by Stu Dawrs
photos by Dana Edmunds
“What happened to good manners?”
A good question … and hard to miss, printed as it was in bold type on the cover of The Weekend Australian magazine’s May 22 edition. It’s a universal lament, but the image that accompanied the query was one few other countries could produce: A model in evening gown and pearls, one elegantly gloved hand filling the foreground, “flipping the bird” to the camera.
Where else but Australia, which has given the world both the stately Sydney Opera House and post-Apocalyptic Mad Max? Where but in a country that embraces both lawn bowling and Australian rules football? Where but on the world’s largest island—or, alternately, smallest continent—a (mostly) well-mannered nation that began as a settlement of convicts, on land already inhabited for more than 40,000 years by a race whose mythic ancestors literally sang the world into existence?
An old friend once said that in order to be truly human, each of us has to embrace our own contradictions. Australia is a truly human place.
“What would you like to know aboutSydney?” asks Gillian Coote. “It’s very big. It’s huge. Really, it goes forever.” It’s true: The city where the story of modern Australia began—that is, the ground where the first boatload of “transportees” was landed—has mushroomed upward and outward in the last forty years. Now the largest city on the continent, Sydney’s four million-plus residents make up nearly one-fifth of Australia's total population; its boundaries push north and south toward the cities of Newcastleand Wollongong. Two hours by train to the west, the once-remote Blue Mountains are lately considered something of a distant suburb.