Culture

The primary basis of Australian culture until the mid-20th century was Anglo-Celtic, although distinctive Australian features had been evolving from the environment and indigenous culture. Over the past 50 years, Australian culture has been strongly influenced by American popular culture (particularly television and cinema), large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking countries, and Australia's Asian neighbours.

The early Indigenous Australian culture before British settlement of Australia is evidenced in the oral traditions and lore of their descendants and the range of material artefacts, however precise detail in the western academic sense is not accessible. Modern Indigenous Australian's culture is rich and diverse although severely impacted by European colonisation.

The Australian culture has been forged on the hardship of early settlers and later on the heroism of the Australian soldiers. 'Mateship', or loyal fraternity, has been a central tenet. This may also explain why the more aggressive forms of sport (Rugby and Australian Rules football, for example) are particularly popular in Australia. Australians have a propensity for diminutive forms of names (e.g. Hargrave -> Hargie; Wilkinson -> Wilko; John -> Johno).

Traditional 'high culture' gains small attention from much of the population, in contrast to popular culture. High culture thrives with excellent galleries (even in small towns); a rich tradition in ballet, enlivened by the legacy of Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Robert Helpmann, and continuing with Graeme Murphy; a strong national opera company based in Sydney; and excellent symphony orchestras in all capital cities, particularly the Melbourne and Sydney symphony orchestras.

Visual Arts

Australia has a long history of visual arts, starting with the cave and bark paintings of its indigenous peoples. From the time of European settlement, a common theme in Australian art has been the Australian landscape, seen in the works of Arthur Streeton, Arthur Boyd and Albert Namatjira, among others. The traditions of indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally and are closely tied to ceremony and the telling of the stories of the Dreamtime. Australian Aboriginal music, dance and art have a palpable influence on contemporary Australian visual and performing arts. Australia has an active tradition of music, ballet and theatre; many of its performing arts companies receive public funding through the federal government's Australia Council.

Music

Aboriginal song was and remains an integral part of Aboriginal culture. The most famous feature of their music is the didgeridoo. This wooden instrument, used amongst the Aboriginal clans of northern Australia, makes a distinctive droning sound and its use has been adopted by a wide variety of non-Aboriginal performers.

Australia has produced a wide variety of popular music; notable examples include the 1960s successes of The Easybeats and the folk-pop group The Seekers, through the heavy rock of AC/DC, the slick pop of INXS to Kylie Minogue to the indie rock of The Vines and Jet.

The arrival of the 1960s underground movement into the mainstream in the early 1970s changed Australian music permanently: Skyhooks were far from the first people to write songs in Australia by Australians about Australia, but they were the first ones to make money doing it. The two best-selling Australian albums ever made (at that time) put Australian music on the map. Within a few years, it became commonplace to hear distinctively Australian lyrics and sometimes sounds side-by-side with imports.

The national expansion of ABC youth radio station Triple J during the 1990s has greatly increased the visibility and availability of home-grown talent to listeners nationwide. Since the mid 1990s a string of successful alternative Australian acts have emerged - artists to achieve both underground (critical) and mainstream (commercial) success include You Am I, Grinspoon, Powderfinger and Jet.

There is a symphony orchestra in each capital city, and a national opera company, Opera Australia, first made prominent by the renowned diva Dame Joan Sutherland; Australian music includes classical, jazz, and many popular music genres.

Literature

Australian literature has been influenced by the landscape; the works of writers such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, captured the experience of the Australian bush. The character of colonial Australia, as embodied in early literature, resonates with modern Australia and its perceived emphasis on egalitarianism, mateship, and anti-authoritarianism. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Australian to have achieved this; he is recognised as one of the great English-language writers of the twentieth century. Australian English is a major variety of the language; its grammar and spelling are largely based on those of British English, overlaid with a rich vernacular of unique lexical items and phrases, some of which have found their way into standard English.

Sport

Australians are passionate about sport and it forms a major part of the country's culture, particularly in terms of spectating, but also in terms of participation. Most of Australia's patriotism is expressed through sport and thus it is taken quite seriously, especially seen during major international events such as the Olympic Games.

Australian Rules Football

Aussie Rules is the most popular winter sport in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. As the only sport invented by Australians, Australian Rules football holds a special place in Australian culture. It is played in all states and is the most popular football code in the nation. It is also the best attended of sporting league in Australia. It also heavily influences other Australian pastimes which include kick-to-kick and footy tipping.

For many years, the game of Australian Rules football captured the imagination of Australian film, music, television and literature. A number of songs inspired by the game have become anthems of the game, none more so than the 1979 hit Up There Cazaly, by Mike Brady and One Day in September which have both become anthems.

Rugby League

Rugby league is the most popular winter sport in New South Wales and Queensland. The NRL and AFL grew out of state leagues in New South Wales and Victoria respectively, and are polarised between the two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. While most of the teams in the NRL are based in Sydney, most AFL teams have links to Melbourne.

Rugby league is played in Australia at club level by teams from cities around the nation, as well as at representative level between between Queensland and New South Wales in the national State of Origin series, one of Australia's major sporting events. In addition the Australian Kangaroos represent the country in international matches.

Rugby Union

Rugby union is also one of the most popular sports within Australia (especially in the Australian Capital Territory), with teams competing in the Super 14, alongside South Africa and New Zealand. In 2003, Australia hosted the Rugby World Cup, which saw the national side, Wallabies, defeated by England in the final at Telstra Stadium.

Football (Soccer)

Until recently, the most prominent soccer clubs were based around ethnic loyalties. Now with the new A-League, which started its first season in September of 2005, Australia has a national competition with one team in each mainland state, plus one team in New Zealand and two regionally-based teams (both in NSW).

Other Sports

Australia's premier summer sport is cricket. Australians also enjoy many other sports, such as tennis, netball, soccer, golf, basketball and motorsport. Gambling is a pastime of many, and horse racing and greyhound racing are popular sports for this reason.

Several non-mainstream sports in Australia still attract a high standard from Australian teams due the sporting culture. For example, in hockey Australia's teams are considered among the best in the world.

As with most nations, women's sport is given less attention than men's, in both media coverage and funding, although the gap is closing slowly.