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Culture

Australia is a multicultural society. Until WWII, Australians were predominantly of British and Irish descent, but that has changed dramatically. Large immigrations from Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Turkey followed the war and have been supplemented by more recent influxes of immigrants from Asia. There are also about 230,000 Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Many Australians speak Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Vietnamese or Turkish as a first language. English-speaking Australians are liable to use a hotchpotch of indigenous slang and shortened words that often makes their speech impenetrable.
Australia has a rich artistic heritage and a vibrant contemporary art scene. Aboriginal rock carvings and paintings date back at least 30,000 years. European settlers began to produce distinctively Australian art forms towards the end of the 19th century. Australia's mid-20th century artists were world figures (Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Patrick White) and its modern practitioners have excelled in painting (Brett Whiteley, Fred Williams), literature (Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally), opera (Joan Sutherland), film (Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford, George Miller, Gillian Armstrong), acting (Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman) comedy (Barry Humphries), dance (Graeme Murphy, Paul Mercurio) and popular music (Nick Cave, INXS, Midnight Oil, Silverchair). Modern Aboriginal art has undergone a revival in the last decade as Aboriginal artists have explored ways to both preserve their ancient values and share them with a wider community.
Sport is the Australian religion and Aussies are world beaters in cricket, rugby league, rugby union, swimming and cycling. Other popular sports are basketball, yachting, soccer and Aussie Rules - a unique Australian sport, similar to Gaelic football. The Olympic Games will be held in Sydney in 2000.

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