New South Wales is the oldest and most populous state of Australia, bordered
to the north by Queensland at the Tweed River, to the south by Victoria at the
Murray River, and to the west by South Australia and the Northern Territory.
History and Culture
The area was inhabited by the Aboriginal people for around 40000 years
before the arrival of Europeans, although some evidence suggests this may have
been as much as 60000 years. The Sydney region was inhabited by the Eora,
Garigal, and Ku-ring-gai people. The European exploration began in 1770, when
the coast was first explored and chartered by Captain James Cook, who
recommended Botany Bay as the a site for a settlement. After Cook's return to
England, Captain (and later Governor) Arthur Phillip set out with a fleet of
three ships full of convicts to establish a penal colony. Arriving at Botany Bay
in 1788, he decided it was unsuitable, and sailed north to Port Jackson, which
he described as one of the finest natural harbours in the world. The town of
Sydney, and the colony of New South Wales, was established in the area of the
city now known as 'The Rocks'. This was the first European settlement of Australia.
The population, as of 2009, is approaching 7 million, with most of the new
arrivals being immigrants, and most of the growth being in the capital city of
Sydney. Multiculturalism has now progressed to the point where a gang of men
of Middle Eastern, Pacific Island, and
Asian descent will beat up students of Indian and African descent and tell
them to "go back where they came from", without a single white person
involved. The irony of this situation appears to elude them.
Popular sports are rugby, surfing, cricket, and football. Australian
Rules Football (AFL) is not nearly as popular as in Victoria and South
Australia and is sometimes derided as 'GayFL'. An annual rugby league series
called the State Of Origin is played against (and usually lost to) the
neighbouring state of Queensland.
The current state government for the past decade or so has been formed by the
supposedly left-leaning Labor party, and are regularly complained about as
being incompetent, dishonest, and pandering to either the unions or big
business, depending on who you talk to. However, they continue to be re-elected,
mainly because the opposition isn't much better. Much like any other
It's true, everything does bite, and half of the things that bite are
poisonous. The Sydney Funnelweb is the world's most poisonous spider. If you
want to experience the nasties from safely behind an inch of bulletproof
glass, try Taronga Zoo, or the excellent Australian Reptile Park about an
hour's drive north of Sydney.
The state flower is the Warahtah. Most of the trees are eucalypts, or gum trees.
Kangaroos are common and are considered a pest. They are a very dangerous
hazard when driving on country roads (as my dad will attest), and are often
found splattered all over the tarmac. It's quite possible you will see them in
the wild. You might also encounter emus, wombats, echidnas, and dolphins
off the coast. However, platypus and koalas are very hard to find outside of
NSW has an area of 801 500 square kilometres, and is shaped like a slightly wonky square 900 kilometres (560 miles) to a side.
The Coastal Region
Most of the people that don't live in Sydney live within 100 kilometres of
the coastline. Let's start with the North Coast. It's famous for surf (in
particular, the many long right-hand pointbreaks including Angourie and
Lennox Head), bananas, and alternative lifestyles. Byron Bay is
Australia's easternmost point, and, with neighboring Nimbin, long known as a
hippie town. It hosts several festivals including 'Splendour In The Grass',
which a friend described as 'Fear And Loathing
In Byron Bay' ("there were 'shrooms growing everywhere, man, we rocked up to
the gate and everything started turning yellow"). It's becoming a popular
destination for Schoolies week (think Spring Break). Slightly further
inland, Tamworth holds a well-known country music festival.
Further south, we come to Newcastle and the Hunter region. The Hunter
Valley is famous for wine. Newcastle is one of Australia's larger cities, a
busy port through which a large amount of the world's coal passes. (You see, in
Australia, we make all our money by digging rocks out of the ground and selling
them to China).
Now we come to the Central Coast, just north of Sydney, a relaxed region
popular for holiday homes and retirees. The inhabitants are made fun of by
Sydneysiders for being country hicks.
Past Sydney, we come to the city of Wollongong, another busy industrial port,
with Australia's largest steel refinery. The 'Gong is the beginning of the South
Coast, still a relatively unspoilt region. Small fishing villages such as Nowra,
Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, and Eden dot the coast. Many have now diversified into
holiday towns. Jarvis Bay advertises the whitest sand in the world, while the
Batemans Bay region is now calling itself 'The Sapphire Coast'. It is still
possible to find completely untouched beaches and bays with a little effort.
The surf on the South Coast is infamous for being extremely
gnarly. Square-jawed, freezing cold barrels detonate over dry volcanic rocks,
and grizzled old fisherman (pirates?) with yellowing boards and tattered
wetsuits will look on as you break your board and slice open your body,
muttering "Get back to Bondi, Sydneysider! No soft golden sand
here", and "Yaargh!".
The Great Dividing Range
West of the coast, movement inland is hampered by the Great Dividing
Range. The mountains west of Sydney were not successfully crossed until 1813,
by Blaxworth, Wentworth, and Lawson, who were the first explorers to actually
bother to ask the Aboriginals for directions. They now have train stations named
after them. Their feat was also subsequently immortalized in the video game
'Crossing The Mountains', which we wasted hours on in school. (From what I
gather, it is very similar to the American game 'Oregon Trail').
Today, the Blue Mountains, a few hour's drive west from Sydney, are a haven
for hikers, kayakers, and rock climbers. (They are so called because on a hot
summer's day, the evaporating eucalyptus oil in the gum trees gives the
mountains a blue tinge from the distance).
Further south is found the Budawang range, another haven for
outdoors-inclined people. The distinctive Pidgeon House Mountain was one of
the first things to be sighted and named by Captain Cook.
The southernmost part of the Great Dividing Range rises to form the Snowy
Mountains, the only place on mainland Australia where you may find snow. Mount
Kosciuszko is the highest of these. The eastern foothills of the Snowys are
called the Monaro Plains. 'Monaro' is the Aboriginal word for the area - it
means "breasts of young women" and refers to the appearance of the hills.
The Murray-Darling Basin
West of the mountains is the farming region of the Murray-Darling basin,
Australia's largest river system. Major rivers include the Darling, Lachlan,
Murrumbidgee, and Murray. Like most of Australia, it seems to be nearly
constantly in drought. Water management is a huge issue here, sometimes
approaching Dune levels. Billions of dollars were spent on building dams and
drilling tunnels right through the Snowy Mountains to divert all the
eastern-flowing rivers into the western-flowing ones, as part of the famous
Snowy Mountains Scheme. All for irrigation. So much water is taken out of the
Murray for farming, that by the time it reaches its mouth in South Australia,
it's barely more than a trickle.
Settlement west of the mountains was greatly accelerated when gold
was discovered. Occurring just as the Californian gold rush was finishing, the
Australian gold rush got everyone all excited again, and caused the first major
wave of immigration from countries other than Great Britain.
Major towns include Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Orange, and Parkes. Parkes is famous for
being the location of the radio telescope that was used to receive the
television signals from the Apollo 11 moon landing. This story was told in the
Australian film The Dish. Smaller towns may have great Australian
names such as Gundagai, Gulargambone, Coonabarabran, and
Dijabringabeeralong. The last one is actually a Terry Pratchett invention, but
would fit right in.
As we travel even further west, 'beyond the black stump' as the saying
goes, we begin to come to the Simpson Desert and the red heart of
Australia. Towns like Broken Hill, Cobar, and Lightning Ridge are supported by
mining: aluminium, lead, tin, uranium, and of course silver, gold and
opal. (See previous comment about the Australian economy being based on shiny rocks).
And that concludes this node. You are now poised to ace any question about New South Wales on your local pubs' Trivia Thursday.
Brought to you by the e2 Geography Quest. Sources: Heineman Atlas 3rd edition, living here, and
http://www.bluemts.com.au and http://www.about-australia.com for some dates and