Thinking about Australia?

Thank you for allowing me to share some information regarding Australia! All thoughts are my own.

When Australia is mentioned to Americans, many different thoughts come to mind. As with any topic, people's thoughts, opinions and misconceptions are based on their knowledge and experience. Not surprisingly, many American opinions of Australia are backed by popular culture. Some envision a world of adventure filled with poisonous animals and replays of Steve Irwin wrestling dangerous creatures while Crocodile Dundee explores the great Outback.

Others think about landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, and Ayers Rock. Most are not surprised that koalas and kangaroos are two of the first thoughts for Americans when discussing Australia.

It is true that Australia has beautiful landscapes, some of the most diverse animal species and many associations with both fictional and non-fictional characters. In fact, after watching the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, I now place Mary Poppins herself in Australia. Australia, however, has a very rich and interesting history.

Australia was a stopping point for many European countries during the age of exploration but was officially claimed by Britain in the late 1700s and was established as a penal colony for convicts and debtors. Interestingly, the American Revolution was what gave way to the creation of such a colony as Britain had been sending their convicts to the British colonies in the New World. Have no fear, serious crimes in those days were almost immediately punishable by death and most convicts were serving short sentences and then were released into society. While many might see it as a source of shame, many Australians take pride to have such rich history in their family lineage.  Britain continued to use Australia as a penal colony until the 1860s and eventually in the early 20th century gave Australia its independence.  

However, there are quite a few things about Australia that may come as a surprise. Next to British ancestry the most common demographic in the magnificent country is Chinese which explains why Mandarin is the most common language next to English. Christianity still remains the dominant religion and, like many western nations, politics and higher education remain hot topics. A struggle exists between the left wing working class and the right wing social conservatives in Australia and unlike the political surprises of 2016 in both the US and Britain Australia is trying to be proactive before political unrest takes over. Similarly, to Britain and the US higher education is costing college students more money with no promise of jobs to pay off accumulating debt. The reality of student loans is that most of them will go unpaid--which could create some serious economic concerns in the near future. 

As a history teacher I love the progressive history of this amazing country and as an admirer of natural landscapes I can not wait to experience all the wonderful sights that Australia has to offer. As for the animals? I love them but will keep a safe distance. I have watched Jaws too many times.

What would you want to experience in Australia? 


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