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Australia Decoded

Bird's Nest Fern

Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium australasicum)

bin—1. prison; 2. garbage/trash can.

Bin Bin, Dooley—On 1 May 1946, 800 Aboriginal station workers walked off sheep stations in the north-west of Western Australia, marking the beginning of a carefully organized strike that was to last for at least three years, but never officially ended. The strike was more than a demand for better wages and conditions. It was, in the words of Keith Connolly in the Melbourne Herald, 'a well-considered statement by a grievously exploited people, standing up for their rights and dignity'. In late 1942, a secret congress was organized by Pilbara elders Dooley Bin Bin and Clancy McKenna, with many of the tribes in Western Australia attending—over a dozen interpreters were present to deal with 23 languages. The meeting, which lasted six weeks, was also attended by a long-time supporter of the desert people, prospector Don McLeod. The congress decided to organize a strike in the Pilbara region in order to demand better wages and conditions, and to draw attention to the treatment generally of Aboriginal people in Western Australia.


Bindari National Park—a rainforest park is in Dairyville, 20km west of Coffs Harbour, NSW, at the headwaters of the Urumbilum River. Bushwalks through pristine old-growth forests lead to cascading waterfalls, as the Urumbilum River plunges down from the Great Dividing Range. Tuckers Nob, in the south of the park, yields magnificent views over a deep rainforest basin, the Great Escarpment, and the coast. Just 20km inland from Coffs Harbour, Bindarri National Park is a beautiful natural playground just waiting to be explored. See the headwaters of Urumbilum River drop over the Great Escarpment, carving a series of spectacular waterfalls in its rugged mountain ravine. Hidden away in the mountains, you'll barely see another soul at Bindarri, yet you'll see plenty of local wildlife. Listen for lyrebirds calling in the rainforest and watch for swamp wallabies and red-necked pademelons in the forest. Bindarri National Park was declared in 1999 for its stunning natural, cultural and recreational values. It protects the escarpment between the Dorrigo Plateau and the Coffs Coast and links with other parks, state forest and private land to form a significant wildlife link from the mountains to the sea. Several streams cut deep gorges in the park, creating a dramatic landscape. Local Gumbalar Julipi elders identified the name for both the national park and the picnic area, Bindarray being a Gumbaynggir word meaning 'many creeks'. The headwaters of the Urumbilum River offer spectacular waterfalls in a remote and rugged setting. Pockets of old-growth forest are scattered across the plateau, and rainforest protects the steeper slopes. The park contains a host of rare species, including the giant barred frog.

binder—1. hearty, solid meal; a feat. 2. cheese.

bindi-eye—1. any of various small, weedy Australian herbaceous plants of the genus Calotis, with burr-like fruits: family Asteraceae (composites). 2. any bur or prickle [perhaps from a native Australian language].

Bingara—a small, one-time mining town, supported by the All Nations Gold Mine from 1880 to 1948. Diamonds were discovered in 1873, and by the 1890s the field was Australia's largest. It operated intermittently between 1872 and 1909. The 37,000-carat Star of the South diamond was found here. Today, the economy hinges on fine wool, beef cattle and mixed farming. Prior to white settlement, the district was sparsely occupied by members of the Kamilaroi tribe. Conflict was avoided because of the small populations of both settlers and Aboriginals in Bingara. The first European to visit the area was explorer Allan Cunningham, en route to the Darling Downs in 1827. Bingara, which is surrounded by cypress-covered mountains in the Gwydir River catchment area, is located 5 km north of Tamworth, NSW.

binghi—offensive term for an Aborigine, formerly used as a name for the 'typical' Aborigine.

bingie—stomach; tummy.

binman—a garbage collector.

Binnaway Nature Reserve—situated within the most extensive belt of Jurassic sandstone in the Oxley Basin. The reserve is a continuation of the Pilliga type of flora communities. It is dominated by white box, iron bark and woodland of tumble down gum and acts as an island refuge for local and migratory fauna. The reserve is managed to maintain a sample of the local natural environment for environmental monitoring and scientific research.

bint—girl; woman (often a foolish one).

biogeographic region—a land area composed of a cluster of interacting ecosystems that are repeated in similar form across the landscape. The biogeographic regions of the IBRA are based on factors associated with climate, lithology, geology, landforms and vegetation.

bioregions—large land areas characterised by broad, landscape-scale natural features and environmental processes that influence the functions of entire ecosystems. The pattern of these landscape features are linked to fauna and flora assemblages as well as ecosystem processes.

biosphere—that component of the Earth system that contains life in its various forms, which includes its living organisms (plant and animal life) and derived organic matter (e.g. litter, detritus, soil).

biosphere reserve—one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is an international designation made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the basis of nominations submitted by countries participating in the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB).

bird—1. young attractive woman; girlfriend. 2. strange, eccentric person. 3. (horse racing) a certainty to win. 4. an aeroplane. 5. a prison sentence; a prison.

bird's nest fernAsplenium australasicum, an epiphytic rainforest fern with a nest-shaped rosette of radiating fronds. This "nest" catches dead leaves and other debris, as well as rainwater. In time, this debris rots down to form humus, feeding the fern's roots. Grows in wet forests and rainforests of the south and central coasts of New South Wales and coastal Queensland to Cape York. It grows on trees (epiphytic) or rocks (lithophytic) and occasionally in the soil. It consists of large, elliptical-shaped fronds arising from a central stem to form a deep, saucer shape. The spreading fronds can reach about 3m in diameter. Propagation is carried out from spores, which are situated on the underside of the fronds in parallel rows. The species is easily confused with A. nidus, which occurs on Cape York in north Queensland, and through New Guinea, tropical South East Asia and Africa and to Tahiti and Hawaii. Some old books still confuse the two species.

bird-dropping spiderCelaenia kinbergi, a spider whose colour pattern resembles a bird-dropping. Feeds at night, almost exclusively on male moths. Attracts its prey by releasing a sex pheromone similar to that produced by female moths. It sits with forelegs outstretched awaiting the approach of the evening meal, its web being dedicated to the suspension of egg cases. Despite its large size, this squat, black, brown and white spider sits huddled on a leaf or branch during daylight hours, often in quite exposed positions. Its colouration and immobile posture fools predators into thinking that the spider is a blob of dung rather than a healthy meal. Found throughout much of eastern and southern Australia, they are moderately common in suburban gardens but often overlooked. Also known as the death's head spider, as its markings can be seen to resemble a skull.

bird-eating spiderSelenoiosmia cresipes, one of Australia's largest spiders, also known as the barking or whistling spider—from a sound that is made by rubbing their palps with their fangs as a warning when disturbed. The largest spider of this family has a body 60mm long and a leg span of 160mm—almost the size of a man's hand. Bird-eating spiders are covered with velvety hairs, including their legs, and have small eyes in a clump on the front of their head. They have claw tufts which enable them to run up smooth surfaces.

bird-lime treePisonia umbellifera, a small tree to 10m with very attractive foliage and fruit that is sticky to touch. It is a species of plant in the Nyctaginaceae family. It grows throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, being native to the Andaman Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Hawaii and Madagascar and the states of New South Wales and Queensland in Australia. Some North Queensland Aboriginal groups used the very sticky fruit of this plant to trap ground-feeding rainforest birds. Birds were caught when they stepped into the sticky fruit placed in a circle around a lure. Birds entering the circle became encumbered with the capsules, making flight difficult and capture easy.

Birds Australia—the officially recognised ornithological authority; formerly, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union.

Birdsville—the most isolated town in Australia and the service centre for outlying pastoral properties. Founded in 1873, the town's population of about one hundred people has varied little between then and now. Prior to Australian Federation (1901), it was the centre for the stock routes to the Channel Country, and a Customs collection point. A toll was payable on stock and supplies entering South Australia. Birdsville is noted for its extreme heat and its bush-race meeting, held annually since 1886. Located between the Simpson Desert and Sturt's Stony Desert in the far south-west of Queensland, on the celebrated Birdsville Track.

Birdsville horse disease—a disease of horses caused by eating Indigofera linnaei, a disease of Australian horses marked by drowsiness, emaciation, incoordination, labored breathing, and terminal convulsions, frequently ending fatally in 7 to 10 days, and being of uncertain etiolog. May be prevented by dietary supplementation with protein. There are no lesions specific to the disease. A nitrotoxin is suspected as the cause..

Birdsville indigoIndigofera linnaei, a prostrate Australian herb which causes Birdsville horse disease.

Birdsville Races—a bush race meeting with a difference, held in September of each year. The first race meeting was held on 31 December 1886.

Birdsville Track—the track from Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland, is the best known and loneliest road in Australia. It was opened up in the 1860s to muster cattle from the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland to the nearest railhead, which at that time was at Port Augusta, in South Australia. The Birdsville Track to Marree is one of Australia's three most-travelled droving routes, with ten cattle stations spread along its 300-mile length.

birdwing vinePararistolochia praevenosa (formerly Aristolochia praevenosa), foodplant of the Richmond birdwing butterfly. The vine is endemic to lowland subtropical rainforest, which has been cleared almost to extinction in south-east Queensland. In response to this loss, the dependent Richmond birdwing butterflies have also become extinct in more than half their former range. Compounding the problem is the exotic Dutchman’s pipe vine, introduced from Brazil. Dutchman's pipe attracts the Richmond birdwing butterflies to lay eggs on it, but is toxic to the hatchling caterpillars that feed on its leaves.

biro—brand-name of a popular ballpoint pen, hence, any ballpoint pen.

birridas—in the Gascoyne region, this term refers to what is elsewhere known as salt pans or clay pans. These consist of a thin surface crust over a bog, caused by an up-welling of groundwater. They range in size from small depressions about 100 metres in diameter to irregular shaped depressions that may be several kilometres long. They commonly consist of a raised platform ringed by a moat-like depression that can fill with water to shallow level during very high winter tides when groundwater is raised. Dormant eggs hatch after rain, making the water come alive with horseshoe crabs and brine shrimp. Migrating wading birds from as far away as Siberia feed on these crustaceans. Some birridas are connected to the sea by channels and receive seawater.


bit of all right—pleasing person or thing.

bit on the nose—smelly.

bit on the side—an extramarital sexual relationship.

bite at the cherry—share in the proceedings, action, profits etc.

bite (someone) for a loan—to cadge.

bite (someone's) ear—annoy, nag, harass, harangue (someone).

bite your bum!—shut up!; be quiet!

bitie—any insect whose bite is annoying, e.g., midgies, sandflies, spiders etc.

bitou bushChrysanthemoides monilifera, a native plant of South Africa, bitou bush was introduced into New South Wales during the 1950s and 60s to stabilise sands after mineral sand mining. In the absence of the South African organisms that usually feed on it, bitou bush has choked native Australian vegetation. In the early 1970s, it was discontinued from use but by then it was too late—bitou bush was firmly established along more than half of the coastline of New South Wales. Ironically, one of the plants being choked—golden wattle—has become a major pest of coastal dunes in South Africa, where it was introduced to serve much the same purpose as bitou bush in Australia.

bits and pieces—odds and ends: e.g., I've been running around all day doing bits and pieces.

bitser—person or animal (but particularly of a dog) of mixed blood or stock.

bitten—cheated; tricked: e.g., Once bitten, twice shy.

bitter bark—in the past the Alstonia tree, also known as milkwood because of its milky sap, provided a popular fever tonic which was thought to rival quinine. The bitter taste contributed to its nickname of bitter bark and which led to its reputation as a quinine alternative since that plant was equally bitter. It could not fully rival that of the cinchona (quinine) species, but it did eventually prove to be a useful medicine for other reasons, especially in lowering blood pressure. The Aborigines collected the sap on a twig and put it on small sores. It was handled with great care, as eye contact could cause blindness. Also known as: fever bark, Alstonia bark, Australian quinine, Australian febrifuge, devil tree, dita bark, pale mara, devil's bit, pali-mara.

bitter pill—1. an unpleasant lesson in life. 2. an unpleasant or repugnant experience which must be endured.

bitumen—a surfaced road, especially the Stuart Highway between Darwin and Alice Springs.

bitumen blonde—an Aboriginal woman with bleached hair.

bizzo—1. nonsense; foolish, irrelevant details or matters. 2. term for an object of which one does not know the actual name.

Bjelke-Peterson, Sir Johannes "Joh"—(1911-2005), an Australian politician. He was the longest-serving and longest-lived Premier of Queensland, holding office from 1968 to 1987, during which time the state enjoyed considerable economic development. His uncompromising conservatism (including his role in the downfall of the Whitlam federal government), his political longevity, and his leadership of a government that, in its later years, was revealed to be institutionally corrupt, made him one of the best-known and most controversial political figures of 20th century Australia. Bjelke-Petersen's Country (later National) Party controlled Queensland despite consistently receiving the smallest number of votes out of the state's leading three parties, achieving the result through a notorious system of electoral malapportionment, or gerrymander, that gave rural votes a greater value than those cast in city electorates. Yet, Bjelke-Petersen was a highly popular figure among conservative voters and over the course of his 19 years as premier he trebled the number of people who voted for his party and doubled the party's percentage vote, reducing his Liberal coalition partners to a mere six seats in the 1983 election. In 1985 Bjelke-Petersen launched a campaign to move into federal politics and become prime minister, though the campaign was eventually aborted. Bjelke-Petersen was a divisive premier and earned himself a reputation as a "law and order" politician with his repeated use of police force against street demonstrators and strongarm tactics with trade unions, leading to frequent descriptions of Queensland under his leadership as a Nazi police state. From 1987 his administration came under the scrutiny of a royal commission into police corruption and its links with state government ministers. Bjelke-Petersen was unable to recover from the series of damaging findings and after initially resisting a party vote that replaced him as leader, resigned from politics on 1 December 1987. Two of his state ministers, as well as the police commissioner Bjelke-Petersen had appointed and later knighted, were jailed for corruption offences and in 1991 Bjelke-Petersen, too, was tried for perjury over his evidence to the royal commission. The jury failed to reach a verdict and Bjelke-Petersen was deemed too old to face a second trial. As Queensland State premier he was known chiefly for his attempts to block Aboriginal rights, particularly one incident, which ended in a civil suit for racial discrimination (see Koowarta vs. Bjelke-Peterson). Often quoted (humorously) for his oft-used rejoinder to requests for political information: "Don't you worry about that," and his description of being interviewed by the press, which he termed "feeding the chooks".

black and tan—drink made with beer and stout.

black ashEucalyptus seiberi, a medium-sized to tall forest tree. Bark is rough and flaky, like a bloodwood (orange tinge) in young trees, and hardens into brown or grey-black, deeply furrowed ironbark in mature trees on trunk and larger limbs. Sheds, revealing smooth, white surface on upper and smaller branches. Young sapling leaves are pink but turn glossy green. The tree exhibits white flowers, with 7 to 15 flowers on thin, flattened peduncles. Favours cool to warm, humid to sub-humid climate. Occurs widely in south-eastern Victoria and New South Wales on tablelands and coast ranges, and in north-east Tasmania. Also known as silvertop ash, silvertop coast ash.

black ban—refusal of suppliers or producers to supply; refusal of consumers to purchase; refusal of a group to supply services in a dispute; boycott.

black beanCastanospermum australe, a majestic tree common to the rainforests of Queensland and northern NSW. The starchy seeds of this tree are poisonous, but were eaten by Aboriginal people after careful preparation. Seeds were cracked and soaked in water, then pounded and formed into cakes, then roasted. The washing in water removes some of the soluble toxins, while roasting destroys others. The common name derives from the fruit, a large, woody pod that turns black after falling from the tree. Also known as Moreton Bay chestnut due to the flavour of the prepared seed.

black boxEucalyptus largiflorens, a medium-sized tree with narrow, grey-green leaves and rugged, dark grey bark on the trunk and branches. It grows slowly to 20m tall and wide. The species name means "large and glittering", and refers to the creamy white flowers it produces in the spring. The bark is rough bark on trunk and branches.

black box woodlands—occur on clay soils on low-lying sites subject to infrequent flooding, and as ribbon stands along creeks or in or around swamps. Black box can exist with either a grassy or a shrubby understorey, depending on flooding frequency and site. There are still significant (though much reduced) areas of black box woodlands in the Southern Riverina. The major issues affecting its survival are changed water regimes and grazing management.

black cockatoo—any of five species of large, crested parrot of the genus Calyptorhyncus: red-tailed black cockatoo, C. banksii; glossy black cockatoo, C. lathami; yellow-tailed black cockatoo, C. funereus; short-billed black cockatoo, C. latirostris; and long-billed black cockatoo, C. baudinii.

black currantAntidesma ghesaembilla, a spreading shrub to 3m, commonly occurring near creeks and rivers across northern Australia. The fruit have a sweet and pleasant taste. Most population produce only a few fruit per inflorescence, but some populations in certain areas produce much larger fruit in great profusion. The fruit stain the lips and tongue a dark blue colour. Fruit are produced in the wet season and early dry, from January to April. The timber of larger plants is used to make spears and the fruit are also used to make a blue colour for fibrecrafts.

black currawongStrepera fuliginosa, a large passerine bird native to Tasmania. One of three currawong species in the genus Strepera, it is closely related to the butcherbirds and Australian magpie within the family Artamidae. It is a large crow-like bird, around 50cm long on average, with an 8 cm wingspan, yellow irises, a heavy bill, and black plumage with white wing patches. The male and female are similar in appearance. Within its range, the black currawong is generally sedentary, although populations at higher altitudes relocate to lower areas during the cooler months. The habitat includes densely forested areas as well as alpine heathland. It is rare below altitudes of 200m. Omnivorous, it has a diet that includes a variety of berries, invertebrate, and small vertebrates. Less arboreal than the pied currawong, the black currawong spends more time foraging on the ground. It roosts and breeds in trees. The Black Currawong was first described by ornithologist John Gould in 1836 as Cracticus fuliginosus, and in 1837 as Coronica fuliginosa. The species is often confused with the local dark-plumaged subspecies of the grey currawong (S. versicolor). Although crow-like in appearance and habits, currawongs are only distantly related to true crows, and are instead closely related to the Australian magpie and the butcherbirds. The sexes are similar in plumage, which is all black except for white patches at the tips of the wings and tail. The bill and legs are black and the eyes bright yellow. The white tips line the trailing edges of the wings in flight, and a paler arc across the bases of the primary flight feathers is also visible on the underwing. The oldest recorded age of a black currawong has been 15 years. The black currawong is a loud and vocal species, and makes a variety of calls. Its main call has been described as a combination of alternating kar and wheek sounds, killok killok, or even akin to part song and part human laughter. Parents also make a long, fluting whistle to summon their young. The black currawong is endemic to Tasmania, where it is widespread. It breeds mainly in the Central Highlands, with scattered records elsewhere in Tasmania. It is also found on many islands of Bass Strait, including the Hunter and Furneaux Groups. Also known as sooty currawong, black bell-magpie, black or mountain magpie, black or sooty crow-shrike, and muttonbird. Black Jay is a local name applied to the species within Tasmania.

black cypress-pineCallitris endlicheri, a monoecious evergreen tree with mostly erect, sometimes spreading branches. The bark is tough and often deeply furrowed, the leaves are dark green, 2-4mm long. The seed cones are solitary or several together on rather slender, usually clustered, fruiting branchlets. The bark sometimes exudes a sticky gum, which Aboriginal people used as an adhesive. The black cypress-pine has wide distribution and occurs in many areas of New South Wales as well as Queensland and Victoria. It is usually found on stony hills or ridges, and is common from the plains to the coastal ranges. Trees are typically killed by canopy fire and the species regenerates from seed. The invasive, non-native Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis) has been implicated as preventing or greatly retarding seedling establishment by browsing on the seedlings, and some populations of the species are now declining or threatened.

black earths—or chernozems, are black or dark brown in colour and clay in texture, with a good granular structure in the surface soil, which becomes cloddy and massive in the deeper layers. They are usually slightly acidic to neutral in the surface, becoming neutral to alkaline with depth, with an horizon of calcium carbonate concretions at varying levels from eight inches to three feet below the surface. These occur on either side of the Eastern Divide, from central Queensland to Tasmania. Those in northern New South Wales and Queensland have areas where the surface soil is alkaline. All Australian soils in this group differ from their counterparts in Europe and North America in containing less organic matter, which falls with diminishing rainfall and increasing temperatures, and they are usually heavier in texture. On drying out these soils crack widely and deeply, and on wetting become very sticky. Prior to cultivation they show gilgai micro-relief. These are the most fertile arable soils in Australia, and are unique in the high levels of available phosphate they contain. They are also relatively rich in nitrogen, and, unlike the red-brown earths, the organic matter is distributed through the top two or three feet of soil. The addition of sulphur as fertilizer is sometimes necessary, and responses to zinc are obtained. Where they are formed on alluvium or on parent materials low in phosphorus they may also respond to phosphate. Rotations in the northern summer rainfall areas are more varied than in the south, and include wheat, sorghum and lucerne, linseed, safflower, millet and maize. Many farmers grow wheat continuously for several years, using a short summer fallow to conserve the summer rainfall for the winter growing crop. Only a small part of these soils is irrigated, but this includes the high-producing cotton growing areas irrigated from the Namoi River. Arable development of these soils was originally restricted because cultivation is only possible over a very narrow moisture range, and consequently only became an economic possibility with the use of tractors sufficiently powerful to complete the necessary cultivation in the limited time available.

black house spiderBadumna insignis, a common spider in southern and eastern Australia whose bite may cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and giddiness. Found on tree trunks, logs, rock walls and in the window frames and wall crevices of buildings. The carapace and legs are dark brown to black, and the abdomen is charcoal grey with a dorsal pattern of white markings (sometimes indistinct). Also known as the window spider.

black kangaroo pawMacropidia fulginosa is the sole species of the genus Macropidia—the remaining 11 species of kangaroo paw all belong to the Anigozanthos genus. Kangaroo paws are found only in the south-west of Western Australia, and the black kangaroo paw is even rarer—found only in heathland north of Perth. The branched flower stems are up to 1m high, and the flowers and stalks are covered by a dense layer of black hairs through which green can just be seen, a colour combination rarely seen in the plant world. It blooms best after a bushfire has swept through in the previous season. The flowers are known to be pollinated by six bird species: spiny-cheeked honeyeater, singing honeyeater, brown honeyeater, tawny-crowned honeyeater, white-cheeked honeyeater and red wattle bird. It is difficult to germinate from seed; commercially, it is multiplied from tissue culture.

black kiteMilvus migrans, a medium-sized (47cm to 55 cm) raptor. From a distance, it appears almost black with a light brown bar on the shoulder. The plumage is actually dark brown, with scattered light brown and rufous markings, particularly on the head, neck and underparts. The tail is forked and barred with darker brown. This feature gives the bird its alternative name of fork-tailed kite. The eye is dark brown and the bill is black with a yellow cere. The call is a descending whistle psee-err followed by a staccato si-si-si-si-si. The black kite is found in a variety of habitats, from timbered watercourses to open plains, and is often observed in and around outback towns, frequenting garbage tips as a scavenger. Its range covers the majority of the Australian mainland, as well as Africa, Asia and Europe. The black kite preys on lizards, small mammals and insects, especially grasshoppers. Although it is more normally seen in small groups, it may form huge flocks of many thousands of birds, especially during grasshopper plagues. It also is a scavenger, and frequents garbage tips in outback towns. Black Kites also gather in flocks around bushfires, and pounce on small animals as they flee the flames. Both live and dead prey is eaten. Black kites breed at any time of year, but usually between August and November, nesting in isolated pairs or in small, scattered colonies. As with other raptors, a ritualised aerial courtship display is performed by both sexes. This involves loud calling, grappling of talons, and tumbling or cartwheeling. The nest is a bulky cup of sticks lined with softer material, and is placed in the fork of a tree branch, generally close to the trunk. The female incubates the one to three eggs while the male provides food. The young birds hatch after about a month and fledge after a further 40 days.

Black Line—(hist.) a military operation launched in 1830 against the Aboriginal people in the settled districts of Van Diemen’s Land. A combination of soldiers, police, free settlers and freed convicts were ordered into position to drive Aboriginal people out of the settled districts. This phalanx of 2,200 men—including 550 troops—moved across the island of Tasmania in a highly organized manoeuvre lasting for six weeks, between 7 October and 24 November 1830.Their object was to drive Aboriginal bands in a south-easterly direction towards, and then across, the narrow isthmus and on to the Tasman and Forestier peninsulas. They were famously unsuccessful. The Aborigines simply slipped through the infamous "Black Line" each night, and the troops returned after weeks of hunting with only a small boy and an old woman to show for their efforts.

Black Mountain—gigantic piles of black granite boulders near Cooktown in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. Black Mountain's rocks are actually light grey granite, but appear black because they are covered with algae. These bare, blackened granite tors and boulders are a fire-proof habitat for tropical rainforest woody species of high vagility, such as. figs (Ficus spp.), whose roots reach deep into moist rock crevices. Geologists believe the boulders were once a molten mass that solidified deep below the earth's surface, 260 million years ago. Erosion gradually exposed the granite plug, and fractures began to separate the mass into the piles seen today. On very hot days, rain can cause the boulders to explode. Black Mountain is also home to the rare ghost bat, Australia's only carnivorous bat. The boulders are located about 30km south of Cooktown in Far North Queensland.

black noddyAnous minutes, a bird that nests primarily in pisonia trees. The noddy's flight is swift, erratic, and usually low over the sea. They feed largely on small fish, skipping above the water. They can often be observed in flocks where fish are jumping, due to being under attack from below by tuna and other large game fish. Noddies are distributed throughout islands in the tropical and sub-tropical oceans and do not range far from the coast. They nest amongst the branches of trees and bushes, making nests of sticks and seaweed. In courtship, the noddy nods its head vigorously towards the female, hence its name.

black peter—a prison cell.

black plumVitex glabrata, a tree to 10m high, it occurs sporadically in savannahs and monsoon vine forests in northern Australia, but is not common. The shiny black fruit are about 1cm in diameter, and very sweet and tasty. The fruit are available in the wet season from November to March. In the past, some Aboriginal groups sun-dried the fruit and then rubbed them with red ochre to keep the fruit for up to six months. The dry, straight branches of the tree are also used to make fire sticks.

black princePsalta plaga, a mainly black cicada endemic to Queensland and New South Wales. This insects lives and breeds in she-oaks, which are commonly found on riverbanks. The discarded carapace of the nymphs is worn with pride, like badges of merit, on the shirt-fronts of little boys.

Black Range—a region in Victoria that is central to the Dreaming of the Jardwadjali people. Traditional occupation of the area centred on rock outcrops for stone procurement, shelter and art sites. One of Australia's most important Aboriginal art sites, Bunjil’s Shelter, is located in the Black Range.

Black Range State Park—the park has more than 260 native vascular plant species and nine rare or threatened plant species, including the Mount Byron bush-pea, large-leaf ray-flower, small milkwort and Grampians bossiaea. The flora of Black Range is similar in character to that of the Grampians. Common plant species found in the park include yellow box, river red gum, messmate, Port Jackson pine, flame heath, heath tea-tree, honey-pots and weeping grass. Squatters selected runs on the more fertile plains surrounding the park, venturing into the Range only for limited stock grazing and timber harvesting. Black Range State Park is situated in western Victoria, 340km north-west of Melbourne.

black sallee—(see: black sally).

black sallyEucalyptus stellulata, a small tree to 15m tall with rough, fibrous bark on the lower trunk, and smooth bark that is shed in strips, creating green, grey and copper streaks and patches. This species usually is a multi-trunk tree with a wide-spreading crown. Native to New South Wales and eastern Victoria, often found on poorly drained sites or sub-alpine areas. Adult leaves are glossy green, juvenile leaves are a dull green. The white flowers are in clusters of 7 or more.

black she-oakAllocasuarina littoralis, one of the dense hardwoods that were preferred by Aboriginals for making the returning boomerang (wangim). Usually found growing in association with stringybark or ash trees.

black speargrassHeteropogon contortus is a perennial tussock grass that grows up to 1.5 m tall though it is rather variable in habit. Leaves and stems are green to blue-green and usually hairless or with only a few scattered hairs. The leaf sheath and blade are folded along the mid-rib and leaves are 5-30cm long. The seed heads arise singly or in pairs from the axils of the upper leaves. The spikelets are paired, with one member of each pair being fertile, the other being male or sterile. The fertile spikelet bears an awn (an elongated bristle-like appendage attached to the apex, back or base of the glume, lemma or palea) 5-12cm long, the basal part of which is twisted. The awns of the spikelets in a seed head intertwine at maturity. The genus Heteropogon has six species distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. H. contortus is a typical species of Australian tropical and sub-tropical tall grass vegetation, growing as an understorey in Eucalyptus spp. woodlands and open forests. The species is found in far northern New South Wales, across northern and eastern Queensland, across the Northern Territory and in the far north of Western Australia. It is most abundant where the average annual rainfall is 600-1000mm and where there are marked wet and dry seasons. H. contortus grows on a wide variety of soil types. Surface textures of soils supporting H. contortus range from sandy loam to clay loam, and soil profile morphology plays a minor role in determining distribution. It can grow on infertile sands and texture contrast soils but also on very fertile clay loams. It is much less common on some heavy clay soils, soils with poor drainage, under conditions of extremely low fertility and in saline situations.

Black Stump—1. an imaginary division, area. 2. outback; remote, imaginary place; last post of civilisation. 3. a unique festival of Christian music, art and teaching. People travel from all over Australia to be part of this Christian community for four days. With a diverse selection of music and arts from all over the country and OS, a huge elective program with a great collection of speakers, thinkers, teachers, preachers and communicators, Black Stump is a unique part of the Christian Community in Australia.

Black Sunday—on February 6, 1938, Sydney's Bondi Beach was hit by three tremendous waves. Out of the crowd of 35,000 people, only five were killed.

black swan—1. Cygnus atratus, an Australian swan with black plumage. White flight feathers contrast strikingly with otherwise black plumage, making it unmistakable in flight. Found on lakes in all parts of Australia as well as in New Zealand. Some favoured lakes in southern Australia attract these birds in the tens of thousands. Breeding season varies according to local conditions: generally, February-May in north-east Queensland and June-August in Western Australia. Nesting is in colonies, either close to the waterside in fringe vegetation or on small islands. Seagrasses are a major food for black swans. They eat large amounts of the thick, root-like rhizomes that spread under the mud. As the seagrass passes through the swan’s gut, some nutrients are absorbed but most of the plant is passed out of the swan, providing semi-digested food for a wide range of invertebrates. According to Aboriginal Dreamtime legend, the bunyip turned a group of black men into black swans. The black swan is Western Australia's bird emblem. 2. something extremely rare.

black taxi—government-funded car providing free transport for politicians, public servants etc.

black tracker—an Aborigine employed to help find persons lost or hiding in the bush.

black velvet—a drink of stout and champagne.

black wattleAcacia mearnsii, as a pioneer or scab plant, their roots are first to rapidly bind the erosion-prone soil following wildfires and, like peas, fix the atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi attach to their roots and produce truffles for bettongs, bandicoots, potoroos etc. The cracks and crevices in the wattle's bark are home for many insects and other invertebrates, including the rare Tasmanian hair streak butterfly, which lays her eggs in the cracks; these hatch to produce caterpillar larvae attended by ants that feed off the sweet exudates of the larvae. When ready to pupate these ants herd the larvae down the wattle and across the grassy understorey to white gum, where they pupate in protective bark crevices. Early this century the tannin industry thrived on tannic acid extracted from the black wattle bark; the subsequent logging of the wattle caused rapid deforestation of the woodlands in the early 1900s. Wattle and daub huts were constructed using the flexible limbs to structure a framework for supporting mud walls. This cottage-style structure was common in Australia's early colonial history. Aborigines used to soak the bark in a wooden waddie next to an open fire to extract antiseptics for treating cuts and aching joints. They also split the bark into lengths of coarse string to produce baskets and bind the flintheads onto their spear shafts. Mixed with ash when melted, it plugged holes in their water-carrying vessels and watercraft. The sap was so important that they melted and mixed it with burnt mussel shells or ashes and carried it about in balls when on walkabout. The sap was prized as a food; dissolved in water with a dash of sweet wattle flower nectar and a few formic ants for a lemony flavour, it was a quenching drink. When the black wattle was in full flower, the men sharpened their flint-headed spears, as then the roots were in the best condition for eating. Black wattle flowers provide very nitrogen-rich pollen with no nectar. They attract pollen-feeding birds such as wattle birds, yellow-throated honeyeaters and New Holland honeyeaters. Ants harvest the seed, attracted by the fleshy, oil-rich seed stalk, which they bury and store in widely dispersed locations. These seeds are buried ready for germinating with the next soaking rains. Aborigines would grind the seeds into nutritious flour rich in polysaccharides and very high in protein content. Flat bread, baked in the ashes, was the delicious wattle seed flower reward for the hours of grinding and winnowing.

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