Australia is an island continent of a size approximating that of the United States. It has a climate range extending from the lush tropical rainforests in the north, to cool temperate rainforests in the south and with large arid regions at its centre.Although the continent was discovered a century and more earlier, it was claimed by the British when in 1770 Captain Cook sighted the east coast and named it New South Wales. It has remained nominally ruled by Britain with the Queen acknowledged as its figurehead although, as with most countries within the British Commonwealth, there have been great changes and moves towards an independent republic. It now comprises the 5 mainland States of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland together with Tasmania, an island State south of Melbourne and a territory which is called the Northern Territory, situated between northern Queensland and northern Western Australia.
Its main population is found around the fertile coastal fringes.Because of the vast distances in the country, the State governments have been all important. Federation of the States occurred in 1901 when a Federal government was established and centred in Canberra in what has been designated Australian Capital Territory.
This central body is growing ever stronger as Australia grows as a nation.Like so many second generation Australians, my parents and their families had emigrated from Britain and after the long sea voyage, welcomed touching land in Perth, the first port of call in their new country. Western Australia is my birthplace and was my place of residence for much of my life. Like so many others, I have resided in several States and have explored most of them to some extent.
However, W.A., NSW and Queensland are the ones I know best.
W.A. is a huge state but only the area around Perth was known to me in the first 18 years of my life. It was only when I returned to live there for another 12 years at a later date that I had the opportunity to explore further afield. Then, not only did I appreciate the beautiful capital city, the clean, white sandy beaches, the comfortable Mediterranean type climate and the quality of life of the people but I was able to travel east to Kalgoorlie, south to Albany and north to the Pilbara and Gascoyne regions.
So I came to see something of its enormous expanses of semi-arid lands and poor soils and something of its rugged beauty and also to experience the loneliness of those northern and out-back regions inhabited by the few. These are the people who fall in love with its mystical atmosphere and enjoy the peace and the freedom of a lifestyle which they accept as sufficient compensation for the many little sacrifices and comforts which are taken for granted in city living.Visitors to these regions get a taste of a different life and tourists are beginning to happily explore some of the remote regions of interest - the Gascoyne areas with huge sheep stations; the Kimberley with its ancient landscapes, tropical conditions and the Argyle Diamond mines; Broome, which is the centre of the pearling industry ; Shark Bay where visitors swim with the dolphins; Kalbarri with its natural landscape attractions and all throughout the state - the beautiful wildflowers for which the State is famous.
And of course, being a great mining State, we have Kalgoorlie which is famous from the gold rush days and where gold continues to be mined. The best known of all areas however is the South West corner of the State with its tall timbers, rich farmlands, its many vineyards and tourist attractions. Yet in spite of efforts to de-centralise the population, Perth remains the hub for life in this State and there are few other cities with any sized population.New South Wales is the dominant State with a greater population than elsewhere.
Its fine reputation is earned with its great natural wealth, interesting history, beautiful landscapes and cosmopolitan social life of its vibrant capital, Sydney. This being the city with an exquisite harbour, opera house, beaches, sporting fields, racing tracks and relaxed atmosphere attracts the majority of newcomers to our country. Outside the city are the Blue Mountains and places of interest, too many to mention.
Queensland is also a huge State. Here I have spent many years but unfortunately have had no opportunity to get to know more than two areas, as the distances, similar to Western Australia, are so vast. The northern tropical area is almost like another country when compared with that around the capital, Brisbane. The north attracts thousands of tourists who wish to enjoy the climate and conditions for which the tropics are famous and to explore the underwater attractions of the Great barrier Reef which extends for hundreds of miles down the coast.
Along with the vast production of sugar, bananas and tropical fruits, the lush growth of the natural rainforests provides a superb feast for the adventurer.Victoria is a smaller State but a wealthy one which accumulated its riches through gold mining, through its natural resources and it primary production. Melbourne, its capital is a very large spreading city with large Greek, Italian and migrant population.
It is for its focus upon the arts and the cultural aspects of life that it is famous. The climate directs its difference in cultivation of deciduous and cold climate plants and gardens, in contrast with the other States and horticulture is one of its most successful enterprises, attracting many tourists to the beautiful Dandenong Ranges. Skiers travel in their hundreds to the alpine snow fields and region of the Snowy Mountains. This is where the great Snowy Mountain Scheme construction project drew thousands of workers as migrants earlier in the last century.South Australia has a special claim to have been settled by free settlers with no convict history as experienced by other States, particularly NSW.
Many free settlers chose to create a new life here and to try to re-create much of the lifestyle they had experienced and valued in Britain and Europe. However, the climate here is very severe and hampered many enterprises because of the dryness and the semi-arid immediate surroundings. This has changed of course through development and by the establishment of many places of interest for tourists in the Flinders ranges, the Arid Botanical Garden and wilderness areas, the development of the great Murray River as a feature for tourists and by encouraging tours of the many historical establishments around Adelaide, its capital.Tasmania, the island State, is famous for its enterprising diversity in agriculture, horticulture, timber and fisheries, for its natural beauty in mountains, rivers, forests. It is valued for many of its pristine areas where nature has been left untainted by commerce and where World Heritage listings are maintained. Its size makes it easy to explore by road although coastal exploration is hampered by rugged coastlines on one side.
By road there are many interesting industries and enterprises to be seen and visited such as the medicinal poppy farms, herb farms and apple orchards. Tasmania was once called 'the Apple Isle". It is possible to take your car from the mainland by ferry over to Tasmania so that you can tour to your heart's content but visitors must remember that the climate is colder than the rest of Australia. The wonderful river systems encourage activities such as white water rafting.I have not been to the Northern Territory except in touching down on an air flight from Perth to Cairns in North Queensland so am ill equipped to say anything from personal experience, only to relay what I have heard from others. Facts such as Darwin is its capital, which was devastated and suffering greatly from Japanese bombardment in World War II, devastated by cyclone in the 1970s and now has been totally rebuilt and remodelled as an ideal modern city attracting tourists from overseas as well as from Australia itself.
Many visitors wish to know more about the traditional aboriginal culture and to visit indigenous sites of interest. Because of the remoteness of this city from the more populated parts of Australia it is easy to believe that this has been a neglected part of our continent. Alice Springs and Darwin are the focal points for the Territory and support a large aboriginal population of those who are magnetically drawn from the arid and more remote areas by the promise of greater comforts offered in a city.There are a smaller number of indigenous people who inhabit the huge areas which have been put aside exclusively as territory for the aboriginal people in Arnhem Land and other areas. Although there is state protection where needed, the old traditions of the aboriginal culture of necessity are dying out with fewer and fewer of pure aboriginal ancestry to uphold them. Many try to help their customs survive but they are unable to relate to them in a new and confusing context between their old culture and the western style now entrenched as the social culture for the Australian people.
The indigenous people have a choice-to blend with the mainstream of our culture and benefit by the many material advances or to return to tribal customs and communities in lands put aside for them where they are free to live close to nature and according to their ancient rituals and beliefs.Most Australians however are inclined to believe in the principle of integration in the community both of the indigenous people and the immigrants and do not favour any attitude of separation which is fostered by any vocal minority within any ethnic group or community. Most of us feel that it is important that we stand as one people, a blend of all individuals who must develop with pride, our special land where we are blessed with personal freedom which is seen as a value to be maintained and cherished.I know and love this land, this wide, brown land where flood and fire and famine occur in nature's calendar of events. It may seem a harsh land in some ways, but perhaps one best summarizes its qualities when assessing one's affections -.
I love the clear blue skies, the clean sparkling oceans, the starry skies, the warmth and the heat haze, the sunshine, the interesting plants and flowers, the peace and security with no civil wars and strife, the vastness and sense of space, the hope born of increasing enterprise and care, the ancient landscapes and powerful forces of nature at work, the easy going attitudes of the people and the generous spirit felt through the land, but also through the expression of society. We are a fortunate country, both in our natural wealth and in the vibrancy of our creative spirit where the democratic values are upheld by our people and our governments. We are generous in giving aid and help to others less fortunate.But we are the driest continent on earth. We have transformed and beautified many landscapes by human effort and our cultivation of forests, parks, farmlands.What more wondrous future if we had more rain?..Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Australia.
By: Michael Russell