Distinctive cultural influences in Australia come from the beautiful natural environment and the indigenous native people, although American and neighboring Asian influences have become much more prevalent since the mid-1920’s, particularly through television and cinema.
Themes in Australian art have always reflected the natural landscape, whether in writing, painting, film or the oral history of the country and its people recounted through the telling of Dreamtime stories for which the Aboriginal people are known.
Australia has one of the highest attendance figures in the world at their museums and art galleries…the citizens are invested and active participants in the arts. The famed Sydney Opera House, whose profile dominates the city skyline and is recognized all over the world, plays to packed houses whether the presentation is theatre, symphony, ballet and dance, chorale and concerts, or other productions. Many of Australia’s performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government’s Australia Council. Each state has its own symphony orchestra, and the national opera company – Opera Australia, is well known for nurturing local talent such as famed soprano Joan Sutherland. Australian songbirds like Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John, heart throbs like country music’s Keith Urban, and pop groups such as Air Supply and Men at Work have found fame and a world-wide audience outside of their native country.
Australian literature has a global following in the works of authors such as Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and Dorthea Mackeller who beautifully capture the experiences of life in the Australian bush. Colleen McCulloch rocketed to fame with publication of her sweeping saga of forbidden love and life on a sheep station in The Thorn Birds, which later became a wildly successful made-for-television mini-series. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Australian to be so-honored. And Australian Les Murray is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation.
Australian cinema is notable for bringing the world many provocative and successful films: Breaker Morant, the Mad Max series, and Galliopli. Notable talent hails from down under, including the current joint-director of the Sydney Theatre Company, actress Cate Blanchett. Other honored Australian cinema talents include Errol Flynn, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, and Mel Gibson. These Aussie stars have delivered big box office revenues for their films, and have been recognized with numerous Oscar nominations for excellence and several Academy Awards wins.