Nature and culture

22 July 2010 by

A. The population

- Number of inhabitants: 21 017 000 for a territory of 7 669 551 km², which means a density of 3 inhabitant each Km².

- Origin of the population: Mainly European, with a large representation of British, Italian and Greek people, and Asian. There is about 570 000 aboriginal people in Australia.

- Demographic increase: 1.5%

- Medium age: 36.7 years

B. Some famous Australians

- Banjo Patterson: He grew up in the bush in the second half of the 19th century and became with his ballads one of Australia’s most important bush poets. He is known for Clancy of the Overflow, or The Man from Snowy River, but his most famous work must be Waltzing Matilda, the Australia’s unofficial anthem.

- Rodney William Ansell: Famous for having being the source of inspiration for Paul Hogan’s character, Crocodile Dundee. In 1977, he stayed two months with limited resources in an extremely hostile part of the Northern Territory. He was said to be able to kill a crocodile with his only hands. Rodney Ansell was killed in 1999 near Darwin after a shootout with the police.

- Judy Davis: One of Australia’s most famous actresses with, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett or Toni Colette. Born in Perth in 1955, she graduates at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) twenty two years later. Actress for the Coen Brothers in Barton Fink or David Cronenberg in The Naked Lunch, she earn most of her awards with TV programs such as Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, for which she obtains a Golden Globe of the Best Actress.

- Ned Kelly: Born in 1854 or 1855 in the State of Victoria, his father was an Irish immigrant who had been deported in Tasmania for the thief of two pigs. Later he became the head of a crew of outlaws who stole animals and fought against police. In June 1880, Ned Kelly is arrested. In November the same year, he is hanged to death in a prison of Melbourne.

- Eddie Mabo: Member of the Aboriginal tribe Meriam from Murray Isle, he began an action for a declaration of native title over his territory in May 1982. In June 1992, the High Court rejected the myth that Australia had been unoccupied (Terra Nullius). This decision received a hostile reaction from some farmers, miners and industry groups, but was acclaimed by aboriginal people.

- Joan Sutherland: The most famous Australian soprano, recognized to be the best singer in bel canto repertoire. She begun in 1951 in Judith of Eugène Goossens in Sydney’s Opera House.

- Nick Cave: Maybe one of the most famous singer of Australia. His group, Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds became famous all around the world in the 1970’s. Not only a good singer and songwriter, Nick Cave is also writer, scenarist and actor, in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire for example.

C. Fauna and Flora of Australia

In this huge country, covered by huge arid desert as well as huge tropical rainforest, the notion of ecology is more than a theory, it’s an everyday matter of questioning. Since 200 years, 70% of native vegetation has been lost, including 75% of rainforest. Since white settlement, 15 vertebrate species have become extinct, and there is still many more endangered. But nowadays, Australia possesses a great system of national parks and reserves. 7.5% of Australia’s landscape is protected, and another 396,000 sq km are marine parks, including a large part for the Great Barrier Reef.

- Flora: More than 20 000 species of plants constitute the Australian flora. The most representative one is without any doubt the Gum Tree. Behind this name hides more than 500 species which can grow up to a few centimeters or some 90 meters. Essential to a lot of animal species like Koalas, The Gum Trees are also highly inflammable. This explain the particular attention given to the forest tree safety.
The Thorn or Wattle trees are also a representative part of the Australian flora. 1000 of the 1500 species of those plants are found only in Australia. One specie, the Acacia Pycnantha, is the national flower of Australia.
The Kangaroo pawn is a very strange flower, with a shape similar to a kangaroo pawn and some woolly hairs by way of petal. We can found it mostly in Western Australia.

- Fauna: About 90% of Australia’s fauna is endemic. The Kangaroo and the Emu are the two emblems of the country. The first is represented by sixty-three species included the most famous ones, the Red Kangaroo and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo. The smaller ones are called Wallaby, Wallaroo, or Bettongs. All of them are marsupials. With a size of about 1.75 m and a weight of 50 kg, the Emu is one of the biggest birds in the world, with the Ostrich and the Cassowary. If this bird can’t fly, it can run really fast, up to 50 kh.
The Koala is of course another famous Australian animal. It is mostly found along the east coast from Melbourne to Townsville and eats gum leaves from a few and precise number of species. Those marsupials can sleep until eighteen hours a day digesting their gum leaves.
In Tasmania, the Tasmanian Devil is the biggest carnivorous marsupial living on earth, with a size of about 60 cm and a weight of 10 kgs. With its dark color and its huge appetite the Tasmanian Devil has a bad reputation, even if it can be domesticated.
The Cassowary is a big bird which can size until 1,80 m and weight 60 kgs. Sometimes aggressive it can be very dangerous with its long and sharp nails, but it is more of all a very important animal of the rainforest, because of its capacity of spreading and renewing the forest.
Australia is also the country where one can find the most dangerous animals on earth. The sharks are spread all around Australia. In the sea, the most dangerous animals are maybe the Box Jellyfish and the Irukandji. Their stings are very painful and can be deadly. 70 of the 370 species numbered are found there. Eight of the ten most dangerous snakes are found in Australia, including the Death Adder and the Taipan snake. One of the most dangerous spider of the world is the Funnel Web spider. We can found it in the New South Wales mostly, including Sydney. The Red Back spider and the White Tailed spider are also very poisonous. Finally the best way to have a peaceful journey in Australia is to think like the Australian people, and say that the falling coconuts kill each year more people than those dangerous species…

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