G’day! Strewth, this post is chockers with strine. For some of ‘em I reckon you might need to have a squizz at this here dictionary to get a handle on what I’m gabbing about – Aussie Slang
Today is Straya Day. There’s always big shindigs on the 26th January. I came here as an ankle biter with my family ‘bout 55 years ago. Far out brussels sprouts has there been a lot of changes in that time!
Let’s get serious for a bit
A national public holiday, Australia day is celebrated in some unique ways. First, a bit of serious stuff. Then I want to entertain you with some of the less well known stuff about us Aussies.
Australia Day is the official national day of this country. It’s the anniversary of arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson in NSW. That was in 1788. As most would know Australia was first settled as a penal colony for the overflow of crowded British gaols. South Australia was the only state to be free settled. A lot of Germans arrived here, established vineyards and the Lutheran Church. Booze production has been on a roll ever since. The Barossa Valley just north of Adelaide is perhaps the best known. There are many others scattered across the country now, including one in the middle of the desert. Adelaide, the capital city of SA (more importantly, where I live) is also known as the City of Churches. The Lutheran Church to this day has its national headquarters here.
Australia Day is officially recognised by the government with the usual pomp and ceremony – speeches by the Prime Minister, the Governor General, Australia Day Honours List, the naming of the Australian of the Year, citizenship ceremonies and diverse family and community events. My family was naturalised when I was still a rug rat. However, to this day I remember receiving an official government letter on my sixteenth birthday requesting I fill in a form for residency as an alien. I went troppo – “But I’m not an alien! I’m human!” I was confused. Apparently my name had not been registered on my parents’ citizenship certificate as a minor. I had to apply for citizenship as an adult at the ripe old age of 16. Our kids became Australian citizens automatically at the time their adoptions were legalised.
Official marking of this date didn’t actually happen till 1935. It was only in 1994 that it was eventually recognised as a public holiday across the nation. As the day now is celebrated on THE actual day itself (26th Jan) it means that it can fall on any day of the week. This year it’s on a Tuesday. The expectation is that there may be as many as 180,000 people who choose to chuck a sickie on Monday to create a four day long weekend. At an estimated cost of AU$62 million. That’s not small bikkies!
The projected population of Australia as of Dec 2015 was just under 24 million. Our biggest major city is Sydney, at around 4 million, followed closely by the state capitals Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.
Modern Australia is a true melting pot of nations and cultures. When we first arrived, there were far more Europeans than any other nationality coming over on government assisted passages. The ship we travelled on was full of them. Lots of Finns too as unemployment in the home country was high. Here you could grab a hammer and a nail bag, call yourself a ‘dinkum tradie’ and get a job. However, learning the ‘lingo’ is not quite as easy as that.
The only one of us who had some book learning in the lingo was my sis who had started to learn it at school. And Dad, who came here first, picked it up from his work mates. They were a weird mob. All sorts from here there and everywhere with not many dinkum Aussies at all. Reading phantom comics he reckoned helped too. He used to take the piss out of me saying I hated the sound of that horrible language and would never in a million years learn it! Blimey, I said thinking on it some, perhaps I should know what liquorice was in English. But nothing else. Of course before you could shake a stick, I was speaking strine like a regular native. Mum used to beg us to talk English at our place. Not on your Nelly, we all said! Blimey Charlie, that would have been just too weird. Instead I learnt to read and write Finnish ‘cos I hadn’t time to do that back home.
THE ORIGINAL STRAYANS
Aboriginal women’s implements, including a coolamon lined with paperbark and a digging stick. This woven basket style is from Northern Australia. Baskets were used for collecting fruits, corms, seeds and even water – some baskets were woven so tightly as to be watertight. (Wikipedia)
I’d be a right drongo not to mention the people who first settled this land – the Australian Aboriginals. This video is grouse –
Paynesville at Lakes Entrance, Victoria
This song is a true blue Aussie ballad written by a bloke called Banjo Patterson. He was a fair dinkum bush poet back in the late 1800’s. There’s a lot of yakka about what the song is about. Some folk say it’s about the pollies back in the day. Others reckon it’s about giving a bloke a fair quid for a day’s work. Whatever it’s about, it’s full of Aussie slang. So I’m going to give you a hand here and add a Waltzing Matilda list for you, so’s you can understand the song –
WALTZING MATILDA – carrying the swag. Matilda is an old Teutonic sheila’s name meaning ‘mighty battle maid’. Maybe that’s why it came to be used as a slang term for a de facto wife who went walkabout with her fella. A bushie’s swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his Matilda.
BILLABONG – a small ox-bow waterhole on the outside channel of a river. Perhaps Aboriginal in origin: billa – water; bong – dead.
COOLIBAH – a species of gum or eucalyptus tree.
SWAGMAN – an Australian itinerant worker. The moniker came about because they carried their goods and chattels in a swag – stuff like a billy, tucker and blankies.
BILLY – open topped tin can, with a wire carrying handle, used for boiling water to brew a cuppa.
TUCKER BAG – bag for tucker.
JUMBUCK – sheep.
SQUATTER – grazier, pastoralist or station owner
Here’s our dinky di Aussie icon, Slim Dusty, belting it out – WALTZING MATILDA
Beer tasting platter
Aussies love their beer. When it’s hot there’s nothing like a coldie to quench the thirst. One of the most famous is the Darwin stubbie.
DARWIN’S most famous export – the iconic Darwin Stubby – has celebrated its 50th birthday.
As Territorian as Uluru and arguably just as well known, the giant beer continues to capture the attention of guzzlers with eyes bigger than their bellies the world over.
The 2.25L Darwin Stubby was conceived by Carlton and United Brewery in 1958 to satisfy the hearty appetite of Territory beer drinkers, whose love of the amber fluid could not be confined to 750ml, the largest grog vessel at the time.
It quickly became the drink of choice for thirsty locals and tourists alike who were quick to get on board.
Although the NT Draught Darwin Stubby has had many incarnations over the years, it continues to be a much sought-after product and sells around 24,000 bottles each year.
Without doubt the most famous Darwin Stubby drinker is Norm the Brahman bull, who smashed the world record for downing the quickest one at the Humpty Doo Hotel in the 1980s.” (Daily Telegraph)
Here’s Slim singing again, this time about beer – Pub with no beer
Kangaroo Island seafood platter with KI marron, calamari, prawns
When we came to this land down under there was a lot missing for us Europeans. No rye bread. No buttermilk. No herrings. No cardamom unless mum got it from the chemist. They used it for medicines. Mum used it in cakes, buns and biscuits. No blood to make blood pancakes. Yes, really! I had never seen white bread before we came here. Or toast. I didn’t know it existed! These days of course most of those things are very easily obtained. Even the blood if you really want it. Just needs to be pre-ordered from the butcher.
Let’s have a gander at some Aussie tucker. Some of it is – well, unique. Blind taste test challenge
I’m as gobsmacked as you to find out there’s an actual – Australian Lamington website !
Barbies and picnics are the go on Australia Day. Snags and chops, preferably with some dead horse are the go. Washed down with a stubbie or two or if you’re more upmarket some chardie. Paul Hogan of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ fame was a tourist ambassador for Australia at one stage. Folks remember the campaign for it’s slogan throw a shrimp on the barbie
Damper bread was made on the open fire by swaggies. Nowadays you can buy it for Australia Day at the supermarket. But making your own out in the bush still tastes the best. Making damper
Another Aussie icon is the pumpkin scone. Flo Bjelke-Peterson, wife of Joh, a long running Queensland Premier, was famous for her pumpkin scones. They’re still made by her daughter-in-law Karen. Here’s her recipe –
Lady Flo’s famous pumpkin scones. (mumsinthekitchen.com)
PUMPKIN SCONE RECIPE
- Degree of difficulty:Low
- Cooking Time:15min
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
- 2 cups self-raising flour
Beat together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer till light and fluffy.Add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour.Turn dough onto a floured board and cut into circles.
Place on a tray on the top shelf of a very hot oven (225-250c) for 15-20 minutes.Remove from oven, allow to cool and serve with butter.
I can’t leave the tucker bit without telling you about another Aussie icon – the meat pie. It’s been described as the national dish by some of our politicians even. Pies have featured on the 1987 ninety cent stamp. In 2014 the Melbourne Cricket Ground sold 300,000 of them. Fair dinkum!
But there’s more – we Adelaideans have a unique one called the pie floater. It is a meat pie floating in a bowl of green pea soup, served with tomato sauce and worcestershire sauce!
It was officially recognised as a South Australian Heritage icon by the National Trust of Australia in 2003. It took me a very long time to get around to having a taste of it. Bloody oath! I didn’t know what I’d been missing out on. They look gross. They taste nice. Here in Adelaide you can buy them from a pie cart in the city. Blokes reckon they’re just the thing to have after a night of boozing. At home we have them on a cold winter’s night. Grouse comfort food.
Want a quick meal to shove down your cake hole? Can’t go past a counterie and a flutter at the pokies while you’re there. Pub grub is a favourite here. This is what one of Adelaide’s well known food critics had to say in the local rag last weekend:
“So your local watering hole is old and scrungy, the beer is stale and the schnitty is like boot leather. Would’t it be terrific if you could buy the place and turn it into the type of boozer you like to hang out at with your mates.”
(Simon Wilkinson SA weekend magazine 23.1.2015)
Country road – Kangaroo Island, South Australia
The Aussie film industry is thriving. Here’s my pick of some of the greats –
Storm Boy is an Aussie golden oldie. One of the main characters is Mr Percival, a pelican. Originally a children’s story written by Colin Thiele, it has been turned into a movie .
Australia , starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (gotta love those rippling muscles!). It is set in Darwin around the time of WW2.
The Dressmaker is a relatively new release starring Kate Winslett and Liam Hemingworth (more eye candy for the ladies!). A two bit country town with a pub, a cop station and a few houses provides the backdrop for close- minded country bigotry, fear mongering and prejudice.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert – I won’t spoilt it except to tell you it’s about a bunch of drag queens bussing their show around the country. It’s worth a watch.
The Castle is probably one of the most famous movies about Aussie battlers taking on the big guns and winning against all odds.
The Red Dog is a movie based on a true story about a mongrel hitching its way around the outback. It’s a tear jerker.
Rabbit Proof Fence is a powerful movie about the Australian Aboriginals and their struggle to find their place in a country which some people claim is no longer theirs.
The music industry is also thriving here. We lay claim to some of music’s big names – Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian, John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John, Keith Urban, Hugh Jackman, Peter Allen, Michael Hutchence to name just a few individuals.
Australian medical research and innovation is renowned for some of the world’s great breakthroughs. These are just some of the everyday items that came from good old Oz –
- rotary clothes line (1946)
- first full-length feature film (1906)
- surf lifesaving reels (1906)
- sunshine header harvester (1914)
- speedo swimwear (1929)
- wine casks (1965)
- staysharp knives (1970)
- racecam live television broadcast (1979)
- wall-mounted Miniboil machines (1981)
- dual-flush toilets (1982)
- baby safety capsules (1984)
- smartmodem (1992)
- WiFi (1996)
You may have noticed that there’s a big chunk of stuff missing – sports. To be honest, it doesn’t, and never has, interested me. However, a lot of Aussies are sports mad. The evening news commits more time and space to sports events than anything else. Drives me potty. It’s all well and good if you’re a sports nut. If you’re not, tough. That being said, if you are one of those who like to follow sports the Aussie Tour Down Under in SA has just finished and The Tennis Open in Melbourne I think is still on. Straya Day sees a lot of cricket and footy being played. Why people want to play these strenuous games outside at the height of summer heat is beyond me! Want to know more about Aussie Sports and other stuff, this site has it all – 129 lists – The Land Down Under
I love reading. These are three Australian authors whose works I particularly enjoy for their writing skill, character development and exceptional research into Australian history –
Bryce Courtenay burst onto the literary scene with The Power of One, set in Africa. Many of his later books are Aussie based. The Potato Factory trilogy is a wonderful read about Irish convicts in Tasmania.
Colleen McCulloch is perhaps most famous for her Aussie book called Thorn Birds which was also made into a movie.
Judy Nunn is a well-known Aussie actress who is also an author. I have recently read my first book of hers. It is partly set in Adelaide, which is interesting for me of course. The book is called The Ghan and delves into Aboriginal history and the making of the Trans Australian railway line.
Our country has some of the world’s deadliest creatures. Warning – there are a lot of typos in the text but the information and statistics are interesting.
I’ve hardly touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things Strayan. This country is rugged, harsh. It’s beautifully breath-taking. It’s vast, ranging from desert sands to tropical paradises, to snowy mountains. The people who live here have many passions I haven’t even touched on.
I will leave you with a selection of songs from one of our contemporary Aussie icons, John Williamson. He’s ‘true blue’ just like his songs –
© Raili Tanska
Photos – from personal and family collections
Tell us what ya reckon mate ? Just scribble a note in the box down under.