and a country, Australia has a fascinating history, beautiful scenery, and a lot of culture! But what are the things you think of when you hear Australia?


Australia is known for many things historically, geographically, and culturally. Its ownership by Great Britain and original use as a place for prisoners make the country historically significant .The Outback, the beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef are its significant geographical aspects. 


Overall, Australia is known for many important and awe-worthy things. In this article, we’ll find out why these factors are important to making Australia what it is today!


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Historical Significance of Australia

Australia has a very unique history among places in the eastern hemisphere. Native or aboriginal Australians arrived from Asia over 50,000 years ago. They dispersed across the wide geography of Australia which made way for the next group of people to migrate to the land — the Torres Strait Islanders. 


The British and other western explorers began coming to the continent by ship in the 1600s. The first known explorer was Willem Janszoon of Dutch descent. He set sail from the Dutch East Indies searching for New Guinea and landed at what is now Australia instead. 


After years of Dutch exploration, the powerful English began to take over exploring the new land.They decided to take control and use Australia for outcast citizens, which is the history of Australia that many of us are familiar with today. 


Captain James Cook was a British explorer working on behalf of the British government. He set out for three voyages, intending to explore the Australian coastline. Some of his discoveries were the islands in the north of the land, and Botany Bay on the eastern coast, which he declared as New South Wales in August, 1770.


The historical beginnings that Australia is most known for is the use of the land as a landing for British prisoners. This penal colony, also known as a colony of exile, was established officially in 1788. The fleet of ships landed in Botany Bay in Cook’s New South Wales, which is located around modern-day Sydney. 



Australia as a Penal Colony

Due to their history of convicts, about 20% of Australians today are descendants of former prisoners!


When a wrongdoer committed a crime in England, they were often sent by ship to Australia to live out their sentence. Some criminals as young as 11 were sentenced to the colony for petty crimes like robbery. 


In 1868, the British stopped sending new prisoners to the land. However, the working-class prisoners in Australia were beginning to make names for themselves. Some were becoming architects, novelists, and local celebrities, which started to erase the negative connotation around the Australian migrant convicts.



One of the most famous former prisoners was Ned Kelly, who’s known today as a hero in Australian history. Kelly was a convict who decided to escape to the Australian bush after being accused of shooting a police officer. He formed the Kelly Gang with himself, his brother, and two friends, dedicated to exposing corruption.


While violence followed the Kelly Gang throughout their many encounters with police and shootouts, he was regarded as a hero for exposing the corruption among social classes at the time. Eventually, Kelly was captured and hung for his crimes, leaving behind a legacy of rebellion and bravery. 


Many sites of ex-cons, including the Kelly Gang, are marked as UNESCO World Heritage Sites today. Despite its rocky roots, Australians have reclaimed their heritage as a land of prisoners and are proud of their roots. 



The People of the Australian Bush and Outback

Earlier in this article, we briefly mentioned the aboriginal natives of Australia. These people migrated from Asia and the surrounding oceanic islands and began to settle throughout the continent. Today, many of these groups still live in the famous Australian bush and outback.


The Australian bush is the central region of the continent largely untouched by modern civilization. It’s home to diverse trees, shrubbery, geographical landscapes, wildlife, and tribes of native people. 


The Australian Outback and the bush largely overlap. Still, the outback is known for its open land and geographical landmarks, such as the famous rock Uluru in the country’s northern region.


The outback spreads throughout the country but is most notably in central Australia, away from any major cities. It’s regarded as a place of freedom for native groups since they have their own sets of rules and laws. 



Overall, the Australian Bush and Outback take up over 70% of the continent of Australia.


The people who inhabit the Australian Outback and the Bush are unfamiliar and fascinating to many outsiders. The original Australians, the Aboriginal Australian people, came from southeast Asia over 50,000 years ago from the areas now known as Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. 


Today, many of these groups are still native to the land and celebrate their culture openly with music, cultural outfits and makeup, and celebrations. 



The Arrival Of Europeans

By the time Europeans began to land in Australia by ship in the mid-1700s, the aboriginal people had already occupied nearly all the land. They adapted very successfully to the diverse climates and geographical features throughout the continent. 


The different tribes of aboriginal people were identified by Europeans based on the languages they spoke. Other regions featured tribes of foreign languages, and many tribes were bilingual or multilingual. 


Despite shared interactions and close-knit communities, there was no sense of national identity between the 500+ groups. Many groups did not display political or economic systems either.


The first interactions between aboriginal people and Europeans happened along the coastlines, where many aboriginals resided. Like other colonization stories, disease began to spread, and Europeans began pushing these people out of their homelands and into reserves by the 1920s. This impacted their ability to hunt and gather, causing a large number of deaths. 



Aboriginals Today

Today, there are about 400,000 descendants of aboriginal people living in Australia, representing some of the oldest societies on Earth. Westernization has revised and destroyed much of their culture, but the groups are still living off the land in the Australian bush and outback. 


Most aboriginal people today live in small towns with less than 100,000 people. Urbanization and the tourism industry have plagued much of their lives, causing the groups to struggle with issues like education and unemployment.


Despite the hardships faced in recent years, the aboriginal groups are one of the most well-known historical and cultural parts of Australia. 



Geographical Significance of Australia

As we mentioned earlier, Australia has a diverse geographical landscape. Since the country takes up the entire continent, the geography ranges from beach towns to the bush, deserts, and more. Many geographical wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Rock Uluru can be found amongst Australia’s landscape.


The Land

Australia is the only country on Earth that covers an entire continent. No surprise its landscape is so diverse. 


More than a third of Australia’s land is covered by desert. At first read, this might sound like a lot since the Australia you may have heard of is pictured as beaches and surfing. However, most big cities and modern towns are located along the coasts. 



The Bush and Outback

The center of Australia contains the Bush and Outback, which we discussed earlier in this article. Geographically, the outback is similar to a desert as it’s filled with red sand, drylands, and lots of flies. It receives less than 7 inches (17.78 cm) of rain a year on average and grows little vegetation. 


The Bush is more filled with shrubbery, trees, and other vegetation. However, it can still be considered partially desert. 


The northeast part of the continent is unique as it contains a dense rainforest. Along the eastern and southeastern rim of Australia is the dividing range, which is a long mountain range that helps transport water, making the eastern coast temperate and comfortable. In contrast, the desert on the other side of the range remains dry and challenging to live in. 


The diverse geographical climate is part of what makes Australia so unique. 



The Great Barrier Reef

As far as well-known landmarks go, Australia is home to the sacred Rock Uluru in the desert and the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia.


The Great Barrier Reef is longer than the Great Wall of China and contains over 3,000 individual reef systems. It’s surrounded by hundreds of islands where you can visit for unique and individual views of the reef.


The reef is a great tourist attraction for those looking for adventure. It advertises snorkeling, helicopter tours, diving, and more. It’s also a hot spot for researchers in marine biology. 


In recent years, the reef has decayed immensely, with a large number of the coral being pronounced dead. Despite the scare, scientists and citizens are working together to maintain and repair the reef. 



Rock Uluru

On the contrary to the tropical reef, Rock Uluru or Ayers Rock is located in the northeast territory of Australia. It’s considered a sandstone monolith and is sacred to the aboriginal people of Australia. 


Located in Tjuta National Park, experts think the rock started forming about half a billion years ago. The significance of the rock to native Anangu tribes is invaluable, as the sacred landmark is tied into their traditional laws. 


Uluru is home to unique wildlife, creatures, and artifacts which makes it such a well-known cultural attraction in Australia. Despite the incredible views, hiking is banned in this region in order to preserve its beauty. 



Animals of Australia

Animals such as koalas and kangaroos are often pictured as the unofficial mascots of Australia. That’s because they’re not found natively anywhere else in the world. Australia’s wildlife is unique and one of the factors that put the country on people’s bucket lists!


Kangaroos and koalas are both marsupials found only in Australia. Both can be found in the wild but are also kept in sanctuaries as popular tourist attractions. Don’t worry; they are taken care of very well! Kangaroos are also found often on the side of the road, similar to how we view deer in the United States.



Besides kangaroos and koalas, Australia is home to other unique and adorable animals like the platypus, the dingo, the kookaburra, Tasmanian devils, and more. 


Australia is also infamously known for its strange animals “that can kill you,” Although it’s an ongoing joke, it’s true that many animals native to Australia can be dangerous. 


On land, Australia is home to more deadly snakes than anywhere else around the world. The inland taipan snake found in the remote desert of Queensland is one of them. Luckily, since it’s so remote there have been no recorded human deaths from the snake. However, one inland taipan has enough venom to kill several humans. 


In addition, there are large spiders and other bugs with poisonous and even deadly bites. The Sydney funnel-web spider has one of the most venomous bites in the world, which it evolved as predators became more threatening. It’s extremely harmful to humans, which is unfortunate for Sydney residents! However, anti-venom was developed in 1981, and there have been no human deaths since then.


Surprisingly, the deadliest animal in Australia statistically is the European honey bee. They come second to inland taipans in terms of venomous bites but are much more common in civilized areas. Much of the Australian population displays severe allergic reactions to their stings, which is why they’re considered so dangerous.


In the aquatic world, Australia also has the native saltwater crocodile. Box jellyfish can also be found along the coastlines. They’re known for their long tentacles and have a very dangerous sting. Since their tentacles are so long, swimmers often don’t know they’re nearby. 


Even though Australia’s unique wildlife can be regarded as dangerous, it’s one of the things that Australia is known for throughout the world!



Australian Culture

Australia is very similar to other English-speaking countries like the United States and England in regards to it’s Western culure. Despite the shared language, Australia is known for its unique cultural elements like surfing, the notable Sydney Opera House, and celebrities like the beloved late Steve Irwin. 



Australia contains some of the best surfing beaches in the world. The Gold Coast, Bondi Beach, and Surfer’s paradise are a few of the famous beaches that attract surfers from all over the world. 


The country has over 37,000 km (22,990.73 miles) of coastline, and its unique beaches and point breaks make it a destination for the world’s best surfers. It was also one of the first surfing destinations in the world. 


It is not rare that Australians clench the titles for world-renowned surfing competitions such as the Olympics. This past summer was the first year surfing was featured in the Olympic games and many Australian athletes qualified for it. 


All in all, surfing is a huge part of Australian culture!



The Sydney Opera House

One of the first structures you may picture when you think of Australia is the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House, which opened its doors in 1973, has been the host of countless live and musical events over the decades. In 2007 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


As one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, it’s also Australia’s top tourist attraction. It displays over 2,000 shows a year and is open 363 days a year. Its architect, Jorn Utzon, never got to see the completed project as he left the country partially through construction.


Australian Celebrities

Some of the most well-known celebrities in Hollywood are native Australians, such as Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Cody Simpson, and Liam Hemsworth. Australia produces countless movie stars and artists who become famous all over the world.


Their native English tongue may be part of the reason Australian celebrities make it big in Hollywood; nevertheless they’re representative of their native country and are part of what makes Australia recognizable.


The Crocodile Hunter

One of the most famous Australians of all time is not a singer or actor, but a zookeeper. Steve Irwin, who died from a stingray incident in 2006 was known across the world for his fascination and gentleness with wildlife. 


Irwin, also known as The Crocodile Hunter, left a legacy of his son and daughter who followed in his footsteps as conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts . 


Final Thoughts

Australia is a very unique country and continent. Its diverse landscape, wildlife, history, and modern cultural aspects all contribute to the successful country it is today. It is loved by both citizens and tourists alike, and continues to be a top travel destination for world travelers. These factors are also what make Australia so well-known around the world!

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