1. In the Thirties, Western Australia deployed soldiers to curb emus in a campaign dubbed The Emu War.
Major Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery commanded soldiers armed with Lewis machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
“The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month.” Ornithologist Dominic Serventy via Wikipedia.
2. Rum was once legal tender.
The history of currency in Australia began in 1800, when Governor King issued a proclamation setting the value of coins in New South Wales. However, because of the shortage of money, the real currency during the first twenty-five years of settlement was rum. Source: Wikipedia.
3. Melbourne used to be called Batmania.
Before being officially named, Melbourne had several interim names including Batmania, Bearbrass, Bareport, Bareheep and Barehurp. Source: Bill Wannan, Australian folklore: a dictionary of lore, legends and popular allusions.
4. Charles Darwin never saw a kangaroo.
Bathurst marks the farthest point inland that Charles Darwin travelled to in 1836. He saw a platypus, but not once on his entire trip to Australia did he see a kangaroo. Observations of Australia’s unique fauna and flora, combined with considerations of the continent’s geographical isolation, contributed toward Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Source: australia.gov.au.
5. AFL was invented by a New South Welshman.
In 1856, Queanbeyan-born Wills returned to Australia after studying at Rugby School in England. The schoolboy game Wills had learned in England underwent modifications in Melbourne until a new code – Australian Rules – was born.
“Wills also carried out perhaps the most astonishing act in Australian sporting history, captaining a team of Aboriginal cricketers from western Victoria, and led them on to the MCG on Boxing Day 1866 to the applause of some 10,000 spectators.”
Source: The Man Who Invented AFL by Greg de Moore.
6. Tamworth was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric lights.
Tamworth in inland NSW is known as the “First City of Lights”, being the first place in Australia to use electric street lights in 1888. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
7. New Zealand was almost part of Australia.
The Federation of Australia was the process by which the separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia Tasmania and Western Australia formed one nation. New Zealand was originally part of this process, but decided not to join the federation. Source: Wikipedia.
8. Australia was the first nation to give women both voting rights and the right to sit in office.
In 1902, the Commonwealth of Australia passed the Commonwealth Franchise Act, which enabled women to vote and stand for election for the Federal Parliament. Source: Electoral Milestones for Women - Australian Electoral Commission.
9. It was once illegal to ocean swim in daylight.
In 1902 this law was openly defied by a male swimmer who entered the water at Manly Beach at midday. He was arrested but no charges were laid, and subsequently “surf bathing” became a popular pastime. With more swimmers in the surf, the dangers of the ocean became apparent, and in 1906 the first surf lifesaving club in the world was founded at Bondi Beach. Source: australia.gov.au.
10. Vegemite was known as Parwill from 1928 to 1935.
Vegemite founder Fred Walker was determined to emulate the success of Marmite and the logic behind the re-branding strategy was simple: “If Marmite…then Parwill.” Source: Vegemite.
11. In World War II, the Australian Army was the first to defeat the Germans (Tobruk, 1941) and Japanese (Kokoda, 1942) in battle.
12. Australia invented plastic banknotes.
Modern polymer banknotes were first developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), CSIRO and The University of Melbourne. They were first issued as currency in 1988 to coincide with Australia’s Bicentenary. Source: Wikipedia.
13. Until 2005, it was illegal in Victoria to be a fortune teller, tarot card reader or witch.
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls introduced legislation repealing the Vagrancy Act, saying many of the offences had no place in a multicultural and tolerant society.
“It is almost 200 years old and is steeped in the language and attitudes of Dickensian England.” Source: The Age.
14. You Could Set Off A Bomb In Australia And No One Would Notice (and the Aum Shinrikyo cult did. Possibly!)
Australia is a country “so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world’s first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed”.
Source: Down Under by Bill Bryson.