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Why is Australia known as Down Under?

7 mins. read

Published in the Sunday Mumbai Samachar Utsav on 17 December, 2023

Rod Laver Arena. Sachin Tendulkar Stand. Rottnest Island. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Great Ocean Road. What do all of these remind you of? If you haven’t guess already, it’s the land Down Under, Australia!

Whenever we speak or hear about Australia, maybe it’s because of the cricket or maybe you come across a fun Australia travel video on YouTube or maybe you just plan to travel to Australia, a term that is synonymous with Australia is ‘Down Under’. And we often hear these phrases from all around us. Like times when the Indian Cricket team tours Australia, or when a Bollywood movie is filming in Australia or just in general conversation like when someone goes: when are you planning your trip down under? and the list can just keep going on... So today, let's really explore why Australia is called Down Under? So here it goes:

We all know that Australia is an island nation located in the southern hemisphere, so it’s often referred to as ‘down under’. However, there’s more to the story than just its location. Because if it was just the location, then many countries like South Africa or New Zealand, could also be known as lands down under. But that’s not the case right? It’s only used in context of Australia. So the term ‘down under’ is believed to have originated in the 1800s and was used to describe the country's position relative to Britain, which was considered the centre of the world at the time.

As the British Empire expanded, explorers and settlers travelled to new lands, and Australia was one of them. To reach this far-flung land, they had to sail south, crossing the equator and passing through the Southern Hemisphere. As they travelled further and further south, the phrase ‘down under’ became a popular way to refer to Australia. That’s one theory.

There is also another theory which suggests that the term ‘down under’ comes from the Australian Aboriginal practice of using cardinal directions instead of left and right. In this system, south is ‘down’ and north is ‘up’, so Australia would be ‘down under’ to people coming from the northern hemisphere.

Interestingly, the phrase ‘down under’ was not commonly used until the mid-twentieth century when it became popularized in songs, books, and films. Today, it's widely used and as we all know, has become synonymous with Australia.

So, that's why Australia is called Down Under. Whether it's due to its location in the southern hemisphere or the Australian Aboriginal tradition of using cardinal directions, it's a unique and memorable nickname for a remarkable country that should definitely be on everyone’s bucketlist! So now that we know why Australia is known as down under, let me also tell you 10 crazy things about Australia!

Let's start with the capital of Australia! Although many people think one of the cities of Sydney or Melbourne, is the capital of Australia, the real answer is that neither of these are the capital! It is actually Canberra, which is the capital of Australia. And when you think of Australia, of course Kangaroos come to mind. But did you know that Australia is the only place in the world where Kangaroos exist in the wild. There are over 50 million kangaroos in Australia with the number growing every year.

To add to that, Australia is also home to the Great Barrier Reef, the biggest coral reef system in the world. The reef includes more than 3,000 reefs and 900 islands. It is home to over 350 species of corals and over 1,500 species of fish and when Veena World guests travel to Australia, this is often one of the highlights of their trip! The fourth fun fact is that Australia is the only continent in the world, that doesn’t have an active volcano! Then, Australia is home to more than 10000 beaches, which means that if you visited 1 Australian beach every day, it would take you more than 27 years to see them all, crazy right!

As we go about these fun facts, let me ask you: What is celebrated on 26 January? I’m sure you all know the answer to that, it’s India’s Republic Day. But here’s where the India-Australia connection grows stronger! 26 January is the official National Day of Australia! This special day is a remembrance of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales. It also remembers the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Philip. Bet you didn’t know that!

Let’s move onto number 7 then. Australia is the biggest island in the world. Even if Australia is the smallest continent in the world, it is also the world’s biggest island. There is an ongoing debate that Greenland should be the world’s biggest island since Australia is a continent. However, Australia still has the “qualifications” of an island, and hence is the biggest island in the world.

And now, for the final three:

  • The Ayers Rock of Australia is the world’s largest rock! Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock is right in the center of the map of Australia. The Ayers Rock is 2,831 feet and it is the world’s largest rock. Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area.
  • You may not know, but along with the sun, sea and sand in Australia, you can experience the snow as well! Yes, it’s true. The Australian Alps are known to get as much snow in the winters as the Swiss Alps!
  • And finally, for the last one, let’s talk about cricket again! The Sydney Cricket Ground, now has a gate named after our very own, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.

Now if these crazy things haven’t given you enough reasons to visit Australia, then let me know at! I could discuss 100 more with you! So that’s it from me for today, until the next time, as we always say at Veena World, keep celebrating life! Byeee...

December 16, 2023


Neil Patil
Neil Patil

Founder & Director, Veena World

More Blogs by Neil Patil

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