The Australia Collection

Tantoon Tree Tea

Australia: The Land Downunder

The Australian Aborigines are believed to be the first inhabitants of this island continent, having arrived from Asia via an overland bridge over 40,000 years ago. The traditional Aborigine culture is based on a deep and strong spiritual belief that they are interwoven within the framework of the land on which they live. Aboriginal history was generally related through sequences of songs that related instructive stories as well as creation myths. The importance of oral communication to aborigines is emphasized by the fact that there were formerly were more than 200 different aboriginal languages in use and over twice that number of dialects. Following the establishment of European settlements in Australia, aboriginal peace was greatly disturbed and the native inhabitants of the country were displaced from the lands their people had populated for millennia. Today, many of the Aborigines that remain no longer carry out the semi-nomadic lifestyles practiced by their ancestors.


Though European explorers had come into contact with Australia previously, real interest in the continent did not develop until 1770 when Captain James Cook arrived at Botany Bay, charted the eastern coast, and claimed it for England, which first utilized the land as a penal colony. One of the earliest industries to develop on the predominantly arid and flat continent was the raising of sheep, but wheat production soon followed. Nevertheless, the colonization of Australia was a relatively slow process until the mid 1800s when gold was discovered and a mad rush ensued to prospect the land. Hopeful immigrants swelled the population and changed the destiny of Australia forever. In modern times, Australia has one of the most diverse and fascinating cultures in the world. The complex population mixture enhances the contrast of this country and is a keynote to the experience of Australia.


With its world-famous wonders, Ayer's Rock and the Great Barrier Reef, as shining examples of natural diversity, Australia is also populated with one of nature's most wide-ranging spectrums of wildlife. Due to the continent's long separation from other large landmasses, many unique forms of life have evolved there. Some of the best known of these include koalas, dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, and the platypus. Many unusual plant species, such as the giant eucalyptus, are also found in Australia, and fossils, though rare, reveal that the continent was once home to the largest known birds, a flightless variety that measured more than 10 feet high. Some of the earliest national parks ever created can be found in Australia, but systematic protection for many areas, important either for natural or cultural reasons, did not begin until the latter part of the twentieth century.

Blue Mountains Honey

For many years after European settlement of Australia, the colonies of the continent were considered separate entities, but they came to be officially united into a confederation in 1900, when the British parliament approved the constitution that established the Commonwealth of Australia. Originally this union only encompassed the colonies of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, but the Northern Territory was added in 1911. The modern Australian system of government is described by many different terms but is often called a federal parliamentary system. In 1986, British involvement in the affairs of the country was officially ended, but the reigning monarch of that nation continues as the head of state in Australia.

Red And Green Kangaroo Paw

Highly urbanized and industrialized, Australia is a significant contributor to the world economy. Many different types of production thrive in the country, which garners most of its gross national product from manufactured products, as can be seen in the Australian collection that features goods made and used in the land downunder. This diverse assortment of photomicrographs encompasses everything from herbal seeds and honey to surfboard wax and beer. One of our favorites, Vegemite, is also a "favourite" of many Australians. The herbal drink, Tantoon Tree Tea, has been extracted and recrystallized to form the beautiful pattern of our banner for this collection (the large image above).

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