(New Zealand trivia as well)
The first person to actually sustain controlled, powered flight was not one of the Wright brothers; It was Richard Pearse of New Zealand a few months before in a more advanced flying machine of his own design & construction. On 31-3-1902 he flew about 350 yards, and on 11-5-1903 flew over 1,000 yards, out of ground effect & including several turns.
The mining town of Coober Pedy in Australia got it's name from the local Aboriginals. It means something like "White fella down a hole".
The first Australian Aboriginal word in the English language was "kangaroo" and was used by Captain James Cook. The original spelling was "kanguroo".
Some bad news about Australia - 21% of the world's gambling machines are in Australia. We have a mere 0.003% of the world's population!
The so-called 'dingo fence' in Australia is the longest fence in the world, and is about twice as long as the Great Wall of China. It has a gate every 19kms along it's length.
Australia was the 3rd country, after the US and Russia, to launch a satellite into orbit. It was for the British, using a 'Blue Streak' rocket, on 28-10-71
Every airliner in the world, and most planes in fact, uses a piece of navigation equipment called DME, or Distance Measuring Equipment. This was invented in Australia in the 1950's.
As above, the ubiquitous 'black box' flight recorder was also invented in Australia, by David Warren of the Aeronautical research laboratories in 1958.
The Australian 'Jindalee Over-The-Horizon Radar' can both detect aircraft & ships well past the line-of-sight horizon (unlike a conventional radar, which can only detect objects it can 'see' directly) and the otherwise undetectable US Air Force's 'Stealth' fighters & bombers.
When driving around Australia, make sure that you circum-navigate the continent anti-clockwise, as it's about 900 metres shorter going this way than clockwise.
The common refrigerator's system of cooling was invented in Australia, in the 1850's, by James Harrison. By 1857 his machine was making up to 3 tonnes of ice a day!
There are nearly 20,000,000 people in Australia, of which 80% odd live in cities next to the sea.
Australia has possibly the lowest population density of any country in the world, ie, 2 people per square km. Japan has 327 people/2km
Australia has an area of about 7,600,0002km. This is large enough to swallow all of Europe and Turkey and Scandinavia. This gives up a coastline of about 36,700km.
Australia has more beaches than any other country, about 7,000 of them.
The original fifty cent piece in Australian decimal currency had around $2.00 worth of silver in it before it was replaced with a less expensive twelve sided coin.
The Australian $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes are made out of plastic.
Australia was most likely first populated over 55,000 years ago, by people from the areas we now call Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. There are good possibilities that there are rock engravings that are over 100,000 years old though, in north-western Australia.
The first Europeans to discover Australia were the Dutch. The first documented evidence is that in March 1606, the Dutch ship Duyfken, captained by Willem Janz, landed in far north Queensland, but left very quickly when one of the sailors was speared by an Aborigine. The next visit was in 1616, by Dirck Hartog, who landed in Western Australia. He nailed a pewter plate to a tree, which is now in a museum in Holland. Captain Hartog named the new country "Eendrachtsland", which fortunately we don't use these days.
The English made first footfall when Captain James Cook landed on the east coast in 1768, and called the (what he thought was an) island, "New South Wales". At this point, the Dutch had changed their mind again, and were calling the place "New Holland."
Yet another early 18th century explorer called Australia "Terra Psittacorum."
Australia was first called that by a local explorer, Matthew Flinders, who decided to promote the name "Terra Australis", or "South Land". It was not officially recognised until the then governor of the country, Lachlan Macquarie named it as such in a dispatch to London in 1817.
Australia has the largest sand island on earth, Fraser Island, which is off the Queensland coast, 200km north of Brisbane.
The world's largest structure created by living creatures is the Great Barrier Reef, of the Queensland coast. It's over 2000km long, and covers an area of nearly 260,0002km.
Possibly the world's biggest state, (of any country) is Western Australia. Covering over 2,252,0002km's, (the western 1/3 of the Australian continent) it is bigger than all but a handful of countries by itself.
The area of Australia that is covered by snow in winter is larger than the area of Switzerland.
Australia is the richest source of mineral sands in the world.
The famous Aussie Akubra hat is named that, from the Aboriginal word, which means 'head covering'. They are made from rabbit fur.
The first life-saving club in the world was founded in Australia, Bronte, Sydney, in 1903. It has since saved the lives of many surfers.
The first official world surfing championships were held at Manly, Sydney, in 1964 and won by an Australian, Bernard 'Midget' Farrelly.
Since 1896, the beginning of the modern Olympics, only Greece and Australia have participated in every Game.
Australians are the world's biggest buyers of 4WD vehicles.
If you are driving a car in New Zealand, you are roughly twice as likely to die from a car accident than you are in Australia. In the USA, you are roughly 1.4 times as likely than you are in Australia.
More people die in NZ every year playing Lawn Bowls than Scuba Diving.
In the mid 70's, Australians were the 3rd biggest beer drinker in the world. (behind Germany and Belgium) In the late 90's, we don't even get into the top ten! (fortunately)
70% of the world's wool comes from Australia. We have over 126,000,000 sheep, which use fully half the continent for grazing.
Australia is the world's biggest exporter of beef and veal.
The world's first feature film was "Soldiers of the Cross", made and shown in Australia in 1900. The next one was "The Story of the Kelly Gang", in 1906.
87% of Australian homes that have TV's own VCR's, the highest ratio in the world.
Gisborne, in New Zealand, was the first town in the world to see the rays of the sun in the new millennium in 2001. Even though there are towns further east, and in fact slightly over the 180° East line, Gisborne is actually the closest to the date line, and hence was the first.
Sir Jack Brabham, who won the World Driver's Championship for Formula One cars, did so in a car he designed and built himself, the only such achievement ever made. Sir Jack won the Championship three times as well, which is a rather impressive result by itself.
Australia is one of the safest places in the world, with a murder rate of 2 per 100,000 people. The US is up around 8 per 100,000.
The most dangerous ants in the world are the Australian Bulldog Ant, (which is up to 4 centimetres long!) and is responsible for at least three deaths.
There are only two egg-laying mammals in the world, both of which come from Australia - The echidna, or spiny anteater, and the platypus.
A kangaroo's tail does not touch the ground when it is hopping at speed. The animal only uses the tail to balance its jumping efforts, and to rear upon when stopped.
Howard Florey, an Australian, co-discovered penicillin and shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for developing the world's first anti-biotic.
The world's first, um, 'call girls' were organised in Melbourne, Australia, in 1891. The owners of the brothel set up a system of ordering by telephone.
The first flight across the Pacific Ocean was made by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, from Oakland in California to Brisbane, Australia in 1928.
The longest fence in the world is in Australia, and it runs for over 5,530 kms. It's designed to keep dingo's away from the sheep.
95% of the world's opal are dug up in Australia, and also the biggest opals outright. (The record holder being 6.8 kg!)
Notepads were invented in Australia, in 1902, by J A Birchall, of Tasmania.
The first around-the-world passenger service by an airline was started by Qantas, in 1958.
Qantas stands for Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services.
Qantas is the world's second oldest airline, (est 1920) with only KLM being older.
Bungy jumping was invented by AJ Hackett, of New Zealand in the mid 80's. Hackett, and a friend, thought it up based on some tribal practices of a south Pacific island tribe, who jump from a tall. rickety wooden tower and rely on vines tied around one leg to stop their fall, but to pull off the stunt 'properly', the jumper must just hit the ground!
Aspro is a very popular pain reliever used all around the world, and it was developed in Australia by George Nicholas, in 1917.
The so-called 'Bionic Ear', or chochlear implant device, was invented in Australia by a team lead by Professor Graeme Clark in 1978.
The portable beer cooler, or as it is known in Australia as the 'esky', was invented in Australia in the 1950's, and has become extremely popular all around the world.
More in-vitro babies are born in Australia than anywhere else in the world. Australia also produced the world's first test-tube twins, triplets, quadruplets, baby born from a donor egg, and frozen-embryo baby.
Ultrasound was invented in Australia in 1961 by the scientists at the Commonwealth Health Department.
The Utility, or as it's called in Australia the 'ute', was invented in Australia by Ford in 1932. The legend has it that it that a farmer came to Ford, looking for a car that could "work on the farm all week, and then take the wife to church on Sundays."
The wine cask, the ubiquitous plastic bag full of wine contained in a cardboard box, was invented in Australia in 1967.
Zinc cream, the sun-burn retarding mixture, was invented in Australia in 1940.
Australia took on its unification of the six British colonies in 1901, when a single Australia-wide government was formed.
Australia is one of the most governed countries on earth, with one politician for every 20,000 Aussies. The British have one politician for every 45,000 people.
Australia's National Anthem was "God Save The Queen", up until 1984, where upon it was changed to "Advance Australia Fair". This was due to a referendum in 1977. It took that long to get a non militaristic and politically correct version out. (The original second verse was cut completely)
On the 7th of March, 1856, workers in Sydney belonging to the Stonemason's Society were the first workers in the world to gain an eight hour working day. (reduced from ten hours) This is celebrated in Australia by the holiday, "Labour Day".
New Zealand was the first place in the world to allow women to vote. The state of South Australia was next, in 1894, and it was also the first place to allow women to stand for parliament.
The first pension for women in the world was brought in by the New South Wales government in 1926.
The first 'secret ballot' system for parliament in the world was introduced in the Legislative Council of Victoria, Australia, on 27-8-1856. The rest of the world took another few decades.
The preferential voting system was first introduced into the world in Queensland, in 1892.
The first Surf Livesaving Reel was invented and used by Lyster Ormsby in 1906 at Bondi Beach in Sydney.
The key technology for xerography was first developed by Professor O. Vonwiller at Sydney University in 1907.
The Anthrax vaccine was discovered by John McGarvie Smith in Australia in 1918.
The rotary hoe was invented in Australia by brothers Cliff & Albert Howard in 1922.
The Heart Pacemaker was invented in the Crown Street Woman's Hospital in Sydney in 1926.
Permanent-crease trousers were invented by Dr Arthur Farnsworth of CSIRO in 1957.
The inflatable aircraft slide that can also be used as a life raft was invented by Qantas employee Jack Grant in 1965.
Microsurgery was pioneered by Professor Earl Owen in Sydney when he re-attached a severed index finger in 1970
The world's first plastic bank notes were invented & used in Australia in 1988. They last a lot longer than conventional paper notes, and are also far more difficult to copy.
The use of plastic rods instead of metal pins & screws was developed by Dr Stephen Ruff & Dr Michael Ryan at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney in 1991.
The first multi-focal contact lenses were invented by Stephen Newman, an optical research scientist in Australia, in 1992.
The world's first anti-influenza drug, Relenza, was invented in Australia by the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Monash University, and Biota Holdings in 1996.