Architecture and design
As a Swede, I am sometimes fascinated by the urban planning in cities like Sydney. Australian cities are vast with relatively low buildings that extend to the horizon. It is easy to see how Australians prefer living in their own house with a small garden instead of apartments. Most families have their own car and congestion and poorly developed public transport is a major problem for municipal management in many cities. Most residential buildings are one storey houses with a small garden or a lawn on the front and back. Buildings are built on the width instead of height, making Australian cities spread out as far as the eye can reach.
Old government buildings resemble their counterparts in Europe, with cathedrals, churches and city halls and universities built in stone with an historical design. With their specific architectural design, older residential buildings reveal the problems early settlers had without access to modern building materials and air conditioning. Many houses in Queensland are constructed on poles a few meters above ground with extended roofs of corrugated sheet, have large verandas that provide shade and window shutters (so-called Queenslanders). All this helped to cool the houses down on hot summer days, but also to manage tropical downpours. Across the country you can see extended roofs with verandas and mounted sunshades to keep the strong summer sun out of Australian houses. You’ll have to look long and hard to find European styled insulated houses with glazed windows. Most Australian houses aren’t built to handle cold winters.
Australia’s southern towns have many houses that were built in the late 1800s. A common kind of house is terrace houses; A row of attached 2-3 storey houses usually found in older suburbs surrounding big cities.
As for the housing market, there are hardly any municipal owned residential buildings, but privately-owned apartments or houses to rent instead. The apartments and houses available for rent are often owned by a private person who bought it as an investment property and it’s common for these to be listed for rent through a real estate agent that handles all the practicality.
Influential Australian architects to know of are Robin Boyd and Harry Seidler. In the second half of the 1900s they led a modernist trend in Australian architecture – many skyscrapers and stylishly designed residential buildings around the country were designed by these gentlemen. Unfortunately, Australia seem to have a tradition of letting petty bureaucrats get in the way of epic architectural visions. Major conflicts took place between the Danish architect Jørn Utzon and Sydney’s politicians in connection with the construction of the Sydney Opera House – it went so far that Utzon in anger left the country and never came to see the finished building. The architects behind the capital Canberra; Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahoney Griffin, also met some hard resistance from nay-sayers when designing the Australian capitol Canberra, many elements of their original plan for the capital never came to be because of petty bureaucrats.
The Australian film industry sometimes experiences difficulties competing against the American film industry. Many actors and filmmakers have started their career in Australia, but then moved to Hollywood to make a career.
Great Australian actors you may already know of are Errol Flynn, Mel Gibson, Guy Pearce, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger.
The Five Australian films that have been most internationally recognized are Crocodile Dundee, Australia, Babe, Happy Feet and Moulin Rouge. It is perhaps the first two among these to put Australia on the map internationally.
A handful of films that all together give an interesting perspective on Australia and its film history are Mad Max, Muriel’s Wedding (a comedy/drama with Toni Collette in the lead role), The Castle (a satirical suburban comedy about the Australian everyday), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (nowadays considered a classical comedy/drama about three drag queens on tour from Sydney to Alice Springs), Ned Kelly and Romulus My Father.
Art and painting
The Aboriginal art tradition stretches thousands of years back in time and includes multiple materials; Short-lived such as paintings on leaves, bark and sand, but also long-lived as rock carvings, rock paintings and rock formations.
Dot paintings depicting animals, landscapes and motifs from the Dreamtime are common. Painting styles differ between different parts of the country; In Sydney, for example, there is a group of unique rock carvings of animals, humans and various symbols that have no equivalent elsewhere. Figurative rock paintings have been found in several places in northern parts of the country and in Arnhem Land west of Darwin some very feminine symbols can be found in the art (especially stylized images of the woman’s womb). Many of the paintings representing a song line or story from the Aboriginal Dreamtime are painted from above in a bird’s eye view, and often depicts the landscape in which the story takes place, with symbols of campfires, trees, mountains, waterholes and waterways. The Traditional art has a mythological character and links with the legends of the Dreaming, much of the Aboriginal art has both a cultural and a spiritual dimension.
An interesting transition from Aboriginal traditional painting to modern style took place in 1934 when a group of Aboriginal artists in the Northern Territory were introduced by missionaries to watercolour paintings and European landscape paintings. Most renowned is Albert Namatjira, who came to create a series of very popular landscape paintings in a unique style.
A similar cross-pollination between Aboriginal and western art took place northwest of Alice Springs at the beginning of the 1970s when art teacher Geoffrey Bardon convinced a group of Aboriginal artists to start painting on canvas instead of sand. Most famous of these artists were Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Johnny Warangkula. The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has an art collection of over 200 paintings with many examples of dot paintings from this time. However, some of the artists were criticized in the Aboriginal community, they considered the paintings revealed motifs and patterns that should be kept secret and only displayed during spiritual rituals. These paintings started a debate regarding exploitation of Aboriginal art, whether part of this cultural heritage, the patterns and motifs would be too sacred and displaying them in museums or galleries to people who doesn’t understand the Dreaming and important stories behind it would be offending the Aboriginals.
Art lovers might find that Australian art museums have much of interest regarding western art.
A unique Australian style arises with the * Heidelberg * painters during the last two decades of the 1800s, creating realistic and impressionistic paintings of the Australian landscape and its rural life. Common motifs are agricultural life and bush landscapes, a lot of the actual painting took place outdoors. Well-known artists from the period are * Tom Roberts * (especially known for the painting “Shearing the Rams”), Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Jane Sutherland. Side by side their paintings give a romantic, impressionistic picture of the Australian landscape at the turn of the century. The impressionistic and romantic trend continued into the new century with painters like Rupert Bunny and John Peter Russell.
In 1921 the Archibald Prize was founded which at present is Australia’s most famous art prize. Each year, the nominated candidates and the winner receives a lot of attention – “the Archibald” is awarded for outstanding painting and every year there are great discussions whether the right portrait won or not. Less famous but still important art awards are the Wynne Prize (for landscape painting) and the Sulman Prize (all three are awarded at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney).
Art Deco and modernism reached Australia in the beginning of the 1930s. This style is expressed in the perhaps most famous Australian icon; Sydney Harbour Bridge which was constructed in 1932. The Painting “Australian Beach Pattern” (1940) by Charles Meere is one of the few iconic Australian Art Deco paintings (at present it hangs at the Museum of Sydney). Around the 30 ‘s and 40 ‘s, photography become more common, and the photographers Max Dupain (known for the image Sunbaker) and George Caddy (“Beachobatics”) may be worth knowing for their black and white photographs of Australian beach life.
Surrealism appears around World War II and onwards, with James Gleeson known as one of the foremost Australian surrealists. Many of his paintings resemble Salvador Dali’s in style. Major photographers of the post-war period were Helmut Newton (fashion photographer who collaborated with Vogue, among other things) and David Moore (whose photograph “Migrant Arriving in Sydney” is one of Australia’s most famous photographs).
Other great Australian painters of the late 1900s are Albert Tucker (known for expressionist landscapes and modernist portraits), Sidney Nolan, especially known for a series of stylized paintings depicting the bushranger and folk hero Ned Kelly dressed in a black, angular armour), Arthur Boyd (with impressionistic landscapes and expressionistic figures) and Fred Williams (with his unique way of painting Australian landscapes, often in simplistic bird’s eye view).
Some Famous artists from more modern times are Peter Booth (known for dark and symbolic surrealistic paintings), Bill Henson (photographer sometimes criticized for tasteless sexualization, with his arranged photographs of naked and half naked young models) and Brett Whiteley (two times winner of the Archibald Prize, and among other things known for his abstract and surreal landscape art, interior design pictures and pictures depicting Sydney’s port). Worth knowing is also Ken Done (with colourful and almost childish, stylized landscapes and designs/prints), Clifton Pugh (triple winner of the Archibald, and known for expressionist landscapes and portraits) and Howard Arkley (famous for colourful airbrush-paintings of suburban motifs).
Before the Europeans arrived in Australia, Australian music was solely Aboriginal with instruments such as didgeridoo (sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or a “drone pipe”, a wind instrument lacking finger holes that with help of circular breathing and skilful blowing technique can create different rhythmic harmonies) and Clap-Sticks (wooden sticks that are struck against each other to create rhythms), dance and vocals. Aboriginal vocals and instruments live on in some modern Australian music. Bands that combines western and Aboriginal style with great success are, for example, Yothu Yindi lyrics, No Fixed Address and recently the blind singer and guitarist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu. Australian rock bands such as Midnight Oil have also made use of the didgeridoo and other Aboriginal influences in their music.
Australian music was largely influenced by British and Irish settlers during the colonial period. Traditional folk songs and so-called Bush Ballads like Banjo Patersons Waltzing Matilda and The Man From Snowy River, and Songs like The Dying Stockman and Click Go The Shears are composed from late 1800s.
Early classical Australian musical names to know are opera vocalists Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Sutherland, both major opera singers and the former name is behind the famous dessert Peach Melba (peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream).
Australian music has become as versatile as the country’s own population in more modern times. The legacy of Bush Ballads continues in form of modern country singers and various singer-songwriters that combine American country, rock and Australian folk songs into something unique, like Slim Dusty, John Williamson (especially known for the patriotic and beautiful song True Blue), Kasey Chambers (Not Pretty Enough is one of her most popular songs), Keith Urban (married to Nicole Kidman), Xavier Rudd and bands such as the John Butler Trio.
Australia has produced many famous rock and pop bands. Some of the biggest are the Bee Gees, AC/DC, INXS, Midnight Oil (lead vocalist Peter Garrett later became the environment Minister in Australia), Nick Cave and Savage Garden. Two rock personalities worth knowing of are Jimmy Barnes (former lead vocalist in Cold Chisel and historically one of Australia’s most successful musicians) and Paul Kelly (iconic name in Australian rock music). Other bands that have had great success in their homeland but not as big internationally are The Whitlams, the brothers Finn`s Crowded House, You Am I, Powderfinger and Wolfmother.
In pop and dance genre there are also several Australian big names to know of. More recently, Kylie Minogue, Gotye, The Avalanches, Cut Copy and Empire of the Sun have been among the better known. Previously known pop stars include Peter Allen, John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John. Two important influences in Australian music are Triple-J radio station (has a strong focus on new and alternative music) as well as music awards like the Aria Music Awards (an annual award to celebrate the best in the Australian music industry).
News and Weather
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) (abc.net.au) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) (sbs.com.au) are responsible for the public broadcasting channels. ABC produces more general programs, while SBS specifically focuses on international and multicultural SBS broadcasts, like National Indigenous TV, international movies with English subtitle and international news.
The largest commercial digital TV channels are Seven Network (au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/entertainment/tv/) (broadcasting channels like 7, 7Two and 7Mate, 7Flix), Nine Network (9now.com.au) (broadcasting channels like 9, Go! and GEM) and Network Ten (tenplay.com.au) (broadcasting channels like Ten/10, Eleven, One HD).
Websites listing TV-programs for Australia’s major cities are for example Freeview TV guide (freeview.com.au/tv-guide/), YourTV.com.au (yourtv.com.au/guide/evening/) or OurGuide.com.au (ourguide.com.au). Foxtel (foxtel.com.au) is the largest cable TV company that sell set-top boxes and various pay-tv packages. If you plan to rent an apartment or a hotel room, the advertisement might state that the apartment “has Foxtel” (which means that it includes a lot of cable channels). A competing service to Foxtel is Fetch TV (which works via streaming over your internet or via the TV aerial). Some big names in SVOD- Streaming Video On demand) are Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now. You can also use Freeview TV (freeview.com.au) which is a platform for all digital free TV in Australia, with the possibility of streaming via mobile app.
The majority of all major newspapers are owned by one of the two groups News Corp Australia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corp_Australia) or Fairfax Media (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairfax_Media). The only nationwide morning newspaper is The Australian (theaustralian.com.au), and they compete with several regional newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney) (smh.com.au), The Herald Sun (Melbourne) (heraldsun.com.au), The Daily Telegraph (dailytelegraph.com.au), The Age (Melbourne) (theage.com.au), The Courier Mail (Brisbane) (couriermail.com.au) and The Australian Financial Review (afr.com).
Pretty soon you’ll notice that it’s not that easy to keep track of what’s happening outside of Australia, the local news is very focused on local events and sports. To find out more about international news you can look into websites like The Guardian (theguardian.com/au) (British), BBC (bbc.com/news/world/australia) and The Economist (economist.com).
Australia’s main radio stations are ABC’s various stations as well as a variety of commercial stations that broadcast rock and top hits. Worth mentioning is ABC’s youth station Triple J (abc.net.au/a Triplej/) that plays more alternative music. Very nice listening to on a road trip along the coast.
Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) (bom.gov.au) have weather forecasts for the whole country on their website. The major newspapers also have weather forecasts on their pages (see footnotes above).
Food and drink
Modern Australian cuisine is a mix of flavours from the U.K., the rest of Europe and Asia and to some extent unique Australian ingredients. Thanks to the country’s rich supply of high-quality ingredients the food is rich in flavours and variety, and if you enjoy discovering new dishes you will have a great time in Australia.
Beef and lamb are commonly used ingredients in a dish, same goes with different kinds of fish. The term “bush tucker” is used for “wild” food from the landscape; Local fruits, berries and nuts, as well as bush meat like emu, kangaroo and crocodile. Emu is seldom served, but especially kangaroo meat is available to order as an exotic option in some restaurants. If you get the chance you should at least try crocodile and kangaroo meat; Crocodile tastes like a mix of shrimp and chicken, while kangaroo is similar in taste to deer or elk meat.
Regarding the Australian coffee culture; It is easy to get world-class coffee. Most coffees you are accustomed to can be found in Australia, but instead of a latte, it is more common for people to order a flat white; A third espresso and two-thirds skimmed milk. Very similar to a latte but a little smaller in size. Filter coffee is rarely served at cafés, instead people prefer espresso style with different milk content. Low fat milk in Australia is called skim milk (fat content less than 0.15%). To order a flat white with low fat milk you should ask for a skim flat white. If you order or buy lite milk, the fat content is less than 1.5%. Even babies go to the café in Australia; A Babycino is a small cup with frothed hot milk and a little chocolate powder on top (like a mini cappuccino but without coffee) and a fun way for the kids to spend time with mom and dad at the café.
Eating at a restaurant is relatively cheap, something not only the wealthiest families can afford. Until the 1970s the Australian cuisine was very English, with fish and chips, steak and burgers, and overcooked vegetables, French fries, Chico rolls (a kind of spring roll) and toast with Vegemite (a strong-tasting spread made from brewers’ yeast with various vegetables and spices). Traditional Australian food still offers a lot of grilled and fried meats, curry, fish and fries. If a national dish would exist, it would be meat pie, often enjoyed with ketchup or gravy and mashed peas. High quality pies are delicious, but the ones you find at many snack bars are quite dull stories.
In more modern times the kitchen has become much more international, around the country you will find food from all over the world. In addition to meat pies, other unique Australian dishes are pavlova (a dessert with fruit and meringue) and Lamington (a sponge cake filled with raspberry jam, covered with chocolate sauce and rolled in coconut flakes). Australians like beetroots, in many cases burgers are served with a pair of red beetroot slices instead of pickles as commonly used in other countries.
Fish species served in Australia that European and particularly Scandinavian people probably haven’t tasted before are; Barramundi (a type of sea bass), John Dory (a type of Dory fish), Snapper (native to the western Atlantic Ocean including the Gulf of Mexico), trevally (a kind of mackerel) and fresh tuna. Shellfish is common, and unique seafood that I as a swede hadn’t seen before I came to Australia are Balmain Bugs and Moreton Bay Bugs; A crustacean reminding of a lobster but with flat antennas instead of claws at the front. Other exotic foods are Australian oysters (especially Sydney Rock Oysters) and crayfish (yabbies).
Some restaurants don’t have permission to serve alcohol themselves but instead allow guests to bring their own bottle of wine or some beer. This system is called BYO – Bring Your Own. If you visit such a restaurant, just take a trip to the nearest bottle shop and buy your own drink. Beer and wine are sold in special shops.
Wine is pretty straightforward in Australia, but some terms might differ from other countries. Shiraz is the local term for Syrah-grapes and provides a dark red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is often abbreviated Cab Sav. All states have local wine producers, but the largest wine producers are in the southeast corner of the country. The most common types of grapes in addition to the two above are; Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are usually named according to the grape variety used, and at least 85% of the wine must be of a certain grape to bear its name. Goon is slang for cheap bag-in-box wine (popular with backpackers) – nothing you bring to a BYO restaurant.
When it comes to beer it’s good to know that the terms for different glass sizes differ in different parts of the country. Ask for a small or large beer if you are doubtful whether it is a pint (575 ml, but 425 ml in SA), middy (285 ml, but only in NSW, ACT and WA), schooner (425 ml except in SA where it only holds 285 ml), pot (285 ml in QLD and VIC , but 575 ml in WA) or pony (140 ml in NSW, ACT, SA and VIC) you’re after. Ask your bartender to explain the local sizes for you.
Australians drink their beer and ale cold or cool. You might have to specifically ask for a glass with your beer if you want one as many people drink directly from the bottle (unless it is draught or tap beer of course). The standard bottle is called a stubby and holds 375 ml. On hot days it is kept cold with a stubby cooler, an insulating cover that you thread around the bottle to keep it cold. Talking about beer, one should probably mention the Australian way; Often the cold beer is transported to a party in a cooling bag full of ice bought at the local petrol station. The cooling bag is usually called an Esky, its slang name originating from one of the large refrigeration box manufacturers’ names.
Australians love their sport; It is estimated that 6-7 million Australians in some way regularly are active in some sport club. The sport with most spectators is the Australian Rules Football (AFL); A demanding sport with physical confrontations and air tackles but also advanced passing and ball control. A fun detail is that every three years Australia organizes an AFL World Championship, but Australia itself doesn’t attend since they are far superior to most other national teams.
In New South Wales and Queensland, people are less interested in AFL but more into National Rugby League (NRL), a brutal version of rugby with lots of tackles and giant players. The third version of football is called Rugby Union and the national team The Wallabies are often internationally successful. During the Tri Nations tournament against South Africa and New Zealand, The Wallabies tend to face their “arch enemies”, the fierce opponents All Blacks from New Zealand.
With elite leagues for both men and women (W-League and A-League), soccer is gaining strength in the country. Another large sport is various forms of swimming, and Australian swimmers usually place themselves on the podium at the Olympic Games. Cricket is a big summer sport (for watching with a beer in your hand particularly), and in January, people turn the TV on to watch the tennis tournament Australian Open in Melbourne (the sporting event that draws more foreign tourists to Australia than anything else).
The Sydney to Hobart yacht race takes place on Christmas Day. Every year one hopes the competitors can avoid a repeat of the tragedy in 1998 when five boats sank, and six sailors perished in harsh weather. In November, the country stands still during the ten minutes the Melbourne Cup horse race takes place.
The most popular team sport among women is netball, a sport very similar to basketball, but where the goal lacks the backboard (it’s just a hoop) and players are not allowed to run and dribble with the ball.
Some contemporary and historical names to be familiar with in Australian sport are; Sir Don Bradman (deceased, but easily the best cricketer of the time), Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke (all three contemporary cricketer), Dawn Fraser, Libby Lenton and Ian Thorpe (big names in swimming), Cathy Freeman, Steven Hooker (athletes) and Steven Bradbury (medallist in short track speed skating who despite being last took the history’s most unexpected gold medal when all other competitors crashed in a pile in front of the finish line at the Olympics in 2002).
More than 80 percent of the Australian population live within 50 km of the coast. Three of the world’s great oceans (the Pacific, Indian and Antarctic Oceans) meet in Australia, just like people from all over the world does on its shores. With a coastline of more than 30,000 km (47,000 km if you count every island) there are all types of beaches and coastal climates around Australia. If one defines a beach as a coastal area with at least a 20 m long sand strip that stays dry at high tide, then Australia has more than 10,000 beaches.
There are over 16,000 shipwrecks across Australia, many of which are popular diving sites. Unexpected storms and cyclones combined with shallow waters are considered the main reasons why Australian waters were dangerous areas, especially before the 1750s when navigational tools such as the chronometer didn’t provide accurate navigation-longitudes. Journeying north from Indonesia (Dutch East Indies at that time), one simply swung north too late with devastating results; the ships run aground along the Australian coast. Nowadays, thanks to modern navigation techniques and detailed weather reports, navigators have a good relationship with Australian beaches.
For thousands of years, the Aborigines have been fishing in coastal waters. Along the northern coast trading took place with people of modern-day Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Even today, the Aboriginal heritage remains alive in many names. Two examples of beaches with Aboriginal names are Coogee and Bondi in Sydney, which in local Aboriginal is koojah (meaning “the smell of drying seaweed”) and Boondi (for the sound of water breaking on the cliffs).
There are no private beaches in Australia, all beaches are open to the public and beach life is an important part of Australian leisure. Many families start their weekend by driving the kids to a swimming and water safety lesson in one of all the “nippers” programs that life-saving clubs organize. If you live in a suburb near the beach, you can see hundreds of people out at sunrise ready for surfing, jogging, practicing yoga or walking with dogs and prams. There is a fitness culture centred around the country’s beaches, and many go to the beach to surf and sail, fish, snorkel, dive or just sunbathe, relax and look at the diversity of people.
Most people meet and socialize at the beaches and in the parks. Various forms of celebrations like music festivals, markets, citizenship ceremonies and more are held on or near Australia’s most famous beaches such as Bondi and Manly in Sydney.
The community surrounding the Surf Life Saving summons up the Australian spirit of volunteering and their love for the beach, and many residents are members of their local swimming and surf lifesaving club. Every summer, thousands of lifesavers on non-profit basis patrol Australia’s beaches. Most of the lifesavers at the beach are volunteers, and if you have problems in the waters at Manly in Sydney, it’s a high probability the lifesaver to help you out is one of Manly’s own residents. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people are annually saved from drowning according to statistics. Lifesaving clubs compete against each other in sports such as rowing, swimming and running every summer, and these competitions, called surf carnivals, are very popular.
There are numerous marine nature reserves along the coast. According to international conventions, Australia is responsible for an ocean area twice as large as the Australian mainland itself – it’s one of the world’s largest area of territorial waters. The most famous marine nature reserve is the Great Barrier Reef along the north-east coast of Queensland. Here you can find more than 1,500 fish species, 4,000 species of molluscs and more than 200 bird species, as well as many large animals such as dugong, sea turtles, dolphins and whales.
Along with the beaches, the bush landscape has a special place in the hearts of the Australians. The term “the bush” refers to the unique Australian landscape where hardly any people live and can be used to describe the bushy dry half-desert inland just as the dense woodland areas with eucalyptus trees and rippling streams. For the European settlers, the bush landscape was a truly unique Australian feature, very different from the green and lush landscapes they left behind. In the late 1800s, the Australian landscape became an important source of inspiration for writers such as Henry Lawson (Norwegian descendant and best known for While the Billy Boils and The Drover’s Wife) and Banjo Paterson (best known for the poems Waltzing Matilda, Clancy Of the Overflow and The Man from Snowy River). By romanticizing and depicting the Australian landscape it helped build a greater love for the homeland, a love that came to permeate the new nation. Dorothy McKellar’s Patriotic poem My Country is one of the country’s most famous poems and celebrates Australia’s landscapes and climates with verses like “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooded rains.”
In early 1800s, prisoners escaped to the bush and came to survive as nomads, wilderness people and bushrangers. Their revolt and quest for liberty gave an exciting and adventurous view of the bush life, which was reinforced by stories of settlers and families who fought for survival in the hostile landscape. Many of the bush stories have themes of survival, freedom and the quest to create an independent life, but also a fascination of the Aboriginal’s almost magical ability to navigate through and feed of the landscape. The men who chose to live in the bush came to be seen as energetic, independent men who only trusted their comrades and who would turn their back on the established society.
One of the coolest stories about surviving against all odds is of convict William Buckley. After escaping near Melbourne, he survived on his own for 32 years in the wilderness where he lived with various Aboriginal groups before he reunited with westerners. The expression that someone has “Buckley’s chance” is thought to have originated from this story (meaning that something is virtually impossible, just like Buckley’s odds of surviving for over 30 years in the wilderness).
Themes of the bush appear in a lot of Australian art, slang and literature, and even though most of the population lives in cities nowadays, bush life is something that appeals to many Australians. In the late 1800s, the impressionism came to life when Australian artists ventured outdoors to paint the Australian landscape and its unique colours and lights. Artists such as Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, and Walter Withers * along with contemporary writers, contributed to create a unique Australian self-image. A well-known painting is McCubbin’s “Lost”, where a little girl in blue dress can be glimpsed behind shrubs and trees inside an Australian forest glade. The painting is based on a true event and represents 12-year-old Clara Crosbie who in 1885 got lost in the forest but miraculously found alive three weeks later.
Several modernist painters showed up during the 1900s creating motifs for a modern Australia. Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan are two of the last century’s perhaps foremost painters. Sidney Nolan’s colourful paintings depicting Ned Kelly are almost iconic and show up in many Australian collections. Towards the end of his life, Kelly built a homemade bulletproof armour of sheet metal to survive a gunfight with the police, and the angular black armour-dressed figure with a rectangular hole for the eyes is a theme easily recognizable in the paintings of Nolan.
In modern Australia, it is easy to associate the bush landscape with drought, depopulation and unemployment. Life in many rural communities is much tougher than in the big cities, but the landscape is also a popular leisure and holiday destination for metropolitan people. Many visit national parks all around the country to camp, hike and enjoy the unique nature.