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Australia Decoded

Atherton Tablelands

Atherton Tablelands

at a push—1. at the utmost; e.g., The conference room can hold 300—400 at a push. 2. if absolutely necessary.

at daggers drawn—in bitter enmity.

at panic stations—chaotic; extremely busy: e.g., The staff have been at panic stations since the sale started.

at sixes and sevens—perplexed; mixed up; floundering with a task, situation: e.g., He's all at sixes and sevens when it comes to cooking.

at sparrow-fart—at dawn.

at the coalface—actively engaged (in an activity): e.g., The whole staff has been at the coalface since the disaster.

at the weekend—on the weekend.

Atherton kauriAgathis microstachya, a species of conifer in the Araucariaceae family, was described in 1918 by John Frederick Bailey and Cyril Tenison White. It is found only in Australia and is threatened by habitat loss. Atherton kauri grows to about 50m in height and 2.7m diameter. The trunk is unbuttressed, straight and with little taper. Distinctive features are coarse, flaky bark, medium-sized cones with 160-210 scales, and leaves with numerous longitudinal, parallel veins. ]It has a very restricted distribution, being almost limited to the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland, with its altitudinal range 400-900m above sea level.] The timber has an even texture, is easy to work and polishes well. The heartwood is cream to pale brown in colour. It is soft and light with a density of about 480kg/m3. It is not durable in contact with the ground but can be used for house framing and flooring. Also known as bull kauri.

Atherton TablelandAtherton Tableland—stretching from Innisfail in north Queensland to Cairns in Far North Queensland, a tropical plateau where temperatures and humidity are lower than on the coast. Some of Australia's richest agricultural lands are here, for which the area has been dubbed "the food bowl", supplying the northern tropics with a constant supply of fruit, vegetables and grains. Also to be found are World Heritage rainforests, national parks, lakes, mountains, rivers and waterfalls. Situated between the Bellenden Ker Range and the Great Dividing Range, a one-hour drive west of Cairns.

Atlascopcosaurus—a small, primitive-looking plant-eater from Australia known only from a jaw fragment and a few teeth. It is a good example of how scientists can learn a great deal about a dinosaur from a very small amount of fossil material. Atlascopcosaurus's teeth are similar enough to other members of the hypsilophodont family to place it in that group, but different enough to establish a new genus. The distinction that leads scientists to believe that it was a separate genus is the number of ridges on the teeth and their placement in the jaw. Atlascopcosaurus was named for a sponsor of the expedition that discovered the dinosaur—the Atlas Copco Corporation.

ATNS—(see: Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements).

atoll—a massive coral growth on a submerged mountain range or volcano. Atolls typically contain low islands encircling a seawater lagoon.

Atomic Energy Act, 1953—designed to bring together all matters connected with atomic energy in one piece of legislation.

atomic test sites—the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia as well as Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. Maralinga was developed as the permanent proving ground site, following a request of the British in 1954 and, after its completion in 1956, was the location of all trials conducted in Australia. It was developed as a joint facility with a shared funding arrangement. Following the two major trials (Operation Buffalo in 1956 and Operation Antler in 1957), a number of minor trials, assessment tests and experimental programmes (dating from 1959) were held at the range until 1963. Maralinga was officially closed following a clean-up operation (Operation Brumby) in 1967.

atomic testingatomic testing—a series of twelve British atmospheric tests conducted on Australian territory between 1952 and 1957 on the Montebello Islands and at Maralinga and Emu Plains. The following year, 1958, the British government detonated four bombs at Christmas Island in the two months immediately prior to ceding the territory to Australian control. During the mainland tests many army personnel were exposed to the blasts. Security at the test sites was lax, the testing range boundaries were not properly monitored, and all signs were posted in English, which the local Aboriginal population could not read. Fallout from the ground blasts led to massive contamination of the Australian interior. The fallout from Maralinga reached Adelaide and Melbourne. Some places are still radioactive due principally to the presence of the Pu-239 radioisotope. Compensation is currently being sought in Australian courts.

ATSIC—short name for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

ATSIC Act—short name for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act, 1989.

ATSIC Amendment Act—short name for the Land Fund and Indigenous Land Corporation (ATSIC) Amendment Act 1995 (Cth). This Act established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund and the Indigenous Land Corporation under part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Act 1989.

ATSIS—short name for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services.

aubergine—1. eggplant. 2. dark purple colour.

Auburn River National ParkAuburn River National Park—a 389ha national park that includes open eucalypt forest, dry scrub, rainforest and pink granitic boulders that have eroded into scenic rock pools and cataracts. From the picnic and camping area, a 150m trail leads to a lookout high above the Auburn River that runs through the park. A rough 550m track winds down the side of the gorge to the river. Weeping bottlebrushes, flowering leptospermum shrubs and stunted figs line the creek banks. Bottle trees grow on the northern bank of the river near the camping area. Silver-leaved ironbark and forest red gum grow in the grassy, open forests. These western hardwood forests are now uncommon in this area. Located 40km south-west of Mundubbera on the Hawkwood Road.

Augathella—a centre for the graziers of the area, situated at the junction of the Landsborough Highway and the road from Morven. More than a century ago, Augathella was a stop for bullock teams. The drivers would use the banks of the Warrego River, which runs through Augathella, as a resting spot on their long journeys through the outback. Augathella was originally known as Burenda Township, then Ellengowan (home of the poison bush), before taking its present name from an Aboriginal word meaning 'waterhole'. The primary industries are sheep, cattle, kangaroos and timber, and the town slogan is "Home of the Meat Ant".

Auld, William Patrick—(1840-1912) an explorer and surveyor born near Manchester, England, and died 2 September 1912 Adelaide, South Australia. William Patrick Auld was a member of J M Stuart's expedition crossing Australia from south to north in 1861-62. He joined the Northern Territory expedition of B T Finniss in 1864. He was the first man tried for murder in what is now the Northern Territory and was acquitted after a long trial. He succeeded his father, P Auld as manager of Auldana but left the vineyard in 1888 when it was transferred to a mortgagee. He then established a wine and spirits business in Adelaide and became president of the South Australian Vignerons Association in 1896.

Auntie—a widely used nickname for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, with which three generations of Australians have grown up. Over the decades, Aunty has maintained the highest standards in cultural transmissions, educational programming, children's shows, news casting, science, health matters, politics, rural issues and more. Full government sponsorship had remained in place from 1932 until the present prime ministerial government of John Howard.

Auntie and Uncle—Koorie people call elders 'Aunty' and 'Uncle' as a sign of respect. It does not always mean that people are closely related.

Aunty Meg—(rhyming slang) keg (of beer).

Aurora AustralisAurora Australis—the Southern Lights, equivalent to the Aurora Borealis of the Northern Hemisphere. "Every time there is an aurora in the north there is one in the south," explains Dr Mark Dulgig, Program Leader for the Space and Atmospheric Science Program at the Australian Antarctic Division. "It's pretty much a mirror image. Auroras respond to the fluctuations in the charged particles from the sun as they hit the Earth's atmosphere. If they hit very hard, you get a magnetic storm. If there is a very, very strong magnetic storm, you tend to get more energy, so the aurora tends to move from the poles towards the equator because more articles can get through." This happens especially around the time of the so-called solar maximum, every 11 years or so. The last maximum was in 2000. At these times, Aurora Australis is commonly visible in Tasmania, and occasionally as far north as Brisbane.

Aurun—an Aboriginal community located 75km south of Weipa on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. Populated by approximately 1050 people, the township is home to the Wik people, and the dominant language is Wik-Mungan. Aurun was established as a Presbyterian mission in 1904. Although Presbyterian control of the mission saw Aboriginal children removed from their families and confined to dormitory-style life, many people remained outside the mission up until the 1950s. This is considered an important factor contributing to the continuing strength of Wik culture. In response to the community's protests against bauxite mining in the area, state government control was imposed on the Aurun community in 1975. In 1978 the government granted community members a 50-year lease on their land, under the nominal control of an elected Aboriginal council. More recently, Aurun has established the Wik Homelands Land and Sea Management Centre, responsible for land management strategies and the development of small-scale eco-tourism opportunities. Aurun Shire has a permit system in place (no charge) to manage travelers on Aurun peoples lands. There is generally regulated camping and fishing possible in the Watson River area. Wetland areas are generally the province of homeland residents and reserved for outstation activities only.

Aurun Act, 1975 (Qld)—by this Act, bauxite mining at Aurun was approved by the indigenous owners; and Aurun agreed to employ Aborigines; and Aurun agreed to and pay 3% of the mine's net profits to the Aboriginal community on whose land they were working.

Aurun Land and Sea—responsible for the management of land and sea resources within Aurun Shire. The Shire exists on dry tropical savanna on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. The area of management extends to the rivers, estuaries and inshore reef areas around Aurun Shire—traditional homelands of the Wik and Kugu peoples. These homelands traverse country of high biological and cultural diversity and are at the centre of the Wik and Kugu peoples' identity. Land and Sea is actively involved in the conservation and management of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

Aurukun WetlandsAurun Wetlands—during the monsoonal downpour of the wet season (summer), grassy floodplains become vast sheets of water, lakes expand, and melaleuca forests are flooded. The termite mounds that dot the floodplains become islands above the rising water. In the dry season (winter) most of these wetlands dry up, and only shallow swamps, scattered permanent lakes and billabongs remain. Along the flatter, western side of Cape York Peninsula, rivers fan out into floodplain deltas as they near the sea. The seasonal cycles of filling and drying in these enormous floodplain wetlands dictate the movements of wetland birds to and from the Peninsula. The area is a vital stopover for migratory birds travelling between Siberia, China, Japan, South-East Asia and the rest of Australia. This makes it nationally and internationally significant. The floodplains of the Mitchell River near Kowanyama, and the floodplains between the Holroyd and Archer Rivers around Weipa are the two largest wetland aggregations on the Cape. In the Wet they are major bird breeding and nesting areas, and in the Dry they are an important source of food for all sorts of birds, frogs, reptiles, insects and other animals. Permanent bodies of water, such as groundwater-fed streams, springs, and deep waterholes, often support very different plants and animals than the surrounding area. The few large lakes that are almost always full, e.g. Bull Lake, are nationally important refuges for birds and animals in times of drought.

Aussie—anyone or anything Australian.

Aussie battler—the ordinary working-man earning a living against many odds.

Aussie Rules—Australian Rules football.

Aussie salute—the characteristic waving of the hand to chase away flies that continually buzz around one's face.


austral brackenaustral brackenPteridium esculentum, a perennial fern with fronds up to 2m high. Newly emerged young fronds are initially very soft and pale in colour, becoming and more leathery with time. The fronds mature in late summer-autumn and may die off over the following winter, often with the first hard frost, though in milder areas fronds may persist for two years or more before dying. The dead fronds can remain standing for several years, and established stands of bracken usually contain a mixture of green and dead fronds. Bracken litter may form a dense mulch on the ground surface, reducing the establishment of other plants. Bracken regenerates rapidly after fire and may dominate recently burned areas. The plant has an extensive, spreading root system of thick, dark-coloured rhizomes and fine roots. They form a vast network in the upper layers of the soil, usually in the top 15 to 20cm, although in sandy soils they may penetrate to depths of half a metre or more. The rhizomes provide the plant with a tolerance to drought and fine roots in the surface soil enable bracken to absorb nutrients as they are recycled from litter. Hence, bracken is able to compete well with other species on the nutrient-deficient soils often characteristic of its habitats. Bracken is one of the most widespread plants found in Tasmania, occurring in many diverse habitats, from rainforest to coastal heath. It is frequent both in the understorey of forests and in open situations such as roadsides, heathlands and pastures. The only major restrictions to its distribution appear to be altitude and a requirement for well drained soils. Bracken commonly invades or increases in areas cleared from bush, especially on soils of low natural fertility. Pastures sown in such areas may fail to establish because of competition from bracken. Being a native plant, it is not normally considered a weed in bushland or conservation areas. Though it may dominate such areas and reduce the establishment of other native species, in most natural ecosystems it is a useful component of the native vegetation. Bracken is the most important poisonous plant found in Tasmania, causing a substantial number of stock deaths every year.

Australasia—the name was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes (1756). He derived it from the Latin for "south of Asia" and differentiated the area from Polynesia and the south-east Pacific (Magellanica). Australasia is sometimes used as a term for Australia and New Zealand alone, in the absence of another word limited to those two countries.

Australasian bitternAustralasian bitternBotaurus poiciloptilus is a large and stocky heron with mottled, dark brown, light brown and buff plumage. The chin and throat are white and underparts are pale yellow to buff with brown streaks. Males, females and juveniles are all similar, although the female is smaller than the male and the juvenile is paler in colour. The species has a characteristic booming call that is mainly heard at dawn and dusk during the breeding season (spring and summer).

Australasian ecozone—includes Australia, the island of New Guinea (including Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of Papua), and the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago, including the island of Sulawesi, the Moluccan islands (the Indonesian provinces of Malu and North Malu) and islands of Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, and Timor, often known as the Lesser Sundas. The rest of Indonesia is part of the Indomalayan ecozone. The Australasia ecozone also includes several Pacific island groups, including the Bismarck Archipelago, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia. New Zealand and its surrounding islands are a distinctive sub-region of the ecozone. From a biological point of view, Australasia is a distinct region with a common evolutionary history and a great many unique plants and animals—some of them common to the entire area, others specific to particular parts but sharing a common ancestry. The long isolation of Australasia from other continents allowed it to evolve relatively independently. Australia and New Guinea are distinguished by their large population of marsupial mammals, including kangaroos, possums, and wombats. The last remaining monotreme mammals, the echidna and the platypus, are endemic to Australasia. The boundary between Australasia and Indomalaya follows the Wallace Line, named after the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who noted the differences in mammal and bird fauna between the islands either side of the line. Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia are all portions of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which started to break into smaller continents in the Cretaceous era, 130-65 million years ago. New Zealand broke away first, more than 80 million years ago, and Australia broke free from Antarctica about 45 million years ago. All the Australasian lands are home to the Antarctic flora, descended from the flora of southern Gondwana, including the coniferous podocarps and Araucaria pines, and the broadleafed southern beech and proteas. As Australia moved north into the desert latitudes, the continent became hotter and drier, and the soils poorer and leached of nutrients, causing the old Antarctic flora to retreat to the humid corners of the continent in favor of new drought- and fire-tolerant flora, dominated by the eucalyptus, casuarina, and acacia trees, and by grasses and scrub where the rainfall was too scarce to support trees. Today, Australia is the smallest, driest, flattest continent on Earth. Geologically, New Guinea is the northern extension of Australia, separated only by a shallow continental shelf that has served as a land bridge when sea levels were lower, particularly in the Ice Ages. New Guinea shares many families of birds and marsupial mammals with Australia. New Caledonia is an old fragment of Gondwana; other nearby island groups, including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, were pushed up by the collision of the Australian plate with other oceanic plates. These islands were colonized by plants and some animals from New Guinea and New Caledonia, and are considered part of the Australasian ecozone based on those affinities. New Zealand had no mammals (except for bats) until the arrival of humans. Birds adapted to ecological niches, such as grazers, insectivores, and large predators that have elsewhere been taken by mammals. New Zealand remained in the cool and humid latitudes, and lost many plant and animal families that were intolerant of its cool climate, including the araucarias and most proteas, as well as crocodiles and turtles. Large reptiles, including crocodiles and huge monitor lizards, e.g. the Komodo dragon, are ecologically important predators in Australia, New Guinea, and Wallacea. There are 13 endemic bird families, including emu, cassowary, kiwi, kagu, cockatoos, birds of paradise and honeyeaters. The arrival of humans to Australia and New Guinea 50-60,000 years ago brought dogs (dingos) to Australia, and dogs and pigs to New Guinea. Pigs and rats arrived on New Zealand with the first Polynesian settlers 1000 years ago. The arrival of the first humans coincided with the extinction of much of the native megafauna (see Holocene extinction event). The arrival of Europeans brought a whole host of new animals and plants, including sheep, goats, rabbits and foxes, to Australasia, which have further disrupted the native ecologies; a great many Australasian plants and animals are presently endangered.

Australasian robinAustralasian robins—the bird family Petroicidae includes roughly 45 species in about 15 genera. All are endemic to Australasia or nearby areas, and includes not just robins but the Jacky winter, the New Zealand tomtit, some flycatchers, and scrub-robins. Most species have a stocky build with a large, rounded head, a short, straight bill and rounded wingtips. They occupy a wide range of wooded habitats, from subalpine to tropical rainforest, and mangrove swamps to semi-arid scrubland. All are primarily insectivorous, although a few supplement their diet with seeds. Hunting is mostly by perch and pounce, a favoured tactic being to cling sideways onto a tree trunk and scan the ground below without moving. Social organisation is usually centered on long term pair-bonds and small family groups. Some genera practice cooperative breeding, with all family members helping defend a territory and feed nestlings.

Australasian shoveler—Anas rhynchotis, an uncommon duck, the Australasian shoveler was the first of the New Zealand ducks to take to the open ocean as a refuge from hunters. There are two sub-species of Australasian shoveler, the nominate rhynchotis which breeds in Australia and varigata which breeds in New Zealand. Distributed throughout south-eastern and south-western Australia, preferring inland cumbungi and coastal tea-tree swamps. Habitat may be freshwater or saline. Unlike other dabbling ducks, the Australasian shoveler cannot supplement its diet by grazing on grass roots or grains. The edges of their bills have fine growths—lamellae—through which only soft foods can be sieved. They feed on fresh water invertebrates and the seeds of aquatic plants. They are sometimes found on flooded pasture but only to feed on worms and insects. These birds are seldom heard but do have a soft chatter when flying. Other names: spoonbill, spoonie, blue-winged shovelers.

AustraliaAustralia—an island continent located in the Southern Hemisphere, southeast of Asia. The country is bounded on the north by the Timor and Arafura seas, to the east by the Coral and Tasman seas of the South Pacific Ocean, and to the southwest by the Indian Ocean. In land area, it is the world's sixth largest nation (7 682 300 square kilometres). Three-quarters of the country is arid desert, yet scientists estimate that Australia is home to more than one million plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else. Broadly defined, the country consists of four geographic regions: the Coastal Plains; the Central Eastern Plain; the Eastern Highlands; and the Western Tablelands. Australia is made up of the following States and Territories: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, Northern Territory and Canberra (the capital). Its closest neighbours are New Zealand to the east, Papua New Guinea to the north and Indonesia to the northwest. External territories include the Australian Antarctic Territory. European philosophers and map makers of the 16th century assumed a great southern continent existed south of Asia, because this supported their view of reason and balance. They called this hypothetical place Terra Australis, Latin for 'southern land'. Matthew Flinders, the first person to circumnavigate and map Australia's coastline, was the first person to publicly express his endorsement for the name 'Australia'.

Australia Acts, 1986—terminated all power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for Australia. The Australia Acts of 1986, which were passed in essentially identical forms by the state, Commonwealth and Westminster parliaments, completed the process of Australia's independence from the United Kingdom. No Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to the Commonwealth, to a State or to a Territory as part of the law of the Commonwealth, of the State or of the Territory.

Australia DayAustralia Day—26 January, the anniversary of the beginning of British settlement. On that day in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip became Governor of the Colony of New South Wales. The Australian Natives' Association promoted the use of patriotic symbols such as an Australian coat of arms, wattle blossom as a national emblem, and 'Foundation Day', first celebrated on 26 January in the centenary year of 1888. The colonies agreed to celebrate this annually as a national holiday, which eventually acquired the name of Australia Day.

Australia Felix—Latin for ‘fortunate southern land’. The term was first applied by Thomas Mitchell while serving as Surveyor-General for the Colony of New South Wales. His exploratory expedition to the hinterland was undertaken in search of potential grazing and farming land to support future settlements. Mitchell exceeded his orders, covering 1700km of hinterland from the convergence of the Murray and Darling rivers. He discovered a rich pastoral area – now central and western Victoria – that he referred to as Australia Felix. Settlers hastened into the newly described areas within months, creating a rapid development of settlements. About ninety percent of Mitchell’s route through Victoria came into productive use, mainly for wheat, sheep and cattle.

Australian Aboriginal languages—there are more than 200 Australian Indigenous languages. About 20 languages are strong, but endangered: the others have been destroyed, live in the memories of the elderly, or are being revived by their communities.

Australian Academy of Science—an official body that makes submissions to government ministers and parliamentary inquiries. The President of the Academy is, by virtue of that position, a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. The Council advises the Prime Minister on important scientific issues. The role of the 22 National Committees of the Academy is to foster a designated branch of natural science in Australia, to serve as an effective link between Australian scientists and overseas scientists in the same field, and to advise Council on relevant matters.

Australian adjective—(the great....) the word 'bloody'—arguably Australia's greatest adjective because of its extensive use, signifying either approval or disapproval.

Australian admiral butterflyAustralian admiral butterflyVanessa itea, an Australian migratory butterfly with a wingspan to 6.5cm. Its wings are black on the extremes and rusty-orange closer to the body and on the lower wings. On the upper wings there are creamy patches. The caterpillar stage of this butterfly has an orange-yellow stripe down its side, and branched spines across its body. The caterpillars feed on the native stinging nettle. Usually found in wetter forested areas, wherever its favoured food plant grows.

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