Appreciate Australia

In a country as modernised and multiculturally inhabited as Australia, we really can find the best of just about everything the modern world could ask for.

We have wonderful food, a fair and democratic system of government that recognises women as being equal to men, and we have a beautiful, clean environment with one of the cleanest and most stunning environments ever seen or existed on earth.

Our legal system is strong and enables us to live quite safely, knowing that our rights and obligations in society are fully protected under this system. Our crime rate is comparatively low in relation to that of other nations which is one of the reasons that Australia is very popular for immigrants and tourists alike. Visitors find our people warm and hospitable while our fellow citizens find us to be supportive and loyal.

When people come to Australia they are impressed with our wildlife and our love of being outdoors, enjoying the health benefits that being in fresh, clean air brings.

Rare is the voice that is not impressed with Australia’s people, diversity, hospitality and environment. It really is the “must see” nation of the world.

Causing damage to public and private property is disrespectful, thoughtless and insensitive, and in some cases can be dangerous as well. Damage to public property costs the Australian Government millions of dollars every year in repairs and replacements, so we must not damage the public or private property. We must appreciate Australia.

A Land of Contrasts and Extremes

Australia is a land of contrasts and extremes. It is a land of great antiquity but a very young country; the smallest continent and the largest island in the world; the flattest continent and the most sparsely populated for its size. Its climate encompasses a range of weather patterns from tropical to temperate and in some southern mountain regions, subAntarctic. It can go from hot to cold, dry to wet forming vast areas from desolate terrain to beautiful rainforests; it’s a land of debilitating drought and flooding rains. Australia is the creation of nature’s mightiest forces working in a variety of ways. The great ocean currents, sun, winds and rains that have etched out the land making it the driest continent on earth, as well as its isolated position, have combined to make Australia unique among the countries of the world and given it a character of its own found nowhere else.

Despite Australia’s large size its people live mainly in the fertile coastal belt because nearly one third of the continent is desolate terrain and arid desert, unable to support large populations. Usually we think of the “The Red Centre”, as it is fondly called, as a landscape of sand, stunted trees and rocky outcrops with occasional areas of green where there is a protected water source. Its colours are browns and greys with granite reds and ochre yellows, forming strong contrasts. The biggest contrast, however, comes with the northern rains. When they come, they begin during the tropical “rainy season” and move south over thousands of kilometres through an immense river system, transforming the arid desert to a carpet of many shades of green topped with the multi-colours of a plethora of beautiful desert flowers. Life in its many forms returns to show the Centre is never really “dead”. Birds in their millions come to the rivers and lakes that overflow their banks and animals, reptiles and insects appear, seemingly from nowhere. For a while the land produces food in abundance, then as the rains stop and the relentless sun dries the landscape once more, water stops running and slowly evaporates from the creeks and rivers. The waterways become muddy holes and the birds and animals, the grass and flowers disappear and the land returns again to the harsh beauty of its arid deserts and mountain ranges.

Rich and Diverse Flora
The flora of Australia is rich and diverse in native plants that have developed in isolation from the rest of the world. There are those that have adapted to heat and drought and to the soils which, in many parts on such an old continent ravaged by the elements, are thin and nutrient deficient. They include the Bottlebrush and Kangaroo Paw. Another distinct element of flora is to be found in the rainforests of the northern areas of Australia. These include a wide range of ferns and palms, orchids such as the Cooktown orchid and the Illawarra flame-tree. The third type of flora to be found in Australia is that found in the southern mountain areas of New South Wales and Victoria; tall trees such as Snow Gums and Mountain Ash and small flowers like the snow daisies.

The dominant Australian trees are eucalypts of which there are about 500 species and varieties. They grow almost everywhere on the continent from the wet coastal wetlands and the arid interior to above the snowline of the mountain areas. They dominate almost 90 percent of Australia’s forests and they are the tallest hardwood trees in the world, some growing to more than 200 feet. The Acacias are also widespread and some are used for cabinet timber. The most well-known of these is the wattle, a tree that has been celebrated in poetry and books because of its unique feathery leaves and gorgeous round bright yellow fluffy flowers which herald in spring. It even has a special day – wattle day is the 1st September. Other wonderful and distinctive native plants include waratahs, banksias, hakeas and spider flowers as well as heaths and boronias.

Remarkable and Distinctive Fauna
Many of Australia’s animals can be found nowhere else on earth, survivors from remote antiquity. It is the home of some of the world’s most ancient surviving types of mammals, for example, and some of the strangest are the platypus and the echidna. They both have hair and they produce milk for their young; they are also the world’s only two egg-laying mammals. Other unique mammals include Australia’s wild dog, called the dingo and the dugong found in Australia’s northern waters and often affectionately known as the sea-cow.

Australia is also the world’s main habitat for marsupials which is a mammal that gives birth to its young in a very immature state, then carries and suckles it in a pouch. These include kangaroos, wallabies and potoroos. The Red Kangaroo, which grows to over two metres (7 feet) in height, is the largest marsupial. Of the other marsupials, the most wellknown and best loved is the Koala, often wrongly called a Koala Bear – it is not a bear. Other marsupials include native cats such as the Tasmanian devil as well as the bandicoot, possums and wombats.

Australia’s Heroes of War

When Australians think about war, the first battle that they think about is Gallipoli. Unlike the European armies at that time, the Australian Imperial Force was formed from volunteers who came heeding the call of duty. The main force for Gallipoli was made up of Australians and New Zealanders and became known as the ANZACs.

Every young Australian who jumped ashore at dawn in that little cove near the Dardanelles on 25 April, 1915 was a hero. Instead of being landed on a flat beach with easy access to cover, as was the plan, they were landed in the wrong place and faced steep cliffs and constant barrages of enemy fire. Many young men were cut down as they left their boats and tried to run to the safety of the cliffs and thousands of men died in the hours and days that followed. Those who remained spent the next eight months literally digging in – digging kilometres of trenches from where they could fire at and shell the Turks, day by day trying to make more ground. It was here the phrase “Australian ‘diggers’” was coined. The fighting became a stalemate and the ANZACs eventually had to retreat on 20 December, 1915. By that time 18,000 soldiers had been wounded and over 8,000 soldiers killed.

The ANZAC legend is seen, not as a great victory, but as courage, endurance and dogged determination despite poor leadership and bad strategies. The Australians were an independent lot who did not take kindly to orders from above but they were bold, fierce and relentless in battle and used ingenious methods to stay alive against the odds. They also forged a bond of ‘mateship’, looking after each other in dire circumstances.

The best known story of courage that comes from Gallipoli is the story of Simpson and his donkey. John (Jack) Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in the United Kingdom and had only lived in Australia four years when war broke out. He joined the Australian Army Medical Corps under the name “John Simpson” as a stretcher bearer hoping it would be his passage back the UK; however, their unit stopped in Egypt to train for Gallipoli. When they landed at Gallipoli, Kirkpatrick was the only member of his bearer section of four to reach the beach unscathed. During his time stretchering the wounded to safety he noticed donkeys near the beach and decided to use them to carry soldiers out of NoMan’s Land. He was known to lead his donkey with the wounded, seemingly quite nonchalantly, despite continuing firing from the enemy. Three weeks after he landed at Gallipoli, Kirkpatrick, or ‘Simpson’ was taking two wounded soldiers down Monash Valley when they came under machine gun fire and all three were killed. Kirkpatrick is buried in Beach Cemetery at Anzac Cove and was mentioned in Despatches for “gallant and distinguished service in the field”.

The Gallipoli campaign was seen as a defining moment in Australia’s history where Australians went to war as a group of independent rebels and through their baptism of fire returned home with a new sense of national identity.

Respected and loved by all who knew him, Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop was a giant among men not only for his height of 6’4” but for his great courage and the love and compassion he showed to people of all races.

Edward Dunlop grew up in country Victoria and following school accepted an apprenticeship with the local pharmacist. Edward won many awards after graduating top of his class in Pharmacy and then began studying medicine where he excelled in his studies and in sport, playing for ‘The Wallabies’, Australia’s national rugby team. He joined the Citizen Military Forces and then enrolled into the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps where he was commissioned as a Captain. It was here he was given the nickname “Weary”. Due to his height he had to lean over to operate and he looked “weary” although he was quite the opposite. Edward continued post-graduate training in England and at the outbreak of World War II saw action with an Australian Unit, first in Palestine, then in Crete and the Middle East.

In 1942 ‘Weary’ Dunlop was sent to Java, Indonesia to help treat allied and Australian troops who were there to thwart the Japanese threat. Very soon the Japanese captured his hospital. He could have escaped but refused to leave his patients and became a prisoner of war (POW) and was taken by the Japanese to Singapore and from there to Thailand. The Japanese wanted to build a four hundred kilometre long railway from western Thailand into Burma (now Myanmar) and so they used POW’s and native labour to complete it; a project which became known as ‘The Railway of Death’ because it cost around one hundred thousand lives.

‘Weary’ Dunlop was Commanding Officer and Surgeon in the camp with responsibility and care for over one thousand men. As Commander, he had the daunting task of deciding who was fit enough to work and as a surgeon he often had to work on them after their hours of heavy labour. His medical skills, dedication and compassion were legend in that place and he was extraordinarily courageous in trying to ease the harsh living and working conditions in the camp. There were very few medical supplies and no correct instruments for surgery so they had to improvise to help the men survive. The prisoners had just rice to eat with weak tea and ‘Weary’ said, “I’d see these fellas off at the crack of dawn, just carrying their rice for the day, and then they would drag in any time until midnight, some of them on their hands and knees”.

He would stand up to the Japanese officers and was often beaten and tortured for his efforts to protect his men. More than once he stood between them and Japanese bayonets until their life was spared. His courage and kindness was well respected by everyone, including the Japanese. After the war ‘Weary’ Dunlop returned to work as a surgeon and was later knighted in recognition for his contribution to medicine. His compassionate nature enabled him to forgive and even meet, some of his former enemies. He died in 1993 just short of his 86th birthday.

One of his most famous sayings is, “I have a conviction that it’s only when you are put at full stretch that you can realise your full potential”.

Australian Made

Unfortunately, with national economies working the way they do these days, much of Australia’s produce is now produced overseas. So it has become very important to Australians in recent years to bring the production back to Australian shores and increase our own economy. The main way we can do this is by purchasing Australian Made products, so that the money used to purchase the products stays within the Australian economy and promotes Australian jobs.

Australian Made products are easily recognisable by the distinctive green logo that is placed on them. Research has shown that almost two-thirds of Australians will consciously choose to purchase Australian Made products if they are available.

Labelling legislation is changing to make it easier to determine which products are actually grown, manufactured and sold within Australia, as opposed to those which are perhaps grown in Australia but then sent overseas for manufacture. Many companies that do this still market their products as Australian Made, but they are in fact only grown here and then manufactured elsewhere. Australians are becoming more conscious of this issue and are becoming more determined to rectify the problem.

Because, basically, buying un-Australian products is, well, just un-Australian.

Australian Heroes of Flight

At the birth of the twentieth century balloons and airships, which depended on being lighter than air, had flown since 1783. No-one had yet lifted off the ground in a powered machine that was heavier than air. It was to be another three years before Orville and Wilbur Wright would make man’s first controlled, heavier than air, flight in North Carolina, U.S.A. America, however, was not the only country seeking answers about flight and a number of enthusiasts were to be found in Australia.

Laurence Hargrave, a scientist and inventor, experimented with box kites and powered models, and was lifted to a height of 4.8 metres by four box kites near Sydney in 1894. He was helped by George A. Taylor, an extraordinarily versatile man who, among other things, was an editor, journalist, astronomer, town-planner and radio engineer as well as an inventor. In 1909 Taylor was lifted off the ground in a glider in Sydney and during the day made 29 flights during which he achieved the maximum distance in a flight of 100 metres.

No-one is quite sure who made the first powered flight in Australia. Some give credit to Fred Custance, a young Adelaide mechanic. After assembling the Bleriot monoplane which had been imported by an Adelaide businessman, he taught himself to fly by reading the handbook which came with the aeroplane. On 17 March, 1910, near Adelaide, he flew the monoplane for 5 minutes 25 seconds during which time he flew around a paddock three times. This added up to a distance of four kilometres. The day after the Custance flight Houdini (real name Erich Weiss) made three flights in a Voisin biplane near Melbourne where he attained a height of 30 metres and flew more than three kilometres on a circular course. The Aerial League of Australia presented Houdini with its trophy in the belief he had made the first powered flight in Australia.

The first Australian-built aeroplane was built and flown by 28 year old John Duigan at his Victorian farm. On his first flight on 16 July, 1910 he was airborne for about seven metres. Then, on 7 October, 1910 he flew 180 metres at a height of three and half metres. Later he travelled to England to attend Avro flying school and gained his Royal Aero Club pilot’s certificate in 1912.

There are many forgotten pioneers and heroes of Australian aviation such as W.E. Hart, a Sydney dentist who, on 29 June, 1912, won Australia’s first air race and in 1916 went to the Middle East as a trainer with No. 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. He died in 1943, his exploits forgotten.

In 1919, brothers Keith and Ross Smith were the first Australians to fly between London and Australia. The Australian Prime Minister W.M. Hughes had offered a prize of £10,000 for the first Australian crew to fly between London and Australia in less than 720 hours (i.e. 30 days) before 31 December, 1919 in a British machine and they took up the offer. The brothers, with two mechanics as crew, flew a Vickers-Vimy biplane 18,500km in 27 days 20 hours (668 hours altogether) battling terrible storms sweeping across Europe and monsoon weather on the last leg of the flight. They all nearly froze in the open cockpit and ice coated their goggles. There were a number of accidents during the trip which included having two hawks fly into and damaging one of their propellers. The brothers were both knighted. Two years later, in 1922 Sir Ross Smith planned a flight around the world. While in England he took off for a trial flight with Lieutenant Bennet in a Vickers-Vimy amphibian. They were both killed when the plane went into a spin and crashed. Sir Keith Smith joined the staff of Vickers Limited and became their Australian representative. He died in 1955.

Another pioneer and hero was Harry George Hawker who was the first Australian flyer to gain a world reputation. He learned to fly in London and in 1911 joined the Sopwith Aviation Company, becoming their top instructor. He made a series of speed and altitude records and was the first person (accompanied by K. Mackenzie Grieve) to attempt a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, although they had to ditch 1600 km out to sea and were picked up by a Danish tramp steamer. He was killed on 12 July, 1921 when his machine caught fire while practising for an Aerial Derby at Hendon.

Even after the end of World War I most Australians had never seen an aeroplane. Yet, over the next decade aviation developed and advanced further and faster here in Australia, relative to population, than in any other country in the world due to the fearlessness and determination of the men mentioned in this book. Perhaps it was the innate ‘Aussie’ spirit that produced the thrill of adventure and excitement that seemed to permeate all the men who were prepared to take those flimsy timber, wire and fabric flying machines into the air. In doing so, however, they considered it a privilege to put their own lives at considerable risk and many paid the ultimate sacrifice. The one thing those pioneers did have in common was a creative imagination which could picture how the aeroplane could open up the world to communication and travel in a way no other invention could have done. Australia was a world away from the rest of civilization and the “tyranny of distance” had hampered this country’s development for 150 years. The aeroplane changed all that and it was largely due to our heroic Australian aeronautical pioneers that travel around the world is so easy today.

Another great and much loved Australian aviation pioneer and hero was Bert Hinkler. They called him “Australia’s lone eagle”. He was born in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1892, the son of a mill worker. As a boy he studied the flight of ibises and at the age of 19 flew his homemade glider, “Aviette”, to a height of ten metres on Mon Repos beach.

In 1912 Bert became a mechanic to ‘Wizard’ Stone, an American showman aviator and gave flying exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand. The following year he worked his passage to England to join the Royal Flying Corps and also worked for Sopwiths.

During World War I Bert worked his way up from mechanic to an observer-gunner with Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He served with distinction and won the Distinguished Service Medal in France. He also served as a pilot in Italy. After the war Hinkler again worked as a mechanic, this time in Southampton with AV Roe & Son. He was their Chief Test Pilot from 1921 to1926. During this time he made a record flight of 1900km from London to Riga, Latvia.

In 1920 Bert decided to fly solo from England to Australia. He finally managed to obtain a plane and set out on 31 May, 1920. He set a new record for a non-stop long-distance flight on his leg from London to Turin, Italy, taking only 9 ½ hours for the trip. He was then forced to abandon the rest of his flight to Australia due to war in Egypt and Syria. He did, however, win the Britannia Trophy for meritorious flight by a British aviator that year.

Eventually Bert Hinkler was finally able to begin his record-breaking flight to Australia on 7 February, 1928. He made the flight in a frail, single-engine ‘Avro Avian’, a flimsy single-seater with fabric folding wings which many experts doubted could survive the perils of such a long journey. His successful 11,250 mile adventure, which ended in Darwin on 22 February 15 ½ days later, was the longest solo flight ever made and it broke five aviation records. The Australian government awarded Hinkler the Air Force Cross and made him an honorary squadron leader.

Bert Hinkler did not rest on his laurels but went on to further triumphs. In 1931 he flew from New York to London in a Puss Moth across the Atlantic Ocean via Brazil and West Africa. On this leg he achieved the first solo flight across the South Atlantic. Although he encountered terrible weather throughout the 3,200 kilometre flight and spent 22 hours flying blind, his wealth of experience saw him land only 160km from his planned destination.

On 7 January, 1933 Bert Hinkler again left London in an attempt to beat CWA Stott’s record of 8 days 20 hours from England to Australia. He was not heard of again after passing over France. Four months later the wreckage of his plane was found in the Italian Alps with Hinkler’s body beside it. He was buried in Florence, Italy with full military honours.
Bert Hinkler was an acclaimed early aviator of renown and a hero of Australia.


Charles Kingsford Smith has been called the world’s greatest aviator. His almost superhuman flying skills and numerous record-breaking flights are legendary. One of the best known pilots for his time, he is credited with putting Australia on the map as a leading contender in the race to develop the potential of aviation. Against the thinking of the time he continued to push the boundaries to show that the aeroplane could change the way the world communicates – and he won!

He was born in Hamilton, a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland and at age 13 began his study of electrical engineering, graduating at age 16.

Charles, or “Smithy” as he was affectionately known, enlisted for World War I in 1915 and served at Gallipoli and in France. At age 19 he was selected to join the Royal Flying Corps and received his commission in 1917. He was an adventurous and daring pilot and survived an attack by two German fighters, shooting them down; however, his plane was riddled with bullets. Shot in the foot and later losing three toes, he was invalided back to London and awarded the Military Cross for outstanding bravery. He was only twenty years old and already a war hero.

After the war pilots were competing with one another in long-distance flights and Kingsford Smith was determined to make flying a major part of his life. He was deeply crushed in 1919 when, having decided with two friends to enter the race from London to Australia organised by the Australian government and which Hinkler ultimately won, his entry was disallowed on the grounds he lacked navigational experience.

It was when ‘Smithy’ went to the United States in 1920 that he first thought about flying across the Pacific. He took on stunt work and charter flights but returned to Australia in 1921. He joined the fledgling Western Australian Airways, the first Australian airline and worked there as chief pilot flying mail through the outback until 1924. In 1926, he returned to Sydney and there met Charles Thomas Ulm who, like ‘Smithy’, had served in WWI and later who had later become a qualified pilot. The two men determined to make Kingsford Smith’s dream of flying across the Pacific come true by attempting the trip together. To raise public interest and funds they flew right around Australia in ten days, less than half the time of the previous record. With the money raised they bought an old Fokker triplane, previously owned by another Australian flying hero, Sir Hubert Wilkins in his Arctic explorations, and modified it for the long flight. They called the plane Southern Cross”.

On 31 May, 1928, Kingsford Smith and Ulm, with two Americans as navigator and radio operator, took off from Oakland, California and flew the Southern Cross across the Pacific to Australia in three legs with short stops in Hawaii and Fiji. It was an exhausting journey over a featureless ocean in a heavy, noisy aircraft with a cockpit open to the wind and storms that beset them. The men could only communicate by writing notes to each other. During the flight they lost their directional radio beam and had to fly by dead reckoning, were blown off course by ferocious storms which tossed the little plane violently and one of the engines began to run rough. On 9th June they landed in Brisbane to a tumultuous welcome and the following day completed the final leg to Sydney completing their journey in 83 hours, 38 minutes flying time. They were met in Sydney by 300,000 people. It was the first flight across the Pacific. Today the Southern Cross is on display in a specially designed hangar near the overseas terminal in Brisbane.

In August, 1928, ‘Smithy’ was the first person to fly non-stop across Australia from Melbourne to Perth and in September he completed the first aerial crossing of the Tasman from Sydney to Christchurch and return.

He had always wanted to launch his own airline and he finally did so calling it Australian National Airways. The loss of one of his planes, Southern Cloud over the Snowy Mountains in May, 1931, was a crushing blow. Financial problems followed and the company had to be closed.

Kingsford Smith kept on breaking and re-breaking flying records. In 1929 he flew from Sydney to London in 12 days and 18 hours and later that year made the first round-theworld flight from London to Ireland then to New York, San Francisco and back to London again. At age 32 in 1930 he won another England to Australia air race of 16,000km flying solo in the record time of 9 days and 22 hours and in May, 1931 he made the first flight from Australia to England carrying mail and repeated the feat again with Christmas mail. He again broke the England to Australia record in 1933 flying the distance in just over 7 days and every time he flew to New Zealand he would continue to break records. In 1934 he made the first crossing of the Pacific from Australia to America.

By 1933 Charles Kingsford Smith held the most world records for long-distance flights in the world and the previous year had been knighted for his services to aviation. He had already been declared by Anthony Fokker “the greatest man flying in the world today”.

By 1935 Kingsford Smith was feeling the strain of a string of disappointments including the collapse of his airline, the failure of a mail service between Australia and New Zealand and the scandal of what was known as the “Coffee Royal” affair when two other airmen died while trying to find Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot whose plane had crashed in north-west Australia on their way to England. They survived for ten days on rations and coffee but the rumour went around that it had all been a stunt and that they had caused the death of the two men. Gossip about the affair plagued ‘Smithy’ for the rest of his life.

In November 1935 ‘Smithy’ was a tired man but decided on one more record-breaking trip from England to Australia with co-pilot J.T. Pethybridge. The plane and both flyers were lost, crashing into the Bay of Bengal somewhere off the coast of Burma.

Charles Kingsford Smith made a notable contribution to the rise of civil aviation with more record times for inter-continental and trans-ocean flights than all the flyers of other countries put together. He is a true Australian hero and has been remembered by being featured on the Australian $20 note and having Sydney’s airport named after him.

Australian Heroes of Discovery

Australia is an ancient land but a young country. Although its indigenous population have been here for many thousands of years, Australia did not properly present itself for discovery until after 1788 when the First Fleet from England arrived in Sydney Harbour. Between 1788 and 1813 the new settlement called Sydney was restricted to the coastal plains. Although many attempts had been made during this time to move westward, the large range of mountains, now called the Blue Mountains, proved a difficult and formidable barrier to the plains beyond.

What must it have been like to be perched on the edge of a new land without knowing anything about where they were and a world away from their loved ones and friends? They had no idea how large the land was and what lay beyond the seemingly impenetrable mountains they could see rising high to the west. There was, however, an insatiable desire to find the answers to all their questions and to take hold of this newly discovered land and make it their own.

Captain James Cook, of course, must be the first explorer to be mentioned as it is he and his crew on the bark Endeavour who first sailed along and investigated the east coast of Australia in 1770 and made their discoveries known in England. Based on his reports of ‘fine harbours for settlement’ England decided to ease their overflowing prisons by setting up a penal colony in the new land and this was first achieved at Botany Bay in 1788.

Matthew Flinders was another great navigator who is best known for making the first complete circumnavigation of Australia and mapping ‘the last unknown’, the south coast of Terra Australis in 1802-1803. Prior to that voyage he, with his friend and doctor, George Bass, in 1798 proved that Tasmania was an island by sailing around it and charting it and discovering a strait which they called Bass Strait.

On land, after many failed attempts, the Blue Mountains were finally crossed in 1813 by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth. The rugged mountains had at last yielded their secrets and a suitable route was opened to allow farming and grazing to the west.

There were many great explorers who did their part to open up large tracts of land and find rivers and lakes. Many gave their lives when they tried to open up central Australia, believing that it held a great inland sea. John Forrest opened up parts of Western Australia and later became premier. Ludwig Leichhardt, Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills and Edward John Eyre all did their part to open up south and central Australia and as far north as the Gulf of Carpentaria.

They all put their own lives on the line and the lives of those who accompanied them. Often they made rash decisions and travelled into deserts in the heat of summer. Some, like Ludwig Leichhardt, disappeared and died in unknown circumstances. They all, however, settled myths and taught us about this wonderful land that is Australia.

CAPTAIN CHARLES STURT (1795-1869) He is one of our greatest explorers and is known for carrying out one of the most heroic journeys of discovery in Australian exploration history. He was born in India about the time that Flinders and Bass were exploring Australia’s coastline. After spending time in the British Army Sturt sailed for Australia in 1827 and began showing a keen interest in the exploration of the largely unmapped and untapped country. Many people of the day, including Sturt, believed that the rivers which flowed west ended in an inland sea and there had been many expeditions to try and prove that the sea existed.

Sturt led three expeditions and made important discoveries about our river systems. On his first expedition in 1828, he was sent out by Governor Darling to map the Macquarie River with another explorer, Hamilton Hume. Due to a terrible drought they couldn’t reach the Macquarie but discovered a river which Sturt named the Darling. They hadn’t mapped the Macquarie River but they did prove that there was no inland sea in northern New South Wales.

His second expedition was carried out in 1829 to find out where the Murrumbidgee River, which had been discovered by Hume and Hovell, ended. They took a whaleboat on a horse-drawn dray over hills and put it together for the expedition down the river. It was a dangerous journey but they finally came upon a large expanse of water which Sturt named the Murray River. The party followed it through to where it flowed into a lake, which he called Lake Alexandrina, and from there, through a narrow sandbar, to the sea. Unfortunately they were unable to get their boat through the sand bar and had to make a 47 day epic journey of endurance, rowing 12 hours a day against flooding tides, back to the Murrumbidgee where they had started. Some men died from the experience and Sturt became temporarily blind.

His third expedition, 14 years later, was to put to rest the many stories about the purported inland sea which he no longer believed existed. He had already proven that the west flowing rivers to the east did not flow into an inland sea, but turned south to the ocean. This expedition was to reach the exact centre of Australia where he hoped there may be one or more big lakes because he had noticed birds heading north every autumn and returning in spring. With John McDouall Stuart, another intrepid explorer, he and his party left Adelaide in 1844. They followed the Murray and then the Darling north to the Barrier Ranges (near present day Broken Hill). After some time in that place with little water they finally set off for the centre. Here they suffered dreadful hardship when they reached a stony desert which is now called Sturt’s Stony Desert. Further on they came to the Simpson Desert. It was so hot their thermometers broke. They had travelled 1500km and everyone was exhausted. Sturt became ill and they had to turn back. By the time they returned to Adelaide they had been away 17 months and Sturt was treated as a hero. He had found rivers and explored Australia’s centre, adding a great deal to the knowledge of Australia’s interior. Sturt’s Desert Pea was named after him.

He was at different times South Australian Surveyor General, Registrar General then Colonial Treasurer and later Colonial Secretary. He died in England in 1869.

SIR DOUGLAS MAWSON (1882-1958) Although he was born in England, Douglas Mawson moved with his family to Sydney, Australia, when he was only two years old. He studied engineering and science at university where he found a real interest in geology. Later Douglas lectured at Adelaide University on the origin and structure of rocks. The time he spent in the Flinders Ranges on field trips taught him about glacial rocks and built up within him an interest in the Antarctic region.

When aged 26 Douglas Mawson was given his first chance to visit Antarctica when he joined an expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, a famous British explorer. While there he joined in undertaking studies to locate and trek to the magnetic South Pole and climbed the active volcano, Mt. Erebus.

In 1911 Mawson decided to lead his own expedition to Antarctica to explore this still mainly unknown and unclaimed part of the earth. He raised money, recruited a team of young men and sailed from Hobart to explore and map the northern most coastal area of the Antarctic continent. After winter, Mawson took two of his men, Mertsz and Ninnis, to explore another area. After two of them passed safely over an ice bridge, the third man, Ninnis, fell into the crevasse with a dog sled full of supplies. The loss of Ninnis, as well as the dogs and supplies, was devastating. Mawson and Mertsz had to try to get back to camp, 500km away, and gradually killed and ate the remaining dogs to survive. Mertz died on the way back, probably poisoned by the dog meat and Mawson, himself close to death, had to travel the last 160km on his own. He found the supplies left by a search team and eventually met up with the searchers themselves.

On his return home Mawson was hailed a hero and his explorations led to Australia claiming over 6 million square kilometres of the Antarctic continent as Australian Territory.

Between 1929 and 1931 Douglas Mawson headed two more trips to Antarctica and maintained an interest in that continent for the rest of his life. He passed away at the age of 76 in 1958.

Sir Douglas Mawson became South Australia’s most famous explorer and an Australian hero. He was a man of vision and determination and demonstrated remarkable persistence and courage to survive all his exploration expeditions. He inspired a generation of people and left a wonderful legacy of scientific knowledge about the last great continent to be explored.

Australia, 1850 to 1901

The latter part of the nineteenth century was known as the “golden era” as pastoral interests continued to grow and the mining industry became more and more important to Australia’s growth. Transport was also improving with railways snaking out around the land and more and better roads being built in between growing regional centres. Perth was linked to the eastern cities by telegraph in 1877. Better communication helped break down colonial barriers and rivalries.

Eventually the economic expansion slowed and the 1890’s spiralled into an economic recession leading to a financial crisis. Every area of the economy was severely affected and thirteen banks closed their doors in 1893. Interest rates soared and prices for agricultural produce fell by 50 per cent.

New South Wales was able to establish its own government in 1855 which meant that it could manage its own affairs while still being part of the British Empire. Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria followed suit in 1856. Queensland, being a very new state was able to form government right from its inception in 1859 and Western Australia followed in 1890. London retained control of defence and foreign affairs until Australia came of age and formed the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Urban Growth
Life in Australia was settling down and towns were growing into cities. By the 1880’s most people living in Australia had been born here and a large percentage of them lived in urban areas. Australia’s population in 1901 at the first census after Federation was 3.7 million and almost a million of them lived in Sydney and Melbourne.

By the end of the nineteenth century things were changing. More people were employed in industries such as building, manufacturing and the professions and fewer people were being employed in primary industry and mining. The drift to the cities has continued, unabated, up to the present time.

Birth of a Nation
A spirit of nationalism had been rising in the separate colonies for some years and better transport and communication had brought them into closer contact with each other. A federal government was needed to bring under one umbrella the important matters such as defence. By the end of 1899 the people of five of the six colonies had voted in referendums in favour of Federation.

Thus it was that on 1 January, 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed and a nation was born. The first federal parliament, with Edmund Barton as Prime Minister, was opened in Melbourne on 9 May, 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V. The parliament continued to sit in Melbourne until new parliament buildings were completed in Canberra in 1927.

At this time, although the nation had a constitution, it did not have a flag. A competition was held and the winning design was a Union Jack on a blue background with a large sixpointed star representing the six Australian states and five stars representing the Southern Cross. The new Australian flag flew over the dome of Melbourne’s Exhibition Building for the first time on 3 September, 1901.

The National Capital
Before federation, thought had been given to where a new national capital should be situated. It became clear that none of the state capitals would be accepted. The federal Constitution Bill accepted by all states before federation set out rules about where the national capital should be sited. The site was to be determined by parliament and that site had to be “within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth and shall be in the State of New South Wales.” The area had to be at least one hundred square miles and not less than one hundred miles from Sydney. It would be called The Australian Capital Territory.

Many sites were put forward and argued about and feelings ran high but the ‘stand-out’ site was in the Yass-Canberra district which included the ‘Canberry’ Limestone Plains. The place was sometimes called ‘Kamberra’ which appeared to be the name of the Aboriginal tribe of that area. By October 1909 agreement was finally reached for this site and the nine-year battle was over. The necessary legislation was passed and received royal assent by the end of the year. A competition for the design of the capital was then instigated and eventually won by an American, Walter Burley Griffin.

The official ceremony to name the National Capital was held on Capital Hill on 12 March, 1913. At noon, Mr King O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs handed Lady Denman a gold case with the chosen name and she told the excited crowd, “I name the Capital of Australia, Canberra”, putting an equal emphasis on all syllables.

It was 1927 before Parliament House was built with a small town growing up around it. Up to that time federal parliament had been meeting in Melbourne but on 9 May, 1927 there were great celebrations as the Duke and Duchess of York opened and established parliament in Canberra.

Australia in The Twentieth Century

The twentieth century in Australia began with celebrations but dark days were on the horizon. This young nation would endure two world wars and a world Depression before fifty years had passed. The men of Australia would make the nation proud and as the Melbourne Argus put it in 1915, Australia had “in one moment stepped into the world of great manhood”. Because of the First World War Gallipoli campaign, Australia now had a national day – Anzac Day.

The Great Depression in Australia was characterised by the “Swagmen”; men who turned their back on the cities and took to the roads, travelling from town to town looking for work. They carried a rolled up blanket, containing their meagre possessions, on their back and it was generally known as a ‘swag’. Farmers would often take them in, give them a few days work and some hot meals and then send them on their way. Many of these swagmen were decent men prepared to work hard, but with the dearth of jobs in the city they were forced to leave their homes and pound the highways looking for work. Their families back in the city depended on them to send money home to keep the household going. Swaggies, as they were often called in the Australian vernacular, became a common sight on outback roads throughout the Depression. The Swagman was made famous in Australia’s favourite song “Waltzing Matilda” in which “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a Coolabah tree and he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled, you’ll come a waltzing matilda with me…”

In 1939 Australia entered its second World War of the century and again the cream of its youth put their lives on the line on the other side of the world. This war, however, changed and became more personal when, after Japan attacked Peal Harbour, it invaded a number of Asian countries and Singapore and Hong Kong were attacked from the air. Now the war was in our own territory and we began fighting for our own land when Darwin was bombed and Japanese submarines were found in Sydney Harbour. Again Australians pulled together and matured as a nation.

Since the 1950’s there have been important social and political changes as well as technological advances in our nation and the country continues to move forward. It is no longer tied to the ‘apron strings’ of Britain but has become a multicultural nation, a colourful tapestry of people from many lands. Australia has come of age and established its own national identity in a world of change.

The mysterious ‘south land’ had been known about for centuries, but whether it was one vast land or a number of smaller lands was not apparent. Nothing was known of its people or of its potential wealth. It was only following Captain James Cook’s discovery of the eastern seaboard of the ‘south land’ that interest in its possibilities was created on the other side of the world.

Once a foothold had been established with the small colony of settlers in Sydney, little time was lost in investigating more and more of this unique country. Small communities sprang up along the coast. Then, as explorers moved further into the interior, new country was opened for the grazing of sheep and cattle. Navigators sailed around this new territory, mapping it for others to follow.

As time went on the convict workforce gave way to free settlers and as the country was more closely examined, gold and other mining ores were found, adding richly to the growing economy. As Australia became more closely settled and cities began to grow, the need for a federal government led to the Commonwealth of Australia being formed and the birth of our nation.

As young as it is, this nation continues to grow and mature and it is steadily taking its place among the leading nations of the world.