Friday, March 28, 2014

The Land Down Under

A brief history of our fascination with Australia:

1.       The 1969 movie, Support Your Local Sheriff, staring James Garner who plays the reluctant sheriff  of a wild west town, insisting regularly that he is not to be counted on to hang around for long. “Basically I’m on my way to Australia”, is his mantra.  Leon has quoted that line too many times to count in the years since James Garner made it famous (in our family).

2.       A not-so-distant relative of mine came to America via Australia, and it appears he met his wife either there or on the voyage to America. 

3.       Our Aussie friends, Neal and Barbara Goodlet, senior missionary couple serving as teachers in the Pesega high school, have endeared themselves to us for many reasons. We share many interests, including for Leon and Neal the fascination with all things mechanical. Goodlets are lovers of good books and music and we share books with each other.  I’ve introduced them to Jesse’s music and they’ve shared with their daughters back home in Aussie land. They are funny and fun people. Sister Goodlet knows all the good thrift shops in Apia. You would be amazed at what she finds – and what I find when I tag along. Their home is near Perth, in Western Australia. Their accent is quite strong and we sometimes have to think in context to understand what they are saying. Sometimes I try to imitate the accent and it is hard to do. I say a word over and over again to discover what it is they do with their mouth.  Leon just thinks I’m mumbling, but it does have a purpose.

Sorry about going on about Goodlets. I said our history was brief, and I made it longer than necessary. So that’s it. Somehow it has always been on the periphery of our consciousness. It’s really quite amazing to us that we have actually been there. Of course we only set our foot on a small area of New South Wales, which is one of six states on the continent, and then mostly in and around the city of Sydney. 

Some Interesting Facts as per Wikipedia: (You can skip this part if you like.)

Australia has six states—New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA)—and two major mainland territories—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT).

Before the first British settlement in the late 18th century Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke languages grouped into roughly 250 language groups.  After the discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788.

Australia is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the world's 12th-largest economy. In 2012 Australia had the world's fifth-highest per capita income, Australia's military expenditure is the world's 13th-largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

The indigenous population, estimated to have been between 750,000 and 1,000,000 at the time European settlement began, declined for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease.  A government policy of "assimilation" beginning with the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 resulted in the removal of many Aboriginal children from their families and communities—often referred to as the Stolen Generations—a practice which may also have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population. The Federal government gained the power to make laws with respect to Aborigines following the 1967 referendum. Traditional ownership of land—aboriginal title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the legal doctrine that Australia had been terra nullius ("land belonging to no one") before the European occupation. [End of edited Wilipedia source material.]

I found that very interesting.  The only thing I knew for sure about Australia was that Kangaroos, Koala Bears, and Aborigine’s lived there. Goodlets have them hopping through their backyard - kangaroos, that is. Evidently the only place you can count on seeing them in NSW is in the zoo. We have a documentary film at home focusing on the government removal of Aboriginal children from their families as mentioned above.The film title is Rabbit Proof Fences.

On with our story: Our hotel was in the heart of downtown Sydney, overlooking Hyde Park. Free city buses made travel around the city possible, mostly because of the high cost and limited space for parking. So many shops, restaurants and interesting people made walking about the city enjoyable. This is a multi-cultural city. Many beautiful old buildings and churches give character to the otherwise modern cityscape.  Hyde Park is lovely, St Mary’s Cathedral, and the Queen Victoria Building are beautiful. The area known as The Rocks is a good place to learn of the earliest settlement of Australia. We had heard of the world famous Sydney Opera House, but knew nothing of its fascinating history. It was on everyone’s ‘what to see’ list. We were not disappointed. An impressively efficient ferry system makes the beautiful bays and beaches of Sydney Harbor very accessable. The Sydney Australia Temple is about a forty-five minute drive from downtown and was one of our first destination stops. 

We were able to attend three sessions on our first Saturday in Sydney. Our former temple missionary friend, Sister Nele Moaga was working that day in the temple. How fun it was to connect with her again.

The next day in search of a church to attend, our GPS sent us back to the Sydney temple. Unsuccessful in attempts to find a regular chapel, we sent up a prayer for assistance, and settled on taking pictures of the temple. No sooner had we walked to the front with our camera, than a couple out for their morning walk happened by and offered to take our picture. Further conversation revealed them to be Elder and Sister Tanner from Payson, UT, serving as public affairs missionaries for the church in Australia.
They generously offered to take us to church with them and then join them afterwards for dinner in their home adjacent to the temple. We enjoyed a wonderful Sabbath experience due to the Tanner's kindness and hospitality, and an answer to our prayer.
From a distance, the Sydney Tower Eye looks all alone in the city. However, it is right in the midst of buildings on every side. We left our hotel and asked someone what direction  to walk to get to the tower. They motioned for us to step out towards the street and look up past a highrise in the next block and there it was. We learned that it is one of the safest buildings in the world, capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind conditions. That is comforting when you are standing on the skywalk 880 feet from the ground. From there you get a 360 degree view of Sydney, Sydney Harbor, and many landmarks, including a glimpse of the Opera House.

Using the zoom feature, this is the ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park. The building directly behind in the photo is the location of the ward we attended the last Sunday we were there.
Looking down on St. Mary's Cathedral, just through the block from our hotel. Hyde Park is in between.
 Sydney Harbor as seen from the tower.

A ferry like this one took us to Manly Beach, Bondi Beach, and Watson Bay, home of the lighthouse and military installation constructed during WWI to protect the harbor.

Bondi Beach  Glorious surf.
Watson Bay (left).

All the benches along the beachfront at Bondi Beach were covered with mosaic tiles.

The Sydney Opera House as seen from the ferry.

Enterprising Aborigines selling their CD down by the harbor. Every song sounds the same to our unaccustomed ears, with the doleful, drone of the didjeridu. Just to their left, we enter the historic area called The Rocks, referring to the rocky coastline from which many buildings were constructed by convicts. No photos, but a fun place to wander, and a museum of sorts giving the history of the original inhabitants and the first European settlers.

I can't end this post without mentioning this incredible icon.
The Queen Victoria Building (right) takes up an entire city block in downtown Sydney. Originally built in 1898 as a tribute to Queen Victoria, 
it has seen many uses, including a city library. Now it is houses upscale retail shops and eateries. But you don't have to spend a penny to wander and gaze in awe at the architectural artistry. 
To learn and see more of this fabulous building, go to

Thanks for letting us share these memories with you. There is so much more to see than can be seen in a few days visit. I'm not sure what Leon will use as his new movie quote, but if he sticks to the old one, I'll be happy to go along with him again.


  1. I loved this post and all of the pictures. Sydney looks awesome. I liked the picture of the harbor.

    Did you know that boomerangs are Australia's chief export (and then import).

    1. That's funny. Sadly it took a minute to get it.

  2. I loved this post! I may have to visit Australia and New Zealand too! They look amazing and fascinating! I love you! I'm so glad you got to go!

  3. I hope you can do it, Leslie. Especially Sydney, Au. (I hope you can visit our Sydney, too, but I thought I better be clear.