As I sit writing these words in Fremantle. Western
Australia. the office workers are leaving the old colonial
buildings in Phillimore Street to head home to enjoy the
last of the day’s sunshine. It has been another warm,
balmy day in Western Australia. with the state’s top
temperature of 45 degrees – around 116 degrees in the old
scale – being reached in the Pilbara iron town of
Along the Fremantle waterfront. the crews of the 12-metre
yachts. sunburned. dishevelled and exhausted. are
returning for another day’s practice in preparation for the
world fleet championships being sailed in the choppy
waters of the Indian Ocean. At the Lombardo’s restaurant
complex. squeezed among the brightly-painted fishing
boats at the water’s edge. the early diners are looking at
menus and choosing between local blue manna crabs or
the dhufish. In the colourful gold town of Kalgoorlte. 600
kilometres from Perth. miners in shorts and heavy boots
head for the Boulder Block Tavern to swill the red dust out
of their throats with glasses of ice-cold Swan lager.
Across the country. 4.350 kilometres away in Sydney. a
noisy. excited crowd is engrossed in a game of cricket. It is
8 pm in Sydney. and those not screaming encouragement
at the Sydney Cricket Ground are moving into the city
centre for the evening’s entertainment. perhaps in the
fascinating Rocks area, birthplace of the nation. or maybe
at a smart restaurant overlooking the harbour. What has
happened in Sydney today? The evening paper carries a
story on severe summer storms which brought hail across
a wide area of the city.
On the Gold Coast. in the south east corner of Queensland.
the pace is quickening at the Conrad International Hotel
and Jupiters Casino as casually-dressed gamblers chase
fortunes on the blackjack tables. By now. the sun has set
over Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory. the stockmen
are pulling off their boots after another arduous day.
bedtime stories are. being read to the children of the
outback. the travelling carnivals are luring remote
communities with their bright lights. and the nighttime
cover is being pulled over this incredible country.
Tomorrow. the great Australian adventure will begin all
over again. but now it is time for the country to count its
blessings. Ruggedly beautiful. romantic and mineral-rich.
Untamed. unsullied and unlimited in its ability to
surprise and stimulate. The gold diggers and the grape
pickers. the business tycoons and the cray fishermen. the
wheat farmers and the sheep-shearers. the dockside
workers and the iron-ore miners. all are united in
believing that they have been given a special place on this
earth in which to pursue their dreams.
Australia is a large and complex land of 4.8 million square
kilometres. supporting a population of 16 million. 70 per
cent of whom live in the five mainland state capitals of
Sydney. Melbourne. Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. As a
comparison. the United Kingdom has a population three
and a half times as large. in an area amounting to only
three per cent of Australia’s land mass.
Lucky is the man. if he exists. who can say that he has seen
all of Australia. Most of us merely peep behind the curtain
here and there. and become more enchanted with each
new discovery. Like the Europeans who came freely to
Australia. or were transported there in convict ships some
200 years ago. the modem-day adventurer feels a
compulsion to go on in search of the myriad. sometimes
mystical. experiences which this ancient continent has to
Australia can be the sight of Sydney Harbour Bridge and
the Opera House in early morning from the bow of the
Manly ferry. It can be the awesome isolation of a 40.000
hectare Queensland cattle station. where the nearest
neighbour might be 400 kilometres away. It can be an
abandoned gold town in the rust-coloured outback of
Western Australia, where corroding machinery and long-
discarded beer bottles evoke memories of the leathery old
men who tried to dig dreams out of the dirt. It can be the
spectacular Ayers Rock sunset. listening to Aboriginals’
tales oftheir ancestors. It can be the sight of buffalo on the
Marrakai Plains. Northern Territory, or crocodiles on the
South Alligator River. It can be the little alpine village of
Banjo Paterson’s ‘Man from Snowy River’ country.
breathing the pure, cool air 1,370 metres above sea level.
The list goes on, and for every settler, every visitor, there is
a special memory. a moment frozen in time, a personal
experience to be locked away and cherished.
No-one should think they have been to Sydney or
Melbourne or the Gold Coast and seen Australia Notwhen
they haven’t cruised the Murray Riverina region in New
South Wales, or slept under the stars at Waterfall Creek in
Kakadu National Park, Amhem Land, or experienced the
wilderness of the Franklin River National Park in
Yet. as beautiful and beguiling as these places are. they are
just sweeps of the brush on the extraordinary canvas that
is Australia. It is a land of richness and breathtaking
contrast. A land of wildflowers. like the kangaroo paw.
bachelor’s button. mountain eyebrtght and spider orchid.
It is a land of birds, like the blue-winged kookaburra.
Albert lyre bird. Major Mitchell cockatoo. Regent bower
bird. dancing brolga and spangled drongo, It is a land of
mammals and reptiles. like the saltwater crocodile. thorny
devil. tiger snake, koala. camel. wild buffalo and kangaroo.
It is the land of the spectacular, like Katherine Gorge, a
magnificent river canyon in inland Australia. and Ayers
Rock, 500-600 million years old – a giant red gemstone
rising 348 metres above the plain from an 8 kilometre
Circumference. It is a land of strange-sounding places:
Humpty Doo. Coober Pedy. Smiggin Holes, Barrow Creek.
the Bungle Bungles and Mudgeeraba. It is a land of
legendary people. bushrangers like Ned Kelly. Mad Dan
Morgan and Captain Moonlight. whose spirit. if not their
lawlessness, lives on today in a population which has had
to battle hard to establish its new frontiers.
Two hundred years after the arrival of the first settlers. the
task today for its cosmopolitan population – immigrant
Greeks. Turks. Slays. British. Italians. Vietnamese and
Dutch – is to take the baton and keep the country moving
away from parochialism. and towards proud and
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