The basics Population: 24 million Capital: Canberra Religion: Predominantly Christian Emergency number: 000 The key dates 26 January: Australia Day; though there is some controversy about the date, this is the country’s official national day. 25 April: Anzac Day, marking the anniversary of the first major military conflict involving troops from Australia and New Zealand in World War I 5 November: Melbourne Cup, the horse race that “stops a nation”. 31 December: New Year’s Eve is always done in style, and with plenty of fireworks. The hot spots Popular destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays, Tasmania, Byron Bay and Alice Springs. Among the 19World Heritage Sites are Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and the Sydney Opera House. Some itinerary ideas • Sun and surf: Brisbane – Sunshine Coast – Cairns – Great Barrier Reef • Cool capitals: Sydney – Melbourne – Great Ocean Road • Outback: Darwin – Kakadu – Alice Springs – Uluru • Food and wine: Perth – Fremantle – Margaret River How to stay healthy • Pack plenty of factor 50+ sunscreen, wear a hat, and stay out of the midday sun. • If you’re driving in remote areas, tell someone where you’re going, and carry much more water than you think you’ll need. • If you’re on the beach, follow the safety instructions applied by the lifeguards.

While you’re there, please don’t… • touch any of the native flora or fauna without knowing what it is first! Australia justifiably has a reputation for having lots of creepy crawlies and other nasties. Case in point: 20 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world are found in Australia. • attempt to swim in rough conditions at any of the country’s beaches. Drownings are common – sadly, particularly among foreigners who fail to spot rips and sweeps. Before you go, read … The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas – explores what happens when a man slaps someone else’s child at a barbecue. It might not give you a rounded sense of Australia, but it’s a conversation starter. The Shiralee by Darcy Niland – follows a father’s journey across New South Wales, and captures the spirit of the outback. Before you go, watch … The Castle – filmed on miniscule budget, this comedy of a family trying to prevent their home from being demolished is loved (and heavily quoted) by locals. Mad Max – for an eye-opening view of a dystopian Australian future. Also, if you plan on doing a driving holiday in “the Outback”, then here’s a film you shouldn’t watch before you go: Wolf Creek. They said it “If I was whisked away…I think I could put up with anything, except not seeing the Australian landscape. It would be torture to have it cut off.” – Arthur Boyd, Australian painter “Let no-one say the past is dead; the past is all about us and within.” – Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal (Kath Walker) “You don’t really understand what makes the Australian nation tick unless you understand the great affection Australians have for sport.” – Former Prime Minister John Howard



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