Toxic Custard Workshop FilesGuide to Australia

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Questions I'm not planning to answer
  This week, some questions I've been asked recently that I don't plan on answering... I'll make snide comments though.

How democratic is Australia? Please answer in approx 1000 words, double spaced for my politics essay.

  • From memory the spacing shouldn't affect how many words it is.

Trazim osobe koje su u Australiji a iz bivse su yugoslavije.Aimaju ovu I-mail adresu <removed> mi se jave na moji mail

  • Huh?

Sir, I want you to train me in sports or education and I will work for you later, because that is the only way I can pay back or pay you after the training. Reply me soon

  • I didn't realise I did training in sports or education. Maybe I should add it to my CV.

do you have any recipes

  • Only the ones already on this site.

How would a Christian American lady who is single and has loved Australia since childhood meet a Christian Australian man?

hi can I contact any of your writers to get more advice? - Louise, location unknown
Toxic Custard dot com site map We at the Toxic Custard Corporation (registered office, Melbourne Australia, with major offices in Tokyo, London, New York, Paris and Trondheim) have teams of writers working throughout the world to bring you all the very latest information.

The Guide To Australia project team trawl through the many questions asked each week. They operate as three separate units - code-named Red, Green and Blue. Each question has a three week lead time, during which the units will thoroughly research all the issues associated with a particular answer. Sometimes this will involve gruelling international travel. Sometimes it will necessitate in-depth research through major public and private archives for relevant information, to ensure that the answer that you get here is not only amusing, but is also factually accurate to within 0.02%, which is the industry standard error margin for travel-related humour pages.

All this work is co-ordinated by the Toxic Custard International Editorial Team, who ensure that this content is fully integrated into the web site, and mailed to all registered subscribers, in accordance with well-established Toxic Custard Corporation policy and standards.

The total staff of Toxic Custard Corporation is around 1500. The company, like most dot coms, has yet to make a profit. In fact, with an annual expenditure of over A$120 million dollars, and an annual revenue of approximately A$3.50, our accountants are of the opinion that we are pissing money away like there's no tomorrow.

So, can you contact any of our vast team of staff for more advice? Unfortunately, no. Not just because they are way too busy to even contemplate talking to the likes of you, but also because all of the above is complete crap. It's just me. Daniel. I do it all.

And no, don't bother contacting me for more advice about Australia, because I am snowed under with life in general, and almost certainly won't reply with anything remotely useful. As it says on the "Ask Us" page, your best bet is to look around the web, and/or ask in newsgroups such as soc.culture.australia+nz 

Is it really true that an Australian male's idea of foreplay is "brace yourself, Sheila"? - Amelia

  Obviously I can't with any certainty give you an answer here that is correct for the entire male population of Australia. Nor can I absolutely guarantee that no Australian bloke would ever say that other common joke line: "Are you awake?" But in general, no.

Feedback from a couple of readers who may or may not know more about this than me:

  • The truth is, that foreplay is virtually unheard of from an Aussie guy because although they would never actually admit it, most aussie guys would rather be down at the pub with their mates watching the footy than having sex with Sheila anyway.
    However if the guy does come home from the pub and finds himself engaged in sex with his woman, the more common comment would be "Get your head down Sheila, I can't see the tv!" -
    Natalie, Vic
  • Thought I'd add a rather regionist joke to the entire foreplay conversation... Q. What's a Tasmanian man's idea of foreplay? A. Are you awake, Mum? - Emily, NSW

How about your prison in your country? Are they good or bad ? THANK YOU!! - Bluebell

Victorian Department Of Justice This would have to rank as one of the oddest questions I've received in some time. I've been racking my brains for quite a while, and have been trying to think of a reason why someone would want to know this. The reasons I can think of, off the top of my head are:
  • You think Australia is still a penal colony - which it isn't, no matter how much the Brits bring themselves into loud guffaws by joking that it is
  • You're considering trying to get yourself into prison as a method of avoiding paying for accommodation while visiting
  • You're considering committing a crime, which is obviously something you think might be worthwhile or you wouldn't consider doing it, but you expect to be caught
  • You watch a lot of Prisoner (Cell Block H) and you're wondering how realistic it is (you know, I used to live a couple of streets away from Sheila Florance, aka Lizzie Birdsworth)
  • You're just curious

Whichever reason it is, I'm afraid I don't have a lot of information for you. All I can say is that my perception from sitting on the outside is that prisons in Australia are up to a reasonably high standard, but are probably not the most enjoyable place to stay if you have a choice.

how can i contact flying doctors - Anonymous

The Royal Flying Doctor Service

Crawford TV: "The Flying Doctors"

Before I answer that, I need some more detail about the question. Are you trying to contact the real flying doctors, or the people in the old 80s drama series, "The Flying Doctors"? If the latter, well then, I have to tell you, it was an awfully long time ago, and they haven't made any new episodes in about a decade.

Oh? So you meant the real Flying Doctors? For people who haven't heard of them, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is... well, just what it says, more or less - a bunch of medical people who reach their patients in rural Australia by aeroplane. Makes, sense, doesn't it.

Now... if you're trying to contact the Flying Doctors because you've got an emergency, then asking for the contact information through this web site is quite possibly the worst way of trying to find their phone number. Hopefully you haven't died yet, and you will get to see this answer, which is that in an emergency, you should dial 000.

If on the other hand you're just interested in finding out more, and maybe asking the Flying Doctors for some information - and how knows, maybe even making a most generous and sizable donation to help them with the great work that they do - then your best bet is to head over to their web site and browse around there.

Is porsche an australian car, if so is the porsche factory in melbourn? - brobert13, location unknown


Monaro Club of Victoria

Is Porsche an Australian car? Funny you should ask. It is a little-known fact that Porsches actually did originate in Australia. Reginald Porsche started the company in 1926, and lived in a street in Footscray in Melbourne, in between the guy who invented the black box flight recorder and the guy who invented the stump-jump plough.

No, actually all of the above is a complete lie. Porsche is a German car. Made in Germany, probably predominantly by Germans, and driven by wankers. Uhh, I mean, driven by discerning motorists who appreciate the quality craftsmanship and style of such a vehicle when they're driving down to the supermarket.

Anyway, what would Australians want with Porsches? We have our own luxury, high performance car. It's called... The Monaro.

What is the average annual income in Australia? I need it for a school project. I've tried a lot of sites--your're my last hope! - Liz, probably USA

Australian Bureau of Statistics

ABS: Household Income

Currency Convertor

I'm your last hope? How awful for you.

I was about to launch into a diatribe on how you should really use search engines like Google and how they'd probably find the information for you in a flash just by searching for something like "australian average income" - just by typing that right into Google and surely that would get you the answer right there. 

Then I tried it, and I noticed that the first hit that Google returns is actually one of my diary pages from 1996. Odd, isn't it.

Never mind, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is always a good bet for this kind of information, and as usual they haven't let me down.

The average weekly income for 1998 (the latest year for which figures are available) was $658. Doing a bit of fiddling on a calculator gets us an average annual income of $34,310.

Wait! Thanks to Tim Jones for finding the latest figures: $809.70 per week, or $42,220 a year. Bit of an increase in the last three years.

This is of course in Australian dollars, which are worth bugger all - if you halve that value you'll get roughly what it is in US dollars.

It doesn't sound like much, does it. Of course, you have to keep in mind that costs of living and so on are completely different. All the same, I'm glad I earn above the average.

I've heard that in Australia it was frowned upon or even illeagl to stick your arm out of cars while you drive. Is this true? I've also herd that giving the "thumbs up" is not exactly looked upon as a nice thing to do. True? Are there any differences like this that would be beneficial to a visitor from the USA (excluding fanny)? - Michael, USA

Victorian Road Rules

Origins of the Harvey Smith

With a handful of exceptions, yes, it is illegal to have any part of your body sticking out of the window.

But I don't think there's anything wrong giving a thumbs up. Or if there is and I don't know about it, maybe I've been mortally offending people for years without knowing it. Word on the street is that it is offensive in some parts of Europe, and that it was offensive in Australia many decades ago. But Australia isn't in any parts of Europe, and we don't all live in the past, so you're safe to give a thumbs up here. Though you might look like a bit of an idiot if you did it all the time.

The gesture that you should avoid is raising two fingers, with the back of your hand facing the person. A kind of backwards Victory sign. It's known as a Harvey Smith, and isn't very polite.

Presumably George Bush Senior didn't really mean it that time that made it when touring in Australia some years ago. Or maybe he did - who knows.

I'm about to visit the UK, and read your '98 travel diary with interest. You mentioned the shower water pressure in England being a bit weak, but also said something about showers in the US comparing unfavorably to those in Australia. How so? As an American addicted to strong spray, must I plan on visiting your country if I'm to experience the Ultimate Shower? - Diana, USA

  Hmm, let's see, I have experienced showers in Australia, USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland and Italy. Maybe my recollection is faulty, and maybe some of the showers I used were faulty! But it seems to me that Australian showers are consistently capable of providing much higher pressure water.

The kind of water that hits your back so hard it's more like a massage than a shower. Butch, macho pressure that pounds your skin into submission, leaving it dented, bruised, and begging for more.

For those of you who don't like the sound of this, because you come from hydro-wimp countries, preferring shower pressure that's more like a dribble, fear not. Naturally you can merely nudge the the shower taps on to simulate your own shower at home. And also keep in mind that I'm exaggerating.

there is this rumor in the states that australian woman are crazy about american men, I am planning on moving to the gold coast for a job transfer and was just wondering if I was going to be treated like a rock star by the females? - bernie pheonix,az-usa

Oh okay, I shouldn't laugh my guts up without trying to find an honest answer. So here's what some Australian women had to say:

  • I am only one person, but I find the American accent annoying and I also find the big-noting way some Seppos carry on is a little off-putting. This guy sounds like he is a bit of a desperate as well, and that he thinks just by using an accent will get him sex, sex, sex. My personal opinion (since I know the area) is that if he heads to the Gold Coast, he'll find himself only whistled at by prostitutes and surfie dole-bludging chicks, or plastically enhanced Barbie dolls, with a bad dress sense...then again, he's from the USA, he's probably used to those types of gals. - Aussie Mermaid
  • Since most rock stars could safely walk down the street in Australia without being recognised and therefore they are totally ignored, I would say that yes American men would be treated like rock stars (ie totally ignored - nothing special) Personally, if the American man that wants to come here to live is anything like a lot of the American tourists we get here, I wouldn't like his chances in the romance stakes. Aside from that, any man is on the same level as another - ie they need to be passably presentable, generally courteous, etc - in order to get a look in with most women. - Kim, Victoria
  • Dream on Bernie!!!!! On a rating of 1 - 10, Americans dont even rate but on the other hand Australian men are even worse. MEN ARE MEN ARE MEN ARE PIGS WHEREVER THEY ORIGINATE FROM. - Jennifer (Oi! - Daniel)
  • HA!!! tell him he's dreaming! - Ophelia
What is the common view among foreigners about Australia and Australians? What do foreigners think about Australian products? - Tanya, Australia
  I have no idea, not being a foreigner. So over two weeks, we held a survey. Here are the results.

1. What do you think of Australians?

They're all gits. I hate the way they seem too cheerful and keep beating my country at cricket / rugby / tennis / swimming / women's hockey / motorcycle racing etc - 14.1%
They're okay I guess - 26.9%
Aussies are bloody legends! - 34.6%
I have no idea - I've never met any, but if they're anything like they are portrayed on this web site, they must all be complete maniacs. - 9.0%
I am Australian, so to offer my opinion on this topic would hardly be fair, would it? - 15.4%

2. What do you think of Vegemite?

I tried putting a whole bunch on a sandwich and it was utterly disgusting. I am lobbying my government to declare war on Australia in retaliation. - 21.8%
Somebody told me to spread it on thinly, and it was quite nice. - 15.4%
I love it. I never eat anything else. I'm going to try and visit the Vegemite factory next time I visit Australia. - 15.4%
I've never been brave enough to taste it. - 47.4%

3. What do you think of Australia?

I visited and it was a complete dump. It really is the arse-end of the world, and I couldn't wait to get back to my cosy home, which I will never set foot out of again. - 2.6%
I visited and had an okay time, but I've wondered ever since if it was really worth the airfare. - 6.4%
I loved it. If the Australian Immigration people won't let me in, I'm seriously thinking of becoming a boat-person and floating in a half-wrecked unseaworthy wooden boat for 6 months just so I can try and get into the country. - 43.6%
I have no idea. I have never been there. I don't know where it is. I don't know what this page is, but I want to leave now please. - 47.4%

4. Finally, what is your favourite thing about Australia?

Toxic Custard - 39.7%
Crocodile Dundee - 3.8%
Vegemite - 2.6%
Neighbours - 2.6%
Prisoner Cell Block H - 2.6%
The wide open spaces - 1.3%
The friendly people who keep saying "Mate!" because they can't remember your name - 17.9%
The government with your Prime Minister who looks like Mr Garrison from South Park - 5.1%
Bondi Beach on a stinking hot day - 0%
St Kilda Beach on a stinking hot day - 2.6%
The Gold Coast on a stinking hot day - 1.3%
Cottesloe Beach on a stinking hot day (as long as the sharks don't come too close) - 2.6%
Those Harbour Bridge and Opera House things look really cool - 7.7%
Beetroot on hamburgers - 7.7%

Thanks to all who responded.

What year did settlers first come to australia? - Al Capone (yeah, right), UK

Australian history timeline

We're not absolutely sure, but current evidence seems to indicate that Australia was first settled around 60,000 years ago by tribes from further north.

If you meant European settlers, that was merely a blip ago in comparison - the first permanent European settlement was in 1788. In 1835 Governor Bourke declared "Finders keepers, losers weepers", by announcing that all of the land was owned by nobody before 1788, and that everything therefore belonged to the British Government. Look at it this way and you can see why some Indigenous Australians are a little bit miffed by the whole idea.

I'm a student doing a report on why the toilets of Australia flush counterclockwise. I was curious to know if you could provide me with any insight regarding this, or possibly some links I could access. Much obliged. Thank you. - Anonymous, probably USA

Guide to Australia previous answer: Toilet flushes

Discovery Channel: toilet flushes

How toilets work

I thought we'd covered this before. Contrary to popular belief, toilets, wherever in the world they are, flush exactly the way they feel like flushing at the time. It might be clockwise or anti-clockwise, and it doesn't depend on which hemisphere of the planet they're on. While the hemisphere the toilet is in does have some influence, it's only a very very tiny influence compared to all the other things that determine which way it flushes.

Go on: go to your toilet now and flush it a few times. See what happens.

By the way, just about everything else on that Simpsons episode about Australia was wrong, too.

My friend tells me that you all still drive around in 70's muscle cars. He says you have a car called a moonaro or something. Is this true ? - parkingqueen, location unknown

Kym's Monaro Page


Australia is, believe it or not, not some kind of southern hemisphere version of the Dukes Of Hazzard. Well, most of it isn't.

Your friend is either stuck in some kind of seventies timewarp, or is teasing you mercilessly, and deserves a good slapping around the head with a cricket bat. If you'd care to dob him in, the readers of this page and I will come and help you.

What kinds of clothing do you all wear? Is it hot over there? What is the weather like most of the time? Do you have radios and televisions? How many elementary schools do you have? What are the names of some of the foods you all eat? Do you have a McDonald? Do you live in brick houses? What is the age for marriage? - Delois, USA

Myer Direct
Country Road

Bureau of Meteorology

Sofcom TV Guide

Primary schools

McDonald's Australia

Victoria - Registry marriages / requirements

Wow. What a lot of questions. Don't take this the wrong way, but... well... I assume this isn't some kind of... well, hoax, or joke or anything? Just thought I'd ask, 'cos sometimes I think people don't believe the questions I get here are real. Either way, I'll tackle these briefly, one by one.
  • There are about nineteen million people in Australia. Most of us wear clothing. As with any large group of people, the range of clothing is very diverse, and although specific social groups often wear similar clothing, I couldn't be stuffed trying to describe it all.
  • Australia is a land mass of a tad over 7.5 million square kilometres, covering three major timezones (and several other minor ones), and consequently has just about every kind of weather, from rain, hail and snow to scorching hot days.
  • Personally, I have three radios and two televisions in my house. I'm not a particularly stupid person, and I wouldn't have bought them all if there were no radio and television transmissions to receive.
  • Our "elementary" schools are called Primary schools. There are thousands.
  • The foods we can eat are much the same as the rest of the human race can eat, except that most of us avoid Foster's Lager.
  • Yes, we have McDonald's. Not quite as many of them as we have primary schools, but quite a few. In fact McDonalds in Swanston Street, Melbourne, is where the almost civilised bit of McDonald's, the predictably named McCafé, originated.
  • Some of us live in brick houses. Some live in brick flats (apartments). Some live in buildings made of wood, corrugated iron, concrete, mud brick, and so on and so forth.
  • To marry, at least one person in the couple must be over 18. The other must be at least 16, and if under 18, needs parental consent and a court order allowing it. They also need to provide 30 days' notice, and find two friends over 18 who don't think they're completely out of their minds for contemplating such a crazy idea, to be witnesses.
what would be the necessary paper work , immunizations, and etc... that a family of four would need in order to enter your country for a permanent stay? and also how would we have to go about to get citizenship after we are there? - Gary, USA

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Coming to Australia permanently is not just a matter of filling in forms. You have to be able to convince the Department of Immigration that you are special enough to be granted permanent residency. Generally this means being very smart, being very good at managing business, or being granted official LEGEND status in your chosen field.

As for immunisations, presuming you've had the standard ones given in western countries, you shouldn't need any more. This is not darkest Africa: there is no malaria or anything. And while Australia is well known for its various poisonous creatures, these are rarely encountered in the cities where the bulk of the population lives.

Presuming you get here and manage to wangle getting permanent residency, citizenship (which gets you the right to vote, a certificate, a small wattle plant, and a sudden taste for meat pies and Vegemite) can be obtained after two years.

Isn't it true that Australia was originally just the place that England shipped out all its criminals? - Jess

Timeline of Australian history

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

Originally? Erm no, not originally. For at least 60,000 years before white settlers came along to claim it, Australia was the home of various indigenous peoples.

European settlement began as recently as 1788, which actually isn't all that recent I suppose, but it's a lot more recent than 60,000 years ago. And I doubt very much that it was all their criminals that the English sent out. That would have taken an awful lot of boats. No, just a selected lucky few. Probably mostly those who couldn't afford good lawyers.

A bunch of military types and civil servants (to keep the red tape flowing) and their families (Hey kids - guess where we're moving to!) came with them, and swarms of free settlers soon followed.

When I was in Melbourne last year I noticed that many of the toilets had two buttons for flushing instead of the usual handle we have here in the United States. Why are there two buttons instead of one? - Anonymous, Kansas, USA

Caroma - has way too many diagrams of toilets to be healthy 

Half flush for US toilets: "1 2 flush"

Well, one button flushes your business down the toilet. The other flushes it back up again... No, wait, that's wrong.

Back in 1984, some bright spark at Caroma (constructors of the finest quality toilet bowls in existence) realised that to properly flush a toilet, you don't always have to use a whole bunch of water. And so, the half flush was born.

Nowadays most Australian toilets feature the two buttons. If you choose the half flush and it's not adequate, then you can always resort to the full. Personally, I've often wondered if pressing both buttons at once gets you one and a half flushes.

How can i get some coins from australia for a slot machine? - Theodore, probably USA

Universal currency converter

[Coin comparison - US coins to Australian coins]What an odd request. To what end? Is it so you can fool some kind of vending machine into thinking you're giving it a bunch of your own local US currency, of fine stature and value on the world stage, but you're actually giving it some scummy minor currency like Australian dollars, which are currently worth less than 60 cents US?

If that's the case, it's an interesting idea. The Australian 10 cent coin is roughly the same size as a US Quarter. And an Australian 5 cent coin is roughly the size of a US Dime (which from my recollection of obscure currency terms is 10 cents, right?)

But would they be similar enough to fool a machine? I don't know. Anybody care to try it?

Of course, if it was not your intention to mercilessly rip-off struggling small businesses such as Coke and Pepsi, then I apologise. And you might want to clarify your question.

Either way, check with your local friendly Australian ex-pat and/or tourist, or failing that, a coin shop or a currency exchange place could be the way to go.

By the way, I just noticed that on Australian coins, the Queen is correctly aligned to be the same way up as the drawing on the other side. On US coins, (distinguished bloke in a long wig that I couldn't name to save my life) is upside down compared to the other side.

How can I find the phone # of an old friend in Australia while living in the US of A? - Anonymous, USA

Australian White Pages

Australian Yellow Pages


The World Wide Web is a wonderful thing, no matter what the non-commercial Unix shell purists might think. It is thanks to the World Wide Web that you can look up an Australian phone number from anywhere on the planet: Just get your web browser to mosey on over to 

You'll need to know your friend's general location - for instance which capital city, or if not a capital city, which state. But even if you don't, it's not too much effort to search a few times for the various combinations. Once you've found the number, you'll also have the address, and even a link to a map to show you where they live. Handy, eh? Now... if we can just get e-mail addresses listed as well...

I know this is beginning to sound like a newspaper web page review, but the site can also tell you about time differences from anywhere to anywhere, and what arcane prefixes you need to dial to reach an international number.

The question is... why on Earth doesn't every country on the planet have its phone books on the Web? Some of the bigger, supposedly very high-tech countries of the world only seem to have the Yellow Pages (business listings) online.

Are your pennies really big,like 2" or so? I think I've saw one a really long time ago. - Richard, probably USA

Reserve Bank of Australia

[50 cent coin]

Yep, it must have been a helluva long time ago. Australia hasn't had pennies, shillings and pounds since 1966. No, they weren't anything like two inches, not even in diameter. I mean, think about how big that would make it; that would be a completely stupid size for a coin, especially a one penny coin. We'd all need huge pockets.

Of course, you might have meant a one cent coin, which is not called a penny. But these were pretty tiny. One and two cent coins were phased out a few years ago, and now all cash transactions are rounded to the nearest five cents.

Australian money comes in the following denominations: Coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, 2 dollars. The 50 cent coin is the biggest, but it's still nowhere near two inches.

Notes, which are now all plastic, and which nobody ever bothers to check for forgery because they're so hard to duplicate, are 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 20 dollars, 50 dollars and 100 dollars.

Occasionally others are released, such as commemorative 5 dollar coins, but these are not in general use, except by people with an over-enthusiastic interest in coins.

I know you are more in tune with your fellow Aussies' views of the best beers, but I'm deeply curious to know how your fellow countrymen (and women) view discrete breastfeeding of infants in public places? - Diane, Iowa, USA

Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia

How do we view discrete breastfeeding of infants in public places? With sideways glances and a pair of sunglasses, that's how.

Har har. But seriously, most Australians are fully aware that breastfeeding is easier and healthier for babies, and rarely will a breastfeeding mum even be noticed, except perhaps by passing grannies who want to coo at the baby.

Was Australian money invented before 'plastic'? Who is the person behind it all? The foresight of this person, awesome. Launder it, piss on it, chunder on it.. you name it, this money can't be beat. No country I've been to had anything like it. Is there a worldwide patent on this idea? - Erik, The Netherlands

Reserve Bank of Australia: Polymer Bank Notes

[$20 note]

Those who have never seen Australian bank notes may be in for a surprise when they do. Unlike the notes of some countries, they're different sizes and colours. Even more unlike the notes of some other countries, they're plastic - well, polymer to be precise.

And yep, they're tough all right. I can't say I've tried any of the activities you've suggested, but about the only thing you can do to damage them is cut them. Presumably given enough heat, you could also melt them, but to be quite frank I value the contents of my wallet too much to try it.

They're also extremely difficult to counterfeit. I should know; I've tried. Well, actually no, I haven't tried. But I've often pondered just how one could reproduce the little transparent plastic bit of the note, as well as all the other ingenious anti-counterfeiting devices built into it. A colour photocopier is just not going to do the job.

They're made in such a way that you can tell instantly if a note is real or not, which is why it threw me a bit when I was in England, to see people eyeing large denomination notes with some suspicion.

I don't know who holds the patent for the technology, but the Australian Reserve Bank and the companies behind the technology are certainly trying to sell their expertise in this area - so far mostly to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

I've heard that Australians are known to be "well-endowed". Have you heard of this rumour? Is this true? - Dawn, location unknown

Umm... nothing springs to mind

Yes, it's true. Well, that is, it's true that it is a rumour, as Sir Humphrey Appleby might say.

As for whether or not the rumour is true... Umm... I don't know. Wait a minute, let me think of something saucy and find a ruler. Oops, not the 30 cm one, better find the metre-long ruler...

Actually I'm far too shy to be publicising my vital statistics. But if anybody has done any kind of a survey in this area, please send in the results.

I've been living out of Australia for 20 years now but I am planning on going home for good. Could you tell me,please, what I need to do to "re-establish" myself as an Australian citizen, and what I need to do for medical insurance coverage etc.???? I'm not looking for the dole - I am quite able and willing to work. - Airsock (probably USA)

Department of Immigration

That's the spirit - desert those horrible foreign countries and return to paradise on Earth! Australia! Australia! Australia! Australia! We love you! Amen!

Let's hope it still seems like home when you get here (insert Peter Allen music here). Places change, you know. If you're hoping for an oasis free of casinos and private utility companies and endless droves of cable TV reps knocking on your door at dinner time, then you may be disappointed. But I'm sure your fellow countrymen will give you a warm welcome when you get here. They'll probably say "Where the hell were you?"

If you're a citizen or have permanent resident status, you shouldn't have any hassles, but what you'll want to do is contact the friendly people at your local Australian consulate or the Department of Immigration and get them to send you any appropriate paperwork.

Registering with Medicare (Australia's universal health cover system) is no problem, it just means filling out a few forms once you've arrived. Similar pen-pushing will be needed to get a tax file number, drivers' licence, bank account and all those various other things you need to get organised when you move countries.

Exactly when does Daylight saving start and end in Australia? (In Europe they have standardised on Last Sunday in Feb & last Sunday on Oct, whereas in the USA it seems to be last Sunday in Apr. & last Sunday in Oct.) - Stewart, location unknown


Telstra - world times

Australia's Daylight Savings Times

I have a theory. It's probably not a very good theory, but it's my theory nonetheless. It's a theory about LAN Administrators - those people who work in companies large and small, and take care of computers.

It's my theory that in Australia, you can tell a good LAN Administrator because they're the ones who have figured out how to override the dates that Windows thinks Daylight Savings start and end in Australia.

Australian state governments seem to change Summer Time dates more often than they call elections. They also consistently manage to avoid reaching a consensus on when the dates should be. In fact Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory don't have Summer Time at all. Maybe it's because they seem to have summery weather all the year round.

Anyway, the rest of us Australians switch to Summer Time around about the time that the Northern Hemisphere finishes it, on the last Sunday in October (except in Tasmania where it's the first Sunday in October). We all go back to Standard Time on the last Sunday in March.

OK, I just got an email from a co-worker about a scam going on in Australia (Sydney, apparently, to be exact). The nature of the scam is this: They get you drunk and steal your kidneys. You wake up in a tub full of ice and there's a note that says "Don't move, call 000". The message also says this scam has been getting a lot of news coverage. Is this in fact true? - Pat, Canada urban legends: Kidney theft

Well, I gotta tell you, this happened to me.

No! No, it didn't. This hasn't happened to me, it hasn't happened to any of my friends or relatives, and in fact, I've never heard of it happening. Not once.

I mean... why would anybody steal your kidneys anyway? It's not like they're going to be able to sell them in a pub or something. "Hey mate... Pssst... Wanna buy a couple of kidneys? Great for transplants."

Or would it be for some weird cannibal cult? Or just a kind of quite sophisticated and terribly amusing practical joke? But hey, at least whoever made the story up got the emergency phone number right.

If any Sydneysiders who have lost kidneys in this way are out there and have lived to tell the tale, please get in touch.

Update: I've had heaps of feedback advising that this story is a well known urban myth. I especially like this page about it...

i want to have good sex in australia which would be the best areas.thank you - Someone in Singapore
Related Link:

Bambra Studio

Around the genitals, mostly.

I'm not going to give you any particular advice on finding good sex, other than to let you know that if you're planning to pay for it, Victoria is the only state to my knowledge that has legal prostitution. Look under Escorts in the Yellow Pages.

(I've since been informed it's also legal in the ACT).

I would like to know the rate of personal income imposed on the individual in Australia. I just wondered how heavily taxed is the average indivdual. - Cherrie, USA

Updated over here
Does the water circulate the opposite way when you flush the toilet Down Under? - Vlad, doubtless somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
  Well, which way does it go where you are?

I looked at this topic after I got back from the USA in '96. The general consensus back then amongst those readers more familiar with the vagaries of physics than I, was that when you flush the toilet, the chances of the water going clockwise or anti-clockwise are about equal, no matter which hemisphere you're in. If you do a toilet flushing survey wherever you live, you'll probably find that the water goes down both ways about equally.

Recently, while watching the Discovery Channel, I heard a brief statement about Australian taxis. They claimed that in Australia, the passenger rides up front with the driver. Is this true!? - Mark, USA
  That must make fascinating viewing... "Coming up next on the Discovery Channel, the amazing world of Australian taxis!" Can you blame me for not getting cable?

The vast majority of Australian taxis are just normal cars that have been converted into taxis by putting radios and fare meters in, "TAXI" signs on top, a driver ID tag, painting them yellow (at least in Melbourne) and sticking checked highlights down the side.

And yes, when the driver is male and there is a single male passenger, it's very common for the passenger to ride in the front seat, next to the driver. It makes it much easier to compare notes on yesterday's cricket or who's going to win the Cup.

If the passenger is female (and the driver is male), then often the passenger will ride in the back, which is also the case if there are two passengers - unless they hate each others' guts, but not enough to want to hire separate taxis.

It should be noted that there are some female taxi drivers, and I believe in some cities there are taxi companies with exclusively female drivers, setup for the benefit of women travelling alone.

If there's three or more adult passengers, it's common for one to sit next to the driver, unless there's three and they really feel like snuggling up.

If there's five passengers, it gets a little tricky - you need to ask for a 5 seater taxi when you book. The two times I've had to do this, I've ended up with a bigger "London cab style" (someone in advertising must have come up with the idea of calling it that, it doesn't really look like one) taxi with loads of seats in the back (they're also designed to accommodate wheelchairs), or a six-seater station wagon taxi, in which two of us ended up sitting with the driver. Very cosy.

I could draw some diagrams to explain all these combinations, but I can't be bothered.

Which side of the street do Australians drive on? (or at least, which side are you supposed to drive on) ? - Martin Vanderbilt in Arizona
  In Australia, left is right and right is wrong. That is to say, the normal convention in Australia is for people to drive on the left hand side of the road, except occasionally in the circumstances of extreme intoxication, when it is more common to drive all over the road.

This can cause a little confusion to some visitors. For instance, imagine a car with a dog in the passenger seat. My ex-wife is American and when she first saw such a thing in Australia, her immediate thought was "Omigod, a dog driving a car!"

In 1996 we went to America. When we got back I noticed there was some video tape footage we filmed of me in Seattle, clearly looking the wrong way down the street before stepping off the curb.

A friend of mine claims that one of the IQ tests in Australia is a hook turn, where you have to make a right turn from the left lane at an intersection. How exactly do you execute this turn, and are these all over Australia, or just Melbourne? - Sunita Kumari Bhatia, Delaware, USA
  The dear old hook turn, confuser of many a visiting driver(*) is to my knowledge, only found in the Melbourne CBD. It was designed so that cars turning right wouldn't wait on the tram tracks in the centre of the road, thereby allowing the trams to pass, and to continue on to somewhere where there are cars blocking the way so they can be delayed there instead.

(*) Almost confusing to visiting drivers as
the concept of a pedestrian mall, apparently.

Here are the steps to making a hook turn, and at this point I would like to remind people from elsewhere on the planet that we drive on the left hand side of the road.

1. Approach intersection. Panic when you realise you have to turn right and you suddenly notice the sign says to do a hook turn. Cut across two lanes of traffic getting to the left hand lane.

2. When traffic light turns green, move forward slowly, cursing at the car in front of you which is waiting to turn left, rather than run over fifty pedestrians crossing the street.

3. When the way is clear, move forward to the middle of the left hand side of the intersection, being careful to look like you're doing something really dangerous to any pedestrians still crossing adjacent - especially tourists who don't know what's going on. Then find a good book or magazine to keep you busy until the traffic lights change again.

4. As the traffic lights change against you, wait until the cars on your left waiting for you to turn think you haven't noticed and have honked angrily, then with a screech of your tyres, deftly execute your right hand turn as they stream after you ready to hurl massed abuse.

In America, rural mail delivery is very strange. The mailbox is ALWAYS on the side of the road that forces the mail carrier to drive in the passenger seat. The trucks are built with the steering wheel on the "right" side of the truck, which makes no sense because Americans drive on the "right" side of the road. Have the Aussies gotten it "right" or do your rural mail delivery people also have to sit in the passenger seat to get to your mail boxes? - tgnick@Somewhere in the States
  I did notice the mail trucks when I was over in the States in '96. I think I saw some with big warning notices that said "Warning! Right hand drive!" and I thought "" before working it out.

Perhaps it's frustration with this that sends so many American mail workers back to their workplaces with loaded guns and a mildly uncooperative attitude?

Anyway let's see if I've got this right, is this how it works? (Stand by for a badly drawn diagram.)

Attempted mail delivery direction diagram

So I guess it's a choice between driving the wrong way down the street and putting the wheel on that side. Driving the wrong way down the street could provide interesting neighbourhood entertainment, but it might not improve the mail service.

To answer your question, just about all Australian posties (at least in urban areas) use motorbikes, bicycles or push carts. Those that drive vans (typically picking up from mail boxes and delivering parcels) just use a normal, right hand drive van, though often with the passenger seat taken out so they can get to the curb quickly.

"Postie", by the way is what most Australians call anybody who delivers mail. Just another word we've developed out of what I suspect is a reluctance to say the whole word because of laziness. Is there any other reason that we'd abbreviate "the Melbourne Cricket Ground" to "the MCG", and then shorten it again to just "the 'G"?

On the other hand, words like "postie" and "garbo" could be labelled politically correct, because they don't presume gender like "postman" and "garbage man". So there you go.

Street sweeping trucks and garbage trucks, especially those operated by one garbo, are about the only vehicles that tend to have one of those weird freaky deviant left-hand-drives.

Here in North America, we just (as in last weekend) "sprung ahead" to Daylight Savings time, to give us more daylight in the evening. Logic tells me that if you were to also spring ahead in Australia, the reverse effect would happen, making it get darker earlier. How does this work? - Bret from Carleton
  It goes like this. Australia (and the rest of the half of the world that's below the equator) has winter in the middle of the year, and summer at the end. This means we have such oddities as Christmas in summer and Easter in autumn. While this may seem a tad confusing to those of you in the northern hemisphere, rest assured for those of us who have always done it this way, it isn't.

Obviously this means that Santa can't use a sleigh in Australia. Alternative arrangements are normally made.

The bulk of Australia also has Daylight Savings, and we still "spring forward" and "fall back", though like most of the rest of the world, we rarely call autumn "fall". And of course "autumn back" doesn't make any sense so we don't generally use that phrase.

So in conclusion: today is April 21st. It's autumn, and the days are getting shorter. A few weeks ago we finished summer time, and turned the clocks back. And hopefully Christmas this December will be a nice hot one and we can take the opportunity to crank up the barbie in the park and down a few stubbies.

I just read that on this day (Feb 19) in 1942: About 150 Japanese warplanes attacked the Australian city of Darwin. Now I was aware Australian forces fought bravely in the Pacific during World War II, however as an arrogant American I was unaware Australia was physically attacked. Was this attack a one time incident or did the Japanese attack Australia repeatedly?? - Bob Cook
  I was born almost thirty years after this all happened, so I'll refer to my excellent source for many of these types of answers, "The Bulletin Almanac" (I probably should buy a new one, this one's five years old now)...

The Japanese attack on Darwin on 19th Feb 1942 was the first enemy attack on Australian soil. 243 were killed. This was the first of sixty-four attacks on Darwin, the last on 12th November 1943.

Other Japanese attacks on Australia included 3rd March 1942, when Broome and Wyndham in WA were attacked. And on 31st May 1942 three Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour. A torpedo exploded under a ferry and nineteen sailors were killed.

The other sobering statistics listed in this book include: 993,000 Australians served in WW2. 27,073 died or were killed in action, 23,477 were wounded, 22,376 were Japanese POWs (8031 died), and 8184 were German POWs (265 died).

Why is the product that is generically known elsewhere in the world as clingfilm called 'gladwrap' in Australia. Does this refer to some other function that it is widely used for but no-one discusses? - Ian from Scotland
  When I was in high school, my science teacher once told us a tall tale about someone who had deduced that Glad Wrap and a rubber band would make a pretty good method of birth control. He was right of course - any woman seeing that would say "you must be joking" and there'd be no risk whatsoever of transmitting anything.

Other than this dubious usage and its use in keeping food fresh, I'm not aware of any other strange uses of Glad Wrap, although it has to be said that I lead a fairly sheltered life.

Glad Wrap is a brand name, and in Australia has attained the status of being the brand name by which many people refer to the product. A bit like Hoover (to vacuum).

Sometimes confusion can happen because of the varying uses of product names in different countries. For instance Durex (in Australia, adhesive tape; in England, condoms) and Four X (in Australia, beer; in the USA, so I'm led to believe, condoms) could both cause quite hideous and/or embarrassing accidents if someone opened the packet and made use of the product before double checking first that they had got the right thing.

How does the fire turn along such a jurney? - newski

This is not the only question that this column has been asked that makes no sense whatsoever. If you're planning on asking anything this unintelligible, do me a favour, and don't. If on the other hand you have a question about Australia that is interesting, wittily worded and has numerous humour opportunities provided for the answer, then don't hesitate, get asking!

Australians have a fascination with having things big, drink a lot of beer, talk funny, and are fiercely proud. With all those qualities, do you feel a strong kinship with Texas? - Greg Bulmash, Los Angeles
Related sites:

One of these days I'll get around to finding some.

To take your points one by one:

Certainly we Australians like things big. Why else, for example, would we have Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock)? It's the biggest single rock in the world. In fact, only in Australia could we get planning permission to build it. Just about anywhere else in the world (with the possible exception of Texas), the consortium of Dreamtime spirits that built Uluru would have been told, "Are you crazy?! A thing that size? That's bigger than Bill Gates' house! Where are we going to put it?"

And yes, Australians do drink a lot of beer. In fact, every year Australians drink 453.8 litres of alcohol per man, woman and child. And that's not an average.

Australians don't talk funny. Everybody else does, but that's their problem. Most Australians put up with this, and very kindly correct other people's errors.

And certainly, Australians are proud because AUSTRALIA'S THE BEST DAMN COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!

Finally, in answer to your question: No, not really.

Antony wrote a question not about Australia as such, but it seemed like it deserved an answer: Do you think you're lowering the world's opinion of Australians with your inanities?
Related TCWF:

All of it

You are really all convicts, aren't you? :-) - Gavin
Related sites:
Can't think of any
Anybody in Australia who claims to be descended from the first white settlers is almost certainly lying. There's a few, but not many. The influx of people into Australia since convict transportation ended has been immense. Experts with long names, bushy eyebrows and unfashionable clothing estimate that there are now only three people in the seventeen million population who are actually directly descended from convicts. I think one of them is Pauline Hanson. At least, she'd probably claim so.

See Politics - Pauline Hanson

?sdrawkcab ailartsuA ni gnihtyreve sI - Frank, California


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