How Australian Traditions Work

Customs and Traditions in Australia

Even though fully two thirds of the population lives in the capital cities of the states and territories, the romantic image of the Aussie jackaroo (that's cowboy, to you) persists. That's probably because, despite the isolation of the outback, it still takes up a staggering 99 percent of the nation [source: DFAT]. This sprawl, and the gigantic cattle and sheep ranches (called stations)-- some as large as the state of Texas -- has allowed Australians to refine their image as rugged stewards of the land [source: DFAT].

Australians tend to embrace their environment proudly, native or not. Fully one-quarter of the Australian population is foreign-born, an impressive number compared to the United States' 13 percent [source: ABS]. The history of immigration in the country has certainly shaped its tradition of playfully denying patriotism and harboring a certain "outlaw" culture and aversion to authority. Larrikin is an Australian term for a hoodlum, but also refers to a part of the Australian tradition that both reveres troublemakers and finds humor in the darker parts of life (Larrikinism).


This kind of dark humor is evident even in Australian holidays. Australia Day celebrates the first landing of a ship full of convicts on the continent -- not exactly a feel-good lesson of Thanksgiving for the kids. It's also a point of contention that the day doesn't acknowledge the Aboriginal traditions of Australia. Australians usually spend the day casually tending to the barbecue with friends.

ANZAC Day (April 25) in Australia is a more solemn occasion. It commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915. They fought the Turkish for control of the Dardanelles and eventually had to withdraw after heavy losses. Australians use the anniversary as a memorial day for the armed forces in general, and dawn services honor their fallen.

Aboriginal and contemporary Australian cultures share an understanding of the importance of plant and animal life to the nation. Australia has about 1 million native species, compared to the United States' measly 21,715 [source: DFAT, Osborne]. In 1994, a Wollemi Pine was found that is believed to be one of a species that existed at the time of dinosaurs and has been around for 65 million years [source: DFAT]. Of course, it's the native kangaroos, eucalyptus and acacia trees, dingoes and koalas that have become national symbols for Australia.

Wandering in the outback and through the flora and fauna has no doubt made you hungry. Let's go to the next page, where you'll find some native Australian food and a tall, frosty beer.