Having only just celebrated yet another gee-they-get-bigger-every-year Australia Day, it was timely to peruse this new little home-grown tome during a hefty fireworks/pavlova hangover. A compilation of fun and fascinating facts and figures, you’ll forgive me if I review The Little Book of Australia: A Snapshot of Who We Are with more than a little patriotic pride.
I mean, who doesn’t like to read about themselves? And yes, each and every last one of us is featured in this little book, resplendent to our last ockerism. But truth be told, this is not a book that relies on the irritating stereotypes that so painfully label the typical Antipodean Terra Australis. This book is indeed a well-researched compilation of what comprises our countrymen – our attitudes, our idiosyncrasies, our predilections.
Author David Dale, one of our country’s foremost commentators on Australian psychology, began his fact-seeking mission back in 2006 with the publication of Who We Are: a miscellany of the new Australia, which was updated in 2007 – Who We Are: a snapshot of Australia today.
This latest publication, some 50 pages longer, opens its pages to release a mind-boggling tumble of fascinating fact. Indeed, Dale believes we can tell a lot about a nation by the way it ‘shops, competes, talks, eats, laughs, worships and entertains itself’. Herewith, we discover just how we do all of the above – and more.
Opening with a map of Australia studded with interesting snippets (Canberra has the smartest people and the longest life expectancy, Perth has the happiest people and Melbourne has the unhappiest), the book charges headlong into chapter after chapter of fantastic fact.
In The Bits That Make Us, for example, we learn where we come from, where we live, how many of us own more than one television and how many inhabit this great brown land (22,140,000 and counting). We’re even treated to information on learning more – like heading to www.abs.gov.au and clicking on Australian Population to watch that people clock tick over. A little scary. Lucky we’ve got lots of land.
We also learn about mating habits (43 per cent of us will divorce), how well we are (14 per cent of us have back problems), even how happy we are (82 per cent of us are consistently contented – a statistic that pleasantly surprised me).
Comparing these current stats over the years, between men and women and in regard to other countries, provides plenty of fodder for discussion, and it’s quite incredible to learn that 61 per cent of us feel our government doesn’t care what the layperson thinks. Very happy to know that 90 per cent of us feel a father should be just as involved in rearing children as a mother, and also impressed to know that 83 per cent agree Australia is the best country in the whole wide world.
In the chapter entitled Peculiarly Ours, Dale regales us with our Australianness – from how we speak to our values, our catchphrases (which includes my particular fave – Aussie Aussie Aussie – oi oi oi… not) our symbols, icons and inventions. Not only that, we discover what it is to be labelled ‘un-Australian’ – a euphemism akin to ‘traitor’ according to a rash of recent political commentary.
In A Potted History, we travel a timeline that begins 40 million years B.C. (when the island that is now Australian broke free from Gondwana Land) to 2012 where Australians vote yes to a republic, abolish state governments and Prime Minister Julia Gillard appoints Peter Costello our first president.
Wading through the ensuing chapters (It’s Been Said of Us…, The Things We Like, Our Kind of People, What’s Next?) is fun fun fun. From famous people to poetry, music, books and movies, if the content of this little book doesn’t make you giggle, it will certainly make you guffaw, grimace, gawp in horror, roll your eyes and send emails to your friends espousing your new-found and highly contemporary knowledge.
Nonetheless, I’m not sure I really wanted to know that the top ten items purchased in Australian supermarkets include cigarettes, chocolate, chips, soft drink, white bread, ice cream and coffee. Officially now the world’s fattest nation? No… why? (FYI – rounding out the top ten are yoghurt, milk and disposable nappies).
Now excuse me, but I have some emails to send and a nice coffee to brew… oi oi oi!