Australia Travel Guide

Culture

Since 1788, the basis of Australian culture has been strongly influenced by Anglo-Celtic Western culture. Distinctive cultural features have also arisen from Australia's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations.

Arts

Australian visual arts are thought to have begun with the cave paintings, rock engravings and body painting of its Indigenous peoples. The traditions of Indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally, through ceremony and the telling of Dreamtime stories. From the time of European settlement, a theme in Australian art has been the natural landscape, seen for example in the works of Albert Namatjira, Arthur Streeton and others associated with the Heidelberg School, and Arthur Boyd.

The country's landscape remains a source of inspiration for Australian modernist artists; it has been depicted in acclaimed works by the likes of Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Sydney Long, and Clifton Pugh. Australian artists influenced by modern American and European art include cubist Grace Crowley, surrealist James Gleeson, and pop artist Martin Sharp. Contemporary Indigenous Australian art is the only art movement of international significance to emerge from Australia and "the last great art movement of the 20th century"; its exponents have included Emily Kngwarreye. Art critic Robert Hughes has written several influential books about Australian history and art, and was described as the "world's most famous art critic" by The New York Times. The National Gallery of Australia and state galleries maintain Australian and overseas collections. Australia has one of the world's highest attendances of art galleries and museums per head of population—far more than Britain or America.

Many of Australia's performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each state, and a national opera company, Opera Australia, well-known for its famous soprano Joan Sutherland. At the beginning of the 20th century, Nellie Melba was one of the world's leading opera singers. Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.

Australian literature has also been influenced by the landscape; the works of writers such as Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, and Dorothea Mackellar captured the experience of the Australian bush. The character of the nation's colonial past, as represented in early literature, is popular with modern Australians. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Australian to have achieved this. Australian winners of the Man Booker Prize have included Peter Carey and Thomas Keneally; David Williamson, David Malouf, and J. M. Coetzee, who recently became an Australian citizen, are also renowned writers, and Les Murray is regarded as "one of the leading poets of his generation".

Media

The Australian cinema industry began with the 1906 release of The Story of the Kelly Gang, which is regarded as being the world's first feature-length film; but both Australian feature film production and the distribution of British-made features declined dramatically after World War I as American studios and distributors monopolised the industry, and by the 1930s around 95% of the feature films screened in Australia were produced in Hollywood. By the late 1950s feature film production in Australia had effectively ceased and there were no all-Australian feature films made in the decade between 1959 and 1969.

Thanks to initiatives by the Gorton and Whitlam federal governments, the New Wave of Australian cinema of the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, some exploring the nation's colonial past, such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant, while the so-called "Ocker" genre produced several highly successful urban-based comedy features including The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Alvin Purple. Later hits included Mad Max and Gallipoli. More recent successes included Shine and Rabbit-Proof Fence. Notable Australian actors include Judith Anderson, Errol Flynn, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, and Cate Blanchett—current joint director of the Sydney Theatre Company.

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services, and numerous public, non-profit television and radio stations. Each major city has at least one daily newspaper, and there are two national daily newspapers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. In 2010, Reporters Without Borders placed Australia 18th on a list of 178 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (8th) but ahead of the United Kingdom (19th) and United States (20th). This relatively low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia; most print media are under the control of News Corporation and Fairfax Media.

Cuisine

The food of Indigenous Australians was largely influenced by the area in which they lived. Most tribal groups subsisted on a simple hunter-gatherer diet, hunting native game and fish and collecting native plants and fruit. The general term for native Australian flora and fauna used as a source of food is bush tucker. The first settlers introduced British food to the continent, and much of that is now considered typical Australian food; the Sunday roast has become an enduring tradition for many Australians. Since the beginning of the 20th century, food in Australia has increasingly been influenced by immigrants to the nation, particularly from Southern European and Asian cultures. Australian wine is produced in 60 distinct production areas totalling approximately 160,000 hectares, mainly in the southern, cooler parts of the country. The wine regions in each of these states produce different wine varieties and styles that take advantage of local climates and soil types. The predominant varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sémillon, Pinot noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon blanc. In 1995, an Australian red wine, Penfolds Grange, won the Wine Spectator award for Wine of the Year, the first time a wine from outside France or California achieved this distinction.

Sport

Approximately 24% of Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities. Australia has strong international teams in cricket, field hockey, netball, rugby league, and rugby union, having been Olympic or world champions at least twice in each sport in the last 25 years for both men and women where applicable. Australia is also powerful in track cycling, rowing, and swimming, having consistently been in the top-five medal-winners at Olympic or World Championship level since 2000. Swimming is the strongest of these sports; Australia is the second-most prolific medal winner in the sport in Olympic history.

Some of Australia's most internationally well-known and successful sportspeople are swimmers Dawn Fraser, Murray Rose, Shane Gould, and Ian Thorpe; sprinters Shirley Strickland, Betty Cuthbert, and Cathy Freeman; tennis players Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Evonne Goolagong, and Margaret Court; cricketers Donald Bradman and Shane Warne; three-time Formula One world champion Jack Brabham; five-time motorcycle grand prix world champion Mick Doohan; golfers Greg Norman and Karrie Webb; cyclist Hubert Opperman, prodigious billiards player Walter Lindrum and basketball players Andrew Bogut and Lauren Jackson. Nationally, other popular sports include Australian rules football, horse racing, squash, surfing, soccer, and motor racing. The annual Melbourne Cup horse race and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race attract intense interest.

Australia has participated in every summer Olympics of the modern era, and every Commonwealth Games. Australia hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and ranked among the top six medal-takers for the games of 2000, 2004 and 2008. In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Australia was placed 10th in the medal table. Australia has also hosted the 1938, 1962, 1982, 2006 Commonwealth Games and will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Other major international events held in Australia include the Australian Open tennis grand slam tournament, international cricket matches, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. Australia hosted the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the annual Australia–New Zealand Bledisloe Cup is keenly watched. The highest-rating television programs include sports telecasts such as the summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Rugby League State of Origin, and the grand finals of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League. Skiing in Australia began in the 1860s and snow sports take place in the Australian Alps and parts of Tasmania.

source: Wikipedia

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