By Isabel Clift & Alexia Dellner
Just in time for Australia Day (January 26th), we count down our favourite things that’ve come out of Australia. The hardest part? Narrowing it down to just 50…
1. The selfie
An Australian man can claim the first written use of the word ‘selfie’, made in a 2002 forum post. From those humble beginnings, we’ve reached a point of full-on selfie saturation in 2014 with space selfies, funeral selfies, plane crash selfies and the ongoing battle that is the #SelfieOlympics... want us to go on… ? Photo: via themackle.com
Whether it’s Scott & Charlene, the Kennedys, Harold Bishop or Lou (or one of the new-fangled characters outside of ‘my’ Neighbours-watching era who therefore don’t exist), everyone’s got a favourite resident of Ramsey Street.
4. Baz Luhrmann
This living legend director brought us the fish tank scene in Romeo + Juliet, the cinematic Marmite that is Moulin Rouge! and a 3D version of the Great Gatsby (filmed in Australia donchaknow, standing in for New York). If you’re feeling down, remember Baz’s advice: everybody’s free… to wear sunscreen.
Before they pounded every high-street in every city from London to Timbuktu, Ugg boots were used for decades to keep surfers’ feet warm on Australian beaches.
6. Kath and Kim
“Kimmoy… Kimmoy, look at moy, Kimmoy…” ‘Nuff said.
Did you know AC/DC’s Back in Black (1980) is the world’s 2nd-highest ever selling album, only beaten by Michael Jackson’s Thriller? I imagine that’s what lead singer Angus Young says to anyone laughing at him for performing in a school uniform since 1973.
8. Chris Lilley
Anyone who survived high school will squirm in recognition at Chris Lilley’s genius comic creations from Summer Heights High, Ja’mie, Jonah and Mr. G [warning: vid links have swears, only click if you’ve got a sense of humour]. He followed up with the equally catchphrase-spawning Angry Boys, and you can watch Ja’mie’s latest horrifying adventures in Ja’mie King: Private School Girl.
9. Sydney Mardi Gras
It’s the biggest event on the global LGBTQ calendar, but Sydney Mardi Gras is one huge party for everyone – that’s the point! Events include the Mardi Gras Parade and Party, Bondi Beach Drag Races and Harbour Party.
10. Sydney Opera House
A cross between a spaceship and a giant, crumpled bit of tissue, Sydney Opera House still generates a sense of wonder in all who clap eyes on her. Photo: Wikimedia
11. Heath Ledger
Having completed filming as the Joker in the Dark Knight (a role that won him a posthumous Oscar), Heath’s career was coming into a new stage when he died by accidental overdose in January 2008. This will forever remain my favourite Ledger moment. Photo: Wikimedia
12. Dual flush toilet
Eco-lovers, thank Aussie Bruce Thompson for the invention of the ‘low-flow flush’ button on your toilet. Photo: Apartment Therapy
13. Kylie Minogue
Joining Elton and Britney in the set of stars who get by on first-names only, Kylie sits at the top of Australia’s pop tree. But what’s your favourite Kylie? I Should be so Lucky pop princess, indie Kylie, or Can’t Get You Out of My Head comeback queen? Photo: Wikimedia
Koalas are the dictionary definition of ‘cute’, oh yes. Fun koala facts all Aussies can tell you: they are not bears, they’re marsupials, and they live entirely on eucalyptus leaves, which are highly toxic to most species. Photo: Wikimedia
15. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Taking book-clubs by storm and inspiring a TV series starring Home & Away star Melissa George, the Slap was a global publishing phenomenon in 2008, gathering a slew of awards too.
16. Great Barrier Reef
Cor – the Great Barrier one of the seven wonders of the world, can be seen from space and is the largest structure on earth made up of single organisms (coral, in this case). Find out more about it here. Photo: Wikimedia
17. Amazing Olympians
The Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 were a triumph, and Australia has produced many a legendary Olympian, including Ian Thorpe (swimming), Cathy Freeman (400 metre sprint) and Dawn Fraser (swimming).
18. Steve Irwin
Steve Irwin died in September 2006 from a stingray barb to the chest while filming a documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest. The much-loved wildlife expert ran Australia Zoo 80 miles north of Brisbane, as well as hosting popular animal show The Crocodile Hunter with his wife Terri.
19. The Outback
90% of the Australian population live on the coast, which makes the Outback an eerily beautiful, almost person-free place that’s teeming with wildlife. Find out how to survive in the outback and how to travel the outback.
20. Hot actors
Can Hugh Jackman do any wrong? He sings! He dances! He’s the goddamn Wolverine! And Chris Hemsworth is Thor, so uh – case closed. Aussie actors = hot. Photo: Wikimedia
How on earth did we survive without Wi-Fi? (Serious question). John O’Sullivan of Melbourne’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is seen as paving the way for the now-ubiquitous wireless internet technology in the early nineties. Find the best Free Wi-Fi Spots in Sydney
22. Julia Gillard
Australia’s first female PM had her ups and downs in the polls (and was replaced in the 2013 by Kevin Rudd, who had already been prime minister the term before her – that’s gotta sting), but her sniper-sharp attack on sexism and misogyny in the Conservative opposition party at the time won praise around the world.
23. Aeroplane black boxes
Chemist Dave Warren invented the black box in 1953 – two decades after his father was killed in a plane crash. The black box – which is actually orange – records voices in the cockpit and the plane’s instruments, so in the event of disaster authorities can use it to determine what went wrong. Photo: Wikimedia
24. Bondi beach
Bondi Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is one of the world’s most famous beaches – it’s best-known for surfing, bikini babes and the occasional great white shark sighting. Find out the other Best Surfing Spots in Australia. Photo: Wikimedia
25. Ned Kelly
Folk hero or cold-blooded killer? Ned Kelly was Australia’s most-wanted man in the 1870s, spending two years on the run from police after robbing a bank. He was captured at a shoot-out at Glenrowan. Convicted of killing three policemen, he was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. Kelly’s bones were eventually returned to his family and given a private burial. Find out how to do the Ned Kelly tour in Melbourne.
26. Polymer banknotes
A plasticky way of fighting note counterfeiting, Australia’s distinctive polymer-based currency was developed in the late-80s by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Photo: Wikipedia
Who doesn’t love a nice cold one? Over in the UK we associate Australia with Fosters beer, but the truth is no one down under would actually drink the stuff. For real Aussie beer, it’s all about the Victoria Bitter, Tooheys, Queensland XXXX and boutique beers like Matsos, Little Creatures and White Rabbit.
Want to get tipsy in Oz? Check out our list of best local drinks.
Australia has a number of excellent wine regions, including Barossa, Yarra and Mudgee. As the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine, Australia churns out delicious bottles of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay every year. Australia, we thank you.
Aussie’s love their barbeque. I mean, what’s not to love about charred on the outside yet tender on the inside pieces of grilled meat? Go on, put another shrimp on the barbie! (Sorry we couldn’t help it!)
These Australian marsupials are nocturnal creatures, known for their solitary and somewhat destructive habits. They’re also known for being ridiculously cute. Can someone smuggle these into the UK please?
31. Sexy model women
Australia is filled with gorgeous super women. Case in point: Miranda Kerr – Supermodel, Victoria’s Secret Angel, founder of KORA Organics and author. Oh and also married to actor Orlando Bloom and mother of adorable child. Elle MacPherson – nicknamed “The Body,” ‘nuff said. Whatever they’re putting in that Australian water, we want it!
Also known as Ayers Rock, this sandstone formation is one of the oldest rocks on Earth. The iconic landmark stands 348m high and stretches 3.6km long. Known for the stunning changing colours of the rock throughout the day, the spots around it are sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area.
Penguins are amazing creatures, able to jump up to six feet out of the water and into the air and some can even walk faster than humans. They’re also super cute and the smallest species of penguins, Fairy Penguins, can be found in Australia. For more penguin facts and adorable photos, read about 185 Cute Penguins and Where to Find Them
34. Shane Warne
In a country where cricket is the unofficial national sport, Shane Warne is King (of Spin). Not only is he one of Australia’s most successful sportsmen but ‘Warney’ is widely regarded as the greatest bowler ever to play cricket.
35. Meat pies
Australia’s national dish, the humble meat pie, consists of dense shortcrust pastry, filled with beef or chicken and thick gravy, and then topped with flaky puff pastry – all in a neat hand sized package. We think it sounds absolutely delicious… The Aussie’s think so to – they’re the world’s biggest consumer of meat pies with over 250,000,000 eaten each year!
For more yummy pie goodness, check out these best pies in Australia.
36. Tim tams
Imagine a creamy and rich chocolate filling, sandwiched between two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, and coated by a thin layer of milk chocolate. Now if that doesn’t sound mouth wateringly delicious enough, then how about a Tim Tam Slam? Bite opposite corners of the biscuit off, submerge one end in a hot beverage and drink all while enjoying the softening inner biscuit and the melting outer chocolate coating and the chocolaty goodness… mmmmm….
37. Aboriginal art
Australian Aborigines use materials of the land, like soil and sand to create art that tells the story of their tribal and cultural history, known as Dreamtime. Many of the beautiful creations sell for millions today.
38. Dame Edna
Housewife, megastar, and icon – Dame Edna has entertained and enriched the lives of millions all over the world. With her mauve hair, cat eye glasses, and garish costumes, she will be missed when she retires this year.
39. The spork
A hybrid between spoon and fork, the spork is a must have for every backpacker, camper, and school child (they’re also popular in prisons apparently). We can’t be 100 percent certain who invented the spork, but many argue that it was one Bill McArthur, of Potts Point in New South Wales in 1943.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, the sound of a didgeridoo is still exciting and totally mesmerising. An ancient wind instrument made by Indigenous Australians from limbs and tree trunks hollowed out by termites, the didgeridoo is a difficult instrument to play but guaranteed to make you look awesome (see pic above).
41. Fairy Bread
Take a slice of white bread, cut bread in half, spread with butter and cover with a generous amount of brightly coloured sprinkles. What’s not to like?
Part duck, part beaver and part otter, the platypus is probably the coolest animal on the planet. Don’t believe us? Platypus are one of only two monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) species on the planet. The male platypus also has poisonous stingers on his rear feet. And come on, just look at it!
43. Australian films
Crocodile Dundee may have been Australia’s most famous film back in the day, but these days Australia is at the forefront of great film making with movies such as Red Dog, The Sapphires, Wolf Creek, and Animal Kingdom.
44. Melbourne Cup
Sporting events in Melbourne tend to grind the nation to halt. Over 100,000 feather capped spectators line the sidelines on the first Tuesday in November for the 3200m race. Highlights include the whopping prize money, valued at AU$ 6,175,000 and Black Caviar – the Australian thoroughbred and arguably the best sprinter in the world. A ludicrous hat and nonsensical fashion statement is essential.
For more of great days out down under, check out these Top 10 Fun Events in Australia. If you’re going to the Melbourne Cup, we’ve got hostels in Melbourne starting from €21.42pppn @ The Spencer Backpackers
45. Hills Hoist
Yes, it’s true. That rotary clothes line hanging in the garden not only has a name, but it was invented by Australian Lance Hill in 1945. Super useful for drying laundry AND it can also be used in drinking games!
46. Ksubi jeans
Created by Australian surfers back in 2000, these jeans are comfortable, unique and they make your bum look fab.
Who didn’t watch Skippy the Bush Kangaroo as a kid and desperately want to live in Australia with your very own pet kangaroo? We did. We still do.
We can’t settle the never-ending debate of which country in the world has the best coffee, but we can say this – Australian coffee is delicious (flat whites are the new latte) and so are the baristas.
49. Aussie accent
Some accents make us recoil in disgust (not mentioning any names) and others, well, they just manage to make even the most mundane sentences sound sing-songy and sexy. The Australian accent is the latter.
If you want to impress the lads and ladies with an Aussie accent, then check out the tutorial below:
50. Australia Day
The biggest party day of the year, Australia Day celebrates all that’s great about Australia – of which there is plenty (50 things at least). It’s also the perfect excuse for Aussie’s abroad to knock back a couple of beers, get the bbq going, and wish they were back home lying on the beach.
Ready to book your hotel in Sydney and head off to celebrate Australia Day? Us too!
Can you think of any more? Tell us in the comments!
- Where to Backpack in Australia
- Australia: The Great Ocean Road
- 10 Best Things to Come Out of the USA
- Best Oz Road Trips
Thanks to Dave Manwell, martinhoward Terrazzo, Kk+, :/, Johnny Jet, watchwithkristin, Wheres_dot, Scott Cresswell, RacingKel, Wesley Fryer, Punctuated, jaswooduk, pikous, James Cridland, goblinbox, Aaron Jacobs, avlxyz, dnatheist, adpowers, StarAlex1, mikecogh, cafuego, Damian Cugley, Bookabee Tours Australia, Eva Rinaldi, and clutterbells for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.