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I didn't ever think about Australia much. To me Australia had never been very interesting, it was just something that happened in the background. ~ Bill Bryson

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the island of Tasmania and a number of other islands in the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans. Australia claims approximately two-fifths of Antarctica, but this is not widely recognized. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and its head of state is the monarch, King Charles III. Australian English is the de facto national language.

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  • .. Australia has suffered a good deal at the hands of outside observers. Visitors have tended to over-emphasise those features of Australian life which differed from their own and certain interpretations have persisted overseas.. long after they ceased to be characteristic of contemporary Australia.
  • The First Fleet sailed from England two years before the outbreak of revolution in Europe, and for many years in this remote corner of the globe the eighteenth century stood still. For an entire generation, European order was worked out in Australia as if all the exquisite promises of the Enlightenment might still come true.
    • Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia, Volume One (1997)


A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island. ~ Ambrose Bierce
One Australian tradition is to cut down the elite and the successful. It had its roots in the era of convicts who naturally opposed those in authority. This levelling or egalitarian tradition continued to flourish on the goldfields in the 1850s when the unusual mining laws gave everyone an opportunity to find gold... ~ Geoffrey Blainey
It is necessary that we should determine what are the ideals towards which every Australian would desire to strive. I think those ideals might well be stated as being to secure our national safety, and to ensure the maintenance of our White Australia Policy; to continue as an integral portion of the British Empire. ~ Stanley Bruce
  • The truth is that most Australians live in cities and always have done. Yet is also true that the average Australian carries the print of great distances on his eyelids and his mind. Even if a window-box is all the earth he owns he is, perhaps sentimentally, aware of the bush, the outback, the back-of-beyond. When he goes abroad he is conscious of his difference and of the size of his country.
  • Distance is the continual theme and has been one of the main conditioning factors in Australian history. She was distant and dependent, a continent swinging on a long chain in antipodean darkness.
  • Isolation became something of a cult in Australia before the advances of applied science, particularly the cable and the aeroplane, broke it down. The Australians, as they early came to call themselves, felt protected by it. They were alone to grow in their own way, to make their mistakes in private.
  • For the first time in the world's history, there will be a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation.
    • Edmund Barton, as quoted in Mr. Prime Minister: Australian Prime Ministers, 1901-72 (1976) by Colin A. Hughes
  • AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.
  • Australia's distance from Europe was probably only tolerable because it had strategic commodities which England, threatened by changing European alliances, might some day be unable to produce in the northern hemisphere. Flax was the first conqueror - a hollow conqueror - of the distance which so often shaped Australia's destiny.
  • The convict system in essence was a form of compulsory, assisted migration. It eased the problems created by Australia's distance from Britain. Without it relatively few people from the British Isles would have made the costly journey across the world in Australia's first half century... The value of subsidised migration was not simply in the working men it brought to Australia. Its value was also in the women it enticed to a man's land. One of Australia's sharpest social problems, and one of the problems which Edward Gibbon Wakefield lamented, was the scarcity of women of marriageable or elopable age. So long as Australia primarily served as a gaol for the British Isles, far more men than women came to the land.
  • Australia and New Zealand depended so much on Britain, were in most senses imitations of Britain, that their geographical position near the end of Asia's tail and near the islands of Oceania seemed irrelevant... In December 1941, when Australians began to sense that they were plunged into a new environment, the spectacles they had carried out from Britain were obsolete. They needed spectacles that would correct short-sightedness. They had to see the environment they were in as clearly as the environment they had left across the world.
  • The convict era gave Australia a high English and Irish population and a predominance of men, a tendency to disdain authority and resent policemen, and probably a love of leisure and an indifference to religion. The convict era imposed on governments from the outset a high and detailed role in economic and social life. Some of these convict influences were fragile and were quickly erased or reversed by the waves of free immigration; some were reinforced by later events, so that they persist to this day.
  • We are surrendering much of our own independence to a phantom opinion that floats vaguely in the air and rarely exists on this earth. We should think very carefully about the perils of converting Australia into a giant multicultural laboratory for the assumed benefit of the peoples of the world.
  • Again and again Australia is depicted as a bonanza - ready made - that was snatched from the Aboriginals. But the Australia of the Aboriginals, distinctive as were its achievements, was not a bonanza. Generations of Australians since 1788 have developed this land and its resources, applying sweat and grit and ingenuity. Asian immigrants had the opportunity to come, several hundred years ago, but they had no incentive to come. Australia then was not worth colonizing.
  • Australia will have to find ways of impressing on Asia and the rest of the world that much of its territory is arid. To sell Australia successfully is not only to sell its products and its tourism, but also sell to other nations the fact that much of its territory is desert and can support few people.
  • I do not accept the view, widely held in the Federal Cabinet, that some kind of slow Asian takeover of Australia is inevitable. I do not believe that we are powerless. I do believe that we can with good will and good sense control our destiny.... As a people, we seem to move from extreme to extreme. In the past 30 years the government of Australia has moved from the extreme of wanting a white Australia to the extreme of saying that we will have an Asian Australia and that the quicker we move towards it the better.
    • Geoffrey Blainey, Eye on Australia: Speeches and Essays of Geoffrey Blainey (1991)
  • Anyone who tries to range over the last 200 years of Australia's history, surveying the successes and failures, and trying to understand the obstacles that stood in the way, cannot easily accept the gloomier summaries of that history.
  • To some extent my generation was reared on the Three Cheers view of history. This patriotic view of our past had a long run. It saw Australian history as largely a success. While the convict era was a source of shame or unease, nearly everything that came after was believed to be pretty good... There is a rival view, which I call the Black Armband view of history. In recent years it has assailed the optimistic view of Australian history. The black armbands were quietly worn in official circles in 1988, the bicentennial year... The multicultural folk busily preached their message that until they arrived much of Australian history was a disgrace. The past treatment of Aborigines, of Chinese, of Kanakas, of non-British migrants, of women, the very old, the very young, and the poor was singled out, sometimes legitimately, sometimes not... To some extent the Black Armband view of history might well represent the swing of the pendulum from a position that had been too favourable, too self congratulatory, to an opposite extreme that is even more unreal and decidedly jaundiced.
  • The history of Australia, black or white, is not only the struggle between peoples but the struggle between nature and people. Nature tamed many of the settlers, sometimes defeating them, but people held many victories, sometimes at high cost.
  • Even in the 1860s and 1870s most Australians did not feel fully at home in their land. So many of them were new migrants, mostly from the British cities, and so they found rural Australia strange and even hostile at first. Above all, in the long European see-saw of ideas and taste, the wilderness and untamed nature were falling somewhat from favour; to be revived late in the century. Attitudes to Australian landscape reflected this see-saw.
  • There is a delicate balance between shielding people and encouraging them, and the USA perhaps went too far in one direction and Australia in the other. The Soviet Union, born in 1917 and influenced a little by the exciting Australian and New Zealand experiments, would eventually show how the umbrella, if too big and cumbersome, exposed people far more than it protected them.
  • Australia became a full-blooded democracy in the late 1850s, achieving it with lightning speed. Only 30 years previously it had consisted of two convict colonies, ruled by governors whose personal power was magnified because most of their subjects were prisoners or ex-prisoners. Moreover, the governors were so remote geographically that Britain’s control of them and their decisions was loose. One year might elapse between the governor writing an urgent dispatch to London, and the arrival of an official reply. And yet, from this prison-like regime, democracy speedily emerged. This was an exceptional outcome.
  • One Australian tradition is to cut down the elite and the successful. It had its roots in the era of convicts who naturally opposed those in authority. This levelling or egalitarian tradition continued to flourish on the goldfields in the 1850s when the unusual mining laws gave everyone an opportunity to find gold, and the tradition was accentuated around 1900 by the rising trade unions. The attitude was one of the spurs to Australian democracy.
    • Geoffrey Blainey, The Story of Australia's People: The Rise and Rise of a New Australia (2016)
  • It is necessary that we should determine what are the ideals towards which every Australian would desire to strive. I think those ideals might well be stated as being to secure our national safety, and to ensure the maintenance of our White Australia Policy; to continue as an integral portion of the British Empire. We intend to keep this country white and not allow its people to be faced with the problems that at present are practically insoluble in many parts of the world.
  • It is impossible to imagine Australia outside the Empire. Throughout our history we have been sheltered by the majesty and might of the British Navy—our prestige in the councils of the world is the reflection of the light of Britain.
  • So without an original or helpful thought in my head, I just sat for some minutes and watched these poor disconnected people shuffle past. Then I did what most white Australians do. I read my newspaper and drank my coffee and didn't see them anymore.
    • Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (US) / Down Under (UK) (2000), on the topic of Aboriginal Australians
  • It’s not even possible to say quite where the outback is. To Australians anything vaguely rural is “the bush.” At some indeterminate point “the bush” becomes “the outback.” Push on for another two thousand miles or so and eventually you come to bush again, and then a city, and then the sea. And that’s Australia.
    • Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (US) / Down Under (UK) (2000)
  • Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else. More than this, it exists in an abundance that seems incompatible with the harshness of the environment. Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents.
    • Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (US) / Down Under (UK) (2000)
  • We pay shamefully scant attention to our dear cousins Down Under — not entirely without reason, of course. Australia is after all mostly empty and a long way away. Its population, just over 18 million, is small by world standards — China grows by a larger amount each year — and its place in the world economy is consequently peripheral; as an economic entity, it ranks about level with Illinois. Its sports are of little interest to us and the last television series it made that we watched with avidity was Skippy. From time to time it sends us useful things — opals, merino wool, Errol Flynn, the boomerang — but nothing we can't actually do without. Above all, Australia doesn't misbehave. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn't have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner.
    • Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country (US) / Down Under (UK) (2000)
  • Well, I didn't ever think about Australia much. To me Australia had never been very interesting, it was just something that happened in the background. It was Neighbours and Crocodile Dundee movies and things that never really registered with me and I didn't pay any attention to it at all. I went out there in 1992, as I was invited to the Melbourne Writers Festival, and I got there and realised almost immediately that this was a really really interesting country and I knew absolutely nothing about it. As I say in the book, the thing that really struck me was that they had this prime minister who disappeared in 1967, Harold Holt and I had never heard about this. I should perhaps tell you because a lot of other people haven't either. In 1967 Harold Holt was prime minister and he was walking along a beach in Victoria just before Christmas and decided impulsively to go for a swim and dove into the water and swam about 100 feet out and vanished underneath the waves, presumably pulled under by the ferocious undertow or rips as they are called, that are a feature of so much of the Australian coastline. In any case, his body was never found. Two things about that amazed me. The first is that a country could just lose a prime minister — that struck me as a really quite special thing to do — and the second was that I had never heard of this. I could not recall ever having heard of this. I was sixteen years old in 1967. I should have known about it and I just realised that there were all these things about Australia that I had never heard about that were actually very very interesting. The more I looked into it, the more I realised that it is a fascinating place. The thing that really endeared Australia to me about Harold Holt's disappearance was not his tragic drowning, but when I learned that about a year after he disappeared the City of Melbourne, his home town, decided to commemorate him in some appropriate way and named a municipal swimming pool after him. I just thought: this is a great country.
  • Australia began her political history as a crouching serf kept in subjection by the whip of a ruffian gaoler, and her progress, so far, consists merely in a change of masters.
  • On behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring of support... We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia...


I'd move to Los Angeles if New Zealand and Australia were swallowed up by a tidal wave, if there was a bubonic plague in England and if the continent of Africa disappeared from some Martian attack. ~ Russell Crowe
Yeah mate I bloody was like a rat up a drainpipe in one of them runs there. ~ Nick Cummins
Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom. ~ John Curtin
  • There is a land where summer skies
    Are gleaming with a thousand eyes
    Blending in witching harmonies
    And grassy knoll and forest height
    Are flushing in the rosy light
    And all above is azure bright — Australia!
  • Australia is about to enter upon the greatest era in her history, this country of ours has come through two world wars and weathered the miseries and hardships of a depression, all in the space of a little over 30 years. Today Australia has become the great bastion of the British-speaking race south of the Equator. Strategically and economically, our country has assumed a position in the Pacific on behalf of the British Commonwealth of Nations of such importance that development and responsibility go hand in hand.
  • Australians have liberated themselves from the fate of being second-rate Europeans and have begun to contribute to the neverending conversation of humanity on the meaning of life and the means of wisdom and understanding.
    • Manning Clark, A Short History of Australia, Third Revised Edition (1987)
  • Australians must decide for themselves whether this was the land of the dreaming, the land of the Holy Spirit, the New Britannia, the Millennial Eden, or the new demesne for Mammon to infest.
    • Manning Clark, A History of Australia, Vol. VI: The Old Dead Tree and the Young Tree Green (1987)
  • The hot wind, born amid the burning sand of the interior of the vast Australian continent, sweeps over the scorched and cracking plains, to lick up their streams and wither the herbage in its path, until it meets the waters of the great south bay.
  • Australia has rightly been named the Land of the Dawning. Wrapped in the midst of early morning, her history looms vague and gigantic.
    • Marcus Clarke, as quoted in the preface to Poems of the Late Adam Lindsay Gordon (1880)
  • In Australia alone is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of Nature learning how to write... the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar with the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the wilderness, he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, and can read the hieroglyphics of haggard gum-trees, blown into odd shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue.
    • Marcus Clarke, as quoted in the preface to Poems of the Late Adam Lindsay Gordon (1880)
  • I'd move to Los Angeles if New Zealand and Australia were swallowed up by a tidal wave, if there was a bubonic plague in England and if the continent of Africa disappeared from some Martian attack.
  • The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies' fighting plan. Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.
  • Be assured of the calibre of our national character. This war may see the end of much that we have painfully and slowly built in our 150 years of existence. But even though all of it go, there will still be Australians fighting on Australian soil until the turning point be reached, and we will advance over blackened ruins, through blasted and fire-swepted cities, across scorched plains, until we drive the enemy into the sea. I give you the pledge of my country. There will always be an Australian Government and there will always be an Australian people. We are too strong in our hearts; our spirit is too high; the justice of our cause throbs too deeply in our being for that high purpose to be overcome.


  • At last we anchored within Sydney Cove; we found the little basin, containing many large ships & surrounded by Warehouses. In the evening I walked through the town & returned full of admiration at the whole scene. — It is a most magnificent testimony to the power of the British nation: here, in a less promising country, scores of years have effected many times more than centuries in South America.
  • A little time before this, I had been lying on a sunny bank & was reflecting on the strange character of the Animals of this country as compared with the rest of the World. An unbeliever in everything beyond his own reason, might exclaim “Surely two distinct Creators must have been [at] work; their object however has been the same & certainly the end in each case is complete”.
  • The whole population, poor and rich, are bent on acquiring wealth; the subject of wool & sheep grazing amongst the higher orders is of preponderant interest. The very low ebb of literature is strongly marked by the emptiness of the booksellers’ shops; for they are inferior even to those in the smaller country towns of England.
  • Farewell, Australia! You are a rising infant and doubtless some day will reign a great princess in the south: but you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough for respect.
  • On the road atlas it didn’t look very far, but we quickly learned that everything in Australia is a very long way from everything else.
  • If it is true that Mr Keating has described my country in that way, then I feel very sad about it, because I think I can speak for 17 million Australians and say that we love our country.
    • Alexander Downer, in response to claims that Prime Minister Paul Keating had described Australia as the "arse end of the world" in a private conversation.
    • As quoted in "Keating Denies 'Arse End' Remark" (24 June, 1994), by Peter Gill, The Australian Financial Review


  • O Radiant Land! O'er whom the sun's first dawning
    Fell brightest when God said "Let there be light"
    O'er whom the day hung out its bluest awning
    Whitening to wondrous deeps of stars by night
  • With its weird red earth and its alien flora and fauna - the eucalyptus trees and kangaroos - Australia was the eighteenth-century equivalent of Mars. This helps explain why the first official response to the discovery of New South Wales by Captain Cook in 1770 was to identify it as the ideal dumping ground for criminals.
  • The great paradox of Australian history is that what started out as a colony populated by people whom Britain had thrown out proved to be so loyal to the British Empire for so long. America had begun as a combination of tobacco plantation and Puritan utopia, a creation of economic and religious liberty, and ended up as a rebel republic. Australia started out as a jail, the very negation of liberty. Yet the more reliable colonists turned out to be not the Pilgrims but the prisoners.
  • It is not in our cities or townships, it is not in our agricultural or mining areas, that the Australian attains full consciousness of his own nationality; it is in places like this, and as clearly here as at the centre of the continent. To me the monotonous variety of this interminable scrub has a charm of its own; so grave, subdued, self-centred; so alien to the genial appeal of more winsome landscape, or the assertive grandeur of mountain and gorge. To me this wayward diversity of spontaneous plant life bespeaks an unconfined, ungauged potentiality of resource; it unveils an ideographic prophecy, painted by Nature in her Impressionist mood, to be deciphered aright only by those willing to discern through the crudeness of dawn a promise of majestic day.
    • Joseph Furphy, Such Is Life: Being Certain Extracts From The Diary of Tom Collins (1903)


We have this cohort of people in Australia who haven't moved as far as we'd like them to. ~ Mick Gooda
  • We have this cohort of people in Australia who haven't moved as far as we'd like them to... The Australian Dream. We sing of it, and we recite it in verse... "Australians all, let us rejoice for we are young and free." My people die young in this country. We die 10 years younger than average Australians and we are far from free... Australians are coming to this with newly opened ears and clear eyes, yet we have been telling this story for so long... One day, I want to stand here and be able to say as proudly and sing as loudly as anyone else in this room, Australians all, let us rejoice... Australia as a nation was formed in 1901. My people have been in Australia 20,000 years... So for us, once we're included in the constitution we will then have reason to celebrate, but not at the moment.


[T]o a great extent, Australia is leading the way. ~ Stephen Hadley
Every day's a good day in Australia. ~ Paul Hogan
  • So far, the world economy, particularly Australia and the United States, have benefited greatly from Chinese economic growth. This is likely to continue to be the case for some time... Values and institutions based on freedom, democracy, human rights, and market economics must now compete for adherents on a global basis. This is a big challenge not only for the United States but also for Australia... A way must be found for the United States and China to work together with the rest of the international community to meet the global challenges we face. Success in this effort will require the closest cooperation among the United States, Australia, and our friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific. And to a great extent, Australia is leading the way.
  • If politicians continue to promote separatism in Australia, they should not continue to hold their seats in this parliament. They are not truly representing all Australians, and I call on the people to throw them out. To survive in peace and harmony, united and strong, we must have one people, one nation, one flag.
  • In Australia the pressure of the Scots and especially of the Irish forced the abandonment of 'English' as the identity of the colonies in favour of 'British'. The Irish of course could still bridle at a British identity even when it included them as equals. In time, with the passing of the first generation born in Ireland and the growth of a distinctively Australian interpretation of Britishness, they were prepared to accept it.
    • John Hirst, Sense and Nonsense in Australian History (2005)
  • Multiculturalists encourage vagueness about 'contributions' to give the impression of equal participation, as in the 'new age' school sports where every player in the team must handle the ball before a goal can be scored. If one were to compose a more precise ethnic history it would read something like this: The English, Irish and Scots were the founding population; they and their children established the Australian nation.
    • John Hirst, Sense and Nonsense in Australian History (2005)
  • The European discovery rather than Aboriginal occupation constitutes Australia's pre-history. Australia - its economy, society and polity - is a construction of European civilisation. Australia did not exist when traditional Aborigines occupied the continent. Aborigines have been participants in Australian history, but that story begins with all the others in 1788... Before the Europeans arrived, there were 500 to 600 tribes in the continent speaking different languages. They did not have a common name or share an identity; they regarded each other as enemies. The Aborigines as we know them today, a national group with a common identity, did not exist before European contact; they are a product of the European invasion which destroyed traditional culture, brought people of different tribes together and gave them a common experience of oppression and marginalisation. They are not an ancient people, but a very modern one. Only in the lands which Europeans did not want or settled very sparsely did traditional groups and something like traditional culture survive.
    • John Hirst, Sense and Nonsense in Australian History (2005)
  • Australians, like other peoples, tend to think they are highly distinctive, but the characteristics they value may be an extension or an exaggeration of what they brought from the mother country. In some respects they may be more like the peoples of other new lands settled by the British than they are willing to acknowledge. Australian soldiers and Australian nurses of World War I felt themselves to be very different from their English counterparts but the English were inclined to see all the colonials - New Zealanders, Canadians and Australians - as similar and different from themselves.
    • John Hirst, The Australians: Insiders and Outsiders on the National Character since 1770 (2007)
  • Economic growth in Australia did not require the incorporation of a backward, unproductive rural sector. When farming later developed on the pastoral runs, it was commercial farming. Australia, as its greatest historian Keith Hancock said, was born modern.
    • John Hirst, Australian History in 7 Questions (2014)
Paul Hogan: America, you look like you need a holiday, a fair dinkum holiday. You'll have to learn to say g'day. 'Cause every day's a good day in Australia.
Woman: G'day, Paul.
Paul Hogan: G'day, love. You'll have to get used to the local customs like getting a sun tan in a restaurant, playing football without a helmet, and calling everyone 'mate'. Thanks, mate.
Barman: She's right, mate.
Paul Hogan: Apart from that, no worries. You'll have the time of your life in Australia. Come on, come and say g'day. I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you.
  • Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.
  • Life in Australia is more equal and less competitive than in America; but there are dozens of similarities... migrations to a new land, the mystique of pioneering (actually somewhat different in the two countries), the turbulence of gold rushes, the brutality of relaxed restraint, the boredoms of the backblocks, the feeling of making life anew. There may be more similarities between the history of Australia and America than for the moment Australians can understand.
  • The image of Australia is of a man in an open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying an ice cream. His kiddy is beside him.
  • A person who doesn't like ordinary people to think they are as good as he is, or to enjoy some of the things he enjoys himself, will not like Australia. The spirit of fraternalism permeates the nation.
  • It is impossible as an Australian, as we come to the end of this century, not to feel an immense sense of surging excitement about the opportunities that lie in front of us. There is no nation on earth that has been gifted with the special combination of such assets. We are in every sense of the word a projection of Western civilisation in this part of the world. We have taken the good things from Europe, the liberal political traditions, the civility of our public life, and thankfully we have rejected the bad things of Europe, the stultifying class divisions built on tribal prejudice.
  • Australia wins respect in the world when we display who we are and not what self-appointed cultural dieticians would want us to become. Multiculturalism is not our national cement. Rather it is the Australian achievement, which has many components.
    • John Howard, Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography (2010)
  • Uniquely, Australia is a product of Western civilisation, closely allied to the United States, but located cheek by jowl with the nations of Asia. Both history and geography have given us a rare opportunity; why should we be so foolish as to think that we must choose between the two?
    • John Howard, Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography (2010)
  • The White Australia is yours. You may do with it what you please, but at any rate, the soldiers have achieved the victory and my colleagues and I have brought that great principle back to you from the conference, as safe as it was on the day when it was first adopted.
  • We believe in Australia. We believe there stretches before her a great future, that she is destined to become a mighty nation. We have come through dark days; danger and death have encompassed us about. But thanks to the valour of our soldiers and sailors, we have won through. Australia is safe and free. She is still staggering from the effects of the deadly struggle in which she has been engaged. But the dawn of a new day beckons and cheers her on. We must develop our resources, provide employment for our young men. We must follow in the footsteps of the great Republic of America, while avoiding her errors.
  • Whatever we have achieved—and our achievements are many and great—has come because we have believed in Australia, in ourselves, in our race. It is this spirit which enabled us to fight—doggedly, if you like, but determinedly—Nature in her sternest moods, to endure and emerge triumphant from droughts, floods, and other evils that have beset us.
  • If Australia had not been settled as a prison and built by convict labor, it would have been colonized by other means; that was foreordained from the moment of Cook’s landing at Botany Bay in 1770. But it would have taken half a century longer, for Georgian Britain would have found it exceptionally difficult to find settlers crazy or needy enough to go there of their own free will.
  • Australia’s isolation made it a giant Petri dish, able to grow a unique culture. It attracted no-hopers, ne’er-do-wells, political prisoners, religious refugees, free thinkers and eccentrics. It drew adventurers and risk-takers and called to the poor, the disadvantaged and the merely socially embarrassing. It served as a bright beacon to a tsunami of opportunists, gamblers, entrepreneurs and gladhanders.
    • David Hunt, Girt (2013)
  • Asians, in short, are determined to exclude Australia from their club for the same reason Europeans do Turkey: they are different from us. Prime Minister Keating liked to say that he was going to change Australia from "the odd man out to the odd man in" in Asia. That, however is an oxymoron: odd men don't get in.




Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. ~ Douglas William Jerrold
  • Australian TV is so bad it is almost impossible to describe. If you have seen American television and can imagine it without its redeeming features, then Australian TV is even worse than that.
    • Clive James, Flying Visits: Postcards from the Observer, 1976-83 (1984)
  • The Ocker is strictly a mass media event — but then Australia is pre-eminently a mass society. Ockerism's most famous incarnation is Paul Hogan, a stand-up comic who rivals even Dennis Lillee as an advertiser's idea of irresistible consumer-bait.
    • Clive James, Flying Visits: Postcards from the Observer, 1976-83 (1984)
  • [Donald Horne's] central tenet, that his homeland was a lucky strike consistently mismanaged by second-rate politicians, caught on as a dogmatic aid to national self-doubt. As I read on through our recent and gratifyingly rich heritage of commentary and memoir, it became clearer to me all the time that we hadn't become a prosperous and reasonably equable democracy by the accidental dispensation of benevolent nature and a favourable geographical position. The country had been built, by clever people. Our constitution itself was the work of people who had studied history. They were readers of newspapers and periodicals, they were eternal students in the best sense, they were bookish people. They had built a bookish nation. But, as so often has been the case with Australia's consciousness of itself, the problem was to realise it.
    • Clive James, inaugural David Scott Mitchell Lecture for the State Library of New South Wales (November 2002)
  • Actually, like the vast majority of Australians, I had been born and raised in a city, but in the British imagination at that time the whole of Australia was still in the outback, which was somehow equipped with a beach. Later on, this outback beach acquired an Opera House and a row of brick bungalows, one of them occupied by Kylie Minogue.
    • Clive James, North Face of Soho: Unreliable Memoirs Volume IV (2006)
  • Until the end of World War II, Argentina and Australia were running in parallel. Today, they separately demonstrate what a luxury it is to be a stable, prosperous, democratic nation with a dependable constitution. Australia is all that and more, and Argentina, after yet another implosion of the civil order, is once again none of it and less.
  • Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.
    • Douglas William Jerrold, as quoted in A Land of Plenty, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • From the early and intensely masculine conditioning imposed during stubborn attempts to settle and subdue even a beachhead on this monstrous continent, there evolved a strong sense of social solidarity and general mistrust of imposed authority. With this came a detestation of the “pimp” or informer, of the “crawler”, the “skite” or boaster, of the man who “whinged” or complained of his lot. Prospectors, shearers, drovers, bullockies, fettlers, or farmhands, each was entitled to his fair “go” and until proven otherwise any man was as good as the next one. It was perhaps a crude class of ethics, but no other country ever succeeded in creating virtually a classless society in so brief a time from such very dubious beginnings. Within two or three generations a distinct and separate people were developing out of what had begun as almost 100 percent British stock. They were already different in speech, physique, attitudes, social consciousness, manners, and even to some degree in physiognomy. They were a new people, these Australians.
  • Australia has its faults, as does any other country. But laughing in our face about it, then mocking our heritage was definitely not called for. It embarrassed and degraded our country as well as making us look like total idiots.


  • If this Government cannot get the adjustment, get manufacturing going again, and keep moderate wage outcomes and a sensible economic policy, then Australia is basically done for. We will end up being a third rate economy... a banana republic.
  • Paul Keating ‘liked to say’, Professor Huntington asserts confidently, that I was going to change Australia from being ‘“the odd man out to the odd man in” in Asia’. Despite Professor Huntington’s authoritative quotation marks, I liked to say no such thing, and I never did. What I did say, and many times, was that Australia was not Asian or European or American or anything except Australian. This is what history and geography have delivered us. It is the only option we have and one which we have every reason to celebrate.
  • We have heard often since the last election the mantra that Australia doesn’t have to choose between our history and our geography. It appears again in the Howard government’s recently released White Paper on foreign policy. But just think about that assertion for a minute. What could it possibly mean? No choice we can make as a nation lies between our history and our geography. We can hardly change either of them. They are immutable. The only choice we can make as a nation is the choice about our future.
  • I was very welcomed in Australia. You know there are some writers that seem to have found their readership somewhere? Like Nelson Algren and James Baldwin are appreciated in France, Henry Roth is appreciated in Italy. I felt that way in Australia. Australia is a wonderful place.


... let our colonies try to cultivate a still more brotherly feeling for each other, and the day will come when the sons of all the colonies can clasp hands and say truly, “We are Australians — we know no other land!” ~ Henry Lawson
My first words, at the sight of the Opera House, jerked from me without thought, are a startled 'But it isn't white!' ~ Bernard Levin
  • White Australia must not be regarded as a mere political shibboleth. It was Australia's Magna Carta. Without that policy, this country would have been lost long ere this. It would have been engulfed in an Asian tidal wave.
  • “You feel free in Australia.” And so you do. There is a great relief in the atmosphere, a relief from tension, from pressure. An absence of control or will or form. The sky is open above you, and the air is open around you. Not the old closing-in of Europe. But what then? The vacancy of this freedom is almost terrifying.
  • It cannot be denied that these colonies are bitterly jealous of each other’s position in the esteem of the English upper crust... We are told that Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous of the latter’s influence with the Lord, and we may safely assume that had Cain and Abel been heterodox there would have been no blood spilt between them. On the same line of reasoning, if Australians were to be Australians, or rather if Australians were as separate from any other nation as Australia from any other land, there would be no jealousy between them on England’s account. There would of course remain little friendly rivalries between the colonies, but these would only act as spurs to their common prosperity.
  • If Federation — whether Imperial or of the world — should ever appear in a better light than at present there will be plenty of time to consider it. But for the present, let our colonies try to cultivate a still more brotherly feeling for each other, and the day will come when the sons of all the colonies can clasp hands and say truly, “We are Australians — we know no other land!”
  • Australia's cultural inferiority complex (I put it as baldly as that because everybody I speak to raises the subject - indeed, it has an official name, 'The Australian Cringe', taken from the title of a book about it) is such that I expect to learn that the design of the building had been entrusted to an architect from abroad.
  • My first words, at the sight of the Opera House, jerked from me without thought, are a startled 'But it isn't white!'
    • Ibid, p. 29.
  • In Australia, if you drive a red or yellow Bentley convertible down the street, everyone thinks "What a wanker!"


We have a mostly cohesive multicultural society with high rates of successful immigration. ~ Jacqueline Maley
In joyful strains then let us sing, advance Australia fair! ~ Peter McCormic
Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover. ~ Men at Work
  • I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of droughts and flooding rains.
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel-sea,
    Her beauty and her terror –
    The wide brown land for me!
  • The length of time I have governed this Colony, the progress it has made in improvement during my Administration and more especially the fond recollection of my only surviving Child being born in it — all combine in attaching me most strongly to it, I shall not fail to cherish the same sentiments of attachment in my Son — who, although yet so young, feels, and already expresses, the strongest affection for his Native Australian Land. My most fervent prayers will accordingly be offered for the welfare and prosperity of this Country, and for the happiness of its Inhabitants; fondly, and confidently anticipating, that, in less than half a century hence, it will be one of the most valuable appendages to the British Empire.
  • These little critters aren’t the type that just land on your bread roll whilst eating out at a restaurant... This means they make a beeline for places such as the inside of your ear, your mouth, nostrils, or eyes... If they land on your leg or hand they’ll happily just stand there for minutes on end rubbing their front legs together like some manic chef sharpening his calving knives before cutting into a big joint of meat.
  • We have a mostly cohesive multicultural society with high rates of successful immigration. This week the maiden speeches of three senators from both sides of politics were full of praise for multiculturalism and the benefits it has brought the country. Unlike Europe, we don't have any mainstream extreme right-wing supremacist political parties and there is a genuine public acceptance of multiculturalism and its place at the heart of the country's modern character.
  • Do you come from a land down under?
    Where women glow and men plunder?
    Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
    You better run, you better take cover.
  • [O]ur whole history has been a history of adventure, sailing wherever ships could sail. This island continent came out of the mists; it was developed by people who had the spirit of adventure. It has been found by people who had the spirit of adventure. Wherever you go in Australia, you see all the memorials, not cairns of store, but the memorials in farms and stations and factories to the people who had the spirit of adventure. And without that spirit of adventure, Australia can't become by the turn of the century the great and powerful and respected country to whose noises I would hope to listen from the grave.
  • It has become the vogue for some writers in Australia to refer to me, apparently under the impression that they are using a derogatory expression, as an 'anglophile'. I certainly am, and would be sadly disappointed if I thought that a majority of my fellow citizens were not of the same mind. I love Britain because I love Australia, and like to think that I have done her some service. I cannot go anywhere in Australia without being reminded of our British inheritance; our system of responsible government and Parliamentary institutions, our adherence to the rule of law and, indeed, our systems of law themselves; our traditions of integrity in high places and of incorruptibility in our Civil Service. We derive all these things from Westminster. Our language comes to us from Britain and so does the bulk of our literature. To have no love for a relatively small community in the North Sea which created and handed on these vital matters would be, in my mind, a miserable act of ingratitude. The fact that in Australia we have received all these things, and have made all our own notable contributions to their development, not only fills me with pride but strengthens my affection.
  • Australia was a fantastic choice because it has lots of quirky visual things. And it's a country that is really very close to America, very in sync with America. We are so similar but yet there are all these fantastic differences, familiar yet twisted. It was intentional to make it very inaccurate. That was our evil side coming out: We'll take our knowledge of Australia and we'll twist it around to stimulate an audience and annoy them at the same time.
  • The pioneers were prepared to suffer hardship in order to get a foothold in the Australia they were in the process of building... Within a half century of settlement, the foundations of a British civilization had been laid down on a continent which was months removed by sea from its cultural origins. The fact that one aspect of this civilization was that of a penal colony did not stop the determined drive of many citizens to shape a free society.
    • John Molony, The Penguin Bicentennial History of Australia (1987)
  • The most distinctive and interesting part of Australian history is the way an open-air prison for 150,000 convicts became one of the world’s best places to live.




  • Instead of a confusion of names and geographical divisions, which so perplexes many people at a distance, we shall be Australians, and a people with 7,000 miles of coast, more than 2,000,000 square miles of land, with 4,000,000 of population, and shall present ourselves to the world as ‘Australia’. We shall at once rise to a higher level; we shall occupy a larger place in the contemplation of mankind, the sympathies of every part of the world will go out to us, and figuratively, they will hold out the right hand of fellowship. We can not doubt that the chord awakened by such a movement will be responded to in the noble old country where our forefathers graves are still. All England has awakened with sympathy to this movement through its press. We shall have a higher stature before the world. We shall have a grander name.
    • Henry Parkes, The Federal Government of Australasia: Speeches Delivered on Various Occasions (1890)
  • The English were the predominant group numerically among the Australian colonists and their ideas and customs gave the new Australia its chief characteristics ... Yet the English majority dissolved into unhyphenated Australians even more quickly than the minorities.
    • Geoffrey Partington, The Australian Nation: Its British and Irish Roots (1994)
  • Our old world diff'rences are dead,
    Like weeds beneath the plough,
    For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
    They're all Australians now!
Man in Black: You've made your decision then?
Vizzini: Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Man in Black: Truly you have a dizzying intellect.
Vizzini: Wait 'til I get going... where was I?
Man in Black: Australia.
Vizzini: Yes, Australia, and you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.




Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids. ~ Sanitarium
Our community cohesion is currently under strain. This isn't mere speculation. A recent survey of Muslim people in Sydney indicated that 57 percent had experienced racism - a rate about three times higher than the national average... Many communities believe there has been a marked increase in anti-Muslim abuse... ~ Tim Soutphommasane
  • Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids.
  • The things which are most characteristic of Australia, in landscape as in life, have only been truly seen by those who have steeped themselves in the atmosphere of the land.
    • Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia, 6th edition (1936)
  • To this country of fertility, sunshine, and vast spaciousness they [Australians] have brought whatever civilization Europe had to give them, and have added to it the fruits of their own inventiveness.
    • Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia, 6th edition (1936)
  • Australia is the product of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is self-evident, but it is important for the explanation of many of her characteristics, her achievements and her failures.
  • Australia is still called the lucky country, and the description is still not a kind one. It implies a nation that lives off an inheritance. But Australia, distant from its markets, sparse in its population, living off a largely threadbare continent, has taken what was available and used its advantages, despite mistakes, logically and efficiently. It wasn't luck.
  • Our community cohesion is currently under strain. This isn't mere speculation. A recent survey of Muslim people in Sydney indicated that 57 percent had experienced racism - a rate about three times higher than the national average. As documented in the Australian Human Rights Commission's Freedom from Discrimination report, published in November, many communities believe there has been a marked increase in anti-Muslim abuse and vilification... The Cronulla riot represented not the best, but the worst of national pride. It was caused by a lapse, from which we are not immune - not then, and not now. Because where there is fear and hate, prejudice and intolerance, something like it could happen again.
  • Australia is a unique country. All countries are unique, but this one is particularly so. Visitors, such as D. H. Lawrence, have discerned a spiritual quality of ancient loveliness in our land itself. The flora and fauna are primitive, and for the most part harmless to man, but to the visitor there is another element, of terror, in the Spirit of the Place. The blossoming of the waratah, the song of the lyrebird, typify the spirit of primitive loveliness in our continent; but the wail of the dingo, the gauntness of our tall trees by silent moonlight, can provide a shiver of terror to a newcomer.
  • I think it's one of those great unresolved topics in Australian society. I'm not sure anyone necessarily has a perfect answer to the problem but a lot of people are concerned about it.


Until recently I thought we'd improved race relations in Australia. The Adam Goodes saga tells us otherwise. If our elite athletes get racially abused, what hope does the average Khaled, Ahmed or Maryam have of a fair go in society? ~ Mohamed Taha
  • I was shocked, disgusted, angry and confused as I walked into my school the day after the Cronulla riots. I was 14 years old... The Cronulla riots. One of the ugliest episodes in recent Australian history didn't happen in a vacuum. It was a culmination of a bubbling undercurrent of racial tensions and clashes between young Caucasian and Middle Eastern men... Australia's undercurrent of racism reared its ugly head that day. And despite it being 10 years ago, many are still affected today. The majority of my Year 12 cohort went on to attend university, college and TAFE. Some entered the workforce. Many went through an identity crisis. Some changed their name to make it more "Anglo-friendly" for work purposes. Some internalised racism. Others adopted a victim mentality and blamed the system for everything that went wrong in their life. While others developed an inferiority complex. Sadly, some still carry these demons with them today... Until recently I thought we'd improved race relations in Australia. The Adam Goodes saga tells us otherwise. If our elite athletes get racially abused, what hope does the average Khaled, Ahmed or Maryam have of a fair go in society?


  • The abrupt changes in the context of Australia's existence – the political, strategic, diplomatic and economic context in particular – goes a long way to explain the frequency with which Australia's 'identity' recurs in the press, in literature and political rhetoric. From time to time the character of every society... becomes a topic for discussion and controversy; but neither Danes nor French nor Swiss nor any historic European people argue about their 'identity' as Australians do. And surely the principal reason for this is the switch from being a colony of a Western European power to being an independent, though still geographically remote island, so large as to be almost indefensible, placed between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, surrounded by Oriental and Asiatic nations much larger than itself, and living with memories or legends of a convict past, for long in primitive and depressed conditions that in turn produced a rugged and uncompromising race of people.
    • Charles Wilson, Australia, 1788–1988: the Creation of a Nation (1987)
  • The colonisation and modernisation of Australia is a clear example of an historical inevitability that is out of our hands. Once the societies on the great Eurasian landmass had developed agriculture and organised themselves into sizeable states with standing armies and navies, any society that could not keep up with the ensuing arms race was doomed to be either subsumed into the larger polities, or extinguished forever. It was inevitable that, in the age of European expansion, one of the imperial powers would colonise this continent sooner or later. It is not hard to argue that the most benign possible outcome was the one that occurred at the hands of the British.
  • The dictionary definition of Australia on Wiktionary