Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach is an ideal representation of Australia’s orientation to the sea, with its major cities all on the coast. A very large island — or is it a continent? –the debate continues, and even the awkward term of “island continent” has been employed on occasion. The interior, widely considered uninhabitable, presented no significant problem for the indigenous people, in their deep — and unique — understanding of the land.
Sydney is also known for its greenery, and life orients not only to the sea but to the city’s many parks — for human and ibis alike. There are an estimated 10,000 white ibises, locally known as ‘bin chicken’, ‘dumpster diver’, or ‘tip turkey’ for their proclivity to rubbish and considered a nuisance by many. Seasonal visitors but non-native, they began breeding and taking up residence only in the 1980s — possibly as a zoo program gone wrong.
Graceful Melbourne. Strongly focused on the arts, with a well-defined city centre and a café culture, one could be forgiven for viewing it as Vienna’s cousin — albeit much younger, warmer, and oriented to the sea. It is a youthful city with an outdoors and fitness identity, by which it also begs comparison to Vancouver — but it is, ultimately, uniquely its own.
In a sense, Tasmania — in particular, Hobart — tells to story of Australia. While the island retains its own, proudly individualistic and self-sufficient character, it is deeply rooted in both Australia’s indigenous roots and penal colony immigrants. Hobart strongly reflects its colonial past, while embracing a youthful and artistic, at times countercultural, present.
This poignant sculpture tells a particular tale of female prisoners sent to the island from Ireland — often for the crime of being poor. “Footsteps Towards Freedom” pays tribute to these destitute women, one governor now referring to them as “the founding mothers of Tasmania.” The former women’s prison is outside of the city and can be visited.
The indigenous people of Australia, including Tasmania, are the deepest roots of the country — and possibly of the world, as they are widely considered one of the earliest societies. “Heritage” in Tasmania and elsewhere has often been criticised as non-indigenous and colonial; however, indigenous rights have improved significantly in the past 5 years under the current liberal government in Tasmania.