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Australia is part of Oceania. It is a huge country but the smallest continent in the world. People call it «down under» because it is in the Southern hemisphere, opposite Europe. As a result also the seasons are opposite to ours.
In the north-east there’s the Great Barrier Reef : one of the World Natural Wonders, a protected area and a natural reserve.

The central desert area of the country is called the Outback. There, the colours are red, ochre, brown.

The country is so big that there are different climates: the northern part has tropical climate, the central part, the Outback, is hot, dry and semi desert. The south-east and south-west have a temperate climate: here are the big cities.

It is a Federation of States and Territories, a member of the Commonwealth (the union of former British colonies which now are independent but share economic and cultural relationship with Britain).
It is also a Constitutional Monarchy whose Head of State is Queen Elisabeth II.

The population is of 22million. Most of it is concentrated in the south-east where the biggest cities are.

Main Cities:
Canberra: the capital city.
Sidney, the largest city of Australia.

Australia Day is on 26 th January. It celebrates the foundation of the country.
Harmony Day on the 21st March has been recently introduced to promote cohesion and inclusion in the multicultural Australian society

Native People:
The Native people of Australia, the Aborigenes, settled there 50,000 years ago. They probably arrived from Africa, through Eurasia.
Their culture and their traditions are based on very ancient myths like that of «Dreamtime» that is the time of creation when everything began and all natural environment was created. Unfortunately European’s arrival destroyed their culture.
Aboriginals had the continent to themselves for 50,000 years. Today they make up less than 3 percent of the population, and their traditional lifestyle is disappearing.

The Didgeridoo is a typical aboriginal musical instrument. It’s made up of a hollow wooden tube, nearly one metre long and it produces a deep sound.

The Boomerang was used by Aborigines as a weapon for hunting. Now tourists buy it as a souvenir: if you throw it it returns back to the thrower.

Ayers Rock:
Ayers Rock is called Uluru in the aboriginal language. It’s situated in the southern part of the Northern Territory. It is a sacred place for the Aborigines. It’s a sandstone mountain 348 m high, 9 km wide.
It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its colour changes according to weather conditions: it is red at dawn and sunset, grey or gold on other occasions.

Eeuropeans in Australia:
The first explorer to map the coast of Australia was the Dutch Willem Janszoon in 1606
In the second half of the eighteenth century Captain James Cook explored the continent and made it a British colony. The first Europeans in Australia were convicts (prisoners) who were sent there to colonize the land. They remained there and became the first inhabitants of Australia. They founded cities like Sidney.
Later arrived other Europeans: British, Dutch, Italian and German (1950s) because the country was a “place of opportunities”. Australia also attracted refugee from Russia and Europe and immigrants from south-east Asia.

People in Australia speak Australian English which is slightly different from standard English expecially in pronunciation. The reason is historical: the first convicts spoke «cockney» that is the London dialect, then the contact with the Aborigines, the immigration of the 1900s, mass media and internet which accellerated the «americanization».
Some typically Ausrtalian words: «G’day», «boomerang» «dingo» «outback» «bush»…

The Australian flag consists of a blue field on which, in the upper left corner, is the Union Jack (to remind the union with Britain). The seven pointed star represents the Commonwealth and on the right there’s the representation of the Southern Cross constellation.

The Aboriginal flag: the coulours represent the Sun, the red desert earth and the black skin of the Aborigines.
SCHOOL of the AIR:
Young people who live in the remote, desert areas of the Outback can’t go to school because sometimes the nearest school is at least 200 km far away. For this reason in 1951 the first School of the Air was opened in Alice Springs. Students could attend broadcasted lessons, remain in contact with their teachers, do their homework and send it to teachers. The introduction of Internet improved this activity. Today there are several schools of the air in the Australian territory. One week a year the students travel to the nearest school town and meet their teachers and schoolmates personally.

Royal Flying Doctor Service provides medical assistance to people who live in isolated areas in less than one hour.
If you want to travel by train in southern Australia you can take the Indian Pacific railway which runs from Sidney to Perth through Adelaide and it takes three days and three nights. The distance is of 4,352 km. Its symbol is the eagle.
If you want to cross Australia from south to north you can take the Ghan Railway which runs from Adelaide to Darwin through Alice Springs in three days and two nights for 2,979 km. It is called Ghan because the Afghan workers built it crossing the Australian desert with their camels. The symbol of this train is the camel.

Australian animals are unique. You can’t find them anywhere else in the world.
The koala, the kangaroo, the kukabourra, different species of birds, the huntsman spider, the wombat, the dingo, the white shark, snakes.
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