You may recognise these words from Peter Allen’s iconic tune ‘I Still Call Australia Home’.
It’s a fitting song for a nomad who’s spent most of my life on walkabout, spurred on by a passion for travel and new experiences.
It captures that special essence of ‘home’ - I always feel a lump in my throat whenever I hear it as I fly back to Australia.
This day marks the establishment (read: invasion) of a British penal colony in Sydney Cove 224 years ago.
Although we’re a relatively young ‘European’ country, our indigenous brothers and sisters have lived here for more than 40,000 years. It’s their home we’re living in.
Around 1300 people arrived with the First Fleet in January 1788. Among them were about 750 convicts, transported for variety of petty crimes, such as stealing a dress, horse, or hairbrush. Some were as young as 12 or 13.
Their journey across treacherous oceans lasted around eight months.
When the eight ships sailed into Botany Bay, just south of Sydney, they expected to find the lush pastures, meadows and fine harbor described by James Cook during his earlier visit in 1770.
Instead, they found a lacklustre, exposed, shallow bay, so Governor Arthur Phillip took three boats and travelled north, where he found a better location at Sydney Cove. He moved the Fleet and they landed there on 26 January.
Six days later, two French frigates arrived in Botany Bay while on a journey of discovery through the southern hemisphere. Had they arrived a week earlier, we could’ve become a French colony instead!
Almost 180 years on, my parents also arrived on a ship after a month at sea, with two toddlers in tow; they were part of a mass migration of post-war Europeans looking for a new home on the other side of the world.
Although I was born in Greece, Australia is effectively my first home: I grew up here, completed my schooling and – like many Australians – inevitably went off to explore the world.
It must be something about our isolation that draws us to globetrotting. We’re renowned nomads.
When we’re done with discovering the rest of the world, we hop into a campervan and explore our own (vast) backyard.
That road trip around Australia beckons.
(from the Department of foreign Affairs and Trade website)
· Australia is the world’s smallest continent and largest island.
· During the past 60 years more than 6.5 million migrants have arrived from 200+ countries, including more than 660,000 refugees.
· In 2007, Australia’s population passed 21 million people.
· More than five million Australians speak a second language.
· The most commonly spoken languages are English, Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
· Before European settlement, there were an estimated 250 Indigenous languages, including about 700 dialects. In the past 200 years, this number has dropped to around 145, with about 110 considered severely endangered.
· The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 through the federation of six states under a single constitution. The non-Indigenous population at that time was 3.8 million, while the estimated Indigenous population was around 93,000. Three-quarters of the population were born in Australia, and the majority were of English, Scottish or Irish descent.
· Green and gold have been Australia’s national colours since 19 April 1984.
Australia’s population clock
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, our population on 25 January 2012 at 2.30pm (Canberra time), was projected to be 22,812,705.
This figure was based on:
· one birth every 1 minute and 47 seconds,
· one death every 3 minutes and 36 seconds ,
· a net gain of one international migration every 2 minutes and 49 seconds, leading to
· an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 34 seconds .
Okay, I admit that I love statistics!
Exotic foods and cultures
Travelling is an enriching experience; it exposes you to the sights, sounds, smells and colours of other lands and cultures.
It’s interesting to note, however, that I had these sights and sounds around me while living in Sydney: the Greek and Italian delicatessens, the plethora of exotic cuisines, cultural activities and hearing a multitude of languages while waiting at the local bus stop.
If there’s one thing I miss about Sydney, it’s the cosmopolitan atmosphere. But I don’t miss the rat race, congestion or daily commute.
I’m enjoying the leisurely lifestyle of my current home here on the Sunshine Coast.
Three things I learnt from travelling
Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone, especially when you’re backpacking or living in one country for a while.
You see and experience things that shock, frustrate, annoy and scare the bejazus out of you. But you also have some of the best fun and memories.
Here are three things I’ve learnt from my adventures:
1. Patience - all those hours sitting in transit at airports waiting for the next flight, or being shuffled around from one government department to another trying to get a tax file number and social security number in Greece.
2. Respect - for other people and cultures, their different points of view and their attitudes to life.
3. Appreciation - for the friendships I've made and especially for home. There’s really no better sight than flying over Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge coming into view.
And wafting softly in the background are Peter Allen’s lyrics: … but no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Peter!