Australian Dictionary

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Australia Decoded

Savanna Woodland

Savanna Woodland near Mt Barnett, WA

SA—1. South Australia. 2. Salvation Army.

sack—the dismissal meaning of sack comes from the old habit of tradesman carrying the tools of their trade in a sack or bag. When the boss hands you your sack of tools, he's telling you to leave.

Sacred Canyon—the site of ancient Aboriginal rock engravings in the Flinders Ranges. The Ranges were once part of a major Aboriginal trade route, and these routes were chiselled in the sandstone using a piece of granite, probably traded by people from Cape York. The engravings symbolise animal tracks, waterholes, campsites and other information. Located 19km from Wilpena in South Australia.

sacred ibisThreskiornis aethiopica, a large, short-legged ibis, having white plumage and a sooty black, naked head and neck, and some black plumes in the tail. This bird is also called inh adn alhungand in Olkola, which means "the bird with the burned ass," because of the black feathers in its tail. Sacred ibis often fly in a large group in a V-formation. All birds in the formation flap their wings simultaneously and all glide together. Although they feed mainly in swampy or water-covered ground they are often seen feeding in freshly ploughed fields and grasslands.

sacred kingfisherTodiramphus sanctus, a small, brightly coloured bird with a call described as a staccato kee-kee-kee. They are found throughout most of Australia (except in the arid central deserts), in forests, mangroves and trees along river courses. They are a watchful bird, but perch high up in trees rather than the usual low branches over rivers, as do most kingfishers.

sacred site—a natural feature in the landscape that marks a significant event in the Dreamtime, for example where power was left behind or where the ancestors went into the ground and still remain. Very sacred sites are places where significant events took place. If sacred sites are disturbed, it is believed that there will be fatal, cataclysmic consequences for the Aboriginal people, as the sites are a fundamental part of their relationship to the land. Such sites require protection under Aboriginal law, and many have restrictions on their access. Knowledge of a clan's law and the Dreamtime is accumulated through life. Ceremonies, such as initiation ceremonies, are avenues for passing on this knowledge.

safe as houses—not involving any danger or risk.

safe seat—a seat in a parliament etc that is usually won with a large margin by a particular party.

saffronheartHalfordia kendack, an attractive tree that grows to 30m tall. White-headed pigeons eat the berries of this tree, and the leaves are a food plant for the Capparieus butterfly. The leaves are soft but slightly leathery, dark and glossy, and aromatic when crushed. Small white flowers, about 10mm, are produced in summer. The fleshy fruits of saffronheart are dark purple-coloured, ellipsoid shaped, and about 1.5cm x 1cm in diameter. Saffronheart grows in well-developed upland and mountain areas in sub-tropical rainforest. This species distribution is restricted to closed forests and rainforests within Queensland.

sagg—(see: spiny-headed mat-rush).

Sahul Banks—a continental shelf area that is shared by Australia, Indonesia and East Timor.

Sahul Shelf—part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent and lies off the coast of mainland Australia. The Sahul Shelf proper stretches north-west from Australia much of the way under the Timor Sea towards Timor, ending where the seabed begins descending into the Timor Trough. Another part of the Sahul Shelf is known also as the Arafura Shelf and runs all the way from the northern coast of Australia under the Arafura Sea to New Guinea. The Aru Islands rise from the Arafura Shelf. The Sahul Shelf is sometimes taken to also include the Rowley Shelf which runs out under the Indian Ocean from the north-west coast of Australia as far south as North West Cape. When sea levels fell during the Pleistocene ice age, including the last glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago, the Sahul Shelf was exposed as dry land. Evidence of the shoreline of this time has been identified in locations which now lie 100-140m below sea level. A useful interactive timeline of sea level changes has been developed by Monash University. The Arafura Shelf formed a land bridge between Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands and these lands share many marsupial mammals, land birds and freshwater fish as a result. Lydekker's Line, a biogeographical line, runs along the edge of Sahul Shelf where it drops off into the deep waters of the Wallacea biogeographical area. Wallacea sits in a gap between the Sahul Shelf and the Sunda Shelf, part of the continental shelf of Southeast Asia. The name "Sahull" or "Sahoel" appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged sandbank between Australia and Timor. On his 1803 map, Matthew Flinders noted the "Great Sahul Shoal" where Malays came from Makassar to fish for trepang. The existence of the much larger Sahul Shelf was suggested in 1845 by G.W. Earl who called it the "Great Australian Bank" and noted that macropods ("kangaroos") were found on Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands. Earl also suggested the existence of the Sunda Shelf which he called the "Great Asiatic Bank". The Sahul and Sunda shelves were given their present names by G.A.F. Molengraaff and Max Wilhelm Carl Weber in 1919.

sail close to the wind—to get close to the limits of decency or honesty.

sail in—act boldly.

sail under false colours—deceive by behaving abnormally.

sailing on uncharted waters—going into the unknown; doing something without experience or knowledge of what lies ahead.

Saint Louis blues—(rhyming slang) shoes.

Saints—1. St Kilda VFL football team. 2. St George New South Wales Rugby League football team.

salad days—a period of youthful inexperience.

Sale of Wastelands Act 1842—the means by which the Commonwealth Parliament brought all grants of Crown land under legislative supervision: the institution of pastoral leases as a way of controlling squattage.

Sale of Wastelands Amendment Act 1846—the common starting point for the evolution of Crown leasehold tenure, including pastoral leases, in what are now the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. It was here stipulated that pastoralists outside the settled districts of the colony held their lands on leases of 8 or 14 years duration, for low annual rents. The right of resumption was retained by the Crown; and a right of pre-emption of the fee simple of the land or part thereof, was granted to the Crown's leasehold tenants. The governor of New South Wales was empowered to grant leases of land in the unsettled districts for any term not exceeding fourteen years, for pastoral purposes.

saline river system—occurs in many low positions, often following lines of ancient drainage. They are frequently associated with lunettes, dunes formed on the downwind side of lakes. These have a significant role in salt economy, as habitat for halophytic plant communities, and as a major breeding site for the banded stilt.

salinity—increasing salinity is one of the most significant environmental problems facing Australia. While salt is naturally present in many of our landscapes, European farming practices which replaced native vegetation with shallow-rooted crops and pastures have caused a marked increase in the expression of salinity in our land and water resources. Rising groundwater levels, caused by these farming practices, are bringing with them dissolved salts which were stored in the ground for millennia. Salt is being transported to the root-zones of remnant vegetation, crops, pastures, and directly into our wetlands, streams and river systems. The rising water tables are also affecting our rural infrastructure, including buildings, roads, pipes and underground cables. Salinity and rising water tables incur significant and costly impacts, which are separated both in time and space from its causes. This means that while Australia's salinity problem is already significant, it is expected to increase as a result of past and present practices. For example, the National Land and Water Resources Audit estimates that 5.7 million hectares have a high potential for the development of dryland salinity, and predicts this to rise to 17 million hectares by 2050. One of the worst affected areas is the once fertile wheat belt in the south-west of Western Australia. However, the problem is also widespread across South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality seeks to prevent, stabilise and reverse trends in dryland salinity and to improve water quality and secure allocations for a range of uses.

Salisbury Lake (Lake Altiboa)—a salt water lake surrounded by sandhills and clay flats, occurring on the southern edge of the Bulloo Overflow, approximately 100km south-east of Tibooburra. It is a good example of an inland salt lake in relatively natural condition, and is an important waterbird habitat. When flooded, it supports up to 39,000 waterbirds. Over 53 different waterbird species have reported on the lake.

sallee/sally—any of several eucalypts and acacias resembling the willow.

Sallies—members of the Salvation Army.

sally wattle—(see: Sydney golden wattle).

salmon gumEucalyptus salmonophloia, commonly a medium to tall tree up to 20m and 0.6m diameter, with branches spreading upwards and outwards, and a glossy green crown. Under favourable conditions the tree can reach 30m. The smooth, reddish-pink bark of late summer fades to grey. The species is found from York to east and south-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Goldfields craftsmen rated salmon gum as good for turning, machinability, boring, screwholding, stability, sanding, gluing and finishing.

salt marshes and mangroves—mangroves are dominant in tidally inundated coastal, predominantly in tropical areas, and are vital breeding ground for marine and freshwater life. Salt marshes occur inland of mangroves. Migratory waders use salt marshes for feeding and estuarine crocodiles can be found here.

salt paperbarkMelaleuca halmaturorum, a shrub or small tree which ranges in height from 3m to 6m. It has thick, pale coloured papery bark and is often irregularly and/or multi-stemmed. Its leaves are small, narrow, dull green and form a dense crown. Buds, cream-coloured flowers and fruit occur in small, well-spaced clusters between October and December. It is chiefly found on low-lying saline sites which are subject to water-logging. Because of its unusually high tolerance to these harsh conditions, it often grows in thick, pure stands.

salt pipewortEriocaulon carsonii, a specialised species growing only on natural springs. It is generally associated with vegetated mounds that have formed organic fen soils. Fen soils are the alkaline equivalent to the acidic peat bog. The species appears to prefer areas of shallow standing water with slow flow. Salt pipewort is considered endangered.

salt-water couchPaspalum distichum, a perennial with long, creeping rhizomes and stolons; leaves stiff, narrow, about 15cm long. The leaf-blades are usually narrow, up to 4mm wide, often less, folded and with inrolled margins. A summer-growing perennial, it occupies salt seepage areas in the 400mm-750mm rainfall area of Western Australia. It must have moist areas in summer but persists during the dry season. Adapted to marshy, brackish conditions and saline soils which are moist in summer. Once it is established it is virtually impossible to graze it out. It is very productive if no more than half of the current season's growth (by weight) is grazed off. Hard-surfaced soils can be cultivated to assist the runners' rooting. The plants should be well established before grazing is allowed. Its main attributes include its adaptability to saline land, thus providing soil stabilization and beach protection, as well as light grazing. It is a littoral species occurring in sands and muds near the seashore, and in saline soils and swamps. It is useful in erosion control on salted lands and areas reclaimed from tidal influences. Tolerance to salinity Excellent. In Western Australia it has grown successfully in salt seepage patches where the ground water just below the surface contained 3000mg of sodium chloride per litre. When the salt content was as high as 12,000mg per litre however, it did not grow satisfactorily. Also known as sea-shore paspalum in Western Australia.

saltbush—a group of native plants endemic to dry, saline soils, occurring from mulga lands right into the Warrego floodplains. Saltbushes possess roots that will penetrate to four metres depth, tapping into the water profile and lowering the water table. This, in turn, reduces the amount of salt available to shallow-rooted plants, enabling the regrowth of grasses that are more palatable to sheep. Saltbushes are an important part of Queensland’s grazing resource, particularly the species known as old man saltbush. Growers who want to take more wool off the sheep's back, only need to add a little saltbush. That's what scientists at the CSIRO have discovered through a series of local trials, which show feeding sheep on saltbush promotes wool growth by 15 to 20 per cent. The CSIRO says the trial was based on the theory that saltbush increases the sheep's ability to convert feed into wool.

saltbush country—saltbush is dominant in scrub country, on the margins of the deserts. The saltbush is mostly of the deep-rooted, stubby variety, and though of a very uninviting aspect, fattens sheep very quickly. It grows very clear, lustrous wool, though tending to an undue fineness. Red and grey kangaroos, emus and hairy-nosed wombats live in this country. Located in South Australia.

saltbush shrublands—generally occur as a diverse vegetation community on open clay plains. Species composition and structure varies according to soil type. Native grasses are sparse but groundlayer plants, including pigface, are plentiful. Saltbush shrublands were far more extensive at the time of European settlement than currently exist. Much of the saltbush country has been converted to grassland or degraded shrubland due to past grazing management.

saltie—(see: saltwater crocodile).

saltland pastures—pastures that are associations of salt- and waterlogging-tolerant plants that produce fodder for grazing animals from areas of the landscape affected by salinity and waterlogging. They have been planted and grazed in Western Australia (WA) since the late 19th century and their use has been promoted actively since the 1940s. Saline land consists of a range of ecological zones of differing productivity created by variations in the severity of salinity, waterlogging and inundation. About half of WA's saline land is suited to various kinds of saltland pasture. The remainder is too saline and should be fenced to allow it to revegetate naturally with samphire and salt- and waterlogging-tolerant trees like swamp sheoak

saltmarsh—a coastal zone between a mangrove belt and dry land that is subject to inundation at high tide. This wetland is occupied mainly by herbs and dwarf shrubs able to tolerate extremes of environmental conditions, notably waterlogging and salinity.

saltwater crocodile—found in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and swamps of the Australian tropics, from along the east coast south of Mackay all the up the coast to Cape York, and across the coastline of the northern half of Australia. Saltwater crocs are also found off beaches, and even a considerable distance up rivers and creeks in this region. While females can grow up to 4 meters in length, males can reach 7 meters in length and weigh over 1000kg. No one is certain how long saltwater crocs can live, the only age records are from zoos and crocodile farms, which have kept individuals captured as adults for over 50 years. Also known as estaurine crocodile, saltie.

Salvation Army in Australia—began in Australia when two Christian mission converts met in the Pirie Street Wesleyan church in Adelaide and subsequently decided to commence Salvation Army activities by holding an open air meeting in the Botanic Park there in September 1880. They wrote to William Booth requesting officer leadership and when the first officers, Captain and Mrs Thomas Sutherland, arrived in February 1881 they were met by an enthusiastic group of "home grown" Salvationists. In 1882, while still in his twenties, James Barker was appointed Commander of the Salvation Army 'in all the colonies of the southern seas'. He and his wife Alice arrived in Australia in 1882. Since then, a network of 800 Salvation Army centres caring for spiritual and social welfare has been established throughout Australia.

Salvos—members of the Salvation Army.


samphireHalosarcia spp., a group of succulent, highly salt-tolerant, perennial shrubs. They are found on waterlogged saltland throughout the agricultural areas in Western Australia. Extensive, natural stands of samphires are associated with the salt lake systems in the wheatbelt, providing useful grazing. Because sheep are more salt tolerant than cattle, samphire is better suited to grazing by sheep. Research into the use of samphires has shown that it is possible to harvest seed and obtain a seed sample suitable for sowing through a drill.

San Remo—a fishing settlement located at the western tip of the Anderson Peninsula, opposite Newhaven on Phillip Island. San Remo was the landing point for George Bass on his 1797 voyage, during which he explored a thousand kilometre of coastline from an open whaleboat. This voyage resulted in the discovery of Westernport, and confirmation of the existence of the Bass Strait. The town dates back to 1840 when the deep water port at Griffiths Point was used to export local products such as wattle bark, farm produce and cattle. The township that grew up around the port became a popular tourist spot and in 1888 was renamed San Remo after the town on the Italian Riviera. Commercial fishing in San Remo began around 1909 when rail links with Melbourne enabled quick transport to city markets. Today the San Remo/Newhaven area is one of Victoria’s significant ocean and bay fishing ports. San Remo is located 122km south-east of Melbourne.

sand goanna—(see: sand monitor).

sand monitorVaranus Gouldii, a large monitor lizard, reaching an average length of 140cm and can weigh as much as 6kg. It is a terrestrial reptile that excavates large burrows for shelter. Rock escarpments and tree hollows are also suitable dwellings. They can be found in Northern and Eastern Australia where they inhabit open woodlands and grasslands. Varanus flavirufus, a subspecies, resides in Australia's interior. There are some places however where the ranges of Gould's, flavirufus and argus monitors overlap. The similarities between the species and their close proximity frequently cause confusion. The sand monitor is a relentless forager—anything smaller than itself will be eagerly devoured. The diet of hatchlings and juveniles often consists mostly of insects and small lizards but generally varies more with age. Adult monitors will prey on mice, large insects, small agamids and geckoes, smaller varanids, snakes and carrion. Ackies, rock monitors and other dwarf species are often found and eaten. It lays it eggs in termite mounds to protect them from the harsh desert climate. Goannas, like snakes, have forked tongues which they regularly flick side to side near the ground or amongst leaf litter and are thought to be looking for olfactory clues to prey. In northern Australia it is active throughout the year; in the south, it is inactive in the cooler months. In some Aboriginal languages, the sand goanna is called bungarra, a term commonly used by non-aboriginal people in Western Australia, too. Also known as Gould's monitor, racehorse goanna, sand goanna, bungarra.

sand palm—Livistonia humilis,a small but abundant Livistona with dull green, deeply dividend palmate leaves. The slender trunk is covered in old leaf bases, offering some protection from the frequent grass fires. This species will hybridise with L. inermis where their ranges overlap. They are quite spectacular in the savannah woodland around Darwin when their yellow flowers rise well above the crown. They grown on all open lowland forest. Stocker considers the occurrence of closely related species in the monsoon forest and open Eucalypt forest (L. benthamii, L. humilis), supports the hypothesis that the monsoon forest communities are very old communities which were probably well established in Northern Australia before the development of eucalypt dominated open forest communities. This would indicate that L. humilis has evolved and adapted with the open eucalypt forest though its distribution is still restricted to the higher rainfall areas. It is nevertheless the most widespread species present in the Northern Territory.

sand spinifex grassSpinifex sericeus, a perennial grass up to 30cm tall, with strong creeping runners that produce roots and numerous upright, leafy branches at the nodes. The leaves are silvery on the upper surface, and the under-surface has a dense covering of short, silky hairs.

sand whitingSillago ciliata, a common species of coastal marine fish of the family Sillaginidae, the smelt-whitings. It is a slender, slightly compressed fish that is very similar to other species of Sillago, with detailed spine, ray and lateral line scale counts needed to distinguish the species between its nearest relative Sillago analis. The sand whiting inhabits a range along the east coast of Australia from Cape York, Queensland, southward along the coast and the Great Barrier Reef to eastern Victoria and the east coast of Tasmania down to Southport. The species also inhabits a number of islands; Lord Howe Island, New Caledonia, and Woodlark Island, Papua New Guinea. It commonly inhabits shallow, sandy substrates in bays, estuaries and surf zones where it preys on polychaete worms, small crustaceans and bivalve molluscs. Reproduction in the species is variable over its range, generally spawning twice between September and April. Young fish inhabit shallow sand flats, both along the coast and well into the upper reaches of estuaries. First described in 1829, the species has long been prized as a table fish. The sand whiting is an inshore species, inhabiting exposed coastal areas such as beaches, sandbars and surf zones as well as quieter bays, estuaries and coastal lakes. The sand whiting is a schooling species, whose movements are associated with a variety of factors including prey, lunar patterns and spawning movements; although there appears to be little consistency in its movements in relation to these factors. Like other sillaginids, they have the ability to 'burrow' into the sand and remain hidden until a predator or seine net has passed by. The sand whiting's distinctive body shape and mouth placement is an adaptation to bottom feeding, which is the predominant method of feeding for all whiting species. All larger whiting feed by using their protrusile jaws and tube-like mouths to suck up various types of prey from in, on or above the ocean substrate, as well as using their nose as a 'plough' to dig through the substrate.

sand-groper—person from Western Australia.

sand-shoe—a shoe with a canvas, rubber, hemp, etc sole for use on sand.

sandfly—1. any midge of the genus Simulium. 2. any biting fly of the genus Phlebotomus transmitting the viral disease leishmaniasis.

sandgroper—a burrowing insect endemic to Western Australia. Of the 16 known species of sandgroper, 14 are native to Australia and five exclusive to WA. the sandgroper can grow to 6cm long and sport six legs, the first pair modified for digging. Sandgropers burrow just below the surface after heavy rain, leaving a distinctive raised trail. Farmers also find them in ploughed paddocks.

sandhill canegrassZygochloa paradoxa, an extremely drought-resistant species that plays an important role in stabilising dunes and trapping windborne sand. It is the dominant dune species in Sturt National Park, providing cover for many of the smaller birds, and hidden entrances for the burrows of small mammals. The white-winged fairy-wren frequents clumps of this grass, as does the elusive Eyrean grasswrens.

sandhill dunnartSminthopsis psammophila, an endangered marsupial mouse known to live only in a few sites in South Australia and the south-western corner of the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia.  It is found in low sand ridges that are covered with hummocks of porcupine grass or mallee-broombush. It is the second largest of the dunnarts and the only one that is sometimes active during the day. Sandhill dunnarts have been captured at only a few widespread locations in the Great Victoria Desert of Western and South Australia, and the Eyre Peninsula.

sandhill wattleAcacia ligulata, a shrub in the family Fabaceae. Endemic to Australia, it is one of the most widely distributed plants in the country, distributed even more widely than mulga, although not as common. Sandhill wattle grows as a bushy, spreading shrub up to seven metres high. Like most Acacia species, it has phyllodes rather than true leaves. These are greatly variable, ranging from four to ten centimetres long and five to ten millimetres wide. The flowers are an orange-yellow colour, and held in spherical clusters. The pods are woody, with constrictions between the seeds, up to twelve centimetres long and one centimetre wide. Also known as umbrella wattle, umbrella bush, dune wattle, small cooba.

Sandhurst—the town of Bendigo, prior to 1891.

sandie/sandy—Queensland sand-crab.

sandplain—a soil type occurring in areas of ancient seabeds. Areas of sandplain are commonly found on drainage divides, and sandplain seeps locally discharge low-salinity groundwater, though the storage is low and the seepage dependent on annual rainfall. A large area of the eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia consists of sandplain soils. Water movement below plant roots on these soils has implications for groundwater recharge and secondary salinity. Western Australia's south coast sandplain, traditionally devoted to grazing enterprises, covers 1.6 million hectares, from Albany to Condingup and extending inland about 60km.

sandplain seeps—small areas of salinity and waterlogging, which can be the focus of soil erosion. The seeps derive from a shallow groundwater system, which flows from the deep sandplain soils upslope. Sandplain soils are more permeable than the underlying, clay-rich hardpan upon which the aquifer develops. The seeps represent as much as 10 % of Western Australia's salt problem in the drier agricultural areas.

sandstone heathlands—although not formally listed as a threatened community, the sandstone heathlands of Arnhem Land appear to meet the federal criteria for listing. The prevailing fire regime is leading to broad-scale loss of obligate re-seeder plants, which provide much of the ecological fabric of this community. This change is being exacerbated by rapid proliferation of exotic pasture grasses (especially gamba grass and mission grass), which dominate the understorey and build up extremely high fuel loads. There are 29 listed threatened species which occur in the bioregion. These include many localised plant species as well as species associated with sandstone heathlands.

sandstone shrike-thrushColluricincla woodwardi, a melodious bird of high sandstone escarpments, including Katherine Gorge, Kakadu and Victoria River in the Northern Territory.

sandwich short of a picnic—(to be...) to be lacking in intelligence.

sandwich tin—layer cake pan.

sandy blightChlamydia trachomatis, an infection that can lead to blindness. With the poor housing conditions of the early settlers, and with the heat, dirt and flies of Australia, trachoma (or "sandy blight" as it was often called) became widespread and well known. It even left its stamp on certain place names (e.g., Sandy Blight Junction in the Western Desert and the Ophthalmia Ranges in the Western Australian Pilbara). In the 1930s sandy blight had essentially disappeared as most Australians moved into proper housing with separate beds, running water and adequate sewerage and rubbish removal. Despite the disappearance of trachoma from most of the Australian population, it has remained prevalent among certain groups of indigenous Australians. Australia is the only developed country in the world where blinding trachoma still exists.

Sandy McNab—(rhyming slang) cab; taxi.


SAO biscuit—this large, square, flaky cracker was first launched in 1906. The origin of the name remains a mystery, although plenty of myths abound. One is that it was the name of a ship that used to call in at Newcastle port, and its captain was a friend of the Arnott family. Another is that it was the name of a sailing boat that was seen on Lake Macquarie in New South Wales, where William Arnott had a house. Or it could be the initials for Salvation Army Officer, as William Arnott’s son, Arthur, joined the Salvos. Another is that it is based on the initials of Samuel Arnott, William’s son.

Sapphire Coast—also known as the Bega Valley, it is the most southerly coastal region in NSW. The unique coastline abounds in deserted beaches, tranquil rainforests, serene rivers and lakes, and picturesque mountain backdrops. From Wallaga Lake in the north, where you can go on a cultural tour with local Aborigines, through to Wonboyn Lake, a great fishing spot just north of the Victorian border, this region offers many alternatives for the tourist. The northern coastal town of Bermagui is famous for its links to the American author Zane Grey, who often enjoyed gamefishing here. The main commercial and government centre of the Sapphire Coast is Bega, a very typically Australian, large country town. Merimbula is located around beautiful lakes and their entrance to the Pacific and along the neighbouring coast. Further south, Eden is well known for its historical association as a centre for whaling and now for its fishing and timber industries. The whale museum here gives a fascinating insight into the history of the area and the industry.

Sarah Island—(or Settlement Island) Tasmania's oldest convict settlement, operating from 1822-1833. Altogether, about 1200 men and women were sentenced or sent to Sarah Island. Most of them had committed further offences while serving their original sentences; others came as 'remittance men', skilled tradesmen who worked at the settlement in exchange for remission of their sentence. Convict labour was used to extract Huon pine and limestone from the lower reaches of the Gordon and Franklin rivers. Nearby Grummet Island was used to separate the female convicts from the male convicts. The island had neither a regular water supply (water had to be shipped 6km from Phillips Island each day) nor good soil. By 1834 the settlement had been abandoned and a new penal settlement had been established at Port Arthur. There are few ruins on the island today. Most of the buildings were of timber construction, much of which has rotted away. Located found in the far south-west corner of Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of Tasmania.


sassafrasDoryphora sassafras, starry white flowers cover the tops of the trees, distinguishing them from the other canopy species with which they grow. Particularly fragrant foliage, reminiscent of the North American laurel, Sassafras albidum, distinguishes our sassafras. A history of use for flooring, cabinet work, linings, mouldings and turnery of the soft, yellow, fragrant timber has given rise to many of the names evocative of sunny colour. The strongly scented bark was once used as a tonic, and an on-going bonus is the insect-repelling property of the wood. Sassafras is very abundant in the temperate rainforests of New South Wales and southern Queensland. Also known as yellow sassafras, golden sassafras, golden deal, canary sassafras, New South Wales sassafras.

satin bowerbirdPtilonorhynchus violaceus, a pigeon-sized bird that constructs an elaborate bower on the forest floor from twigs, leaves and moss. Male satin bowerbirds decorate their intricate bowers mainly with blue items. The adult male has glossy blue-black plumage, a pale bluish-white bill, and a striking violet-blue iris. Younger males and females are similar in colour to each other, and are collectively referred to as 'green' birds. They are olive-green above, off-white with dark scalloping below and have brown wings and tail. Satin bowerbirds prefer the wetter forests and woodlands, and nearby open areas, although those around the Atherton Tableland are largely rainforest inhabitants. The mature males are mostly solitary, but the green birds are often seen in groups or quite large flocks. In winter (outside of the breeding season), birds move to more open country and occasionally enter orchards. At this time, mature males may join the green bird flocks. They have an amazing variety of sounds, including whistles, buzzing and hissing, as well as mimicry. The male also gives a loud weeoo. When they are not feeding, the males spend much of their time perched in the bower, calling to potential mates and warning off potential rivals.

sauce—impudence; cheek.

sauce for the goose—what is appropriate in one case (by implication, appropriate in others).

sauced—drunk; intoxicated.

sausage—a goal in Australian Rules football (from rhyming slang: sausage-roll).

sausage roll—sausage meat encased in pastry and baked.


savannah—a vegetation type with scattered trees over a grassland, usually found in tropical to sub-tropical areas. Often correlated with a highly seasonal climate with rain in the summer season, old geomorphic landscapes, poor drainage conditions and the prevalence of fire.

savanna woodlands—Australia has the most extensive and least disturbed tropical savanna left in the world, and Cape York's savanna woodlands are the most diverse in the country. These are wilderness areas larger than anything else on Australia's east coast. These woodlands encompass dozens of different types of vegetation – from the 30m-tall ironbark forests of the Aurun Plateau, to the delicate paperbark swamps of the lowlands. Messmate woodlands are the most common on the Cape, but in such a large area, there is a complicated patchwork of bloodwoods, stringybarks, boxes, melaleucas, and other eucalypts. Beneath these canopies, there is a diverse layer of undergrowth, sprinkled with cycads, palms, grass-trees, wattles, grevilleas, banksias and a huge variety of flowering shrubs. In each vegetation association there are animals, birds and insects that are specially suited to that particular habitat. The continuous carpet of constantly changing vegetation provides an enormous diversity of habitats, and allows animals to move freely from one area to another without the barrier of roads, farmland or large towns. By day, hawks and eagles soar above the savannah, and at night large owls and bats take their place. Lizards range from 1.5m-long goannas, to tiny skinks and geckos. Pythons, tree snakes and their more poisonous cousins bask in the dappled sunlight. Northern quolls, brush-tailed phascogales, dunnarts and marsupial mice hide in the undergrowth. Prowling dingos are their greatest foe. Some woodland inhabitants, like the golden-shouldered parrot and the red goshawk are nationally endangered. While others, like the Cape York rock wallaby and the palm cockatoo, are only found on Cape York. Termite mounds are the trademark of the tropical savanna. Termites play an important role in the woodland ecosystem by breaking down wood and leaf litter and turning it back into soil. They are also a major food source for insect-eating birds and animals like the short-beaked echidna. Fire is also an important element of the woodland ecosystem. Many fires are sparked by lightning, while others are lit as part of long-standing Aboriginal management practices, or more recently, by pastoralists. The trees and animals of the savannah have adapted to periodic burning, so that without it the landscape would change significantly.

save (one's) bacon—save, rescue (oneself) in a selfish manner.

save (one's) breath to cool (one's) porridge—1. don't bother speaking as it is not required, nor will it be listened to. 2. reserve (one's) energy for a more worthwhile, profitable cause.

saveloy—a seasoned red pork sausage, dried and smoked, and sold ready to eat.

savoiardi—Lady Fingers.

saw-shelled turtleElseya latisternum, the shell of this turtle grows to about 20cm in length, and has a serrated edge along the carapace. There are five claws on the forefeet and four on the hind feet. They are active throughout the day, basking and feeding on fruits, crustaceans, mollusks and fish in swamps, billabongs or creeks. During courtship, which occurs throughout the year, males will approach female saw-shelled turtles with a series of head bobs. If the female is willing, she allows him to touch her vaginal opening with his snout, signaling the start of a hearty mating session. The female buries up to 15 eggs in the riverbank of a stream. There is no parental care after these eggs have been laid. Distributed throughout river systems of north-eastern Australia.

Saxon merinos—a strain of Australian merino sheep which is found exclusively in the higher rainfall country of southern Australia—especially in the highlands of Tasmania, the cooler and wetter regions of Victoria and the tablelands of New South Wales. Just as these climactic and pastoral conditions contrast with those where the South Australian Merino is found, so too in almost every respect do the sheep. Physically the smallest of the Merino types, cutting the lowest weight in wool (4-5kg.), the Saxon Merino is without peer in the quality of wool produced. Specifically, this wool is extremely bright and white in colour, soft to handle and fine (i.e. narrow) in diameter. These features make this wool prized by the textile industry for the highest quality and most expensive cloths it can produce. Superfine Saxon merino wool normally commands distinct price premium in the market.

say a mouthful—to speak (one's) thoughts forcefully.

scabby—contemptible; mean; shabby; awful.

scale—to travel on public transport without paying: e.g., Kids often scale trams.

scallops—potato-cakes in Queensland, sea scallops in other states.


scaly tree-fernCyathea cooperi, a popular tree fern in cultivation, this beautiful species has lacy fronds that spread into a 5m crown. It is endemic to Australia, in New South Wales and Queensland. Cyathea cooperi is a medium-to-large, fast growing tree fern, to 15m in height with a 30cm thick trunk. The apex of the trunk and unfurling crosiers are particularly attractive, covered as they are with conspicuous long, silky, straw colored scales. The crown is widely spread and the light green fronds may reach a length of 4-6m. The species is one of the most commonly cultivated tree ferns as an ornamental plant. It is used in gardens and public landscaping. It is hardy and easy to grow. Heavy frosts may kill the fronds, but plants recover quickly. The plant prefers protected, shady moist conditions but can be grown in sunny areas. It does not do well in full sun and must be well watered. It is sometimes mislabeled in the nursery industry as Cyathea australis. It has naturalised in Western Australia, South Australia, and parts of New South Wales where it is not native. It has also naturalized in Hawaii and has become a problem there as an aggressive invasive species. Also known as the Australian tree fern, lacy tree fern, scaly tree fern, or Cooper's tree fern,

scaly-tailed possum—the single species, Wyulda squamicaudata, is restricted to the Kimberley division in northern Western Australia, inhabiting areas with trees and rocks in the broken sandstone country of savannah woodlands in the hot tropics. It was known only from four specimens until 1965, when eight more were collected. It subsequently has been observed with more regularity. Head and body length is 290-395mm, tail length is about 250-325mm, and adult weight ranges between 1.4 and 2.0kg. The fur is short, soft, fine, and dense. The prehensile tail is densely furred at the base and has non-overlapping, thick scales for the remainder of its length. Short, bristly hairs are present around the scales. This is the only member of the family Phalangeridae with a tail of this kind. The head is short and wide. The claws are short and not strongly curved. It is nocturnal and scansorial, apparently sheltering by day among the rocks and emerging at night to feed on leaves, blossoms, fruit, insects, and possibly small vertebrates. After leaving the rocks, it reportedly climbs the nearest tree and then crosses from tree to tree without coming down. It appears to be solitary, though a captive individual was said to be gentle and affectionate and to make a chittering noise like a bird. The scaly-tailed possum was once considered endangered but is now less threatened.

scandal—gossip; talk in general: e.g., What's the latest scandal around town?

scarlet banksiaBanksia coccinea, generally a shrub to about 4m but can grow taller. The leaves are broad with toothed margins. The conspicuous flowers are fairly squat in comparison with other banksias and bright orange/red in colour. The spikes are about 100mm wide by a similar length and are held terminally on the stems. They are seen in late winter through to early summer (June to January). The seeds are enclosed in follicles attached to a woody cone and are generally retained within the cone until burnt. The plant is fire-sensitive in that it does not have lignotuber for vegetative regeneration after bushfires. The species relies on seed for regeneration. It readily succumbs to the root rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi, which flourishes in areas of summer rainfall and humidity. Thus, cultivation of this plant is next to impossible on the east coast from Sydney northwards. It prefers sandy, very well drained soils and has been grown with some success on the sandy soils of the Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne, as well as in Adelaide. The terminal flowers are ideal for cut flower arrangements and plantations of suitable forms of the species for the cut flower trade are being developed in suitable areas. Natural distribution: Woodland on deep sand along the south coast of Western Australia.

scarlet gumEucalyptus phoenicea, a small tree to around 12m, with a slender trunk. Bark is yellow to yellow-brown, flecked, flaky and fibrous on the trunk, smooth and white or cream on upper branches. The adult leaves are grey-green, lance-shaped, long, thin and pointed, and have a flattened stalk. The beautiful, bright orange flowers are borne in unusual spherical heads of 12 to 20 flowers. Flowering extends over a long period, and a wide range of birds and insects find the flowers attractive. Endemic to the Top End of the Northern Territory, Kimberley region of Western Australia and an isolated occurrence near Cooktown, Queensland on stony ridges and slopes. Also known as fiery gum.

scarlet robinPetroica multicolor, larger (12cm—14cm) and more abundant in the Perth area than the similar red-capped robin. They can be distinguished by the white forehead. The scarlet robin feeds on insects by ambushing or pouncing on prey from a perch, and may 'hawk' out to catch prey on the wing. Sweet melodic song and harsh scolding. Breeds August to January. The nest is a cup of bark, moss, grass and spiderwebs. Distribution: south-west WA; eastern SA and NSW; Victoria and Tasmania.

scarlet-chested parrotNeophema splendida, a small parrot displaying little sexual dimorphism. The scarlet-chested parrots are very unobtrusive birds, not easily flushed, and spend most of their time on the ground or in low shrubs. They are usually found in isolated pairs or small parties or 10 or less. Often found far from surface water, and it is suggested that it obtains water by drinking dew or chewing water storing plants. The courtship display consists of the male hopping around the female in an animated and excited manner, taking short flights from time to time. Like the other Neophemas, male scarlet-chested parrots also engage in tail fanning and spreading the wings slightly and, similarly, often conclude the display with courtship feeding. Breeding is often determined by rainfall and food availability, but generally August-January. The usual nesting site is a small tree cavity at varying heights, most often in acacia or small eucalypt, and nesting is loosely colonial. Distributed erratically across the arid interior of southern Australia from far western New South Wales to the vicinity of Kalgoorlie, WA, in arid mallee and acacia scrub, especially with triodia ground and a sandy substrate. Other names: scarlet-breasted parrot, scarlet-chested grass-parakeet, splendid parrot, splendid grass-parakeet. Seeds of various (native) grasses (especially triodia) and herbaceous plants.

scarper—to leave in a hurry.

scatty—thoughtless; frivolous; silly; foolish.

scented paperbarkMelaleuca squarrosa, a common shrub growing to 2m, of wet scrub or heath. Opposite leaves with glandular dots, arranged in four rows; when you look down the stem, they are about 5mm—15mm long and relatively broad and flat. The flowers are yellow to yellowish-white bottle brushes, and leave capsules sessile in groups on the stem. Grows in mixed forest.

scented sun orchidThelymitra aristata, the largest of the sun orchids, with scape or flower stem up to 80cm and flowers 3cm across, will have up to 30 flowers open on a single stem. Typical of this genus, flowers during the hot summer months of late November to January.

scentless rosewoodSynoum glandulosum, a rainforest tree that grows to a maximum height of 18m. Flowers are white to pale pink-orange. Flowering period is February to August. Fruit is a red capsule up to 2cm in diameter containing 2-4 brown seeds. Timber red, close-grained and suitable for cabinet work but not used often because of its small size. Fruit eaten by green catbird.

Schanck, Captain John—a captain in the British Royal Navy and inventor of the sliding keel. The first boat built with a sliding keel was the Lady Nelson, whose maiden voyage was first commanded by Lieutenant James Grant as he undertook the first full survey of the coastline of Australia after Bass and Flinders. During this voyage, the Lady Nelson became the first British ship to brave the Bass Strait.

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