If you’re considering studying in Australia, you might like to know a bit more about our country’s history and customs. This page is designed to provide you with a brief overview of what you need to know to settle in like a local.
Australia is an incredibly diverse and fascinating country. Aboriginal Australians have lived here for over 50,000 years making them the oldest living culture in the world! Prior to the arrival of the British, there were up to an estimated 1 million aboriginal people living in Australia.
The Dutch first sighted Australia in 1606 before Captain Cook claimed the land for Great Britain in 1770. The First Fleet of 11 ships arrived in New South Wales in 1788, establishing it as a penal colony. Between this time and 1848 over 162,000 convicts were transported to Australia from Britain.
The discovery of gold in Australia (primarily Victoria) put it on the map as a desirable location, attracting many immigrants. This period marked the beginning of Chinese immigration to Australia, with over 50,000 Chinese moving to this new country in search of new beginnings and prosperity.
The end of World War II and then subsequently the Vietnam War led to an influx of migrants to Australia. Australia is now home to people from around the globe, making it one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today.
Australia has a very varied climate. Melbourne has been described as having four seasons in one day and its fickle weather can take some getting used to, although it can still be enjoyed all year round.
While Melbourne does have clear seasons, you can never be too prepared for sudden changes in temperature so it’s good to always carry an extra layer and an umbrella – especially in the colder months.
In summer it can get very hot and it’s easy to get sunburnt. It’s important you protect yourself by wearing high SPF sunscreen and wearing sun-smart clothing including a hat and sunscreen.
Australia prides itself on being a safe and welcoming country. Being such a culturally diverse nation, there is really no such thing as a typical Australian. However it is likely you will face a whole range of social habits and customs that are different to back home.
Finding out as much as you can about Australian culture will help make your transition easier and more comfortable.
Equality and fairness is very important to Australians. Our culture is known for its lack of class distinctions. Equal opportunity and a fair go for everyone regardless of gender, religion, nationality, disability or sexual preference is considered a fundamental right.
Australians tend to be very friendly although there a couple of useful things to remember: When meeting people for the first time it is customary to shake with your right hands and look people directly in the eye. It is also expected that people say ‘please’ if you are asking for something and ‘thank you’ if you are receiving something.
Punctuality is also expected in Australia. If you have appointments, interviews and commitments at school, it’s vital that you are on time. On the occasion that you will be late or unable to make an agreed time, it’s important to ring ahead.
One thing to always remember is Australia is a very multicultural society.
Australians are used to being amongst many different cultures so never be afraid to ask questions. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Australian customs and culture is to get out, meet new people and mix with as many locals as you can find.
One thing you are likely to notice when you arrive in Australia is that a lot of the food and cuisine here is very different to home. As Australia is such a culturally diverse country, we have different foods from all over the world here and it’s possible to find almost any cuisine you want. If you’re worried about where to find foods from your culture, both Coles and Woolworths (the two main supermarket chains) have international food sections. Ask on campus too as many of your fellow students will know of local speciality shops where you may be able to find what you are looking for.
There are also some typically Australia foods which are fun to discover and try, like lamingtons, pavlova and vegemite.
Sports and Recreation
Aussies love their sport. We love playing it and we love watching it. And nowhere more so than in Melbourne with its reputation as Australia’s sports capital.
In autumn and winter, Victoria is the home of Australian Rules Football, Australia’s national sport. Whether you’re in Melbourne or Geelong, make sure you go to an Australian Rules game and experience something truly Australian!
In spring, there is the world famous Spring Horse Racing Carnival in Melbourne, which features the Melbourne Cup, the race that literally ‘stops the nation’. During summer, Melbourne hosts cricket matches, golf tournaments and is home to the Australian Tennis Open and the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Whatever the time of year, whether you are in Melbourne or Geelong, there is always sports to watch and enjoy playing. It can be a great way to get involved with local culture and meet people.
Victoria is world famous for its strong arts and culture scene. Any day or night of the week there are dozens of world-class shows and exhibitions to go and see.
Melbourne offers one of the highest densities of commercial art galleries in the world, with the National Gallery of Victoria housing the largest permanent collection of art in Australia. The world famous laneways of the CDB are full of street art and graffiti and are just like their own outdoor, living gallery.
The live music scene is also thriving with over 3000 live shows happening across the city every week.
Make a point of finding out what’s on, getting some friends and immersing yourself in the melting point that is the Melbourne arts scene. It’s a great way to discover the city.
Geelong also offers an abundance of history and is alive with art and culture. The local arts scene ranges from innovative street creations and traditional Indigenous art, with a new Arts Centre due for completion shortly. Geelong was also recently designated a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, making it a UN City of Design.
As you know, English is the official language in Australia. However there are many phrases, expressions and idioms that are uniquely Australian.
Australians love to use slang, create nicknames and shorten words. In fact, Aussie slang is known all over the world. It can be confusing for people for whom English is a second language but trust us, you will get used to it and in the end it will become fun to use yourself.
Aussies are very proud of the ‘Australian’ version of English. They love humour, love to tease each other and love sarcasm. It can take a little time to get used to at first so if you are in doubt or confused at all don’t be afraid to ask.
Travel Within Australia
Melbourne and Geelong are such exciting, cultural cities to enjoy. There are literally hundreds of places to visit and things to do.
Australia, and Victoria in particular have many wonderful beaches and national parks to explore. The best way to do this is to just start exploring. You can get almost anywhere in Victoria via bus or train. The Deakin University Student Association (DUSA) also offers trip during the trimester, which is a fun, social way to explore the state.
Australia has some of the most interesting wildlife in the world. From deadly snakes, to cuddly koalas and everything in between.
Australia has fantastic zoos where you can come face to face with many of the country’s most fascinating creatures. Or you can explore our many national parks and sanctuaries and if you’re lucky, spot them in their natural habitat.
Many of our native animals such as the platypus, koalas, kangaroos and emus are unique to Australia. We are home to more than 800 species of birds, 4000 fish species and 50 types of marine animals.
Exploring the animals of Australia should be a must-do item on your tourist agenda.
Popular Places to Visit
Australia is a phenomenal country. As the world’s smallest continent and largest island, there is so much to discover and so many thing to see.
It is a land of incredible contrast and beauty. The Australian coastline is world famous and along it you can explore our incredible, cosmopolitan cities, ancient rainforests and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. The outback, Uluru and Australia’s dramatic red-earthed deserts also offer the ultimate in adventure travel.