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Films, books and music
Australia’s extensive film credits include a comic pig called Babe, the post-apocalyptic Mad Max movies, and the gender-bending road movie, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Our movies have pushed actors like Nicole Kidman, Judy Davis, Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and the swashbuckling Errol Flynn onto the world stage. Australia the country also often gets a starring role, with landscapes that range from foreboding to romantic and sublime.
Some of our starring locations:
The wetlands, waterfalls and rainforest of World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park featured in the hit movie Crocodile Dundee and the 2007 horror film Rogue.
Ten Canoes and Yolngu Boy were filmed in Aboriginal-owned Arnhem Land, 91,000 square kilometres of unspoiled wilderness to the east of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
Director Phillip Noyce shot his thriller Dead Calm in Hamilton Island and the Great Barrier Reef, with stars Nicole Kidman, Billy Zane and Sam Neill. The animated cast of Finding Nemo also began their colourful cinematic journey amongst these World Heritage-listed corals.
Director Terrence Malick’s fictional World War II story The Thin Red Line was shot largely in the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland’s far north. Scooby-Doo, Lost World, Ghost Ship and Peter Pan were all filmed at Warner Bros. Movie World on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
Mission Impossible 2 and George Miller’s three Mad Max films capitalised on the surreal, dusty landscapes around Broken Hill and Silverton in outback New South Wales. For Babe, Miller chose the lush green pasturelands of Robertson and Exeter in the state’s Southern Highlands.
Sydney was the location for some of the heart-stopping stunts in Mission Impossible 2. It was also a location in The Matrix, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriel’s Wedding, Two Hands, Babe: Pig in the City, Lantana, Dirty Deeds and Superman Returns.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows the journey of three drag queens from glitzy Sydney to South Australia’s opal mining town of Coober Pedy and Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.
Melbourne in Victoria was the location for The Story of the Kelly Gang, On the Beach, Chopper, Kenny, Ghost Rider and Romper Stomper.
The Man from Snowy River and Ned Kelly were filmed in Victoria’s High Country, where horse and walking trails intersect with snow gums, mountain views and bushranger history.
South Australia’s rugged Flinders Ranges was the setting for The Tracker and the award-winning Rabbit Proof Fence.
Japanese Story, starring Toni Collette as a geologist, was filmed around Perth and the Pilbara region.
Australia’s strong literary tradition began with the stories and songs of Aboriginal Australians and continued with the yarns of the first convicts. Contemporary Australian novelists whose work has a particularly Australian flavour include Patrick White, Peter Carey, Bryce Courtenay, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally, Christopher Koch, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough, Christina Stead, Morris West and Tim Winton.
Some of our famous authors:
Patrick White was inspired by Australians’ relationship with the land and examined, often satirically, the conflict between inner consciousness and social existence. He wrote a dozen novels from Happy Valley (1939) to the Miles Franklin Literary Award winner Voss (1957) to Memoirs of Many in One (1986). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature award in 1973.
Thomas Keneally’s 1972 novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. In 1982, Keneally won the Man Booker Prize with Schindler’s Ark, a story which Stephen Spielberg made into the film Schindler’s List in 1993.
Christopher Koch’s 1978 book The Year of Living Dangerously was also made into a film, directed by Peter Weir.
Elizabeth Jolley won the 1986 Miles Franklin Award for her novel The Well.
Peter Carey won the Man Booker in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang.
David Malouf was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for his 1993 novel Remembering Babylon. His other award-winning novels include Johnno, Fly Away Peter and An Imaginary Life.
Tim Winton won the Miles Franklin Award for Shallows in 1986, Cloudstreet in 1991 and Dirt Music in 2002. Both Dirt Music and his 1995 novel The Riders were short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
DBC Pierre won the Man Booker Prize for Vernon God Little in 2003.
Former journalist Geraldine Brooks received international acclaim with Nine Parts of Desire in 1994 and Year of Wonders in 2001. Her novel March won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Helen Garner is an award-winning Australian novelist, short story writer, screenwriter and journalist who came to prominence at a time when Australian women writers were relatively few in number. Her books include her debut novel Monkey Grip (1977) and more recent non-fiction works such as The First Stone (1995) Joe Cinque's Consolation (2004).
Kate Grenville’s 2006 historical novel The Secret River was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Colleen McCullough’s books include her first novel Tim in 1974, the 1977 bestseller The Thorn Birds and the seven-part Masters of Rome series.
Australia’s top selling novelist, Bryce Courtenay wrote his first novel The Power of One at the age of 55. This and Courtenay’s other books – including The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, Jessica, Smoky Joe’s Café and Matthew Flinders’ Cat – have sold around five million copies in Australia alone.
Best-selling author Kathy Lette co-wrote the Australian teenage classic Puberty Blues (1979) and has since made a name for risqué, rollicking novels such as Mad Cows, Girls Night Out and Dead Sexy.
Aboriginal Australians were the continent’s first musicians, passing down their culture through songs accompanied by wind instruments like the didgeridoo. The first non-Indigenous music was rooted strongly in folk, with early bush ballads lamenting the hardship and isolation of a new land. Successive waves of settlers - starting with British, Irish and Scottish convicts – continued to shape this tradition. Country music grew out of this tradition and by the 1930s was a huge part of Australia country life. Jazz emerged during the 1920s and grew strongly in popularity, particularly after the Second World War.
Australia is well known for its original rock and popular music, with foundations laid by artists such as Johnny O’Keefe, the Easybeats, AC/DC, INXS, Men at Work, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John.
Opera in Australia started in the early 19th century and today Opera Australia is one of the world’s busiest opera companies and has the spectacular Sydney Opera House as its home. Each of Australia’s eight states and territories has a symphony orchestra and the smaller Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Australian Chamber Orchestra also have world-class status. Australia’s many migrants from around 200 countries continue to enrich Australian music.
Some of our talented musicians:
Frank Coughlan played with the first jazz group to come to Australia in 1924 and Graeme Bell, regarded as the ‘father of Australian jazz’, toured Europe in the late 1940s to great acclaim. Don Burrows, innovative alto saxophonist Bernie McGann and James Morrison are other influential names continuing to make a mark on the scene today.
From the 1930s into the 1950s country music artists like New Zealand-born Tex Morton, Buddy Williams, Smoky Dawson and Slim Dusty had a huge following. Newer Australian country stars include Lee Kernaghan, Gina Jeffreys, James Blundell, Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole, Troy Cassar-Daley and Keith Urban, who is now a big name in Nashville.
Kazakhstan-born virtuoso guitarist Slava Grigoryan explores the Argentinean tango and Brazilian bossa nova. Violinists Richard Tognetti and Barbara Jane Gilby, pianists Roger Woodward, Geoffrey Tozer, Simon Tedeschi and Duncan Gifford, and conductor and violinist Nicholas Milton have been acclaimed on Australian and world stages.
Conductor Simone Young has established a world-wide reputation as a leading conductor of her generation.
Australia has produced several internationally-renown opera stars, including Dame Nellie Melba, whose 38-year career started in 1887, and Dame Joan Sutherland, one of the world’s greatest operatic sopranos.
The ancient songlines of traditional Indigenous music continues through contemporary artists as diverse as Jimmy Little, Yothu Yindi, Christine Anu, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter.
Australian rock music first became popular in the 1950s, with artists such as Johnny O'Keefe topping international charts. In the 1960s, groups such as Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Easybeats, and The Bee Gees attracted a big following.
Pub rock – defined by simple musical arrangements and the raw energy of live performances – was huge in the 1980s, typified by Mental As Anything, Midnight Oil, The Angels, Cold Chisel and Icehouse. INXS and Men at Work also achieved worldwide fame, with the song Down Under becoming an unofficial Australian anthem.
In the 1990s many indie rock bands began to hit the charts, including Regurgitator, You Am I, Powderfinger, Silverchair and Something for Kate.
Australian hip hop had emerged in the 1980s, with a distinctive local style evident by the 1990s. Groups such as the Hilltop Hoods won international acclaim for their work.
Australia’s most successful pop export Kylie Minogue has released nine albums and sold in excess of 60 million records.
The national government-funded youth radio station, Triple J, actively promotes new Australian talent.
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