The Lucky Country making its own luck

Australia sometimes refers to itself as the “lucky country”. It’s all a matter of perspective but there is good reason to think that Australia does enjoy its fair share of luck.

Think back to when Vanilla Ice was top of the charts and Saddam Hussein had just survived the Gulf War. Think back to when Italian football had just arrived on UK television or when The Cosby Show had its final episode. Think back to when Yugoslavia existed and before the Australian High Court had found that Mabo did have land rights. It was all those days ago, 25 years actually, that Australia last had an economic recession. Whilst the rest of the world may have suffered the Japanese depression, the tech bubble bursting and the great financial crash, Australia has carried on regardless.

Recently published research showed that whilst Australia is not immune to rising economic inequality, it is a place where what your father does not dictate what you can do. Those perennial do gooders, Finland, Norway and Denmark do beat Australia in terms of social mobility, but looking enviously up at Australia are most other countries including Sweden and Germany, and certainly countries like USA and UK.

There is a part of Australia that prides itself on having discarded the British class system and created an egalitarian society where everyone is the same as anyone else. Australian’s love the story of their famous cricketer Dennis Lillee greeting the Queen (UK’s and Australia’s) with a handshake and a “g’day, how ya goin?” Who is she to be treated any differently?

DL2

Just prior to the research about social mobility, a highly respected international health think tank found that Australia had the second best health care system in the world. There is free health care available, although strangely things like ambulances and dentists are not, which helps give Australia one of the longest life expectancies in the world, beating most other wealthy countries. Health and wealth are closely linked to education so it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Australia has 6 universities in the top 100 in the world, and all of those are above the one that I went to in Scotland.

Economy, health and education are important things for many people when deciding where to live, but there are many places in the world that have these. To be among the best, you need a little extra something special like an iconic opera house; or monumental bridge; or world famous beach; so it’s not surprising that Sydney is ranked the 11th most liveable city in the whole world. However, Australia can boast three other cities that are even better. Perth (sadly not the Scottish one I was born in) and Adelaide are in the top 10 and Melbourne was ranked the world’s most liveable city for the 7th year in a row. Of all the cities in all the world, Australia has the ones where you want to be.

Sydney

Sydney: 11th best in the world; 4th best in Australia.

Australia is much more than a few impressive cities though. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and Uluru stands alone as the only rock that is known throughout the world. Australia is a country built on the coast and why would you not want to live near the coasts that have beaches like Bondi and paradise islands like the Whitsundays. It’s a country that has tropical rainforests in the north, snow capped mountains in the south, and deserts with rocky escarpments in the centre.

The land has provided a bounty for many people in Australia and being the 8th biggest producer of wine in the world means that we can all have a drink to that. And it’s a wine that you are likely to enjoy as Australia has 21 of the world’s top 100 wines, and even has the most awarded wine in the world – a shiraz from South Australia. Thankfully, Australia also produces delicious cheese to accompany your wine.

montalto-vineyard-and-olive-grove_mp_r_1325943_1150x863

France? Italy? Nope, Montalto Vineyard just a hour down the road from Melbourne.

Many people attribute the economic miracle mentioned above to the mining boom that Australia has experienced by digging up all of those minerals from the ground. Recently, Australia had the world’s largest economic resources of gold, iron ore, lead, zircon, nickel, uranium and zinc. It also has lots and lots of bauxite, coal, cobalt, copper, and silver. Whilst being good for mining companies, all of this mining may not be good for the environment. If only Australia had ample sunshine (Alice Springs gets 3500 sunshine hours a year!) and empty land (think the size of France) to build huge sunfarms then it could become a powerhouse in renewable energy. Oh wait, it’s already in the top 10 producers of renewable energy in the world.

When you’ve got so much sunshine, it’s not wholly surprising that life is one spent outdoors. Australians are famed for loving their sport. Melbourne’s annual calendar is not marked by climactic seasons but by sporting ones. Aussie Football, cricket, rugby league and union, and soccer all work to find their own space in the  calendar, alongside massive sports like netball, hockey and swimming.

For a country of only just over 20million people, Australia produces Olympic champions in athletics, rowing, swimming, modern pentathlon and of course multiple winners in the winter olympics too. Their rugby team generally thrashes most apart from New Zealand and their soccer team has even done better than Scotland has ever done in the soccer World Cup. When it comes to sport. Australia wins.

 

 

But surely all of the preoccupation with running, catching balls, flailing arms in a swimming pool means that Australia is a cultural desert. Well, I grew up gripped by Neighbours and Home and Away and the Australian talent for storytelling shines through with film directors like Baz Lurhmann and actors like Cate Blanchette, Hugh Jackman, Geoffrey Rush and Nicole Kidman. A great Australian novelist, Richard Flanagan, won the Booker prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North years after his countryman Thomas Keneally won it for Schindler’s Ark, which was of course made into an Oscar winning film.

Kylie Minogue found pop stardom and other Australians have found worldwide acclaim. The Gibb brothers of the Bee Gees grew up in Australia and had the Bee Gees had their first successes here. INXS were iconic; Crowded House were loved; AC/DC rocked and Nick Cave still captures imagination. And that’s ignoring the man Australians liken to Bob Dylan – Mr Paul Kelly. From little things, big things grow.

Australia may be the self-titled Lucky Country, but the thing about luck is that that you make your own, and Australia seems to be doing pretty well at it.

Gordon

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