Australia is a is a bloody large country, but it is very sparsely populated. North Amercians particularly seem to labour under the following two myths:
Well, let's knock those myths on the head right now. Australia is almost 80% the size of continental USA, but contains only .07 of the population. That's right, you heard us. .8 the size, .07 of the population. And that's about 18 million people. Total. That's less than the population of one large American city.
So hats off to us for even having any international presence, or cultural recognition. A bloody good effort if you ask us (second only to our great drinking ancestors, the Irish). And what's more, those are today's figures. Naturally, the Australian culture has developed over the last two hundred years when we were much more sparsely populated and isolated. At the turn of the century, for example, our population was only four million. And all of our core cultural characteristics were certainly in place then, probably more so than now as there was much less immigration and international cultural exposure.
Regardless, the point is that there aren't that many of us. And so when we manage to stand up in the international arena and be counted, we are as proud as all hell. For example, we are the best in the world at many sports (although the Yanks wouldn't know it as they are not American sports). We have also invented the odd thing, such as the esky. And we are among the best drinkers in the world.
In fact, at one time or another we have held world records in the field. This page serves as a tribute to Australia's finest.
First, we pay tribute to what must be Australia's stupidest drinker who holds the world record for having the had the largest amount of deadly snake venom in his body and lived. We all know that Australia is home to 9 out of the top 10 of the world's deadliest snakes. When travelling overseas, we are frequenly asked by worried tourists-to-be about how to avoid being bitten and killed. Where he is a lesson of what not to do.
One not-so-bright Darwinite (that is, from Darwin) was having a few beers with his mate while driving from Mandorah back home (as you do). They were merrily driving along when this bloke (let's call him Bruce), spotted a King Brown on the side of the road. Now given that a King Brown is one of the deadliest snakes in the world, how would you react? Well, Bruce could only think of his mates.
I remembered the guys at the Mandorah Pub wanted something to put in their fish tank. But I made the mistake of grabbing it with my left hand because I was holding a beer in my right one.
Ahhh, bad move brucie. The snake, quite naturally after having been picked up by a beer swilling yobbo, "ripped" Bruce's hand open with its fangs. Now most blokes would give up the ghost right then and there (after all, one bite is enough to kill you). But not our Bruce. Noooo. Not our Brucie.
I tore it off me and put it in a plastic bag and threw it in the back of the car. For some stupid reason I stuck my hand back in the bag, and it must of smelled blood, and it bit me another eight times.
Within seconds, our piss loving larrikin was vomiting and having, let's just say, unfortunate bowl problems. However, luckily for Bruce, his highly trained mate was there to give him a hand: as only Australian mates do.
My mate was trying to keep me awake by wacking me on the head and pouring beer on me.
The end result? Neither the beer nor the wacking was enough to keep Brucie awake and he ended up in a coma for 6 weeks. His arm withered and died and had to be amputated, and he no longer has the use of his legs. His final word?
I still can't believe I had my arm chopped off just for one snake.
At least you can still drink with the other one mate. Hang in there.
Snakes aside, this countrys most famous drinking record was set by the legendary Australian Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Hawke in 1955. He drank 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds at University College, Oxford. Hawke recalls the incident as follows in The Hawke Memoirs (1994):
In more down-to-earth fashion I inadvertently achieved notoriety as a result of one the quaint and ancient customs of my college. A system operated at dinner in the Great Hall under which if an offence was committed - in my case coming to dinner without a gown (some bastard had borrowed mine) - on was 'sconced'. This meant having to drink two and a half pints of ale out of an antique pewter pot in less than twenty-five seconds. Failure to do so involved paying for the first drink, plus another two and a half pints. My chance of avoiding payment lay in downing the ale within the limit and hoping that the Sconcemaster - the President of the Junior Common Room - could not beat my time. I was too broke for the fine and necessity became the mother of ingestion. I downed the contents of the pot in eleven seconds, left the Sconcemaster floundering, and entered the Guniness Book of Records with the fastest time ever recorded. This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved.
Eventually he was awarded an Oxford PhD for his drinking efforts:
"Qui si memoret sponsione provocatum lagenam ampliorem cervisiae plenam breviori temporis spatio quam quivis alius exhausisse," Professor Jasper Griffin intoned at the ceremony in the historic Sheldonian Theatre. Literally, that means: "He records that on a challenge he once drank off a sconce pot of beer in unbeaten record time" _ one of Hawke's proudest boasts in a career that began 50 years ago as a Rhodes scholar from Western Australia. Hawke entered the Guinness Book of Records for his feat and said he was not surprised it was brought up at such a formal occasion. "In a political sense, it was one of the big advantages I got out of my time at Oxford," Mr Hawke said. "It endeared me to a large section of the Australian voting population that I had a world beer drinking record."
Cheers, Dr Hawke, 05 July 2003, The Daily Telegraph
This feat also arguably led him to him becoming Prime Minister of Australia in 1983 - a position he held till ousted by Keating in 1992. Interestingly, Hawkie also gave up the grog during his period as Prime Minister (as did another Labour PM, John Curtin):
'John Curtin sober was the finest bloke alive. John Curtin drink was a vicious cur', Anstley said. Sober, certainly, I do not claim Curtin's mantle, but there is no doubt that excessive drink sometimes brought out an unpleasant personality change which, had I continued to drink, would have made me unfit to be Prime Minister.
To his credit, he didn't just comment on his own problems:
Alcoholism is fast becoming the all-Australian nightmare for, in addition to creating thousands of sick workers, it has created a sick economy where the doctors in charge don't have a clue as to the conditions or the cause!
Bob Hawke, President, ACTU, 1977
AustralianBeers.com is pleased to report Hawkie, now retired, has taken to skulling beers for the cameras while watching the cricket and gambling. As a side note, Malcom Fraser, the man who was ousted by Hawke in 1983, confessed in 1977:
I enjoy myself in the public bars of pubs more than anywhere else, almost.
Kerr's cur according to Whitlam, a fine aussie bloke according to AustralianBeers.com.
While almost all Australians are familiar with Hawke's efforts, sadly most are unaware that Queensland's own Leo Williams crushed Hawke's record six years later to claim his own Guiness Book of Records listing. Young Leo, then a law student at the Commonwealth's finest legal school, the University of Queensland, was representing his faculty in the annual student beer skulling competition. Faced with vicious competition from other faculties, notably the over confident engineering faculty, Leo calmly faced his opponents, put his glass to his lips, and skulled his beer with relish. But alas! The time wasn't up to scratch and the event was met with scornful cheers from those who would have seen him fade away into the forgotten dregs of beer history. And perhaps this would have been the fate of a lesser man.
But not Queensland's Leo Williams.
A great cry erupted from his lips as his formidable frame reached out for more of the nectar of the Gods. "More beer!", was the impassioned call, as he thought of nothing but his culture, his country, his heritage and his faculty. And so while drops of the first beer were still warming in his throat, he raised the second to his lips and in a magical 7.9 seconds he consumed 2.6 pints like a man possessed, and so forever established himself as one of the legends in Australia's noble amber liquid past. And destroyed the chundering fools of the Engineering faculty in the same instance.
Somewhat inexplicitly this competition has since been banned by the University, which should feel ashamed and be accountable for what really amounts to cultural suppression. Like the australian aboriginals, the native americans and french canadians, today's young Australian's struggle against the weight of prejudice to maintain the old traditions and language. Hawke and Williams epitomise what it means to be a beer loving australian. And do they match the tired old beer swilling yobbo culture presented in the popular media? Or the Norm character fed to us by our own government in the 1970s?
No they do not.
Bob Hawke was a Rhodes Scholar and one of Australia's longest serving and most popular Prime Ministers, ever.
Leo Williams went on to play Rugby Union for Queensland, have a successful legal career (appearing before the High Court of Australia 11 times), become a Consule for Western Samoa and an Honorary Ambassador for Queensland. He was also the Head of the Rugby Union World Cup organisation, a consultant for Freehill Hollingdale & Page and has been personally thanked by Nelson Mandala for bringing Ruby Union back to South Africa.
Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers