By Kritika Seksaria
From time to time Australian culture has had its bizarre moments. Many of these experiences are either forgotten or unknown to the outside world. Here is a list of unusual and uncanny facts about Australia.
1. There is a mailbox located on the Great Barrier Reef. The mailbox is on the Agnicourt Reef, 72 kilometers offshore at the Coral Sea. To send a letter or postcard from there, all you have to do is take a ferry and remember to use the special Great Barrier Reef stamp.
2. Australians from Queensland are called “banana benders”. Even though some in the blogosphere suggest a sexual orientation-based interpretation, the truth is that the origin of the word is associated with the major banana growing industry in Queensland. The Queensland border has been called the Banana curtain and Brisbane has been called Banana city. The term was first recorded in 1964.
3. The first ever meeting of the Australian Labor Party was held under a gum tree at Barcaldine, Queensland. The first party branch was founded at a meeting of striking pastoral workers in 1891. The tree is now called The Tree of Knowledge. It was poisoned in an act of vandalism in 2006, and its remains removed in 2007. The remains of the tree are undergoing a process of wood preservation and will be transferred to a special preservation facility.
4. The world’s oldest flower was found in a fossil near Melbourne. The 120 million year old plant has two leaves and one flower.
5. Besides AFL, NRL, horseracing and cricket, Australia boasts of some unique and bizarre sporting events. Unusual contests include cane toad racing at Magnetic Island, the Cockroach World Championship held in Brisbane every Australia Day, and pig racing at The Royal Melbourne Show.
6. Darwin Beer Can Regatta is another intriguing and remarkable event. Contestants make boats made of beer cans that are floated in the shallow waters of the Mindil beach. Its origins go back to 1974 when Cyclone Tracy caused considerable damage to Darwin. As workers rebuilt the city, they consumed copious amounts of beer to survive the hot climate. The Regatta was a cleaning aid to help with problem of littered beer cans since there were no proper recycling programs back then. The success of the event has lead to it becoming an annual ritual.
7. One Mr. Bob Hawke aged 24, made the Guinness Book of World Records in 1954 because he drank 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. This man’s reputation and honour kept increasing as he went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia from 1983-1991.
8. During a chapel service in 1832 about 300 female convicts at the Cascade Female Factory mooned the Governor of Tasmania. It is believed that the ladies in the Governor’s party were hysterical with laughter.
9. In New South Wales and other parts of Australia, bathing in the sea was illegal during daylight between 1838 and 1902. This law was a result of women’s bathing suits being considered indecent despite being neck to knee, whereas men often swam nude. Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman popularised the one-piece swimming costume as she toured the world as the “Australian mermaid” and the “diving Venus. Ironically, the image of women in two-piece bathing suits surfing by the beach is now one of the most stereotypical representations of Australian culture.
10. Australia was the second country to give women the vote. In 1902, Commonwealth Parliament strengthened their democracy granting women the right to vote and also get elected. New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote in 1893.
11. The ceremonial ribbon for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was accidentally cut by an honour guard’s sword. The guard, Francis De Groot, galloped forward on his horse and slashed the ribbon with his sword, enraging the crowd. He was later carried off to a mental hospital and declared insane. He was also fined for the replacement cost of one ribbon.
12. In 1967, Harold Holt, the Prime Minister of Australia went for a swim at the beach and was never seen again. It is an unresolved and bizarre mystery. Theories about his disappearance include kidnapping by a Chinese submarine, eaten by a shark, and suicide.
Kritika Seksaria is a Regional Representative for Asian Correspondent based in Melbourne, Australia.