Australia is a large island country. Australian cuisine is a fusion of local ingredients and immigrant influences. Grab your kids and let’s learn about Australia!
A large island in Oceania, Australia is bordered by Timor Sea and Arafura Sea to the north, the Coral Sea and Tasman Sea to the east, the Great Australian Blight to the south, and the India Ocean to the west.
A brief history for kids to learn about Australia
Around 50,000 years ago, the first people arrived in Australia via a land bridge that scholars believe existed between south Asia and the continent of Oceania.
These settlers, called aboriginal peoples, inhabited the area for thousands of years.
In 1606 AD, the first Europeans arrived when Dutch explorers landed in Australia.
The British arrived in 1688 and sent a ship back to explore and map out the area in 1780. By 1788, the first British settlement began in Sydney.
Initially, the British established a penal colony in Australia, sending convicts there instead of prison. Slowly more settlers arrived who were not convicts.
With the discovery of gold in Australian soil in the 1800s, a huge influx of settlers arrived from many other nations. Throughout that century, six separate colonies were formed.
In 1901, Britain passed an act creating the commonwealth of Australia. That year, the first federal parliament was created in Melbourne.
Australia is still considered part of the British Commonwealth. However, it became officially and constitutionally separate from the UK with the passing of the Australia Act in 1986.
Fun facts about Australia for kids
- Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living ecosystem. The reef is in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia’s northeastern state.
- Over a million camels roam wild in Australia. Australia even exports camels to the Middle East.
- Sixty different kangaroo species live in Australia. Kangaroo meat is widely available at grocery stores.
- While the main part of Australia is one big island, Australia also consists of over 8,000 smaller islands. Some of these are right around the coast of the mainland, but others are further away.
Most citizens of Australia live close to its coasts.
Australia’s climate covers everything from tropical to Alpine, and the foods produced across the country reflect this vast range.
Seafood, like oysters, lobsters, and fish of all kinds are staples in the diet of Australians. This is particularly true for those who live close to the coast or on an island.
The cuisine is also rich in meat, because of the abundant land available for raising cattle and sheep. While some Australians eat kangaroo and emu, they are not that common – they are more special dishes. Beef and lamb are the two favorites, along with chicken. (Chicken parmigiana is a favorite meal.)
Its cuisine is heavily influenced by the British settlers. Since they were the primary settlers for many years. Some traditional British favorites are now Australian favorites as well.
Over the years, however, Australia’s location, unique wildlife and vegetation, and melting pot population have created a cuisine all its own.
What do the Australian eat? Mealtime in Australia.
Australian people commonly eat three meals a day.
The tradition of having morning or afternoon tea, started by the British inhabitants, is still common. (Lamingtons, bites of sponge cake coated in coconut, are a popular tea-time snack.)
Their food culture isn’t all British however.
The typical diet includes foods native to Australia. But, global trade and the rise of immigration after World War II added a great diversity to Australian cuisine.
Today, even typical Australian weekday meals feature flavors from all over the world.
Australians typically eat breakfast around 8 or 9 am, just before the work or school day begins.
It can be a quick cold cereal and coffee. An Australian staple is Weet-bix. This is a whole-grain breakfast cereal, in the form of a small brick of high protein Australian wheat.
A favorite Australian hot breakfast, known as a fry up, consists of bacon, eggs, and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes.
Another very popular breakfast, especially on the weekend when brunch is quite popular, is avocado toast. There is actually a bit of a debate as to whether avocado toast originated in Australia or California.
This is a light meal served from about 12 pm – 2 pm.
Sandwiches are typical for lunch, like ham and cheese or tuna salad. Australians love a spread called Vegemite, made from leftover brewer’s yeast. They often put this on toast and sandwiches.
A hot lunch might consist of fish and chips, or handheld meat pies filled with butter chicken or beef curry.
Dinner is generally eaten at about 6 or 7 pm.
It is usually a meat dish and a few vegetable sides. Lamb leg roasts, beef, kangaroo, or emu steak with vegetables are common Australian dinners. Another favorite is hamburgers topped with beetroot (called a burger with ‘the lot’).
Australia is a melting pot of ethnicities. And as such, you will find that Australians love all types of cuisine. Dinner may be inspired by Thai, Indian, British, or other global flavors.
A favorite sweet dessert after dinner is pavlova (a lightly sweet egg white dessert similar to meringue).
Food etiquette in Australia
When invited to a formal dinner in Australia, one is not required to bring a gift for the host. However, a small gift of chocolate, wine, or beer is appreciated.
You should wait for the host to seat you upon arrival. Then, once the host has served everyone, eating begins.
The knife stays in the right hand and the fork in the left. When not eating, hands should remain in the lap.
Australians pass dishes to the left. One should be sure to have any phones or electronics silenced and away from the table.
Upon finishing the meal, guests should be sure to thank the cook.
While this is the etiquette for a formal meal, most meals in Australia are more relaxed. It is more common to have friends over for a casual barbecue with grilled foods, salads, and sides than to have a formal dinner.
Australian food by region
Australia is commonly divided into seven regions. These are Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.
When kids learn about Australia, it may be helpful to divide their Australia unit study into sections by region.
Here is a breakdown of a few regions’ cuisines.
The vast region of Western Australia (with Perth as its capital) is home to many farms. These grow much of Australia’s wheat and also raise sheep and cattle.
A West Australian favorite dish is lamb chops with lupin beans.
This area in northeast Australia is mainly tropical and known for its seafood. (Queensland’s capital is Brisbane.)
This is where they grow a large number of mangoes and other tropical fruits that people across the country enjoy. Sugar cane and many vegetables are also grown here.
People enjoy Moreton Bay Bugs (a crustacean similar to a lobster) and prawns there locally and around the country.
Queensland is also home to many farms growing macadamia nuts. With its warm climate, a local favorite is macadamia nut ice cream.
New South Wales
This region in southeast Australia (with Sydney as its capital) has both coastal and inland favorites.
Near the coast, this area is famous for its Sydney rock oysters and fish such as snapper and barramundi.
Inland, the temperate climate is just right for an abundance of fruits. So, the New South Wales diet is rich in fruits like guava, passion fruit, berries, and avocados.
This region at the southeast corner of Australia’s mainland is a bit milder in climate than many other areas of Australia.
Here you find fruit orchards with stone fruits (plums, peaches, etc), apples, and berries, as well as vegetables like mushrooms and broccoli.
It is also home to a lot of dairy and beef and lamb farms.
This island off the coast of Victoria is similar climate-wise to Victoria.
Here you find a lot of salmon farming. The island also has a lot of dairy farms.
Learn about a few holidays in Australia
Holidays and their customs are a fun way for kids to learn about Australia. Some may be familiar but celebrated in different ways. Kids will have fun learning about new ways to celebrate holidays and celebrating new ones!
Australia Day (January 26)
This is a day Australians celebrate the landing of the first British fleet sent to settle Australian soil in 1788.
Australians celebrate the day with neighborhood parties, fireworks, and most of all, big barbecues. Some favorites to grill are prawns, lamb, and sausages (called snags).
Easter (date varies)
Australian people celebrate Easter with a morning church service for many and big family gatherings with food and friends.
Lunch is usually the main meal. It typically consists of roast lamb or roast beef and vegetables.
Hot cross buns are a popular Easter treat in Australia. Much like the British, Australians make these sweet buns filled with dried fruits.
An Easter Bilby (a small endangered rodent native to Australia) brings candies and chocolates for the children.
It is common to boil and dye Easter eggs. But Australians open them in a tradition known as egg knocking. Here, people crack the eggs by tapping them against another person’s head.
Anzac Day (April 25)
This is a day that honors the sacrifice of the Australian and New Zealand Army soldiers in their first major battle during World War I.
People celebrate this day with parades honoring servicemen.
Australians serve Anzac biscuits (sweet cookies made of oats, flour, sugar, and dried coconut). People often sent these biscuits with soldiers in both World Wars. They kept well on the long boat journeys to the battlefield.
Christmas (December 25)
Christmas falls during the summer season in Australia, so barbecues complete with a game of backyard cricket are common.
For Christmas lunch, barbecued prawns and fresh fruits are a part of the feast, as well as potato casseroles and fresh oysters. Cold cuts and salads are also a common part of the meal.
Australian Christmas isn’t complete without dessert. Trifle (made of Swiss roll cake, gelatin, custard, and fresh fruit) is a holiday favorite. Traditional English Christmas pudding (filled with dried fruits and flavored with plenty of brandy) is as well. Another favorite is a pavlova ring topped with local fruits.
At home ideas for kids to learn about Australia
As a part of your homeschool Australia unit study or as a supplement to your child’s classroom studies about Australia, try some of these ideas at home. Hands-on activities are a great way to connect with your child and immerse them in the geography unit that they are learning!
- Order some Weet-bix and try the popular cereal for an Australian breakfast.
- Try cracking your own Easter eggs the Australian way – on a friend’s forehead. Make sure to hard boil them (and ask permission) first!
- What is a Bilby anyway? Find out about the many unique animals native to Australia. You can do this at your local zoo or tour wild Australia virtually through pictures and videos.
- Have a grill-out with seafood or sausages and tropical fruits. The kids can help make lamingtons or pavlova for dessert.
This article was reviewed by Caroline Williams of Caroline's Cooking. Caroline and her family spent a year and a half in Australia. During this time Caroline immersed herself in the food and culture of the region.
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