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Living in Australia
Australia is so big and diverse that it could never merely be the sum of its icons. The stunning architecture of the Sydney Opera House, the glow of Uluru (Ayers Rock) at dusk, a wave curled above a colourful reef – these are only part of the experience that unfolds once your feet touch the soil of this awesome country-continent.

Australia's natural beauty is one of its biggest attractions. The landscape varies from endless sunbaked horizons to tropical rainforests to chilly southern beaches. Its cities blend an enthusiasm for art and food with a love of sport and the outdoors. Visitors will have to re-think their grasp of geography in this huge country. The sheer vastness gives Australia – and its diverse population – much of its character.

Many things about this faraway island are different, even the things that sound familiar. You may have visited remote places, but not the sublime isolation of the outback, with its dazzling salt pans and sandstone towers. You would have encountered wildlife, but when did you last ride a camel among desert oak trees or have your camp site visited by a Tasmanian devil? Perhaps you've enjoyed seafood, but here you'll taste barramundi fish and delicious Moreton Bay bugs (a shellfish).

From rainforest trails to fascinating museums, vibrant multicultural cities to a love of sport, Australia is unique.

The People
Australia's population in mid-2005 was 20,265,000. Population density is among the lowest in the world, with an average of 2.5 people per square kilometre – no-one’s within cooee (shouting distance) in the outback. Most people live along the eastern seaboard, with a smaller concentration on the southwestern coast. Living in one of the world's most culturally diverse countries – 23% is foreign-born – Australians incorporate a wide variety of influences into the way they live and play.

The Places
Australia's states and territories each have unique characteristics. Explore one at a time or, when your studies have finished, visit them all in one big loop! This would mean over 14,000km of highway, not including side trips to beaches, forests, mountains, country towns... If you'd rather not go far from where you're studying, you'll still find there's plenty to keep you entertained.

The Potential
Australia offers a unique experience for students. Apart from a world-class education system, the opportunities to get involved in daily life are endless: whether you're into the arts or sport, partying or book clubs, the great outdoors or cosy cafés, you’ll find many ways to join in and have fun. So if you want to get an education and have a life, it really is the place to be.
Introductory Snapshot
Ask anyone and they'll tell you that it's not hard to live the good life in Australia. It's easy to eat well, with just about any cuisine in the world being available and fresh produce on offer year-round. It's easy to get around the country's cities and towns using world-class public transport. And it's easy to shop to your heart's content, in small country markets to big city shopping strips. Best of all, it's all doable on a student budget.

Australia is one of the most dynamic places in the world to eat, thanks to international culinary influences and a dining public willing to give anything new a go. Anything another country does, Australia does too. Vietnamese, Indian, Fijian, Italian – no matter where it's from, there are expats and locals keen to cook and eat the cuisine. Due to the country’s huge size, the climate varies a great deal from north to south. This means that at any time of the year there's an enormous variety of produce on offer, including Australia’s justifiably famous seafood.

Food tourism and food festivals are blossoming. Melbourne, for instance, has its own month-long food-and-wine festival in March. There are harvest festivals in wine regions, and various communities hold annual events, such as Clare Valley's (South Australia) Gourmet Weekend.

Christmas in Australia, in mid-summer, is less likely to involve a traditional European baked dinner, and more likely to be replaced by a ‘barbie’ (barbecue), full of seafood and quality steak. Various ethnic groups have their own celebrations. The Indian community brings out delicious sweets during Diwali; the Chinese annual Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) involves sumptuous banquets; and Australia’s Islamic community marks the end of Ramadan with the festival of Eid al-Fitr.

Typically, a restaurant meal in Australia is a relaxed affair. Any table that you've booked is yours for the night, unless you're told otherwise. A competitively priced place to eat is a club or pub that offers a 'counter meal'. Here you order at the kitchen, take a number and wait until it's called. You then pick up the meal yourself, saving the restaurant money on staff and you on your total bill.

A great feature of the restaurant scene, which also makes eating out less expensive, is 'BYO' (Bring Your Own). If a restaurant says it's BYO, you're allowed to bring your own alcohol. If the place also sells alcohol, the BYO is usually limited to bottled wine only (no beer, no casks) and a corkage charge is often added to your bill.

See the individual state/city guides on this website for recommendations of some of the best places to eat and drink in Australia's capital cities.
Australian cities have excellent public (and private) transport systems, making travelling around them simple. Following is a breakdown of how best to get around in each capital city:

For information on buses, ferries and trains call Transport Infoline: 13 15 00 or visit the website at:www.131500.com.au/

Bus - Sydney's bus network extends to most suburbs. Fares depend upon the number of 'sections' you pass through. As a rough guide, short trips cost $1.60 and most other fares in the inner suburbs are $2.70. For more information, visit the website at: www.sydneybuses.info/

Ferry - Sydney's ferries provide the most enjoyable way to get around the harbour. There are three kinds of ferry: regular STA ferries, fast JetCats that go to Manly ($7.90) and RiverCats that traverse the Parramatta River to Parramatta ($7.40). All ferries depart from Circular Quay. For more information, call 02 9207 3166 02 9207 3166 or visit the website at: www.sydneyferries.info/

Metro Light Rail & Monorail – The Monorail and Metro Light Rail are good means of transport within the centre. The Monorail circles Darling Harbour and links it to the city centre. The MLR operates 24 hours a day between Central Station and Pyrmont via Darling Harbour and Chinatown.  For more information on Monorail call  02 9285 5600  02 9285 5600 or visit the website at:

www.metrotransport.com.au and for Metro Light Rail call  02 9285 5600  02 9285 5600 or visit the website at:www.metrotransport.com.au

Train – Sydney has a vast suburban rail network and frequent services, making trains much quicker than buses. Trains run from around 5am to midnight. For more information visit the website at: www.cityrail.info

For bus, train and tram timetables, maps and fares call the Met Information Centre on 13 16 38 or by visiting the website at: www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au Metcards allow you to travel on any and all Melbourne bus, train and tram services, even if you transfer from one to another.

Bicycle – Melbourne's a great city for cycling, as it's reasonably flat and there are good routes throughout the metropolitan area. Two of the best are the bike path that runs around the shores of Port Phillip Bay from Port Melbourne to Brighton, and the bike path that follows the Yarra River from the city for more than 20km.

Bus – Generally, buses continue from where the trains finish, or go to places, such as hospitals, universities, suburban shopping centres and the outer suburbs, not reached by other services.

Train – Suburban trains are faster than trams or buses, but they don't go to many of the inner suburbs. Flinders St station is the main suburban terminal. During the week, trains start at 5am and finish at midnight.

Tram – Melbourne's trundling trams cover the city and inner suburbs. Tram stops are numbered from the city centre. There are also 'light rail' services to some suburbs, including St Kilda, which run along disused rail lines. Be extremely careful when getting on and off a tram; by law, cars are supposed to stop when a tram stops to pick up and drop off passengers, but that doesn't always happen.

Brisbane boasts a world-class public transport network. Information on bus, train and ferry routes and connections can be obtained from the Trans-Info Service on 13 12 30 or by visiting the website at: www.transinfo.qld.gov.au 

Boat – Brisbane's nippy blue CityCat catamarans run every 20 to 30 minutes, between 5:50am and 10:30pm, from the University of Queensland in the southwest to Bretts Wharf in the northeast, and back. Also useful are the Inner City Ferries, which zigzag back and forth across the river between North Quay, near Victoria Bridge, and Mowbray Park.

Bus – The Loop, a free bus service that circles the city area, runs every 10 minutes on weekdays between 7:00am and 6:00pm. Other buses run every 10 to 20 minutes Monday to Friday, from 5:00am till about 6:00pm, and with the same frequency on Saturday morning (starting at 6:00am). Services are less frequent at other times, and cease at 7:00pm Sunday and midnight on other days.

Train – The fast Citytrain network has seven lines, which run as far as Gympie North in the north (for the Sunshine Coast) and Nerang and Robina in the south (for the Gold Coast). All trains go through Roma St, Central and Brunswick St stations.

Transperth operates the city's public buses, trains and ferries. A single ticket allows you to travel on all forms of transport. For more information call 13 62 13 or visit the website at: www.transperth.wa.gov.au/ 

Boat – Ferries depart every half-hour, on the hour, from 7:00am to 7:00pm daily from the Barrack St Jetty to the zoo.

Bus – You can get to most sights in the inner city with the free CAT bus services in the city centre, running from 6:50am to 6:20pm on weekdays. There's a bit of a longer wait on weekends. On regular buses, a short ride within one zone is $3.00, two zones $3.20 and three zones $5.00. Zone 1 covers the inner suburbs (including Subiaco and Claremont) and Zone 2 extends all the way west to Fremantle.

Train – Transperth also operates the Fastrak suburban train lines to Armadale, Fremantle, Midland and the northern suburb of Joondalup. There's free train travel (in the free transit zone) between the Claisebrook and City West train stations. All local trains leave from the Perth train station on Wellington St.

The Adelaide Metro Information Centre (cnr King William & Currie Sts) has timetables and sells tickets for the integrated metropolitan buses, trains and the Glenelg tram. For more information call tel  08 8210 1000  08 8210 1000 or visit the website at: www.adelaidemetro.com.au/ 

Bus – Bee Line (No 99B) runs in a loop from the Glenelg tram terminus at Victoria Sq to the City West campus of the University of South Australia. City Loop (No 99C) runs clockwise and anti-clockwise around the margins of the city centre from the train station, passing the Central Market en route. Both Bee Line and City Loop buses are free.

Train – Suburban trains depart from Adelaide Railway Terminal, by the Casino. For more information call  08 8210 1000  08 8210 1000 .
Bus – Darwinbus (City Bus Interchange, Harry Chan Ave) runs a comprehensive service from its small depot, for more information call  08 8924 7666  08 8924 7666 . The Tour Tub minibus tours Darwin's sights throughout the day and you can hop on and off along the route. For more information call  08 8985 6322  08 8985 6322 or visit the website at: www.tourtub.com.au 

Taxi – As well as a regular taxi service, Darwin has two taxi bus services – Arafura Shuttle and Unique Minibus – that will take you anywhere in the central area for a flat $3.00 ($5.00 for two people), and elsewhere, such as Fannie Bay and East Point, for a fixed fee. For a regular taxi service call13 10 08, for Arafura Shuttle call  08 8981 3300  08 8981 3300 and for Unique Minibus call  08 8928 1100  08 8928 1100 .

Bus – Metro operates the local bus network; there's an information desk dispensing timetables inside the main post office on the corner of Elizabeth and Macquarie Sts. One-way fares vary according to the distance travelled (from $1.50 to $3.40). For $3.90 you can buy an unlimited-travel Day Rover ticket that can be used after 9:00am Monday to Friday, and all day Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. For more information call 13 22 01 or visit the website at:www.metrotas.com.au

Bus – Canberra's public transport provider is the ACT Internal Omnibus Network (ACTION). The main Civic Bus Interchange is along Alinga St, East Row and Mort St in the city centre. Visit the information kiosk (East Row) or visit the website for free route maps and timetables. For more information call 13 17 10 or visit the website at:www.action.act.gov.au/

Canberra Day Tours operates a hop-on, hop-off bus service that loops around major attractions. Tickets ($35.00 for an adult) are valid for 24 hours. For more information call  0418 455 099  0418 455 099 or visit the website at:http://www.canberradaytours.com.au/
Australians like to shop, as evidenced by the huge variety of local- and international-brand shops, and the crowds that gather at every clearance sale. Big cities can satisfy most consumer appetites with everything from high-fashion boutiques to second-hand emporiums, while many smaller places tend towards speciality retail, be it home-grown produce, antiques or arts and crafts. Many Australian cities have really interesting shopping (and eating) strips in different neighbourhoods, especially in the inner suburbs. Be sure to check out places like Brunswick St, Fitzroy (Melbourne), Oxford St, Paddington (Sydney), Ann & Brunswick Sts intersection, Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) and Oxford St, Leederville (Perth).

Markets are a great place to shop, especially for a bargain, and most cities have at least one permanent bazaar, such as Hobart's Salamanca Market. Melbourne and Sydney have a couple – try the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne or the Paddington Market in Sydney. Alternative markets on the New South Wales north coast, such as the one at Nimbin, are also worth a visit. An Aboriginal artwork or artefact can be an excellent souvenir of Australia. By buying authentic items you are supporting Aboriginal culture and helping to ensure that traditional and contemporary expertise and designs continue to be of economic and cultural benefit for Aboriginal individuals and their communities. The best way to buy artefacts is either directly from the communities that have art-and-craft centres or from galleries and outlets that are owned, operated or supported by Aboriginal communities. Other great ideas for souvenirs include the seeds of native plants – try growing kangaroo paw back home (check your country’s quarantine rules). You could also consider a bottle of fine Australian wine, honey or delicious macadamia nuts.

Modern Australian fashion collections that are in demand include Collette Dinnigan, Ty & Melita, Morrissey, Sass & Bide, Tsubi and Akira Isogawa. For a rustic look, try wrapping yourself in a waterproof Driza-Bone coat, an Akubra hat, moleskin pants and Blundstone boots; RM Williams is a well-known bush-clothing brand. Surf-wear labels such as Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Mambo and Billabong also make good buys.
Leisure - What you can do in your spare time
Introductory Snapshot
One thing that can be said of most Australians is that they really know how to live their leisure time to the full. Whether it's enjoying a 'barbie' (barbecue) and game of backyard cricket; barracking (cheering) their team at football, soccer, rugby, netball (or just about any other sport you can think of); celebrating at one of the many festivals and events held annually across the country; or throwing a tent in the car and heading off camping in the wilderness, there's always something happening – and many opportunities for visitors to get involved.

Sporting Australia
Australians love their sport – both playing it and watching it. The number-one watched sport in the country isAustralian Rules Football. Around Melbourne you can pass through the suburbs of Carlton, Collingwood, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Footscray, Essendon, Richmond and St Kilda, all of which have a team in the elite Australian Football League (AFL). This league was once exclusive to the state of Victoria but since 1982 has included other states: the Sydney Swans; Perth's Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles; Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows; and the Brisbane Lions. Being part of a crowd at an AFL game is an Australian (particularly Melburnian) must, even if you don't like sport that much.

Then there's the National Rugby League (NRL). The highlight of the season is the annual State of Origin series. Australians who play rugby union dream of playing for the national team, the Wallabies. The Wallabies had been an internationally dominant force in the game until England snatched the World Cup in 2003. Apart from the World Cup,Bledisloe Cup games against New Zealand are highly anticipated and form part of a Tri Nations tournament that also includes South Africa.

Surrounded by sea, it's not surprising Australia is a nation of swimmers. There are plenty of public swimming pools throughout the country, as there are great swimming beaches. Surfing is a hugely popular sport and pastime, as is evidenced by big events such as the Bells Beach Surf Classic. Popular beaches are patrolled by surf life savers during summer and patrolled areas are marked off by flags. Even so, surf beaches can be dangerous places to swim if you aren't used to the conditions. Undertows (or 'rips') are the main problem. A number of people are also paralysed every year by diving into waves in shallow water and hitting a sand bar; check the depth of the water before you leap.

Until recently, when England won back 'The Ashes', the Australian cricket team dominated both test and one-day cricket, holding the number-one world ranking for almost a decade. The stars have been Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. To find out more, including how to find a local club if you're interested in playing, have a look at Cricket Australia's website.

The Australian Open is one of tennis' four Grand Slams. It attracts more people to Australia than any other sporting event. Lleyton Hewitt is a great Aussie star, having won Wimbledon and US Open titles. Tennis Australia's website has a good search engine for finding local clubs all over Australia.

Recently soccer fans in Australia had their wishes granted when the Socceroos beat Uruguay to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. From a participation and spectator viewpoint, soccer is one of the growth sports in Australia, and much hope is pinned on the new A-League. For years local soccer has suffered as young players choose the better competition and contracts on offer in Europe.

There are 1.2 million netballers in the country, which makes netball Australia's most popular participation sport.Women's basketball is also popular, with most Australians believing that Lauren Jackson is the best player in the world, while in men's basketball, McKinnon and Bogut are the stars.

The list of sporting opportunities also include hockey, horse racing, sailing, car racing, golf and cycling – such is the love of sport in this country. All of the sports listed here are available to everyone, either as a participant and/or a spectator. Australia has more than 120 national sporting organisations and thousands of state and regional bodies, so there's a good chance there'll be one close by that caters to your interest. Universities and local councils (and the websites listed above) are good places to find out about sporting opportunities in your area. When it comes to watching, you can simply buy tickets on the day at the venue for most sports. Big finals' series, like the AFL or the Australian Open, are likely to sell out and you should buy tickets in advance through an agent such as Ticketek or Ticketmaster.

It doesn't take much to convince an Australian to celebrate or be entertained and it makes sense to follow this light-hearted lead during your stay.

Australia's arts festivals attract people from all over the country to see drama, dance, music and visual arts. The hugeFestival of Sydney, which takes up most of January, includes a number of events from open air concerts, to street theatre and fireworks. The Adelaide Arts Festival takes place at the beginning of March in even-numbered years.Womadelaide, Adelaide's outdoor festival of world music and dance, takes place in the second week of March each year. Melbourne has a Comedy Festival in April, the world's biggest Writers' Festival in September and the fabulous Melbourne International Festival in October. A couple of festivals celebrating Aboriginal arts and culture include the Stompen Ground Festival, which is held in Broome in October, and the Barunga Wugularr Sports & Cultural Festival, held near Katherine in June.

Sporty fun includes Darwin's Beer Can Regatta in August, when a series of boat races are held for “boats” constructed entirely of beer cans, while Alice Springs holds the Henley-on-Todd, a boat race on a dry river bed! More mainstream events include the Sydney to Hobart yacht race (from Boxing Day); the Australian Grand Prix(Melbourne, March); Australian Rules Football (around the country from March to September; see Sporting Australia above); and the country-stopping Melbourne Cup horse race on the first Tuesday in November.

Gay festivals include Sydney's massive, flamboyant Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, in February/March, and Melbourne's January/February Midsumma Festival. (See the Events sections of the individual state/territory summaries on this site for more detailed festival listings.)

Australians also love their pubs and bars - you'll usually find one or the other wherever you are in the country. Australia has long had a strong pub culture, which extends from the big cities to 'the bush' (that is, anywhere away from the cities). There are classic Aussie pubs in tiny country towns like the Birdsville Hotel in outback Queensland, and more refined versions, such as Sydney's Paddington Inn Hotel in Oxford St, Paddington. Bar culture is a more recent phenomenon, with the big cities leading the way, especially Melbourne with its incredible number of bars. Many pubs and bars across the continent also regularly feature live bands and/or DJs.

Then there's cinema, theatre, dance, clubbing, opera, classical music, jazz. the list of entertainment options is endless. The best way to find out what's on is through local newspapers and free entertainment magazines, newspapers and/or websites.
Being such a huge and diverse country, there are countless ways to explore this great continent. Following are two sample itineraries to get you started: one a well-trodden route, the other well off the beaten track.

East Coast Run: Sydney to Cairns

Hordes of travellers stay on the beaten track on Australia's sun-loving east coast, following this beach-themed route. From Sydney, meander along the Pacific Hwy through central and northern New South Wales towns with idyllic beach locales. Soak up the serenity of Port Stephens, the watersports-mad Myall Lakes National Park and the stunning, plateau-top rainforests of Dorrigo National Park. Join the wild and famous in Byron Bay, then head over the Queensland border into the state capital, Brisbane, via the party town of Surfers Paradise.

Bruce Hwy then winds along the coast into the far north. Nature lovers should visit the whale-watching haven ofHervey Bay and, further north, the blissful Whitsunday Islands, the coral charms of the Great Barrier Reef and the scuba-diving heaven of Cairns.

Across the Continent: Cairns to Perth

The following is a long, difficult route from the tropics to the Indian Ocean – few roads are less travelled than this 4,560km trail. There are many potential hazards in heading off the beaten track into the Australian outback, so wherever you go, make sure you're well informed and fully prepared. Start in Cairns and head west to Normanton, the biggest town in the Gulf of Carpentaria region, then south down the Matilda Hwy to the rough mining town of Mt Isa. To the southwest is the frontier outback town of Urandangi, after which you run into the Plenty Hwy, a boring – or to some, gloriously desolate – road with plenty of bone-jolting challenges (4WD recommended). Over 500km later you'll hit the Stuart Hwy and then the dead-centre city of Alice Springs.

The Lasseter Hwy turn-off takes you to amazing Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the captivating Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)rock formations, beyond which is the beginning of the Great Central Rd. This lonely trail, suitable for well-prepared 2WDs and lined with saltbush, spinifex and desert oak trees, stretches 750km to the tiny gold-mining town ofLaverton, from where it's another 400km to a much bigger gold-mining town, Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Finally, the ocean beckons from behind the beaches of Scarborough and Cottesloe in Perth.
Introductory Snapshot
While it's obvious Australians love their sport, they also have a quiet love affair with the arts. From cinema, literature and music to theatre, dance and the visual arts, Australia's varied cities all offer a good dose of culture. To give you a small taste of what's on offer country-wide, the following section focuses on the visual arts, providing details of galleries and museums showcasing Australian art in each of the capital cities. Permanent collections in the places listed are all free (apart from Adelaide's Migration Museum).

Of course, Australian culture wouldn't be what it is without its multicultural dimension. Read on to find out just how culturally diverse the country is.

A Taste of the Best Art Galleries & Museums
The Art Gallery of NSW in Art Gallery Rd, City Centre is one of the best public galleries in the country, with permanent displays of Australian, European, Asian and tribal art. Look out for works by Oz masters Lloyd Rees, Margaret Preston and Brett Whiteley. The Yiribana Gallery, with its exemplary collection of Aboriginal and Islander art, is ever popular.

Housed in a dramatic steel and glass building at the eastern end of Federation Square, the Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia in the City Centre is home to a marvellous collection of more than 20,000 pieces of Australian art, from the colonial to modern periods and with an entire floor dedicated to indigenous art.

The fascinating Migration Museum in the City Centre tells the stories of migrants who came from all over the world to make South Australia their home. There's information on over 100 nationalities along with touching personal stories.

The challenging QUT Art Museum at the Queensland University of Technology specialises in paintings, prints and ceramics. It features contemporary art from around the world alongside home-grown works, including pieces from QUT students.

Providing a fascinating journey through Western Australia without leaving Perth, the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at The University of Western Australia is one of Australia's finest collections of traditional and contemporary Australian Aboriginal art and artefacts.

A highlight of the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in  Fannie Bay is the Aboriginal art collection, with carvings and bark paintings from the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land. The large exhibition devoted to Cyclone Tracy is also well worth a look, and be sure not to miss 'Sweetheart', a 5m long, 780kg saltwater crocodile...

The stunning National Gallery of Australia in Parkes has arguably the best collection of Australian art in the country. The collection ranges from traditional Aboriginal art through to 20th-century works by Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker. There's also an impressive Sculpture Garden to explore.

Incorporating Hobart's oldest building, the Commissariat Store (1808), the excellent Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery in the  City Centre features a Tasmanian Aboriginal display and relics from the state's colonial heritage, plus a good collection of colonial art.


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