At a Glance: Australia

Also known as: Down Under, OZ

Population: Approximately 23 million, most of which live on the East coast. (That’s fewer than 3 people per square kilometer, by the way – it’s the 3rd least densely populated country in the world, after Namibia and Mongolia).

Government: A federal parliamentary democracy, and a constitutional monarchy. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth. The country is comprised of seven states (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Australia), all of which have their own state parliaments. The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, is extremely unpopular, and is expected to be kicked out of office by his fellow Liberals (read: Conservatives) any day now. One night while we were out, a man came up to us and with vicious delight handed us a cleaning rag with Tony Abbott’s face on it. That seems to kind of sum up the general opinion of him.

Median household income: $60,278. The minimum wage in Australia is almost $17 an hour.

 Weather: Australia is about the same size as the United States, and the climate varies accordingly. The greater part of the country is desert, the north is tropical, and in the South East, where we were, it is quite temperate. February is the tail end of summer, so our days were usually around 75 degrees and sunny.

Our favorite places:

  • The Rooks Return: Our friend Chris is the excellent bartender and co-owner at this little hole-in-the-wall. The drinks are obviously very well made, the music is funky, and there’s a cute little backyard area.
  • Rita’s Cafeteria: Their illustrious sous chef is our wonderful host Sam Carnes Warren (a.k.a. Wazzer). Also, truffle and prosciutto pizza. Mic drop.
  • Cumberland River Holiday Park: The campground we stayed at on the Great Ocean Road, slightly west of Lorne, tucked into a divot in the mountains and just beyond a beautiful stretch of beach. Kangaroos also tend to wander around willy nilly, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Maple Leaf: A really delicious restaurant in the small beach town of Lorne; fine dining for reasonable prices, casual atmosphere.
  • The Chill Zone: hammocks, a gazebo, a pool…the backyard of our friends’ house reminded us of the place we’re missing the most. #ATC:Melbourneoutpost

Fun facts:

  • In terms of fair treatment of it’s indigenous people, Australia falls far below New Zealand – it even gives the United States a run for it’s money. The British stole the land from the aborigines with forged documents in the early 1800s, using the classic reasoning “just because they live on the land doesn’t mean they own it.” Years of assimilation, where indigenous children were taken from their families and forced into white communities, coupled with foreign infectious diseases did a number on the aboriginal population. Even now, Australia glosses over this brutal history – our guide books barely mentioned it, and our Australian friends said they barely teach it in schools; a year will be spent on Australian involvement at Gallipoli, and only a week or two on the history of the native people.
  • Here’s some new slang for you guys, to use responsibly:
    Cigarette: Dart (or darrie – they look like a dart, get it?)
    Whippet: Nang
    Pills: Pingers
    *For the record: we enjoyed a lot of good, clean fun while in Melbourne.
  • We made a point to see some Australian films while there, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is seriously one of the best movies we’ve seen in a while. Two drag queens and a tranny stuck in the outback – how can you go wrong?! Guy Pearse is a revelation.
  • One of the most prominent constellations in the southern sky is the Southern Cross. It’s a common tattoo, but not one that you want to be associated with; apparently it’s the Australian equivalent of the bad chinese characters that were so popular in the 90s. No offence.