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Exploring Sydney and Its Culture


Sydney, Australia’s oldest community, largest urban center, and the capital of New South Wales, is a port city on the southeast coast of the continent. Greater Sydney, built up around a natural harbor, Port Jackson, has a population of 4,375,000. One of the world’s longest and highest single-span bridges, Sydney Harbor Bridge, dominates a spectacular harbor view. Arching 52 m (170 ft) above the water, it allows even the largest oceangoing ships to pass under it and into Sydney’s many inner harbors. The Royal Australian Navy is headquartered in Sydney, as was the British Pacific Fleet during World War II. Sydney was first settled as a penal colony in 1788. It is now one of the southwest Pacific’s most cosmopolitan cities.


Sydney Cove, founded as a penal settlement by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 and named for the British home secretary, Viscount Sydney, became the first seat of British authority on the continent. Conditions were anarchic until the arrival of Lachlan Macquarie (governor of New South Wales, 1810-21). Macquarie made the first systematic effort to lay out the settlement and organize services. He also erected numerous public buildings, many of them designed by Francis Greenway. (In all, Greenway was responsible for 40 buildings, of which 11 survive.) It was not until the 1830s, however, that Sydney began to thrive, after fewer convicts and greater numbers of free settlers entered the area. The Australian gold rushes of the 1850s accelerated the population surge. Although Sydney was bypassed by Melbourne early in the 20th century as Australia’s largest city, it has since regained primacy. Sydney was showcased to the world during the Summer Olympics of 2000, which were deemed a huge success. Late in 2001, fires believed to have been set by arsonists and fueled by high winds, high temperatures, and low humidity ringed the city, forcing thousands of people from their homes, filling the air with ashes and smoke, and engulfing Royal National Park (the second-oldest national park in the world), located just south of Sydney.

The City

Until the end of World War II virtually all residents of the city were of British ancestry. Since then, many immigrants from continental Europe and Asia have settled in the area. This has created ethnic enclaves within the city and its suburbs. The rapid outgrowth of Sydney’s suburbs suggests that a conurbation may develop, extending 320 km (200 mi) from Newcastle in the north, through Sydney, to Wollongong in the south. Greater Sydney is administered by 40 separate local governments.

The city has automobile, textile, and chemical plants and is the southern Pacific’s major petroleum-refining city. It nevertheless remains more an entrepôt than an industrial center. In addition to wool and sheepskins, wheat and meat are exported in quantity. Many of Australia’s imports come through the city, as do most of the country’s numerous tourists. To ensure that the city will not run out of water, one of the world’s largest desalination plants has been built in the southern suburb of Kurnell.

Art and Culture

The distinctive Sydney Opera House resembles a series of immense, wind-filled sails; it is considered one of the most notable architectural works of the 20th century. Opened in 1973, the opera house is the performing arts center of Sydney. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Other Sydney landmarks include Saint James Church and Hyde Park Barracks; these early-19th-century buildings were designed by the convict-architect Francis Greenway. The Rocks, the oldest section of Sydney, is a major tourist attraction, as is the beach in the suburb of Bondi. Sydney Tower at Centrepoint (opened 1981) is the tallest building in Australia. A monorail and a modern convention and exhibition center opened in the early 1990s. A road tunnel under Sydney Harbour was completed in 1992. Many new sports facilities, including the 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium, were built about 16 km (10 mi) inland of the city center at Homebush Bay, the main venue for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, and Macquarie University are in Sydney. Also located there is the Mitchell Library, with its extensive materials on Australian history.


Source by Jeff Molenda

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