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Australia Overview

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A cruise to Australia can be an adventure, a relaxing holiday, or anything in between. The Australians are known for their friendliness, and the landscape is known for its wildness.

Travelers to Australia can experience the majesty of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and home to countless species of marine life. Those wishing to remain closer to land can enjoy one of the gorgeous beaches on Australia's continuous coastline. Because the weather is mostly tropical, the Australia's coasts are warm year around. Numerous cities and towns are scattered along the eastern coast to offer unique Australian experiences.

Inland, the adventure of the outback draws travelers with its famous wildlife, from the kangaroo and wombat to the iconic koala bear. But Crocodile Dundee wasn't just fiction; watch out for the saltwater crocodiles!

Australia's cities combine a love of the arts with eclectic food and up-and-coming wines for a modern urban experience. Australia has a rich migrant history, and its diversity of culture leaves no lack of options for entertainment. Combined with an enthusiasm for the outdoors and a love of sports, the Australian people have come to believe that life is for living. Come share the belief.

A Look at Australia Modern-day History

The first European encounter with the Aboriginal peoples of Australia was recorded by Dutch explorer William Janszoon in 1606, the first of several explorers to begin charting the Australian coastline; it came to be called "the unknown southern land." The most well-known explorer to chart Australia was Captain James Cook, who claimed the east coast for King George III of England.

Australian history is notable for England's decision to use its newly-claimed territory as a penal colony. The First Fleet arrived in 1788 with nearly 1,500 people, half of them convicts. Up until 1868, when the penal period ended, 160,000 people were brought to Australia.

Early relations between the English settlers and Aborigines were peaceful, based upon trade. But as the Aborigines saw their land and resources confiscated, some tribes became hostile. Others suffered from foreign disease, displacement, and a disruption of their cultural practices.

When the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901, a population of 3.8 million non-indigenous people resided on the continent. The date of the landing of the First Fleet was named Australia Day. Yet for many indigenous people, Australia Day is a time of mourning and protest. Citizenship rights for Aborigines were not recognized until 1967.

Still a young country, Australia sent 400,000 of its men to fight in World War I, and nearly 60,000 were killed. Out of this tragedy, the Australian ethic of courage and spirit was born, even as the country plummeted into economic disruption and class divisions.

World War II took less of a toll on Australia’s population, and brought the advantage of an economic boom following the war. Australia prospered enough to host the Olympic Games in Melbourne 1956, bringing the international gaze to the country. Today, a cruise to Australia reveals its increased diversity, cosmopolitan society, and trademark sense of adventure.

Storied Ancient History of Australia

Australia’s first peoples migrated to the continent about 50,000 years ago. These indigenous inhabitants came to be called Aborigines, a term which encompasses both the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. In reality, these were 500-600 distinct peoples, although they shared unifying characteristics, and at one time spoke one of hundreds of different languages. Some shared characteristics include spiritual practices with connections to the earth, tribal storytelling, and tribal art. Aborigines were mostly semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer peoples.

Aboriginal peoples’ legend of the beginning of the world is called “The Dreaming” or “Dreamtime.” In this creation story, aboriginal ancestors appeared from below the earth to transform into various aspects of nature. The ancestors remain alive as their new form in the sky, rock, or bodies of water. The stories of the Dreamtime are repeated in storytelling and songs, as are other cultural tales. Dances and sand drawings are often part of the telling.

Aboriginal peoples are perhaps most famous for the music of the didgeridoo, a five-foot wind instrument with a vibrant hum that requires circular breathing. This beautiful instrument has been used for centuries, as evidenced by rock art created some 2000 years ago. An Australian cruise would not be complete without a didgeridoo performance.

Cultural Discovery on an Australian Cruise

Much of Australia's cultural identity evolved from its recent history of the hardships of its early settlers and the heroism of Australian soldiers in the World Wars. The tenets of "mateship" and "fraternity" are central. Australians view their society as egalitarian, and actually quote themselves as distrustful of the rich and powerful.

Australia's culture is a mix of different customs, old and indigenous traditions, and various foreign influences. It represents the rich migrant culture that characterized its birth as a country. Today, Australia prides itself on its diverse performing and visual arts.

An Australian cruise provides opportunities for exposure to the vitality and energy of various dance theaters, indigenous as well as contemporary. Of course, no trip to Australia is complete without a visit to the world-renowned Sydney Opera House.

Visual arts play an important role in continuing to shape Australia’s culture. Sand paintings by Aboriginal artists drew international attention in the 1970’s, and their transfer to boards and canvasses has helped to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous citizens. Contemporary artists paint the Australian landscape in the context of historical and cultural heritage, as well as in the context of modern issues such as environmental degradation and conservation.

Australia's unique culture can also be seen in its more aggressive forms of sports, such as rugby and Australian rules football, both full-contact sports with a devoted following.

Cuisine in Australia

An Australian cruise provides a sophisticated dining experience for those in search of one. Australia's varying cuisine is yet another reflection of its diverse landscape and population. Its vast coastline provides an abundance of seafood in all its variations, from oysters and tuna in the west waters to lobster and scallops from the south.

During a trip to Australia, travelers will discover a heavy British influence in the local cuisine, as can be seen in such traditional dishes as lamb roast, steak and kidney pie, biscuits, and scones. These foods have taken on an Australian twist with names like Soldier’s Cake and Anzac Biscuits. But Australian food also encompasses other contributing migrant dishes, from Greek to German to South African.

Australia has become known for its variety and quality of wine in recent years. Melbourne and Sydney are home to a variety of restaurants where travelers can enjoy the expert pairings of Australian dishes with signature Australian wines.

From the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef

As a nation, Australia has the distinction of having an entire continent to itself; although it is the smallest continent on the planet, it is the sixth-largest country.

Because Australia is completely surrounded by water, its continuous coastline provides immense oceanic diversity. Its endless scenic beaches offer breathtaking views and unparalleled relaxation opportunities for the laid-back traveler. For the more adventurous, Australian waters also boast some of the most legendary surf spots in the world.

An Australian cruise is a perfect opportunity to visit one the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. This is the world's largest coral reef system; it can be seen from space and is sometimes called the world’s largest living organism. It is host to an incredible diversity of marine life, and therefore a coveted diving and snorkeling destination.

Although Australia is mostly a dry country, the Australian rainforest and monsoon forests maintain themselves in a narrow band along the eastern coast, adding a measure of geographical diversity.

Inland of the ocean, Australia is generally a flat land of plateaus and deserts. The Great Dividing Range separates the outback from the more fertile Eastern Highlands, which receive more precipitation than anywhere else on the continent. This area also houses Australia's densest human population.

The "outback" is used locally to refer to remote areas outside of main urban centers; mainly, the majority of Australia's central landmass. It is dry, flat, and wild, with famous residents such as the kangaroo and wombat.

Australia's Environment

Australia's capacity of forest and agricultural lands to absorb carbon emissions have placed it at the forefront of climate change discussions regarding the possibility of carbon sinks. The Great Barrier Reef is particularly susceptible to climate change. A rise of 2-3 degree rise of temperature could bleach the precious Reef by 97%.

Australia faces such environmental challenges as urban air quality, pollution, and climate change, as do the majority of urban populations. However, the continent is rich in coal and natural gas, as well as in renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and tidal power, and Australia has made the sustainable development of these resources one of its primary goals.

Although the hole in the ozone layer is located over Antarctica, Australia feels the effects of the atmospheric depletion and has taken measures to deal with it. The amount of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere above the country is on the decrease, and many scientists predict that complete ozone recovery will be noticeable by 2050.

Climate and Weather of Australia

Australia is bisected by the tropic of Capricorn, lending the country north of it a tropical climate and the rest a temperate climate. Australia's seasons are opposite the northern hemisphere's; taking an Australian cruise around Christmastime may include beach time, whereas travelers should be prepared to ski in August.

Australia's climate is actually temperate enough to swim in the warm northern waters year around. The moderate temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities no matter the season, which contributes to Australians' saying that life is for living. An Australian cruise provides beautiful weather at any time of year.

Of Dingoes and Wombats

Australia is famous for its "outlandish" wildlife; the relative exoticism of its species is a result of its isolation as an island-continent. It is an old landmass, and its division from other chunks of land by the sea allowed nature a certain kind of freedom. But for the record, dingoes were actually introduced to the continent by traders.

Australia is home to some of the world's most fascinating marsupials, a category of mammal whose young are born before being fully developed and so are kept in the mother's pouch until strong enough to move independently. Some are hopping marsupials, such as the kangaroo and the wallaby. An Australian cruise may yield glimpses of other famous Australian residents, including the wombat, possum, and the iconic koala in its eucalyptus tree.

Off the coast of Australia, on the island of Tasmania, is the well-known Tasmanian devil. It is the only carnivorous marsupial. Despite its ferocious portrayal as the cartoon character, Tasmanian devils are unable to kill even a rat, and thus have remained separated from the wild mainland of Australia.

Fortunate travelers may also be afforded a look at the exotic duck-billed platypus. This amphibious animal lays eggs, yet curiously has many mammalian characteristics as well.

Australia's isolation also produced the large, flightless emu, an ostrich-like bird that can actually outrun a horse at short distances.

In addition to the cuddly creatures featured on Australian postcards, the country's waters are home to saltwater crocodiles, great white sharks, and box jellyfish. Of course, they are also home to harmless tropical fish, dolphins, and turtles.

Introduction to Australian Politics

Some political background may help in preparing for an upcoming trip to Australia. Revealing its early British connections, Australia is a parliamentary democracy with a stable liberal political system. In maintaining its British connections, Australia remains a Commonwealth Realm, which means it recognizes Elizabeth II as its monarch.

At the Australian federal level, the Governor-General represents the Queen. However, the Governor-General’s executive power is generally only exercised in agreement with the Prime Minister, who holds the highest federal office.

Australia has three political branches: the legislative Parliament, the executive Federal Executive Council, and the judicial High Court of Australia and other courts. Australia also has three main political parties, called the Labor, Liberal, and National Parties. Independent members are also represented in Australian parliaments. Voting is compulsory at the age of 18.

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