Australia is a land full of quirks, idiosyncrasies and contradictions. Vast but sparsely populated; searingly hot, but sees more snow than Switzerland; full of sharks, snakes and spiders, but nevertheless an inviting place for a holiday. It’s also home to the only mammals that can lay eggs, a flightless bird that can’t walk backwards and a population that once prioritised Masterchef over a general election.
This year, Australia Day, the country’s official national day, falls on January 26. It’s an event that many celebrate with their communities, family and friends – not just in Australia, all over the world.
But aside from kangaroos, koalas, the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, how much do you actually know about the land Down Under? We’ve gathered 25 little-known nuggets of information about this fascinating country.
1. Queen Elizabeth II once fired the entire Australian government
In 1975, in response to an Australian government shutdown – the result of a deadlock over drawn-out budgetary squabbling – the Queen stepped in and shocked the nation by firing everyone in Parliament and instating a new one. Or rather, her official representative in Australia, Governor General Sir John Kerr, handled the formalities on her behalf – in an announcement that ended with: “God save the Queen”.
2. Swimming in the sea used to be illegal
Between the years of 1838 and 1902, swimming at public beaches in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales was illegal during daylight, for reasons of ‘morality’. This was before swimwear for women had entered the mainstream, and with a lack of separate-sex changing areas, the exposure of female flesh was deemed too much of an insurmountable problem. Head down to Bondi Beach today and you’ll find no such concerns.