Australian Dictionary

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Australia Decoded

West Cape Howe National Park, WA
photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

wedges—large, spiced chips.

wedgie—wedge-tailed eagle.

wee juggler—the Major Mitchell cockatoo.

weebillweebillSmicrornis brevirostris, Australia's smallest bird. They measure just 8cm—9cm, with northern Australian birds smaller than those in the south. Their common name comes from the short, stubby, pale beak. Weebills are dull grey-brown on the head and olive-brown on the back, and the underparts are buff to yellow. In the south and east of the country the birds are light brown, while northwards and inland they become paler and more yellow. The voice is wee bit or wee willy weetee. The weebill is found throughout mainland Australia. It inhabits almost any wooded area, with the exception of the wettest forests, but favours open eucalypt forests. It spends most of its time in the canopy, in pairs or small groups. The birds stay in the same area throughout the year. Weebills move in active flocks, feeding mainly in the outer edges of the tops of trees. The bill is well suited to taking small insects from the leaves; other insect prey is also eaten. They breed between July and May each year, although the times vary throughout the range. The nest is a neatly woven dome, made from grasses and other fine vegetation. It has a narrow spout-like entrance towards the top, and the interior of the nest is lined with feathers and soft vegetable matter. The female alone incubates the two to three eggs, which hatch after about 12 days. Both parents care for the young birds, which remain in the nest for about 10 days after hatching.

weei—an Aboriginal boy.

weekender—a holiday house or shack.

weelo—1. somebody who has mental disabilities. 2. a stalker who enjoys sniffing people. 3. a fat rat breader. 4. someone who should commit suicide.

weepie—a sentimental or emotional film, play, etc; tear-jerker.

weeping myallweeping myallAcacia pendula, a species of wattle, widespread in inland areas—it occurs naturally in dry outback areas in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Grows in major river floodplains and the Riverina Plain; often in large stands, sometimes as the dominant species on heavy clay soils. Foliage has a distinctive weeping habit and glaucous (blue-grey) colouration that is relatively palatable to livestock. During drought, trees are lopped for fodder. Prone to habitation by the bag-shelter moth, which occasionally kills trees. Alternative common names include myall, true myall, boree, silver-leaf boree, balaar and nilyah.

weeping tea treeMelaleuca leucadendra (syn Melaleuca leucadendron), a tall tree to 20m along natural creek bank habitat in water, mud or clay-based soils. Some forms have weeping foliage, others are more stiff in appearance. The most striking feature is its almost pure white, papery bark, whiter than other paperbark species. The tree has thick, spongy bark, similar to the broad-leaf paperbark tea tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia). However, the foliage of Melaleuca leucadendra is of a brighter green. White, bottlebrush-shaped flowers occur in autumn. Melaleuca leucadendra is widely distributed in northern parts of Australia (Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland). and has a slightly weeping habit. Cajuput oil can be distilled from the tree's leaves. The common name, cajeput tree, is derived from the Malay word kayu putih (old Indonesian spelling: kaju putih), meaning "white wood".


Weet-Bix®—famous Australian cold cereal, first made in Oct 1928, and now purchased by almost half of all Australian households.

weet-weet—an Aboriginal weapon and toy.

weigh into—1. physically or verbally attack. 2. begin with enthusiasm and energy: e.g., He really weighed into the food and drink.

Weilwan—alt. spelling of Wailwan.

WeipaWeipa—located 838km north of Cairns on a road that varies from the sublime to the horrendous, Weipa is a mining town with a population of over 3000 people. It is run by a Weipa Town Office under a special act of the Queensland Parliament which gave the town the status of a Special Bauxite Mining Lease and handed control over to Comalco Aluminium. The Weipa area was the first stretch of the Australian coastline ever explored by Europeans. The Dutch explorer Willem Jansz, sailing the Duyfken, first sighted the coast near Weipa in 1606. Matthew Flinders was the first person to note the possible mineral potential of the area, in 1802 while circumnavigating Australia. It wasn't until 1955, when geologist Harry Evans, realised that Matthew Flinders 'reddish cliffs' were, in fact, virtually pure bauxite that the potential of the area began to be exploited. The result is that Weipa is now the largest bauxite mine in the world. The known deposits are likely to last for another 250 years at the present rate of extraction. The Weipa township is totally planned. It was built by Comalco and the state government in the early 1960s and the port of Weipa was officially opened in 1962.

Weipa Plateau—a remnant of the much modified Cretaceous regression surface along the western side of the Cape York Peninsula, Far North Queensland. Commercial quantities of bauxite were discovered on Aboriginal lands at Weipa in western Cape York in 1955. The discovery was made by geologist Harry Evans who was assisted by George Wilson (Piiramu), Old Matthew (Wakmatha) and Lea Wassell. In 1961, six years after Evans' discovery, bauxite mining began on Cape York Peninsula. 1964 was the first year of commercial production with 453,365 tonnes of bauxite mined and shipped. Forty seven years later, in 2011, this annual production figure had increased to 20.7 million dry product tonnes (Mdpt). Rio Tinto interest increased from 72.4% to 100% in 2000.

Weipa Shell Mounds—to the south of the town of Weipa, on the banks of the Embley, Hey, Pine and Mission Rivers, are the strange phenomenom known as the Weipa Shell Mounds. These mounds contains something like 200,000 tonnes of shells which seem to have been placed in the area about 800 years ago. There are a number of theories as to the origin of the mounds (some of which are up to 9m high) but so far no one has offered an entirely convincing explanation.

well done—(of a task) performed well.

well in with—on good terms with; in a favourable position with: e.g., He won't get the sack—he's too well in with the boss.

well-in—well-connected; having influential friends: e.g., His is a very well-in family.

well-oiled—drunk; intoxicated.

well-shod—(of a car) having very good tyres.

wellies—Wellington boots; gumboots.

Wellington CavesWellington Caves—thought to have been discovered in 1830 by a New South Wales colonist, George Ranken, who accidentally fell into the entrance of one of the caves. In the same year the Surveyor-General, Sir Thomas Mitchell, visited the caves with Ranken and explored three of them. In one cave, now known as the Bone Cave were found fossilised skeletons of many giant animals which roamed the Wellington Valley millions of years ago. It is now reserved for the exclusive use of scientists from all parts of the world. Today, two caves are open for public inspection—the Cathedral Cave and the Gaden Cave. The Cathedral Cave is a vast area where visitors are confronted by a truly gigantic stalagmite, regarded as one of the largest in the world. This imposing formation rises from the dry earth floor to a height of about 15m, and measures about 32m around the base. Illuminated by hidden lights, it has a majestic appearance and is popularly known as 'the Madonna'. The Gaden Cave is smaller in comparison, but has unusual and exquisite formations. In the grounds is a large aviary containing many colourful Australian birds.

Wells, Lawrence Allen—last of the classical Australian explorers. A man widely versed and experienced in the desert sands of Australia; defining the Northern Territory and Queensland boundary 1884-86; the Elder Scientific Exploring Expedition 1891-92; the Calvert Expedition in Western Australia 1896-97 and the Government North-West Expedition in South Australia in 1903.

Wellstead Estuary—the catchment area comprises mainly agricultural land and the Fitzgerald River National Park.

Welsh dresser—a type of dresser with open shelves above a cupboard; a china hutch.

welsher—1. one who avoids paying back debts. 2. traitor.

Wemba-Wemba—Aboriginal people of north-western Victoria and south-western New South Wales.

went A over T/arse over tit—fell head-over-heels; fell heavily.

went down like pork at a Jewish wedding—1. failed to have the desired effect; flopped; failed. 2. was received with hostility or lack of amusement.

went for a sixer—1. fell heavily and clumsily. 2. suffered a severe setback.

William C WentworthWentworth, William Charles—pioneer landowner, explorer and politician whose extensive influence helped develop Australia's education and political systems. Wentworth was born in New South Wales in 1793 and educated in England. On his return in 1810 he was granted land on the Nepean River, and three years later participated in the first (white) crossing of the Blue Mountains with Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson. Wentworth's next major venture was the establishment, with Robert Wardell, of the newspaper The Australian. This was the first independent paper in the colony, and was used as a vehicle for Wentworth's "emancipists" to promote representative government (based on land ownership) and trial by jury. He resisted the efforts of Governors Macquarie and later Darling to regulate the paper, and saw trial by jury extended to the colony's courts in 1830. In 1835 Wentworth founded the Australian Patriotic Society which later drafted the constitution of New South Wales. In 1842 a legislative council with some elected members was formed, and Wentworth became a member in 1843. He argued strongly for the interests of land owners to extend self government, helping to draft a new constitution which became law in 1855. Wentworth's influence also contributed to the establishment of the first state primary education system in New South Wales, and he founded the University of Sydney in 1852. Wentworth returned to England in the mid 1850s, where he died in 1872. His main political rival, Henry Parkes, described Wentworth as "beyond doubt the ablest man in the community."

Wergaia language group—for thousands years, Aboriginal people of the Gur balug clan were sustained by the rich waters and woodlands of the Lake Hindmarsh area of Victoria. The neighbouring Karroit balug and Porronne gundidji clans were located along the Wimmera River, upstream from Jeparit. These three clans were among 20 making up the Wergaia language group. The Wergaia clans covered a large part of the surrounding woodlands and mallee scrub still called by its Aboriginal name wimmera. With the arrival of the first squatters and their flocks, the Aborigines' traditional lifestyle and social and cultural structures were severely affected and their numbers rapidly declined. Explorer Edmund John Eyre followed the course of the Wimmera River in 1838 and named Lake Hindmarsh after the first governor of South Australia. By 1859 the Ebenezer Mission Station was established at Antwerp, between Jeparit and Dimboola, to provide for the remaining Aborigines. The mission closed in 1904 but the ruins remain.

Werribee—a small Victorian town that began as a settlement in the Port Phillip district. Early pastoral leaseholds included members of John Batman's Port Phillip Association. Rural amalgamation began in the early 1850s, shortly after a village reserve was surveyed, and on a massive scale. The town of Werribee was named after the river on which it is situated. The name is thought to derive from an Aboriginal word for 'spine' or 'backbone', which accurately describes the strong visual curve of the river over the nearly treeless plain. Werribee is located about 27km south-west of Melbourne.

Werribee GorgeWerribee Gorge—the result of five hundred million years of geological history, as revealed by the down-cutting action of the Werribee River. From anciently folded sea-bed sediments through glacial material to relatively recent lava flows—accelerated in the past million years by the formation of the Port Phillip sunkland along the Rowsley Fault—the gorge is vitally important for the preservation of native flora and fauna, since most of the surrounding land has been cleared and farmed for many years. Trees include red ironbark, grey box, manna gum varnish wattle, golden wattle and the white cypress-pine, usually found north of the Great Dividing Range.

Werribee Park—originated as a pastoral property covering more than 93,000 acres. The property, which was owned by the Chirnside family, was largely self-sufficient and supported an extensive rural workforce. The 60-room Chirnside Mansion—constructed between 1874 and 1877 in the Italianate style and situated on 10ha of formal gardens—is the largest private residence in Victoria. The restored mansion houses a large collection of furniture and artwork from the 1880s. The park lands, including the gardens and lawns, form part of an important corridor for wildlife. Many species of birds have been recorded within the park, including significant species such as the Australian white ibis, great egret, swamp harrier, a number of migratory waders, and cormorants. The park is also home to the forest eptesicus bat, which shelters in the hollows of protected trees. Located on basalt plains west of Melbourne, the park contains remnant patches of shrubland on rocky outcrops; box and riparian woodlands; and mature stands of river red gums.

Werribee River—begins as a small creek in the Wombat State Forest, it flows through Ballan and Bacchus Marsh, where it meets the Lerderderg River. The Werribee continues until its waters are held back by the Exford Weir, creating the Melton Reservoir. The river becomes tidal at the Werribee Park mansion, continuing to flow gently to Port Philip Bay, thus completing a journey of some 110km.

Werrikimbe Nat'l ParkWerrikimbe National Park—a World Heritage-listed place of wild magnificence, wrapped within the dramatic fold of the Great Dividing Range where two rivers, the Forbes and Hastings, begin their journey to the coast. The remoteness and size of Werrikimbe—the park covers 31,488ha—require several days to fully explore. A rich bio-diversity of plants and animals, extensive wilderness, excellent rainforests, wild and scenic rivers, Werrikimbe is a perfectly pristine wilderness. You can't go driving at will around this park but there is one road, Racecourse Trail, which gives you access to the parks highlights. The trail runs for 20km across the top section of Werrikimbe, where it forms the border with another remote national park, Oxley Wild Rivers. You'll see subalpine swamp, heath, snow gums and the soft grey-greens of the cool-climate eucalypt forests. In spring, the high country wildflowers alone make this a spectacular drive. This is where to keep an eye out for the park's rare plants and animals, including the rufous scrub bird and the Hastings River mouse—originally believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981 in the Forbes River. Rare plants include the pygmy cypress and the filmy king fern. Located inland of Port Macquarie (about 300km north-east of Sydney), the Werrikimbe National Park is about 90km from Walcha and 80km from Wauchope, on the eastern escarpments of the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales.

Wessel Islands—a chain of small islands extending 120km north-east from the Napier Peninsula in north-eastern Northern Territory, and into the Arafura Sea. They were named as a group for a Dutch ship that explored the area in 1636. The islands form the western gate to the Gulf of Carpentaria at Cape Wessel, their northern extremity.

West Cape HoweWest Cape Howe—as well as being home to the greatest amount of climbing in Western Australia, West Cape Howe is home to Australia's finest sea cliff climbing, which is arguably the best in the world. The area is similar in size to Pembroke. West Cape Howe is a serious place. It's a long way from civilisation, the Southern Ocean can be rough and unpredictable, and the climbing is challenging.

West Cape Howe estuary—a pristine example of coastal heathland, with patches of jarrah, karri and she-oak forest. This area contains the southernmost point in Western Australia, Torbay Head, which is a key feature of West Cape Howe National Park. The coastal scenery throughout the area consists of high cliffs interspersed with beaches, and granite outcrops surrounded by coastal heathland. Sea eagles nest on the cliffs, and the splendid wren, whose call is a feature of much of the bushland, is easily spotted in the spring. Whales and dolphins are visible off West Cape Howe or at Lowlands Beach. One of the south coast's most popular parks for walking, fishing, swimming and hang-gliding. Care should be taken when exploring the coast; king waves can be dangerous and have been known to rush in unexpectedly, with fatal consequences. Located 17km north of Torndirrup National Park.

West CoastWest Coast—covering 9574.5sq km, the West Coast municipality is the gateway to Tasmania's wilderness. Coastal populations include Strahan, situated on Macquarie Harbour, and the picturesque shack sites of Granville Harbour and Trial Harbour. The inland population centres of Queenstown, Zeehan, Tullah and Rosebery are all within a short distance from magnificent lakes, rivers, rainforests, dunes and historic sites. With a population of approximately 5500, the West Coast is celebrated for its tourism, mining and fishing.

West Sahul—a region within the Indian Ocean that contains conservation values not represented elsewhere in protected areas of the Oceanic Shoals Bioregion.

Western Arnhem Land—a highly dissected sandstone plateau. The region's most dominant feature is a 500km-long escarpment. Drainage to the north is by many short streams direct to the coast, one of which is Magela Creek, a small tributary to the East Alligator River. Western Arnhem Land extends west from the Liverpool and Mann rivers, as far as Kakadu National Park.

Western Australia—a vast state, encompassing 250 million hectares of some of the most ancient landscapes in the world. Although WA covers nearly one-third of the entire Australian continent, much of it is uninhabitable desert. Also found here are rugged gorges, tropical reefs, towering forests, woodlands and white beaches along 12,500 kilometres of coastline. Its economy is driven by mining, wool and wheat, and yet only 15 per cent of the state's population live in rural areas. So harsh is life beyond the narrow, southern coastal strip that, even in recent times, both Aborigines and white Australians have died of dehydration and exhaustion when they've lost their way or when their car has broken down.

western barred bandicootwestern barred bandicootPerameles bougainville is a poignant symbol of the loss of West Australian mammals. Once occurring in an arc from Exmouth in WA, south along the coast to Eyre, then across the Nullarbor into South Australia, Victoria and NSW, this species is now restricted to just two islands off the north-west coast of WA. The western barred bandicoot is up to 236mm in length with a long tail—up to half its body length. It weighs up to 286g. It is coloured lightish brown-grey above, with white below. Its feet are white. Its common name comes from the two or three alternating paler and darker bars across the hindquarters. Like other bandicoots, this species has a longish snout and large, erect ears.

western bristlebird—(see: bristlebirds).

western brown snake—Queensland's 11th most deadly snake, found in drier eucalypt forests and woodland throughout western areas and drier coastal areas. To 1.5m, back extremely variable, shades of orange-brown with flecks and bands, or plain, belly cream to orange with pink blotches. Some with jet-black heads.

western brush wallabywestern brush wallabyMacropus firma, a wallaby with a head and body length of 1200mm, a tail length of 540–970mm and a weight in the 7kg—9kg range. Its fur is pale to medium grey, with a distinct white facial stripe, black and white ears, black hands and feet, and a long tail with a crest of black hair towards its extremity. It moves fast with head low and tail extended, able to weave or side-step with ease as it moves low to the ground. The western brush wallaby's optimum habitat is open forest or woodland, and it particularly favours open, seasonally wet flats with low grasses and open, scrubby thickets. It is also found in some areas of mallee and heathland, and is uncommon in karri forest. Little is known of the western brush wallaby’s food preferences but it appears to be able to manage without free water. One study has found that the western brush wallaby consumed 29 species of plants. It is a grazer like the larger kangaroos, rather than a browser. Activity is greatest in the early morning and late afternoon and it rests during the hotter part of day—alone or in pairs—in the shade of a bush or in small thickets. The breeding season has not been defined accurately but young are born some time from April to May, emerging from the pouch in October or November. The western brush wallaby was very common in the early days of settlement and periodically large numbers were traded commercially for skins. Their range has been seriously reduced and fragmented due to clearing for agriculture and there is a significant decline in abundance within most remaining habitat. The western brush wallaby is now distributed across the south-west of Western Australia. The western brush wallaby is now uncommon throughout its range but its numbers are increasing in response to fox baiting. Also known as black-gloved wallaby.

Western Cape Communities Co-existence Agreement—an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between Aborigines and Comalco Limited. The signatories of the Western Cape agreement include: 11 traditional owner groups, four Indigenous community councils (Aurun, Napranum, Mapoon and New Mapoon), Comalco Limited and the Cape York Land Council as the representative body for Cape York under the Native Title Act 1993. The Queensland government is also a signatory and will provide additional financial benefits when the agreement is registered as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement under the provisions of the Native Title Act.

Western DesertWestern Desert—a region of remote and sparsely populated communities in vast, extremely arid areas. The eastern deserts and central Australian pastoral areas, although arid, receive higher and more predictable rains. While clearly linked, these two areas possess distinctive natural features. This pattern is repeated in traditional Aboriginal culture. The people of the wide western areas (Gibson, Victoria and Great Sandy deserts) share cultural traits that mark them from the inhabitants of the Centre. However, both groups also have much in common. In the religious sphere both share the pan-Australian totemic ideology of creative beings in a timeless, continuously creative Dreamtime. They share an essential belief in travelling beings that left chains of sacred sites across the country, which have intimate bonds to existing social groups and natural categories. Many other cultural features are common to both groups, and they share many terms for ceremonial and religious matters. The artists in the region paint stories of the ancestral myths relating to their Dreamtime stories, as passed down to them from their elders.

Western Desert art movement—aroused internation interest in Aboriginal art. The modern acrylic paintings by these artists are based on traditional designs and incorporate a variety of symbols within the distinctive dot and line formations. The dense layering of the dots contains many levels of meaning to the artist and to their community, but also mask the initiated knowledge contained within the paintings to present an image considered appropriate for general viewing. The Western Desert art movement originated in Papunya Aboriginal community, some 250km west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Western Desert cultural bloc—a term recently applied to the social system shared by all Aboriginal people living in the nine communities of the Ngaanyatjarraku Shire. Cultural activities and traditional belief systems are an integral part of life for these people. In most communities, men and women are involved in producing a wide variety of arts and crafts, including wooden artefacts, dot paintings, basket weaving and in Warburton, glass works. Much of the work produced has attracted national awards.

Western Desert language—the Western Desert languages form a large family of languages that extends from Port Augusta in South Australia in the east, to the Kimberley and Port Hedland in the west.

Western District—Victoria's Western District has a wide range of habitats within a 100km radius. While much of the land has been cleared for agriculture, the area is well endowed with excellent national parks and other reserves. The Grampians ranges, the saline and freshwater lakes, the volcanic plains, the rugged coastline and the proximity to the seabird-rich waters of the continental shelf add up to a diversity of habitats and a richness in bird species the equal of any other region in Victoria. The centre of the Western District is the city of Hamilton, some 290km west of Melbourne via Geelong or Ballarat. Between 1973 and 1986, The Atlas of Victorian Birds recorded 342 species for south-western Victoria.

Western District LakesWestern District Lakes—a large group of lakes varying in depth and salinity from hypersaline to fresh water, which serve as a drought refuge for tens of thousands of ducks, swans, coots and other waterbirds. Several vulnerable, rare or endangered plants occur within the site, including the nationally endangered species Lepidium ashersonii. The lakes are used for recreational purposes, fishing and duck hunting as well as grazing, commercial fishing, and waste water disposal. Major habitat restoration works were undertaken in 1999—2001. These included the protection and rehabilitation of 60km of Ramsar wetland frontages through fencing, revegetation with approximately 60,000 indigenous species propagated from locally collected seed, and the implementation of appropriate livestock grazing regimes.

western grey kangarooMacropus fuliginosus, a large, fairly muscular animal, greyish-brown to reddish-brown in colour. The males can grow to more than two metres from head to tail and are remarkable jumpers. Their muzzles have finer hairs than most other kangaroo species. Western grey kangaroos are widespread and abundant across southern Australia. In fact, they are now probably found in greater numbers than before European settlement because of the provision of pasture and additional water points. These large mammals are great survivors and are found on the outskirts of towns and cities and widely throughout rural areas. As their habitat is converted to buildings and bitumen, places such as golf courses have become their retreats. Licences are issued to cull numbers, especially on farm where fence damage can be severe. Around Margaret River roo fences are required around vineyards, as they have deveoped a taste for grapes.

western ground parrotPezoporus wallicus flaviventris is considered to be endangered. Although formerly more widespread, it is now known only from three areas on the south coast of Western Australia. Loss of habitat due to extensive wildfires during the last decade in Fitzgerald River National Park and Cape Arid National Park, together with the apparent decline at Waychinicup, mean that this bird is close to being critically endangered. The total population is only about 250 birds.

western pebble-mound mousewestern pebble mound mousePseudomys chapmani builds and breeds in mounds of pebbles up to 9sq m in area. Mounds are usually situated on rocky scree slopes on the many ranges in the arid Pilbara region. Mounds are built up over many generations, and some are thought to be over 100 years old. They are maintained by the carrying of small pebbles in the mouse's mouth. One or more active mound entrances may exist, and are characterised by clusters of small pebbles around a large opening. The western pebble-mound mouse occurs throughout most of the Pilbara, and is the most abundant mammal in many parts of this region of Western Australia.

Western Port Ramsar site—a drowned embayment extending from the Mornington Peninsula in the west to the South Gippsland Highlands in the east and the Great Dividing Range to the north. The bay exhibits a wide range of geomorphological features, largely influenced by the amount of shelter from wind and waves that is available. The area is used by up to 32 migratory bird species, and is part of the Western Port Ramsar site. These birds migrate from the Northern Hemisphere and spend our summer feeding on the wide diversity of invertebrates found in the mudflats and seagrasses. Some of the notable migratory species include the eastern curlew, whose non-breeding birds migrate from north-eastern Asia; the bar-tailed godwit, which breeds in Arctic regions of Eurasia and Alaska; and the curlew sandpiper, which breeds in the Arctic regions of eastern Siberia. The site provides mudflats for foraging, and high-tide roosts where the birds await the next feeding period. Many of the migratory wading birds that spend their summers in Victoria are dependant upon Westernport, particularly the region now protected in the French Island Marine National Park.

western pygmy possumwestern pygmy possumCercartetus concinnus, a tiny possum which lives in a wide range of habitats from tall open forests to low shrubby heaths. It builds a small leaf-lined nest in hollow logs, in dense clumps of vegetation, or within an abandoned bird nest. Its diet includes pollen, nectar, fruits and a variety of invertebrates. Like its better known possum relatives, the western pygmy possum is an extremely agile climber. Every year, it breeds two or three litters of up to six young. Like many small marsupials, it becomes inactive during cool weather or periods of food shortage.

western ringtail possumPseudocheirus occidentalis, a nocturnal possum with thick, grey hair with some intermingled brown hairs throughout, becoming more prominent closer to the underbelly. The underbelly is white, as is the bottom half of the tail, and there is a ring of black fur around the eyes. The average western ringtail's tail measures about the same as the head and body, that is, about 350mm each. Ringtail possums weigh 900g on average. They eat leaves, flowers, fruit and various other types of plant material, food being found in shrubbery near the nest. Mating occurs autumn through spring and females produce one young young per season. Little else is known about their breeding habits, though we do know that they like to nest in the hollows of old peppermint trees and that the nests are lined with leaves for a cushion. The western ringtail is a rare possum which faces the threat of extinction due both to a loss of habitat to human urbanization and its primary predator—the feral fox. This species is located in the peppermint woodlands in the south-west areas of Western Australia.

western rosellawestern rosellaPlatycercus icterotis icterotis, is the smallest member of the rosella family, and is probably the least aggressive by nature. This species is also the only rosella that can be visually sexed. The cock bird usually has a strongly coloured yellow cheek patch, whilst the hen's cheek patch is not so strong. Immature birds show little or no signs of cheek patches until their first moult in Autumn. They eat seeds, fruit, blossoms and nectar, inhabiting open forests, woodlands and farmlands in coastal areas of south-western Australia. Nests in a hollow within a eucalyptus tree, and three to seven eggs are laid in August to December. One sub-species of the western rosella has been recognised: a blue mutation which is now becoming established in Australia.

Western Slopes bioregion—a large area of foothills and ranges comprising the western fall of the Great Dividing Range to the edge of the Riverina bioregion. A very wide range of rock types is found across the bioregion, which is also affected by topographic and rainfall gradients that decrease toward the west. These physical differences have an impact on the nature of the soils and vegetation found across the bioregion. The bioregion lies wholly in the eastern part of the Lachlan Fold Belt.

western spinebillAcanthorhynchus superciliosus, a small (12cm—15cm), striking bird. They feed more on lower shrubs than do other honeyeaters and favour banksia and kangaroo paws, for which they help increase pollination. The western spinebill has a long slender curved bill that houses a tube-like tongue which it uses to extract nectar. It also often feeds on insects gleaned from shrubs. Although it is more often found in bushland reserves, it will sometimes visit residential gardens. It emits a rapid, high-pitched whistle contact call, or quieter whistles when feeding. Breeds Sept—Jan; the nest is a cup of bark, plant stems, down and spiderweb. Endemic to south-west Western Australia.

western swamp tortoise—one of Australia's most endangered reptiles, it is now only found in the Ellen Brook Nature Reserve and two other small nature reserves north-east of Perth, WA. It depends on shallow swamps that are only wet in winter, and will only become active after its habitat is flooded and the water temperature exceeds 14°C.

western taipan—Queensland's most deadly snake, found in the "Ashy downs" of Channel country. Up to 2m long, head usually jet black, back pale to dark brown with black flecks, belly mustard yellow.

Westernport BayWesternport Bay—the waters of Westernport cover an area of 680sq km, of which 270sq km are exposed at low tide as mud flats. The area supports a mosaic of habitat types, including seagrass beds, intertidal rock platforms, sandy beaches, intertidal mudflats, tidal channels, saltmarshes and mangroves. Two large islands dominate the bay, Phillip Island and French Island. Explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, who believed that their 1824 overland journey from NSW had terminated at Westernport, made a favourable report of the district. On the basis of their favourable comments Governor Darling decided to forestall any prospective French plans by establishing a military and agricultural settlement at Westernport. Soldiers and convicts from Sydney were ordered to form a camp. However, Hamilton and Hume were mistaken, having actually completed their trek further west at Port Phillip. Westernport Bay lies south-east of Melbourne, and is bordered by the Mornington Peninsula to the west.

Westie—someone from the western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales.

Westminster system—a representative system of government originating in Britain, the main features of which are a head of state who is not the head of government, and an executive that is drawn from and directly responsible to the Parliament. The Westminster system evolved over centuries. It is the historical artefact of the parliament's many victories over successive kings and queens for the right to make and administer laws, and to have them interpreted independently of the Crown. The Westminster System, as it was in the mid to late 1800s, was the most influential factor in the development of Australia's system of government.

Westralia—a name for Western Australia.

wet—1. weak; feeble; spiritless. 2. stupid; senseless. 2. rainy season.

wet area—any district having hotels and allowing the sale of alcohol.

wet eucalypt forest—(see: wet sclerophyll forest).

wet as water—weak; feeble; spiritless; stupid.

wet mess—a "mess" (canteen) that serves alcohol as well as food.

wet sclerophyll forestwet sclerophyll forest—all stands which are greater than 100 feet tall and possess a foliage cover of 30-70 percent of an area. They develop on deep, rich soils and receive 40-50 inches annual rainfall. These forests often display a complex multi-layered structure rich in species (e.g., grey kangaroo, wallabies, koala, wombat, platypus, echidna). This habitat is capable of producing closed rainforest and, because regeneration of eucalypts occurs when a forest is burnt, the type of vegetation that dominates this habitat is largely dependent on the frequency of fire. In some instances, mature wet sclerophyll eucalypts emerge above a well-developed rainforest. In wet slerophyll forests, eucalypts are by far the dominant component. They generally display a shaft-like trunk that supports an open crown with pendant leaves, permitting the penetration of up to 40 percent of daylight. There are three broad groups of wet sclerophyll eucalypts: 1) those of northern and southern Queensland and central New South Wales; 2) those of Victoria, Tasmania, and the highlands of New South Wales; and 3) those of south-west Australia.

wet season—November to April. In late September to early October a region of high air pressure forms above the Himalayas and Nepalese plateau. This system basically remains in place from October to March. Cold, dry air descends, blowing out to the south. The regional air flow changes from the southern moist, monsoonal flow of the Indian monsoon, to a cold, dry flow that marks the arrival of the dry, or winter, season in the Northern hemisphere. It has been noted that there is a relationship between the depth of the snow that falls in the Himalayas and the amount of rainfall received in north-western Australia. In late October the throughflow from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean to the north-west of Australia slows, stops and may even reverse at times as the Indian Ocean Counter Current flows west to east into the Timor gap and "blocks" the throughflow. This leads to a large raft of relatively still water to the immediate north-west of Australia. This body of water begins to heat under the tropical sun. As the sea surface temperature rises, evaporation increases and moist air from this region will eventually fall during the Australian monsoon. From late October to March the land mass from the Pilbara to Alice Springs in the Red Centre heats up as the sun's path swings to the south with the change of seasons. This vast area becomes extremely hot, taking several months for the landmass to finally reach its peak heat in December. This level is then sustained until late January or early February. The very hot air close to the land surface rises, leaving a region of lowered air pressure, and a heat low is formed. Air flows in to fill this area of lower pressure and helps pull the monsoon south over the Australian continent. During the wet season there are usually two or three major monsoon events. These events occur when the monsoon trough (a low pressure trough associated with intense rainfall) moves south over the landmass of north Western Australia. The trough may remain over the land for a variable period, from one day to several weeks. It usually overlies the continent for about seven days, during which time strong north-westerly winds blow and rain falls almost constantly. The later phases in February and March are often longer and more intense. It is then that the cumulative effect of the rains may be seen as surface water becomes evident. This arrival of the monsoon trough occurs in intervals of about 40 days, and is thought to be connected with the arrival of the Kelvin wave—an easterly moving, globe circling, atmospheric wave, seen as a mass of increased cloud activity as it moves in from the west towards Australia. The periods between the monsoon events are known as break phases.

wet sheep—a sheep with fleece too damp to be shorn.

Wet Tropics World Heritage AreaWet Tropics—the bioregion is dominated by rugged, rainforested mountains, including the highest in Queensland, Mount Bartle Frere (1622m). It also includes extensive plateau areas along its western margin, as well as low-lying coastal plains. The most extensive lowlands are in the south, associated with the floodplains of the Tully and Herbert Rivers. Most of the bioregion drains to the Coral Sea from small coastal catchments, but higher western areas drain in the south into the Burdekin River, and in the north into tributaries of the Mitchell River. The region contains extensive areas of tropical rainforest, plus beach scrub, tall open forest, open forest, mangrove and Melaleuca woodland communities, the bulk of elements derived from Gondwanan forms. Indeed, the Australian and Papuan wet tropics provide a natural laboratory for studying evolutionary processes. The region of Australian wet tropics extends from just north of Townsville, through Cairns, to part way up Cape York Peninsula.

Wet Tropics World Heritage Area—the tropical rainforest areas of NE Queensland, from about 200km north of Cairns to some 300km south. There are more than 20 Aboriginal tribal groups with ongoing traditional connections to land in and near the area. To rainforest Aboriginal people, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is a series of complex, living cultural landscapes. This means that natural features are interwoven with rainforest Aboriginal people's religion, spirituality, economic use (including food, medicines, tools) and social and moral organisation.

wet tussock grassland—has a wide climatic range, although it is not found in the alpine and subalpine areas as it cannot survive under conditions of prolonged low temperature and snow cover. Most of the wet tussock grasslands are confined to damp, level environments, including flats, near springs and along creeks and rivers. They are also found across a wide variety of alluvial and colluvial soils. The relationship of wet tussock grassland to wetland areas and wet sclerophyll forests results in many native animal species being attracted to this habitat as a rich source of water and food. Mainly used as unimproved pasture for sheep and cattle, though preferred for cattle because of their ability to cope with tall tussock grasses. The alliance tends to have been less disturbed than dry tussock grassland, though periodic burning is common to provide new and more palatable growth for stock.

wet-dry tropics—climate is strongly seasonal, with most rainfall occurring over just 3 months of the year. The wet season is spectacular, with dramatic lightning displays, extensive flooding and lush vegetation growth. It is a time for many animals to breed, including crocodiles, fish, water birds and frogs. There is a high risk of cyclones along the coast at this time of year. In the dry season that follows, many floodplains and waterholes dry up and annual burning begins in the savannah woodlands. The dry season presents a major environmental challenge to most terrestrial animals. Plants may stop providing new foliage or totally drop their leaves, free water may disappear over large areas, and even low humidity is stressful for many animals. As the overall environment dries, many animals progressively concentrate in small refuge areas. Such refuge sites have an importance grossly disproportionate to their size and extent in maintaining biological diversity. Australia's wet-dry tropics extend across the north of the continent and south-east along part of the Great Dividing Range.

wetlandswetlands—include swamps, marshes, billabongs, lakes, saltmarshes, mudflats, mangroves, coral reefs, fens, peatlands, or bodies of water—whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary. Water within these areas can be static or flowing, fresh, brackish or saline. The largest arid wetlands are salt lakes. Following rain, wetlands continue to hold water after the surrounding landscape has dried out: either above-ground or in waterlogged soil. To be considered a wetland, an area must occasionally be wet for long enough that it is used by plants and animals that require waterlogging or inundation during their lifecycles and are visible to the naked eye. Even if only filled once every few decades, they might still be important for species conservation. Wetlands are vital to Australia. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impact of floods, absorb pollutants and provide habitat for animals and plants. They also bear historical significance with some having high cultural value. In particular, many wetland areas throughout Australia are important to Aboriginal people. Consideration of these historical and cultural relationships is a fundamental part of wetland management. The Department of the Environment and Heritage is committed to conserve, repair and promote the wise use of wetlands across Australia. The Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government of Australia (1997) has defined and guided activities to ensure that all levels of government and the community are working together to conserve wetlands. The Implementation Plan for the Commonwealth Wetlands Policy was developed to ensure that actions under the policy are addressed in an effective manner and within appropriate timeframes.

Wettex—a dishcloth.

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