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Phillip Island


Phillip Island is a popular tourist destination about 140 km south-southeast of Melbourne, Victoria. The island was named after Governor Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, by explorer and seaman George Bass, who sailed in an open whale boat, arriving from Sydney on 5 January 1798.


The island’s permanent population is about 10,000. During the summer, the population swells to over 40,000 people. The only road to the island is a 640 m concrete bridge that connects the mainland town San Remo with the island town Newhaven.

Penguin Parade

Phillip Island is probably most famous for its colony of fairy penguins which are the world’s smallest penguins. Depending on the season, 300 to 750 of them come ashore at Summerland Beach at sunset after swimming 15-50km a day to fish. The penguins tumble ashore to waddle up beach tracks to their burrows in sand dunes, stopping along the way to preen.


The Island is also well-known for its international race track which hosts world-championship 500cc and Superbike events and national touring car races. The track is set amidst some picturesque farmland, which is not surprising as 60% of the island is devoted to the grazing of sheep and cattle.


There is a lot of wildlife present on the island like kangaroos, koalas etc. Something a bit more unusual can be seen at Seal Rocks, at the western end of the island. Seal Rocks hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia – about 16,000 of them! Tourists are able to take a cruise which takes them very close to the seals.

Top Australian Universities

Australia has many excellent universities and they are extremely popular with international students. Australia is the 3rd most popular destination for international study in the world, following the USA and the UK. Education is a very important export for Australia and is actually the third biggest export sector behind Iron and Coal. Let’s take a look at the 5 highest ranked Universities.


5. The University of Queensland ranked 48th in the world in 2019. UQ is mainly based in state capital Brisbane and has been responsible for a number of recent research innovations, such as the cervical cancer vaccine.


4. The University of New South Wales, located in Sydney, retained its position of 45th in the World University Rankings in 2019, and is a founding member of the Group of Eight, a coalition of Australian research-intensive universities.


3. The University of Sydney climbed eight places to rank 42nd in the world in 2019, and is the oldest of these top Australian universities (established in 1850). Sydney was Australia’s highest-ranked entrant in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2018 at fourth in the world – meaning it is a great uni* if you want to get a job!


2. Up two places to rank 39th in the world in 2019, the University of Melbourne achieved positions in the global top 20 for its reputation with both academics and employers. The university has a very diverse student body, with nearly 40 percent of its 50,270 students coming from outside Australia.


1 . Continuing to rank first among the top Australian universities, Australian National University ranked 24th in the world in 2019 and claims one of the country’s highest scores for research impact (citations per faculty member) and percentage of international student indicators. ANU is located in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

*Australians often say ‘uni’ instead of ‘university’ when speaking informally.

Victoria’s Crazy Winter

1 Storm

Victoria, and especially Melbourne, is well-known for having varied and rapidly changing weather. In winter there can be all sorts of severe weather ranging from gales to fierce thunderstorms and hail, sudden temperature drops, and heavy rain.

2 Mount Feathertop and Razorback

The coldest month is July. Melbourne temperatures get down to lows of around 0°C: -2.8°C is the lowest on record. Some towns in Victoria are even colder than Melbourne and some places have intense frosts. It is even colder up in the Victorian Alps of course. The lowest winter temperature ever recorded there is -12.8°C at Mount Hotham.

3 Frost

Speaking of the Victorian Alpine climate, there is usually plenty of snow up there in winter, and Victoria has seven snow resorts. Skiing is more expensive here than in Japan, partially due to transport costs with the resorts being further from the cities. Sometimes it snows in Melbourne as well, but it is extremely rare.

4 Fog

Melbourne has a reputation for having “four seasons in one day”. It often rains multiple times in one day as well as there being quick changes between periods of sunshine, fogs, mists, gusts of wind, sudden temperature changes and even hail storms.

5 Hail

On the subject of hail, occasionally the hailstones reach amazing sizes and do a lot of damage, especially to cars. In the 2010 Victorian storms, Melbourne was hit by hail averaging between 2cm-5cm in diameter. There were reports of 10cm stones in Ferntree Gully, not far from my house!

Australian Television

TCN Tower 1956

Television has a long history in Australia and is still very popular. Most people here call it ‘TV’ or ‘Telly’. The first TV broadcast occurred in 1929 and the first real TV tower was built in Sydney in 1956. As in every country, there is a lot of news and sport on TV. Over the years there have been many other TV programs produced here, but with such a small population, there is much less variety compared to countries like America or Japan.

Russel Crowe in Neighbours

Russel Crowe in Neighbours

Australia has produced quite a few TV dramas. Two of the most famous and longest-running are Neighbours and Home and Away. Many young actors started in these shows and later starred in international movies or became famous singers. Neighbours: Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Natalie Imbruglia, Russell Crowe.
Home & Away: Chris Hemsworth Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce (again!), Isla Fisher, Naomi Watts, Ryan Kwanten.


Australian TV often airs cooking shows. Series from other countries are popular, as are Australian remakes of famous shows like Iron Chef or Master Chef. There are also several well-known cooking programs produced here, like My Kitchen Rules and Food Safari.


Like with most countries, there has been a lot of interest lately in shows about amateur singing. Australia has its own versions many famous overseas shows such as Australian Idol, The X Factor and The Voice. In this genre, domestically produced series haven’t really succeeded yet.


Another staple* of Aussie TV is the home renovation show. One reason they are so popular is that most Australians aspire to own their own home and many people choose real estate as their investment strategy. House Rules and Backyard Blitz are two of the most famous series.

*a basic or necessary item

Organic Food in Australia

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Organic food is very popular in Australia. In Australia, ‘organic’ means that the food was grown without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components (GMOs). These products are usually more expensive that non-organic varieties. Many people are willing to pay the extra cost for health or environmental reasons.

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Fruits and vegetables are the foods most associated with being organic here. However, many other types of product are sold with that label. For example: Meats (from cattle feed on organic grass), detergents, oils, chocolates, teas and coffees.

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Unfortunately, the term ‘organic’ is not closely regulated, and some companies call their products organic when in fact they use chemicals while growing them. Many people are unaware of this, and there are regular news stories about products being exposed as not really being organic in spite of the label and high price.

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Some people don’t trust the supermarkets, and go directly to local organic farms to buy their food. There are many small businesses all over Australia setup to appeal to these customers. Even though the situation is not perfect, the demand for organic food is increasing, and the law regarding it is steadily improving.

Famous Australian Music

Like most people, Australians love music and our musicians have produced an enormous amount of it over the years. And like in most countries, only a tiny amount of it breaks out and becomes famous internationally. The international music scene has changed dramatically since the arrival of the internet which makes it hard to judge relative popularity. I will focus on music made mostly before that.


The rock group AC/DC is likely the best example of Australian music succeeding internationally. Some lists rank their album ‘Back in Black’ as the 3rd highest selling album of all time. I read that they were always ‘small in Japan’ even though they tried hard to promote themselves there. This is the opposite of groups like Cheap Trick and Bon Jovi, who were ‘big in Japan’ before they became popular in America and the rest of the world.


The Bee Gees (pop/disco) are another internationally well-known Australian group. They are also the group with the most success in Japan. Their 1978 album ‘Saturday Night Fever’ sold 1250000 copies according to the Oricon charts, which makes it the 20th highest selling (foreign) album of all time in Japan.

The Wiggles

The Wiggles are popular worldwide for their children’s music and TV shows. They started back in 1991 and are still making DVDs and performing live today. Currently, the group has only one of it’s founding members: Anthony Field.

John Farnham

John Farnham is an example of an artist being huge in their home country, but relatively unknown outside. His 1986 album ‘Whispering Jack’ is the greatest selling Australian album of all-time in Australia and 2nd greatest selling album in Australian history (2nd to Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat out of Hell’ album).

Honourable Mentions
INXS, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Olivia Newton John, Kylie Minogue, Savage Garden, Delta Goodrem, Crowded House, Tina Arena, Icehouse, Missy Higgins, Jet.

Lunch on the Road in Australia

When out on the road and looking for a quick lunch, what are some common choices that Australians make? Well, apart from food like McDonald’s, which is in most countries, some popular choices are Pies, Pasties, Kebabs and Burgers.

Meat Pie

Meat Pies
An Australian meat pie is a hand-sized pie containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and often eaten as a takeaway food snack. They are usually eaten with tomato sauce (very similar to American ketchup) and are considered to be an Australian icon. The meat pie is heavily associated with Australian rules football and rugby league as one of the most popular consumed food items whilst watching a game. The Victorian pie brand Four’n Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour! In truth, meat pies are just as much part of New Zealand’s culture.


A Pastie, or Pasty (UK spelling) is a baked pastry thought to be originally from Cornwall and Devon, United Kingdom. They made by placing an uncooked filling, typically meat and vegetables, on one half of a flat shortcrust pastry circle, folding the pastry in half to wrap the filling in a semicircle and crimping the curved edge to form a seal before baking.
The pastie is now popular worldwide due to the spread of Cornish miners and sailors from across Devon and Cornwall, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Ulster and elsewhere.
There is a famous annual pastie festival on the Yorke Peninsula in Australia which started in 1973 and is said to be the largest is the world.


The name ‘kebab’ is applied to many foods. In Australia, it generally means refers to a doner kebab (usually called just ‘doner’ or ‘kebab’) Doner kebabs are made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie next to a vertical cooking element. The outer layer is sliced into thin shavings as it cooks. This style was invented in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, and inspired similar dishes such as the Arab shawarma, the Mexican al pastor and the Greek gyros (which is also very popular in Australia). Kebabs vary quite a bit around the world, but surprisingly, the kebabs that are now popular in Japan are very similar to the Australian type – I was very happy with that when I lived there!


Hamburgers are usually associated with the USA, but most countries have there own variants. The traditional Australian hamburgers are usually bought from fish and chip shops or milk bars and the meat is almost always ground beef, which we call “mince”. They commonly include tomato, lettuce, grilled onion and meat as minimum, and can also include cheese, beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg and bacon. If all these ingredients are included it is known in Australia as a “burger with the lot”. Most people also add barbecue or tomato sauce. Interestingly, McDonald’s used to serve a “McOz” Burger here, which included beetroot and tomato.

Power Spots in Australia

Many remarkable natural features in Australia are said to be ‘power spots’ by some people. The term ‘power spot’ has different meanings to different people, but usually it means a place where there is a lot of natural energy, or somewhere the border between the spiritual world and the material world is thin. The aboriginals, who had a relationship with these places long before Europeans colonized Australia, consider most of them to be sacred.

Ayer's Rock

Probably the most famous power spot in Australia is Ayer’s Rock (called Uluru in the local aboriginal Pitjantjatjara language. It is situated in the Northern Territory far from any towns. It is 348 m high and has a total circumference of 9.4 km. Most of its bulk is actually lying underground – it is massive! Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu people.

The Olgas

The Olgas, called Kata Tjuta in Pitjantjatjara (which means ‘many heads’) are
located 25 km to the east of Ayers Rock. The highest dome, Mount Olga, is 546 m above the surrounding plain (198 m higher than Ayers Rock). Like Ayers rock, the Olgas are considered sacred to the Anangu Aborigines. They believe the great rocks of Kata Tjuta are homes to spirit energy from the ‘Dreaming’, and since 1995 the site is being used once again for cultural ceremonies.

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheatre of mountains in the state of South Australia.
The Adnyamathanha aboriginals were the original inhabitants of Wilpena Pound and they translate Pound to mean ‘meeting’ or ‘initiation place’ in their own language. They have a story of how Wilpena Peak was formed, in which two Akurras (dreaming serpents) ate a large number of people gathered for a celebration, which caused the serpents to be unable to move from their eating grounds. The head of the male and female serpents formed St. Mary Peak and Beatrice Hill (two notable features of Wilena Pound).

Mt Warning

Mount Warning, called Wollumbin in the local Aboriginal language, is a mountain in the Tweed Range in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, near the border with Queensland. It was formed from a volcanic plug of the now-gone Tweed Volcano. Wollumbin is a place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung people and contains sacred sites, where particular ceremonies and initiation rites are performed.

Famous Australian Snacks

What are some famous Australian snacks?
Well, there are four that I’d like to tell you about: Minties, Caramello Koalas
Tim Tams and Milo. These four foods were all originally developed first in Australia.


Minties are a hard, white and chewy, rectangular, mint-flavoured lolly*, which on chewing becomes very sticky. They are notorious for causing fillings to come out of peoples’ mouths – which reminds me a bit of the dangers of eating Japanese Mochi. Minties were invented back in 1922, and are popular in both Australia and New Zealand.

Caramello Koala

Caramello Koalas
Caramello Koalas are a brand of chocolate bar manufactured by Cadbury Australia. They consist of a chocolate cartoon koala (named “George”) with a caramel centre. Caramello Koalas were introduced in Australia as the Caramello Bear in 1966. They are said to be the first mass-marketed snack to be modelled on an Australian animal.


Tim Tams
Tim Tams are a type of chocolate biscuit made by the Australian biscuit company Arnott’s. They are made with two malted biscuits separated by a light chocolate cream filling and coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Tim Tams went on to the market in 1964. They were named by Ross Arnott, who attended the 1958 Kentucky Derby and decided that the name of the winning horse, “Tim Tam”, was perfect for a planned new line of biscuits. These days Tim Tams come in many different flavours, including dark chocolate, white chocolate, caramel, dark chocolate mint, honeycomb and choc orange.


Milo is a chocolate and malt powder that is usually mixed with hot water and milk. It is popular mainly in Oceania, South America, South-east Asia and certain parts of Africa. It was originally developed by Australian inventor Thomas Mayne in 1934. The ingredients and drinking styles are actually slightly different in different countries. Milo is also sometimes sprinkled on ice cream or on breakfast cereals and some people even eat it straight out of the tin!

*Lolly = candy (in North American English)

Watch a movie at the Dromana drive-in!

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A drive-in theatre, or drive-in cinema, is a type of cinema that has a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a snack kiosk and a large parking area. Within this enclosed area, customers can view movies from the comfort of their own cars. Some drive-ins also have small playgrounds for children and a few picnic tables or benches.

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The first drive-ins popped up in America in the 1930s and became very popular, peaking in the late 50s/early 60s. Australia had the 3rd most drive-ins in the world, after the US and Canada. They started to disappear quickly when colour televisions became common. These days there are less than 16 active theatres in Australia.

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There is a famous drive in theatre at Dromana in the south part of Melbourne – not far from Arthurs Seat (see my last blog post). The Dromana drive-in was opened in 1961 with a capacity of 485 cars. It has since been expanded to a three-screen operation and also has a Sunday market operating from the site. It is one of only three theatres that have never closed – it has been operating continuously since 1961 and is now a Victorian Heritage Site.

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During my research for this post I learnt that the first Australian drive-in was built at Burwood, which is in the east of Melbourne in my home state of Victoria, and very close to my house! It opened in July 1954, just two years before the arrival of television. Amazingly, the second-ever theatre opened at Ringwood, which is also close to my house. It seems like Victoria was/is the drive-in theatre state!

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