Perhaps discovering facts about Australia will help you to plan your next holiday or give you a sense of how this country fits into the rest of the world.
Australia is a large island continent, but it wasn't always like that.
Searching back into time we discover something of the history of this ancient land and its people - exciting stories that help bring the facts to dramatic life.
Let me set the scene:
Imagine sections of continents slowly moving apart over aeons, one massive land mass noisily tearing itself from the greater land mass of Gondwana (which included India, Africa, South America and Antarctica!), drifting from one ice age to another across thousands of kilometres of boisterous, deep ocean, as platelets shifted, until it stopped somewhere about where the country, that we know as Australia, now is.
The continent of Australia was still joined to Papua New Guinea and some of Asia, as well as to Tasmania and has become known as Sahul. But then, as ocean levels rose, fell, then rose again, separate land masses and islands evolved, each with its own unique flora and fauna, either side of what is known as The Wallace Line.
This 'line', named after the findings of scientist/naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, is an imaginary boundary between Australasia and Asia, either side of which various species, over a slow period of evolution, developed their own characteristics.
As species evolved and thrived, very large mammals, birds and reptiles replaced the dinosaurs, which had roamed freely for millions of years (as deduced from discoveries of dinosaur fossils at various locations). Spread across rainforests, huge lakes and deserts of the new island continent, the megafauna existed in a harmonious balance with many other species, now also mostly extinct.
Very likely originating in Africa, early homo sapiens arrived via the Asian island chain to the north west, through what is now Papua New Guinea, perhaps about 55,000 years ago, possibly longer. Walking across the land bridge (now the Torres Strait) and spreading right across the continent, they probably settled initially around the coast, rivers and lakes. Gradually, the coastline receded away from the ocean. Papua New Guinea and Tasmania were isolated from the mainland as sea levels rose; the population of humans, animals and vegetation retreated inland as the tide advanced.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons for the decline of the megafauna and other unique species was the practice of the nomadic, hunter-gatherer-fisher homo sapiens to use fire to stimulate new growth of grasses, fruit and nut trees. Large areas of the land were burnt, resulting in the extinction of many animal and plant species. In addition, the humans' skills with spears, boomerangs and woomeras would have easily brought down large prey. But much of this 'information' is based on conjecture
Aboriginal mythology and spirituality often reference beings that resemble long extinct megafauna; artwork in cave paintings do likewise, sometimes in great detail.
The 'good news' story, in our quest for facts about Australia, is that a number of megafauna still live in Australia, some, such as kangaroos, in plague proportions. Other unique Australian animals include goannas, one species being the huge 'perenti' or monitor lizard, emus, huge pythons, cassowaries and crocodiles.
So that was how it all began.
Fast forward to 2016 and we find a prosperous, democratic country, colonised in the late eighteenth century by Great Britain and, of recent decades, turned into a highly successful multi-cultural nation, active in world affairs. Numbering in excess of 23.586 million, the majority of the population has its origins in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia while the original, indigenous population is only a small minority .
Friendly and tolerant, Australians welcome immigrants (as long as they are not 'boat people' - but that's another story!) and are proud of the way in which a plethora of races, with a variety of religious views, skills and lifestyles, have assimilated happily into society and work together for the common good.
They enjoy interacting with overseas visitors and have the reputation of being hospitable and generous. Tourism is quite a large industry, employing many Australians, who help to make the visitors' experiences enjoyable - and, hopefully, memorable.
Most members of the population are urban dwellers, clinging to the coastline, living in sprawling suburbs around large cities and towns, often situated in scenic river or ocean locations. They have a high standard of living, as Australia is quite a wealthy country, which educates its people to tertiary level if they so desire, and a health system, which is probably the envy of many countries.
Sport seems to be a common passion and Australians generally fare well in world competitions, especially in cricket, tennis, rugby and swimming. As for Australian beer and elegant wines - come and see for yourself!
Seasons in Australia:
The southern parts of Australia experience Winter at the opposite time of the year to their Northern Hemisphere counterparts - eg Europe, North America and China. Cold weather and rain can be expected from June to September, with October and November approximating those countries' Spring and the months of March, April and May considered to be Autumn. However, because few trees are deciduous, this is not often very obvious, so markers are mostly connected with daily temperatures.
In Northern Australia, Winter is usually mild and warm, with most days experiencing sunshine. However, in the tropics at least, Summer is wet! The monsoons swing south from equatorial regions, dumping many feet of rain in these areas and resulting in swollen and impassable rivers and flooding in places.
Worried about cyclones in Australia?
We always have plenty of warning of such impending bad weather, which can herald catastrophes - or just as easily turn into blessings, with the resultant heavy and widespread rains, appreciated by our farmers.
If you are concerned about visiting the tropical regions of Australia during the 'cyclone season', don't be, as warnings are issued many days in advance and you will have the choice to remain in your secure accommodation, be evacuated, if you happen to be holidaying on an island which is in the path of the storm, or go on a jaunt to a more peaceful destination just a short flight away.
I live in Port Douglas, North Queensland. Want to know what Port Douglas weather is doing today? Check here.
B, from the Outback Australia website has done such a good job on researching this topic that I am happy to let her tell you all about them. Can you top any of these fun facts? While Australians are prone to tall tales, a fair bit of teasing and and 'leg pulling', if you are presenting Australian facts they must be true!
B's website, Outback Australia Travel Guide, is well worth a browse, especially if you are planning to visit this area and would like some local knowledge. B (short for Birgit) was once a visitor from Germany, but that was before she fell in love with the Outback and the Kimberleys and decided to stay.
If you are planning to visit Australia, do check out the government sponsored site about our country. For comprehensive information for intending visitors, or once you have arrived, see Tourism Australia's official website. Enjoy!