Sunday, October 31, 2010

150th Melbourne Cup

Melbourne Cup Small

This Tuesday will see the 150th Melbourne Cup run at the Flemington race track at 3:00PM. One of world’s premier thoroughbred horse racing events, the Melbourne Cup is always held on the first Tuesday in November. The race is run over 3200 metres and this year is offering prize money of $3.3 million for the winner.

Melbourne Cup Fashion SmallKnown as “the race that stops a nation” a recent survey suggests that the Melbourne Cup costs Australia over $1 billion in lost productivity as Australians take 3 hour lunch breaks to gamble and celebrate. Collectively, Australian’s wager more that $60 million on this one race. It is also a day where fashion plays and important role with both men and women dressing up and with the hat being an essential element of the woman’s attire for race day. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The UV Index

Have you heard of the UV Index? Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday will look at what the UV Index means and what precautions you need to take when in the Australian Sun.

The UV Index is a measure of the amount of Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation from the Sun reaching the Earth’s surface. UV radiation is responsible for sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. A UV Index of 6 to 11 or more is considered to be of high to extreme risk. The chart below shows that for much of the year in Australia, the UV Index is in this range. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology produces a UV Index Forecast which predicts the UV Index nationwide. On days where the UV Index is above 3 remember to Slip, Slop, Slap. Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat.

The chart below shows the average weekly UV Index for Sydney over the last 7 years and for the most recent year1. It is interesting to note that the UV Index was consistently higher over the last year than the 7 year average.

UV Index

1. Source: Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency

Monday, October 25, 2010

Parkes Radio Telescope

The New South Wales town of Parkes is home to the Parkes Radio Telescope. ParkesThis radio telescope was built by the CSIRO in 1961 and is still used to conduct astronomical observations to this day.  It is 64 metres in size and its location was chosen specifically to help shield it from radio interference that could disturb its observations. The dish has also played an important role in tracking and communications for the Apollo, Voyager and Galileo space missions.

An account of the role Parkes played in the Apollo 11 moon landing has been recounted in the humorous Australian film – The Dish released in 2000. Get it out now on DVD to learn more about Parkes and its radio telescope, or visit Parkes and its Visitors Centre, which is open every day except Christmas and Boxing Day.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Australian Shark Attacks


Today we are starting Fun Fact Wednesday. Each Wednesday we will post an interesting fact about the Australian way of life. Today’s fact is about shark attacks in Australia1.

Between 1999 and 2009 there have been 99 recorded shark attacks in Australia. Of these, 13 (13%) were fatal. Over the same period there were 700 shark attacks world wide with 51 (7%) of these being fatal. So it appears the chances of being fatally attacked by a shark in Australia is twice that of the rest of the world.

So now for the good news. Although there were 20 shark attacks in Australia in 2009, none of these were fatal. We can only assume that Australian’s are becoming less tasty.

1. Source: International Shark Attack File

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peter Norman

Peter Norman

As the achievements of Australian athletes at the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi fade, we are reminded of the accomplishments of another great Australian athlete – Peter Norman.

Peter won silver in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. His achievement has become all the more memorable due to the support he displayed for fellow U.S. athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who gave the black power salute from the podium. Considered an iconic moment in the US civil rights movement, the story has been retold by Peter’s nephew Matt Norman in his 2008 film Salute. The film documents his uncle’s role in the event and the subsequent treatment of Norman by the Australian Olympic Committee and the media.

Peter Norman died in Melbourne on 3 October 2006. Both John Carlos and Tommie Smith were pallbearers at his funeral.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Australia’s First Catholic Saint

On 17 October 2010, the canonisation of Mary MacKillop will be officially recognised by Pope Benedict XVI, making her Australia’s first Catholic Saint.

Mary MacKillop was born in Fitzroy, Melbourne on 15 January 1842. She co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart with Rev Julian Tenison Woods, both of whom are recognised for advancing Catholic education throughout Australia.

Mary died on 8 August 1909 and was buried in the Gore Hill Cemetery on the Pacific Highway, Sydney. On 27 January 1914 her remains were relocated to a Memorial Chapel in Mount Street, North Sydney.

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On 19 January 1995, Mary MacKillop was beatified, following the recognition that her intercession was responsible for the recovery of a woman with leukaemia in 1961. On 19 December 2009 a second miracle was recognised with the cure of another woman – Kathleen Evans – of lung cancer.

Following canonisation, Mary MacKillop will be known as Saint Mary of the Cross.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dame Joan Sutherland

Today we mourn the loss of Dame Joan Sutherland who died on 10 October 2010 at her home in Switzerland at 83 years of age.

Born in Sydney on 7 November 1926, Dame Joan did not start a serious study of Opera until she was eighteen, while working in a secretarial job. After some success in Australia she chose to pursue an operatic career overseas. Her reputation grew following a string of performances in 1959 and 1960, but it was not until she sang Alcina in Venice she was nick named La Stupenda (“The Stunning One”).

Part of her musical and recording success can be attributed to the collaboration with husband, renowned Australian conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge who helped tailor Dame Joan’s repertoire. He also suggested her partnership with Luciano Pavatotti.

Although she refused to sing in later life, Dame Joan was still happy to hum the odd aria or concerto to herself while at home.

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, NSW was named in her honour and hosts several musical and theatrical events throughout the year.

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