Australian Dictionary

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Australia Decoded


Whaling, one of the first industries of Australia

whack—1. fair share of work, responsibility: e.g., He never does his whack! 2. share: e.g., I want my whack of the profits now! 3. attempt, try: e.g., I'll have a whack at it. 4. do, put etc: e.g., Whack the kettle on the stove.

whacked—1. drunk, intoxicated or drugged. 2. irrational; peculiar; crazy. 3. tired; exhausted.

whacker—crazy, zany, irrational, peculiar, eccentric or amusing person.

whacking—1. very. 2. very large, big.

whacko/whacko-the-did!/whacko-the-diddly-oh!—1. expression denoting surprised pleasure. 2. first-class; excellent.

whale sharkRhincodon typus, the biggest shark and the biggest fish—up to 14m and weighing up to 15 tons. It has a wide, flat head, and its mouth is at the very front, not on the underside as with most sharks. The spiracle (a vestigial first gill slit used for breathing when the shark is resting on the sea floor) is located just behind the eye. Its tail has a top fin much larger than the lower fin, and its very thick, dark grey skin is covered with light-yellow markings—random stripes and dots. This enormous shark is a filter feeder and sieves enormous amounts of plankton to eat through its gills as it swims. It is rarely seen in shallow coastal waters, but is a daily visitor to the Ningaloo Reef every year between March and July.

whalers—in 1791 the first whale (sperm whale) was taken in Australian waters by the crew of Britannia after unloading cargo and convicts. In 1804 whales were so common in the Derwent River, Tasmania, they were a hazard to small boats. The whaling industry on mainland Australia got underway in 1830 with small shore stations, and by 1835-1844 whales had been hunted to near extinction. Whale oil was used for candles, light fuel, soap, heating and lubricant. Baleen, often referred to as "whalebone" is strong and flexible and was used in corsetry, bookbinding, whip and umbrella making. For many years before South Australia was settled in 1836, whalers and sealers had been visiting the coasts and islands. The first white visitors to South Australia, hardened whalers, were probably a rough introduction to white people for local Aborigines. Records and statistics relating to whaling during this time are scarce, as operations were conducted at sea or by visiting vessels. For whalers life was harsh, sometimes so bad that entire crews deserted their whaling operation. A whaling party was dropped off with their equipment and left for the season; sometimes the pick-up vessel did not return for more than a year. Being an opportunistic industr,y the whaling stations required few shore structures. Many stations were so scant that occupants were hardly able to survive on what they could catch to eat. Southern right whales were considered the "right" whale to hunt because they float when dead, and yielded many barrels of oil and long baleen plates. The also come very close to shore and move slowly. The whalers would watch for whales then give chase in boats about ten meters long. The boats were much smaller than the whales which grow up to 17m long, making the chase and harpooning of the whale very dangerous. The whale was then towed back to shore and hauled onto a ramp or rock platform for flensing (removing the blubber). The blubber, rich in oil, was heated in large "try-pots" over open fires and the oil collected. By 1845 whales had become very scarce, and it was no longer profitable to hunt. The whaling station set up by the South Australia Company at Encounter Bay closed in 1872. All whaling in Australian waters ceased in 1978, the last whaling station (for sperm whales) being in Albany, Western Australia. In the 1990s the Great Australian Bight Marine Park and Whale Sanctuary was established, providing a haven for southern right whales visiting Australian waters. Today, whale watching is providing regional tourism opportunities; and synthetic oils and materials have replaced the whale products.

whaling—commercial whaling was one of the first industries in Australia. Most of the early whaling was done from small boats based in harbours along the coast, and was known as 'bay whaling'. There were whaling stations in Eden and Byron Bay in NSW and Albany in Western Australia, as well as in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. The first whaling station in Australia was opened at Ralph Bay on the Derwent River in Tasmania in 1806. By 1841 there were 35 whaling stations in Tasmania, which was second only to the USA in numbers of vessels operating. The bay whalers mostly went after the southern right whales, and by 1845 they had almost completely wiped out the species. Before 1833 the value of whale products exceeded that of wool, tallow, wheat and hides. By 1850 however it had begun to decline. In 1935 the southern rights were protected, and it is thought that only a few hundred are left, although their numbers may be beginning to increase again. The last whaling station to operate in Australia was at Albany in Western Australia. It closed in 1978 due to a lack of whales, a decline in demand for whale products and pressure from environmental groups.

wharf-lumper—a wharf-labourer.

wharfie—wharf labourer; longshoreman.

what a beaut!—what an excellent idea, thing etc!

what a corker!—1. what an excellent, amazing idea, thing etc! 2. what an astounding, large, huge thing, object etc!

what a dag!—1. what a ridiculous, stupid, old-fashioned, boring person! 2. what a funny, amusing, humorous person!

what a load of wank!—what a lot of nonsense, lies, foolish and empty talk!

what a ripper!—(see: what a corker, 1 and 2).

what a wag!—what a funny, amusing person!

what a wank/wanker!—1. what a stupid, self-deluding person! 2. what a funny, amusing, eccentric person! 3. what an unproductive, lazy person! 4. what an egotistical person! 5. what a self-indulgent person!

what do you do for a crust?—how do you earn your living?; what's your job?

what do you think this is—bush week?!—(see: bush week).

what else did you get for Christmas?—derisive, mocking retort to someone who has annoyed you with an action or a display of a possession.

what you lose on the swings you make up on the roundabouts—what is lost on one venture is gained or recovered on the next; the losses on one venture are negated by the experience, gains or advantages likely to occur on another.

what's the odds?—what difference does it make?; what does it matter?

wheat cocky—a wheat farmer.

wheat lumper—one employed to load or unload sacks of wheat.

wheatbelt wandooEucalyptus wandoo, an important habitat tree in Western Australia because of the hollows, both in the tree and in dropped limbs. The common name of 'wandoo' also applies to E. capillosa (inland wandoo) and E. accedens (powderbark wandoo), which are species with different attributes. Eucalyptus wandoo is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia and has two subspecies: Subsp. wandoo is a medium-sized tree 10-25m tall and occurs mainly on eastern parts of the Darling Range, with a small extension to the coastal plain south of Perth and an eastern outlier near Narembeen. It grows on broad shallow valleys or low ridges associated with various lateritic or granitic soils. Subsp. pulverea, a smaller tree that has scattered populations across the agricultural district north of Perth (Cataby to Morawa), differing in having pruinose branchlets. A closely related and very similar species E. capillosa occurs further inland. This species flowers during March to April [1,3]. Seed capsules persist on trees until at least the following autumn. There are about 275 viable seeds per gram; seeds start to germinate in about 10 days if grown at 15-20°C with no pretreatment required. Eucalyptus wandoo is an attractive medium-sized tree with smooth white bark. While relatively slow growing, it is drought tolerant, has excellent ornamental attributes and produces excellent honey. It is also considered moderately salt tolerant with potential for rehabilitation of saline soils [4]. Eucalyptus wandoo produces one of the toughest and most durable woods of any eucalypt [1]. In the past it was used for railway sleepers, poles, flooring and for heavy and light construction. The bark was also formerly harvested as a commercial source of tannin. Natural stands of this species are now valued for their watershed protection [1] and in the past were a major source of honey [5]. Key descriptors: Subsp. wandoo: Climate parameters Rainfall distribution pattern: winter Mean annual rainfall: 400-700 mm Mean annual temperature: 15-21 °C Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 30-35 °C Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 4-6 °C Frosts (approx. no. per year): up to 20 Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C) Altitude: 50-300 metres Tolerance of extremes in climate Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant Fire: regenerates foliage after damaging fire Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range Soil factors Texture: clay loam, duplex texture contrast soils, light to medium clay (35-50% clay) or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam Soil pH reaction: 1. acidic (less than 6.5) or 2. neutral (6.5-7.5) Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm) or moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater) Drainage: well-drained Salinity: slightly to moderately saline Tolerance of adverse soils Extremes in pH: acidity Extremes in texture: clayey Salinity: moderate (-8 dS m-1) or slight (2-4 dS m-1) Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils Biological traits under cultivation Habit: tree 10-20 m tall, usually produces a clear trunk Longevity: moderate to long lived (>15 years) Growth rate: slow to moderate Coppicing ability: lignotuberous Root system: moderate to deep or shallow and spreading Erosion control potential: excellent for clayey sites Wood density: mod. to high (greater than 600 kg/cubic metre) Carbon sequestration potential: moderate Uses Potential farm use: good ornamental attributes, shelterbelt or shade for stock Specialty products: flowers produce nectar for honey production, pollen has value for apiculture or high tannin content in bark Urban use: good as an ornamental or amenity plant Wood products: craftwood (for turnery etc.), flooring (including parquetry), heavy construction, high quality fuelwood, industrial charcoal, panelling, poles (building, transmission, piling), posts (including fencing), railway sleepers, speciality timber for quality furniture, termite resistant Potentially undesirable attributes Growth habit: shallow roots may outcompete adjacent plants

wheel of fireStenocarpus sinuatus, a tall, erect tree to 30m in its natural setting, but it is usually only 10m tall x 5m wide in cultivation. The foliage is quite dense and attractive. Individual leaves are normally bright dark-green and display a glossy upper surface. Like many proteaceous plants, the leaves may change their shape at will. Flowering may occur any time from 10 to 15 years of age and can be sporadic until older. The flowers are terminal or nearly so, bright red and symmetrical like the spokes of a wheel. Characteristically, they occur on old wood in umbels of 6 to 20. Individual flowers may be up to 10cm in diameter. Normal flowering takes place from summer to autumn, though odd flowers may occur when induced by high rainfall and humidity. This tree produces copious quantities of viable winged seed contained in multiple pods about 7cm long. Stenocarpus responds well to high rainfall, deep soils and high humidity. Given these conditions the species tends to flower well. In its natural setting it enjoys an annual rainfall of from 1000mm to 4000mm. Endemic to rainforest habitats—sub-tropical, littoral, riverine and warm temperate rainforest—ranging from the Atherton Tableland in northern Queensland to the Belligen River in northern New South Wales, and in the ranges adjacent to these habitats. Also known as firewheel tree, white beefwood.

whey-faced—pale, especially with fear.

whiffle—1. blow lightly, shift about. 2. be variable or evasive. 3. (of a flame, leaves, etc) flicker, flutter. 4. make the sound of a light wind in breathing etc.

whiffy—having an unpleasant smell.


whimbrel—one of the most wide-ranging shorebirds in the world, the whimbrel breeds in the Arctic in the eastern and western hemispheres, and migrates to South America, Africa, south Asia, and Australia. It uses its long, down-curved bill to probe deep in the sand of beaches for invertebrates, but also feeds on berries and insects.

whinge—whine; grumble peevishly: e.g., Who let all those bleeding whinging poms into the country?

whinger—person who always complains about everything.

whinging pom—the Englishman, commonly believed to always complain about his life in Australia.

whip the cat—(joc.) to reproach oneself.

whip-round—in informal appeal for donations towards a presentation, charitable purpose etc.

whipper-snipper—electrical (and extremely noisy) lawn edge trimmers, on a long handle.

whipping side—the last side of the sheep to be shorn.

whips of—lots of.

whipstick—a form of growth (especially of mallee eucalypts) characterised by a number of slim, even stems.

whiptail wallabyMacropus parryi. Head and body length: 900mm; tail length: 940mm; weight: 16kg. Fur is a uniform grey above, white below, with a prominate white face stripe and ear tips. Makes a soft cough (indicating fear), a hiss/growl type sound (by females as a defensive call) and a soft clucking (by males when courting). Found in eastern Australia, from Cooktown, Queensland to north-eastern New South Wales. Dwells in open forest with a grass understory in hilly country. A diurnal animal with maximum feeding activities at dawn extending into early morning. During the hotter part of the day this wallaby retreats to the shade before resuming feeding in the late afternoon. Grazes on grasses and other herbaceous plants (e.g., ferns). Seldom drinks except during drought. Courtship of the female involves the dominate male and a group of subordinate males following the female. The dominate male will keep other males away by chasing and a ritual of pulling up grass while facing the opposing male. Also known as Parry’s wallaby and pretty-face wallaby.

Whispering Wall—in the Barossa Valley region of South Australia, the Barossa Reservoir was once the highest dam in Australia, and is commonly known as the "Whispering Wall". The scheme got the nod in 1899, and by the winter of that year construction workers were on the job in the creekbed. In just over two years, they'd "topped off" this modern marvel of its time. It is more than 10m thick at its base, tapering to just the width of a narrow pathway at the top. They flew the concrete (mixed on site) in by flying fox and added "plums", as they called them—big quartz boulders blown from the sides of the gorge. Higher up, forty tons of old Gawler horse tram tracks were laid in for added strength.The Waterworks Department reckoned there was enough to turn on the tap on the last day of 1901, and so it just squeezed into Australia's Federation celebrations. About 400 workers—many of them with wives and children—lived in tents and galvo-and-canvas huts here. When the dam construction was wound up in 1903, all that remained was auctioned off and the town was gone. This beginning of the Barossa Range is still covered with the original scrub of pink gums and native pines. It comes more than 2km through the mountains from a weir on the South Para River. The Barossa Reservoir now feeds water to Gawler and the Munno-Para and Elizabeth regions via a new filtration plant. The dam, however, is famous for its audio-bounce from one side of the wall to the other, because of a parabola effect. The wall is one sector of a perfect circle, and the soundwaves bounce in a series of straight jumps along it to the other end. The idea of this tall, thin concrete dam curved against the pressure of the water was radical at the time. It attracted international attention and featured in Scientific American. As with all our water reserves, this one doubles as a precious patch of protected bush.

whistle against/in the wind—protest vainly.

whistle and flute—(rhyming slang) suit.

whistle blower—a person who informs on those responsible.

whistle down the wind—1. let go, abandon. 2. turn (a hawk) loose.

whistlecock—(in Aboriginal initiation ritual) the slitting of the underside of the penis; subincision.

whistlers—the family Pachycephalidae includes the whistlers, shrike-thrushes, shrike-tits, pitohuis and crested bellbird, and is part of the Australo-Papuan corvid lineage. Its members range from small to medium in size, and occupy a wide range of habitats throughout most of Australasia: Australia in particular, but also New Guinea, New Zealand and, in the case of the whistlers, the South Pacific islands and parts of Indonesia. They are 16cm—25cm, with stout bodies and rounded heads with stout bills; generally brownish or greenish birds, some with bright yellow. They are slow moving and tame, eating mostly insects with some fruit. They lay 2-4 eggs which both parents care for; and are monogamous. Several species belonging to this family are outstanding songsters: the whistlers produce an astonishing volume for their size and, the lyrebirds aside, the grey shrike-thrush is often regarded as the finest, most inventive songbird of them all. Some authorities list thickhead as an alternative common name to whistler.

whistling spider—a common name for the bird-catching spider.

white—(of coffee) with milk or cream: e.g., I'll have a flat white and my friend will have a cappuccino.

white ant—a termite.

white around the gills—upset; angry.

White Australia policy—(hist.) Australia as a society into which immigration of non-Whites is restricted. There was opposition to Chinese immigration in Queensland and Victoria in the 1870s. A Goldfields (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Queensland in 1876. It was harshly worded and discriminatory and not acceptable to the British government, as it was deemed incompatible with British treaty obligations. A bill was subsequently passed which contained less offensive wording. Bills imposing a poll tax on Chinese immigrants and restricting the number who might be brought in on any ship were passed in Victoria and New South Wales. Immigration restriction acts were passed in most of the colonies in the 1880s. This was later extended to cover other coloured races following an agreement reached at an Intercolonial Conference in 1896. Queensland did not adhere to this agreement and continued to use indentured labour on the sugarcane fields. It has been argued that one of the goals of the leaders of the Federation movement was for Australia to be populated exclusively by whites. It was thought that Federation would give the Commonwealth powers to legislate to prohibit coloured immigration into the whole country. It is interesting to note that this occurred in the same time-frame in which in which Chinese labour met with equally scurrilous resistance in San Francisco. Both regions had experienced major gold rushes in the 1860s, and both were dealing with an economic downturn at the turn of the century. And both regions, independently, reacted first by welcoming cheap labour, then exporting it with inhumane disregard when employment ran short for native-born labourers.

white booyongArgyrodendron trifoliolatum, a tall canopy tree, characteristic of the complex notophyll vine forests found in Australia's eastern highlands. Height to 40m in sub-tropical and dry rainforests; to less on scrubby watercourses; to 15m when planted in home gardens. The canopy is very dense, and when viewed from below the leaves are brown or copper coloured. The base of the trunk is very strongly buttressed and can be up to 2m across at the base. Flowers are silvery brown on the outside and cream on the inside. Seeds have a distinctive, flat wing and are eaten by scrub turkeys. Grows in sub-tropical rainforest, dry rainforest and along scrubby watercourses. The natural distribution ranges from Port Macquarie in New South Wales, to Gladstone in Queensland. Also occurs near Mackay and Atherton, Queensland. Also known as brown tulip oak.

white boxEucalyptus albens (Latin albens, white, of the general appearance of the tree and the white wax on the flower buds and fruits), a tree to 25m tall, with fine, pale, fibrous bark on its trunk and large branches, peeling in strips from smaller branches. Grassy white box woodlands were once common and widespread on deep, fertile soils of the wheat-sheep belt of south-eastern Australia. Since European settlement, more than 80% of that area has been cleared of its former native vegetation for agriculture. These woodlands now occur in isolated fragments on the western New South Wales slopes of the Great Dividing Range in the north extending into Queensland to the southern Darling Downs and in the south extending into northern Victoria. Grey-headed flying foxes (listed as Vulnerable under the Action Plan for Australian Bats) and little red flying foxes feed on white box nectar. Grassy white box woodlands provide habitat for the bush stone-curlew and the squirrel glider, and they are an important source of food and habitat for three nationally threatened bird species (regent honeyeater, superb and swift parrots). White box is a valuable winter honey and pollen tree for northern NSW and southern Queensland beekeepers.

White Cliffs—a small opal-mining community located in far western New South Wales. White Cliffs was proclaimed a town in 1898 but the quality of opal was never sufficiently high to compete at the top end of the international market. The First World War also had an effect, closing access to the predominantly German opal market. The current population is around 180 and is heavily dependant on the tourism trade. The main pastime for visitors is fossicking for opals, but a visit to White Cliffs can be combined with a trip to Mutawintji or Peery National Park. Located 80km from Wilcannia.

white coal—water as a source of power.

White Craggy Island - one of the small islands in the Sir Edward Pellew group in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

white currantFlueggea virosa, a small, spreading shrub to 3m high, occurring in savannahs across northern Australia. The small, white fruit are often produced in large quantities in the early to mid wet season from November to March. The fruit are very sweet and tasty if eaten when fully ripe. A leaf and water infusion may be drunk or applied externally to treat stomach pain, vomiting, itchiness, rashes and skin diseases. This plant is also used extensively to make fire sticks. For some Aboriginal groups, it is a calendar plant, and the production of fruit signals the beginning of the buildup weather.

white cypress-pineCallitris glaucophylla or Callitris glauca, grows to between 7m—30m in height and 45cm in diameter, and has a straight trunk. Its bark is hard, deeply furrowed and dark grey, but lighter on large trees and pinkish brown on newly exposed areas. Its timber is a fine-grained softwood which may be yellow or brown, with many dark knots and a distinctive, resinous smell (similar to the smell of a surfboard). White cypress-pine is very durable and resistant to decay, termite and borer attacks. The bark produces a resin called sadrac, which is used to make confectionery and pharmaceuticals. The resin can often be seen exuding out of recently felled trees. White cypress-pine is not favoured for paper pulp because of its many knots and resin, producing paper of poor strength. Today it forms extensive forests only in the Tambo-Dalby-Inglewood region of southern Queensland and the Baradine-Narrabri and Cobar districts of northern New South Wales.

white egretEgretta alba, a large wading bird with snowy white plumage. The white egret inhabits cool temperate to tropical wetlands, marshes, swamps, seashores, lake margins, sluggish rivers, estuaries, mud flats, ponds and irrigated lands throughout most of Australia. Feeding is done by walking slowly in shallow water with its head erect, then snatching its aquatic prey with its long yellow beak. It also feeds on land for insects, reptiles and small mammals. Its flight is characterised by slow, graceful wing beats, the neck folded close to its body and the long black legs trailing behind. A solitary and territorial feeder, the white egret is a master of 'wait and watch'—a strategy of standing motionless in water for long periods of time and then slowly and deliberately stalking. While fish are their main prey, they'll also eat insects, crustaceans and amphibians. The white egret breeds in colonies, early to late summer. The nest is usually a platform of sticks in a tree up to 15m above ground, or sometimes in a reed bed. Also known as the great egret, this bird is the largest of the white herons.

white fella—(in Aboriginal English) a non-Aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, usually of British descent.

white goods—large electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines etc.

white gumEucalyptus viminalis, a variable species with smooth, white bark, it can grow to over 90m tall in the Evercreech forests near Fingal in the north-east of Tasmania, but is usually found growing among black peppermint in drier eucalypt forests. The timber is brittle and does not tolerate exposure, but it is a useful hardwood for internal fittings. It polishes well and in panels resembles English ash. Aboriginal people fashioned the wood into shields, and drinking vessels were formed from burls on trunks. Leaves were smoked over fire to reduce fevers. One sub-species of this tree is known as manna gum.

white ironbarkEucalyptus leucoxylon, a tree growing 8m—13m tall with smooth mottled yellow or white bark and long, tapering, grey-green leaves, cream-yellow flowers. Open forest and woodland in western Victoria, South Australia and south-western New South Wales. Common Name: Yellow gum Derivation of Name: Eucalyptus...from Greek, eu, well and calyptos, covered referring to the cap which covers the developing flowers. leucoxylon...from Greek, leuco, white and xylon, wood, referring to the timber colour. Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild. General Description: E.leucoxylon is a medium-sized tree which reaches 10-30 metres in height. The bark is retained on the lower trunk but the upper trunk and branches are smooth-barked and cream to grey in colour. . The adult leaves are lance-shaped to about 200 mm long. The flowers are usually seen in autumn and winter and may be white, cream, pink or red. There are 4 recognised sub-species of E.leucoxylon: subsp. leucoxylon—typical form subsp. megalocarpa—smaller growth habit and large fruit. This is often available under the horticultural name "Rosea" subsp. petiolaris—bell shaped, ribbed fruits and juvenile leaves with long stalks subsp. pruinosa—glaucous (greyish) juvenile leaves and fruits This is a popular tree in cultivation, particularly subsp. megalocarpa which often has red or pink flowers. It is generally regarded as a more reliable red-flowered species for humid climates than Corymbia ficifolia, the Western Australian red flowering gum. However, as it is native to a dry-summer climate, it is not reliable in tropical areas. It performs best in well-drained, moist soils but, once established is tolerant of extended dry conditions. E.leucoxylon is regularly planted for windbreaks, shade, honey production and for ornamental purposes and it grows well in alkaline soils. Propagation is from seed which germinates readily. The flower colour of seedlings cannot be guaranteed but red-flowered forms often produce red-flowered offspring.

white lady—methylated spirits as a drink, often mixed with other substances to make it more palatable.

white leghorn—1. woman—usually elderly—who plays lawn bowls and dresses in the required white clothes and hat. 2. (Australian Rules football) umpire.

white line fever—(sport) state of mind of a player who goes mad on the field.

white mangroveAvicennia marina, the most common and widespread mangrove found along the mainland coast of Australia. It also occurs as far southwards as South Australia and Victoria, where it is the only mangrove species able to withstand the prevailing cooler climate. White mangrove occurs anywhere in the intertidal zone on a range of soft muds to sandy soils. The species is frequently encountered along the tidal margins of estuaries and along saline or brackish river areas, where it may occur in association with red mangrove and other mangrove species. It is a pioneer species which commonly forms groups on developing mud banks. The white mangrove often occurs at the landward edge of mangrove communities in a stunted form. Depending on where it is growing, this mangrove may range from less than half a meter to 25m in height. Typically, these trees have a large trunk which is covered by light grey, finely fissured bark supporting a spreading, leafy crown. The leaves are glossy green above with a distinctive pale grey underside which is also slightly hairy. Stomata and salt glands are scattered over the whole leaf surface but are more abundant on the underside. Flowers are small, yellow and appear in clusters. The most readily distinguishable feature of this species is the presence of numerous spongy, pencil-like pneumatophores (peg-like roots) which spread out from the base of the trunk. Pneumatophores originate from horizontal underground lateral roots and grow vertically through the soil surface to allow the mangrove roots to breathe.White mangrove is very tolerant of extremes in salinity and can adapt to sites as diverse as temporary flooding by freshwater or a salinity exceeding that of seawater. It survives in a saline environment by actively resisting the uptake of salt at the roots. Aboriginal people used white mangrove timber for shields because of its combination of light weight and strength. Europeans used this mangrove in boat building, and the leaves are also used as cattle fodder. The non-destructive benefits to the community of this mangrove species include spat settlement in oyster culture, a source of pollen for bee keepers, provision of suitable habitats for waterbirds and juveniles of important recreational and commercial fish species. It is also important for the stabilisation of river banks and channels and increases amenity value for our waterways.

white-naped honeyeaterMelithreptus lunatus, a small honeyeater with a short, slender bill. It is olive-green above, with a black cap, a white band across the back of the neck which does not reach the eye, and a bright orange crescent above the eye. The flanks and sides of the breast are washed grey-brown, and the underparts are white. It can be seen in large flocks when migrating, often with other honeyeaters, and in smaller groups when feeding. The white-naped honeyeater is endemic to eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia, from northern Queensland to eastern South Australia, with a race in south-western Australia. It can be found in open forests and woodlands, mainly in the temperate zone, and rarely in drier areas. Partially migratory in south-eastern parts of range. The white-naped honeyeater feeds on nectar, insects and their products (e.g. honeydew and lerp), and manna. They tend to forage in the tallest trees, and occasionally under bark, but are rarely seen on ground. During breeding season, they breed communally, with both the parents and helpers looking after the young, although only the female incubates the eggs. The female builds a small, open cup nest out of grass, bark and spider web, high up in a tree or sapling. At least two broods are raised in a season. The nests can be parasitised by the fan-tailed cuckoo and pallid cuckoo.

white nymph butterflyIdea leuconoe, a large species; it has a large ratio of wing-area to body size which results in a rather fluttery flight alternated with gliding. Their ghost-like appearance in dense forest has lead to many local legends. Also known as tree nymph.

white-ant—1. destroy (a wooden structure). 2. undermine or sabotage (an enterprise).

white-bellied sea-eagleHaliaeetus leucogaster, the second-largest bird of prey found in Australia. Young sea-eagles may be confused with the wedge-tailed eagle, but differ in having a paler head and tail and more steeply upswept wings when soaring. White-bellied sea-eagles are a common sight in coastal and near coastal areas of Australia. Birds form permanent pairs that inhabit territories throughout the year. Their loud, goose-like honking call is a familiar sound, particularly during the breeding season. Birds are normally seen perched high in a tree or soaring over waterways and adjacent land. In addition to Australia, the species is found in New Guinea, Indonesia, China, South East Asia and India.

white-bellied storm-petrelFregetta grallaria. Storm-petrels are seabirds in the family Hydrobatidae, part of the order Procellariiformes. These smallest of seabirds, relatives of the petrels, feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. They are strictly pelagic, coming to land only when breeding. Since the introduction of  the black rat, they have been extinct from Lord Howe Island, but breeding continues on nearby islands, where they nest in colonies, arriving in the evenings. One white egg is laid in a burrow in turf or soft soil. Both sexes incubate in shifts of up to six days. The egg hatches after 40 or 50 days; the young is brooded continuously for another 7 days or so before being left alone in the nest during the day and fed by regurgitation at night. Nestlings and parents leave the nest together after 60 or 70 days. When not breeding, the white-bellied storm-petrel apparently disperses over the Tasman Sea and possibly the Coral Sea. As is the case of most storm-petrel species, little is known of their behaviour and distribution at sea, where they can be hard to find and harder to identify.

white-browed babblerPomatostomus superciliosus, an active, noisy bird, usually found in small groups busily foraging on the ground for spiders, insects, seed and other prey or food. Both sexes have a similar appearance and breed in small groups. Babblers roost together at night in nests in the upper branches of woodland trees, such as mulgas and myalls.

white-fronted chatEphthianura albifrons. All the Australian chats are arid adapted species and therefore nomadic to some degree. In the non-breeding season, mixed flocks of chats are sometimes encountered, and some small flocks can wander very widely. In the breeding season white-fronted chats nest in loose colonies, but territories are well defended from each other. Chats tend to erupt and breed after rains. Inhabits heathland and pasture but, like all the chats, feeds primarily on the ground.

white-fronted honeyeaterPhylidonyris albifrons, an arid honeyeater that is very nomadic.

white-headed pigeonColumba leucomela, endemic to rainforests in eastern Australia. It is a close relative of the domesticated pigeon and is of similar size and shape. In forests this pigeon is difficult to observe. By contrast, round towns and farms it may form large flocks to feed, especially on fallen fruits of the exotic camphor laurel. When nesting, it is detected most readily by its loud, booming calls. The nests of many pigeons and doves seem to consist of not much more than a beakful of twigs and a prayer. It is surprising that they hold eggs, let alone wriggling nestlings, but the commonness similar nests across many species—for example the peaceful dove—means they must serve their purpose. It has been suggested that these nests may dry out quickly after rain. Flimsiness, however, may be an illusion; the sticks in nests of superb fruit-doves were found to consist of forked twigs which were locked into place and difficult to pull apart.

white-lipped tree frogLitoria infrafrenata is said to be one of the world's largest tree frogs, usually growing to 10cm, but some individuals have reached 14cm in body length. They are green to brown on top and white underneath, with a clear white line along the bottom lip. It is found only in the northern part of Queensland from Townsville to Cape York. Also known as the giant tree-frog.


white-quilled rock-pigeonPetrophassa albipennis, a 29cm bird with crown, neck and breast dark brown with grey bases and pale fringes, giving a mottled or scalloped effect. The throat and chin are black with small triangular white spots. A thin, black line extends from the bill through the eye, which is bordered on top and bottom by a single line of white feathers. Mantle to uppertail coverts and wing shields are dark brown to dark rufous brown with pale rufous-buff fringes. Uppertail feathers are dark brown; undertail black; primaries are chestnut with patches of white (seen best when bird in flight or stretching the wing). The bird's iris is dark brown, its bill black, and its legs and feet purple-black. There are two races, which differ in darker or lighter plumage color and being either white-winged or dark-winged—large, dark birds in the north and west Kimberley, smaller, redder birds in the east and Northern Territory. Found only among the cliffs, gorges and boulder-strewn, sloped regions of the Kimberley area of Western Australia and adjacent Northern Territory, east to the Flora River and Stokes Range. Also known as white-winged rock-pigeon, white-winged bronzewing.

white-striped possumDactylopsila trivirgata, a slightly-built possum with a variable pattern of black and white stripes which run along the length of its body. Exhibits an unusual manner of walking along horizontal branches with a rowing action (simultaneous swinging movement of diagonally opposite limbs). Its distribution in Australia is quite sparse, but is widely distributed throughout rainforests and adjacent woodlands from Mount Spec in Queensland to the tip of Cape York Peninsula; it is much more widespread in New Guinea. It is one of the least known possums in Australia, as it is both rare and shy.

white-tailed spiderLampona murina. This species has previously been identified as L. cylindrata but recent taxanomic work has indicated that it is a different, though closely related, species. Both the cephalothorax and abdomen of this spider are tapering cylinders coloured satin black, but its common name derives from the distinctive, off-white spot at the rear end of the abdomen. White-tailed spiders are known to feed obligatorily on other spiders, especially the black house spider, and can be found almost anywhere in a house or other rural building. They are most likely to roam at night and can drop down from the ceiling onto beds. They make temporary silk retreats and spin disc-shaped egg sacs, each containing up to 90 eggs. White-tailed spider bites can cause initial burning pain followed by swelling and itchiness at the bitten area. Occasionally, weals, blistering or local ulceration have been reported—conditions known medically as necrotising arachnidism. As well as the spider's venom, minor bacterial infection of the wound may be a contributory factor in such cases. It is very common throughout Australia.

white-throated honeyeaterMelithreptes albogularis, probably our commonest garden bird, can be seen on most days in small flocks.

white-winged fairy-wrenMalurus leucopterus, having three subspecies. The Australian mainland subspecies, M. l. leuconotus, is found from inland Queensland, NSW and north-west Victoria to mid-coastal WA. The other two subspecies occur on islands off the WA coast: M. l. leucopterus is restricted to Dirk Hartog Island, which forms the western boundary of Shark Bay; and M. l. edouardi is restricted to Barrow Island, which lies north-east of Exmouth Gulf. On Dirk Hartog Island, white-winged fairy-wrens are widespread from the coastal dunes to the summit of the island. They occur in various habitats, including thickets of mallee eucalypts, low scrub dominated by acacia, Diplolaena and spinifex, broad flats of salt bush, dense Melaleuca and Thryptomene heaths, and clumps of spinifex and sea grass. On Barrow Island the subspecies occurs in hummock grasslands growing on sand plains, sandhills or interdunes. These may include emergent shrubs or thickets of shrubs such as necklace acacia and bats wing coral tree. On Dirk Hartog Island nests are usually placed close to ground level in a well-concealed position within a small shrub. On Barrow Island nests are usually placed in the top of a hummock of spinifex. Little is known about the diet of these birds, but mainland populations consume mostly insects, especially beetles (Coleoptera), but also other invertebrates (e.g. spiders), and occasionally seeds and fruits. These two subspecies are listed as Vulnerable in the Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 because Barrow and Dirk Hartog Islands are so narrow, and the habitat so uniform, that the populations are deemed vulnerable to catastrophe.

Whitlam, Edward Geogh—Labor politician and Prime Minister of Australia, 1972-1975. Whitlam’s policies were based on an expanded role for the federal government as the means of improving education and welfare. A crisis occurred over loan negotiations made in a failed attempt to put the Australian government back into a position of financial independence. Aware of the government’s problems, the Coalition opposition, led by Malcolm Fraser, used its majority in the Senate to block the budget and so force the government to an election. Whitlam decided not to go to the polls but to ride the crisis out. The confrontation was ended when the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, used his reserve powers to dismiss the government and call an election. Labor was defeated at the ensuing 1975 election and again in 1977, after which Whitlam stood down as leader. He resigned from Parliament in 1978. From 1983 to 1986 he was Australian ambassador to UNESCO in Paris.

who's he/she when he's/she's at home?—scornful exclamation about someone who appears to have a very high opinion of him/herself.

who's milking this cat?!/robbing this coach?!—a curt reproach to someone who interferes or attempts to undermine one's authority; mind your own business!

who's up who?—what are the alliances (of the members of a particular group)?; who is in control?

whole bang lot/box and dice—all of it.

whole of government (approach)—a term for the federal government's new approach to service delivery to Indigenous Australians, since the abolition of ATSIC. The government's Indigenous programs are now administered by mainstream services. This type of administration is aimed at creating a co-ordinated and co-operative approach to federal, state and local government agencies. The approach is based around shared responsibility. Governments will take the responsibility to meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous communities, and the communities will identify their needs and sustain funded activities to meet those needs.

wholmeal flour—whole wheat flour.

whop—1. thrash; beat; bash. 2. defeat soundly.

whopper-stopper—bottle-stopper, cork etc.

whose shout?—whose turn its it to buy the round of drinks?

why keep a dog and bark oneself?—statement pointing out the unnecessary duplication of an activity or role; let jobs or functions be performed by those most suited.

wicket—(cricket) a set of three stumps with the bails in position defended by a batsman; the ground between two wickets; an instance of a batsman being got out; a pair of batsmen batting at the same time.

wicket-keeper—(cricket) the fieldsman stationed close behind a batsman's wicket.

wide brown land—Australia.

widgie—a female bodgie, who follows the style of dress and behaviour made popular in he 1950s and 1960s.

widies—car tyres that have a wider tread than standard.

wig-warmer—a hat.

wigwam for a goose's bridle—(joc.) name given to an item that one can't or won't properly identify.

Wik decision—a term for the federal government's new approach to service delivery to Indigenous Australians, since the abolition of ATSIC. The government's Indigenous programs are now administered by mainstream services. This type of administration is aimed at creating a co-ordinated and co-operative approach to federal, state and local government agencies. The approach is based around shared responsibility. Governments will take the responsibility to meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous communities, and the communities will identify their needs and sustain funded activities to meet those needs.

Wik People vs. State of Queensland and Ors—a landmark case in the recognition of native title rights. In mid-1993, before the enactment of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the Wik people made a claim for a determination of their native title rights and interests in the Federal Court of Australia in relation to land on Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. The Thayorre people joined the action because they had claimed their native title rights and interests over an area of land that partly overlapped the Wik claim. The case contested the land rights over two pastoral leases in Queensland that had been granted to non-Aboriginal parties under the Land Act 1910 (Qld) and the Land Act 1962 (Qld). On 29 January 1996, Justice Drummond in the Federal Court made a decision that the claim of the Wik and Thayorre peoples could not succeed over the areas to which they had laid claim, as those areas were subject to pastoral leases. The judge’s reason was that he considered that the grant of pastoral leases under Queensland law extinguished any native title rights. The Wik People went to the High Court to appeal that decision.

Wik-Mungkan/Munkin—Aboriginal people from the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. The Wik languages and cultural region extend from south of Archer River to the Edward. The area north of Archer to the Embley is part of what the Wik people call the Wik Way area.

Wilcannia—an historic port on the Darling River. Settlement of the area by Victorian pastoralists began in the 1850s. Wilcannia was proclaimed in June 1866 and was incorporated as a municipality in 1881. It became Australia's third largest inland port, and was an important crossing point for stock moving south to the Melbourne market. In the 1870s it became a coaching centre for prospectors exploiting the region's gold, copper, silver and opal resources. When the opal fields of White Cliffs were discovered in the 1890s, Wilcannia became the central supply depot for the opal miners and the major recipient of their revenue. In the 1880s Charles Dickens' son Edward worked at Momba Station, and later became the local member in state parliament; and Anthony Trollope's son Frederic worked in the Lands Department office in Wilcannia. Wilcannia's prosperity came to an end with a succession of dry years from 1900, which reduced the river level and thus access to the wharf, and the arrival of rail transport. Railway services from Bourke and Broken Hill bypassed Wilcannia and it lost its status as a commercial centre. Today, Wilcannia is the administration centre for the Central Darling Shire and has a resident population of around 700 people. The name of Wilcannia is said to derive from the Aboriginal for 'a gap in the banks through which flood waters flow'.

Wilcannia shower—dust storm.

wild colonial boy—a bushranger; a larrikin.

wild flax—(see: native flax).

wild lime—small, round citrus fruit with a color that ranges from pale yellow to pale green and a flavor reminiscent of limes and grapefruit. Also called desert lime and tropical yellow lime.

wildlife corridor—corridors of vegetation linking areas of bushland. These corriders allow movement of wildlife, which needs to move across large areas of bush in their search for food, nesting sites and mates. They are often used by young animals in search of new territories away from the nest from which have come. This not only avoids overcrowding of existing habitats, it also facilitates the recolonisation of areas from which certain animals have disappeared.

wilga—a drought-resistant shrub or small tree of the genus Geijera, especially Geijera parviflora of inland eastern Australia.

Willandra Lakes—a region containing some of the oldest evidence of modern humans in the world. The Willandra Lakes World Heritage area, with Mungo National Park at its centre, maintains a continuous record of human occupation stretching back well over 40,000 years. Rain and wind has uncovered ancient fireplaces and hearths, as well as calcified plant matter, artefacts, stone tools and animal bones. At the 33 kilometre-long, crescent-shaped Walls of China, erosion has sculpted the sand and clay into dramatic formations. Landforms and sediments recording events of the Pleistocene Epoch are relatively undisturbed. Baked sediments from uneroded fireplaces record the direction of the earth's magnetic field at the time the fire was in use. About 31,000 years ago, the north-south axis moved 120 degree° from its present position and returned again over several thousand years. This is known as the 'Mungo excursion'. The Willandra Lakes region World Heritage area covers 240,000ha over 18 grazing leases.

Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area—a region containing some of the oldest evidence of modern humans in the world. The Willandra Lakes World Heritage area, with Mungo National Park at its centre, maintains a continuous record of human occupation stretching back well over 40,000 years. Rain and wind have uncovered ancient fireplaces and hearths, as well as calcified plant matter, artefacts, stone tools and animal bones. At the 33km-long, crescent-shaped Walls of China, erosion has sculpted the sand and clay into dramatic formations. Landforms and sediments recording events of the Pleistocene epoch are relatively undisturbed. Baked sediments from uneroded fireplaces record the direction of the earth's magnetic field at the time the fire was in use. About 31,000 years ago, the north-south axis moved 120&deg from its present position and returned again over several thousand years. This is known as the Mungo excursion. The Willandra Lakes region World Heritage area covers 240,000ha over 18 grazing leases. located 987km west of Sydney and 128km north of Balranald in New South Wales.

William Creek—one of the smallest towns in South Australia (population approximately 7), William Creek lies within the boundaries of Anna Creek, the largest cattle station in the world. Located roughly halfway between Maree and Oodnadatta, the William Creek site was named in 1859 by explorer John McDouall Stuart after the second son of John Chambers, a pioneer pastoralist and a staunch supporter of Stuart’s explorations. Utilised as an outpost for the Overland Telegraph, the town was more fully established as a railway watering and service point on the narrow-gauge Great Northern Railway, when it reached there in 1885. Even at its peak before the Ghan line was moved further west in 1980, there were only a few cottages, a small school and a hotel/store. Today, there remain only a couple of houses and the old pub, the latter servicing the surrounding homesteads and hosting the annual Easter gymkhana and picnic race meeting. Five kilometres from William Creek is the access track to Anna Creek Homestead and Coober Pedy, which lies 160km away over rough sandhills and barren plains.

Williamstone piers—(rhyming slang) ears.

willie—the penis.

willie wagtailRhipidura leucophrys, the largest and most well-known of the Australian fantails. Birds measure 18.5 to 21.5cm, with black plumage above a while belly. The Willie wagtail can be distinguished from other similar-sized black and white birds by its black throat and white eyebrows and whisker marks. The name wagtail stems from the constant sideways wagging of the tail. The call is also well-known, often being uttered constantly throughout the night, and is interpreted as "sweet-pretty-creature", though other calls involve more scolding and chattering notes. The Aboriginals would never tell secrets if one of these black and white fly catchers were nearby, as they believed them to be gossipers. Although it is active in defending its territory, the willie wagtail is very tolerant and tame around humans, often feeding and nesting in close proximity of houses and human activity. They inhabit open forests and woodlands, with a tendency to prefer the wetter areas where they can find lots of leaf-litter for feeding, and available mud for nest building. They are found throughout most of eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia and northern Tasmania, but are absent from northern Queensland. The willie wagtail is found in almost any habitat except the densest forests.

willies—feeling of fear, apprehension, uneasiness, revulsion.

Willilambi—an Aboriginal people of South Australia.

willing horse—person who is a willing and capable worker.

willow wattleAcacia salicina, evergreen Australian native with gray-green foliage and a drooping growth habit. It may reach a mature size of about 40' tall by 20' wide. The flowers are fragrant, creamy white puffballs that may appear anytime during the year. Widespread in eastern Australia, predominantly in central Qld and western N.S.W., but extending to N.T., S.A. and Vic.; possibly also W.A. (see below). Grows mostly along water courses and on floodplains, in soils ranging from sand to clay. Also known as native wattle, willow acacia, Australian willow.

willy wagtail—(see: willie wagtail).

willy-willy—a gusty, spiralling wind.

Wilpena Pound—a famous aerial landmark covering nearly 9000ha of the Flinders Ranges. It is a flat plain, rimmed by hills that enclose what is reputedly some of the most beautiful country in this region of South Australia. The word 'Pound' was added because the farmers were struck by its resemblance to the enclosures for keeping sheep, which at that time were called pounds. The Wilpena Pound is home to Sturt's desert pea, river gums, mallee, acacia and casuarinas. In season, you’ll find Flinders Ranges bottlebrush, hop bush and Sturt’s desert rose. Wildlife includes the red kangaroo, euro, yellow-footed rock-wallaby, dingo, emu, galah and wedge-tailed eagle, as well as several species of snake and numerous species of lizard. A resort was established near the only entrance to Wilpena Pound in 1945 that was administered by the South Australian Tourist Bureau. By 1972, the Pound was under the control of the National Parks Commission. Wilpena Pound is located 429km north of Adelaide.

Wilson's Promontory—a headland jutting into the seas of the Bass Strait, the southernmost point of the Australian mainland, southern Victoria. The peninsula is 35km long with a maximum width of 23km. Perched on the promontory is a granite lighthouse built in 1859. The promontory is dominated by the mountain range, which runs down the centre, its highest point being Mount Latrobe. The mountains feed numerous creeks and rivers with fern glades and rainforest areas. Visited in 1798 by the English explorer George Bass, it was first called Furneaux Land; it was renamed for Thomas Wilson, an English merchant. In 1905 it was made a national park, where walks lead to most points of the 50,000ha park. There are 100km of walking tracks. Nominated as a national park in 1898, it received international recognition as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO in 1982. Wilson’s Promontory is one of Victoria's most popular destinations and is only a 2-3 hour drive from Melbourne along the South Gippsland Highway.

Wilson's Promontory Marine Park—covers the western and eastern coastlines of Wilson's Promontory, north of the fully protected marine reserve. It is an area of extensive sandy beaches, rocky reefs and offshore islands, with some important seagrass meadows. Line fishing and commercial fishing is permitted. Spearfishing and diving for abalone and rock lobster are permitted subject to some restrictions. Pillar Point near Tidal River and Refuge Cove on the east coast are excellent places for diving and snorkelling, but line fishing only is permitted at these places. All plants and animals in the parks are protected. Keep clear of all bird nesting and roosting areas as disturbance can lead to exposure of eggs and chicks to the elements or predators. Located in Victoria.

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