How did the kangaroo transform from a bizarre curiosity to an internationally recognised symbol of Australia? How did Vegemite, a waste product of beer, come to be the most popular spread in the country? How did the Opera House survive early controversy to become a national symbol equal to the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal? And does the pavlova belong to Australia or New Zealand? Australia is a land of symbols. From the curious, the folkloric, the official, the ancient, the inspiring, the commercial, the lovable, the feared, even the edible, these symbols make the abstract concept of the nation tangible and give us an identity by representing Australia to itself and the world. But how are national symbols created? What makes them popular? Do they unite or divide the nation? And what do they really mean? Symbols of Australia uncovers the stories behind Australia's best-loved symbols. Entertaining, provocative and often surprising, it proves that while some may seem quirky or frivolous and others get taken for granted, they all have significance that goes beyond the surface.
Melissa Harper is a lecturer in Australian studies at the University of Queensland and the coeditor of the "Journal of Australian Studies." She is the author of "The Ways of the Bushwalker: On Foot in Australia." Richard White teaches Australian history and the history of travel and tourism at the University of Sydney. He is the coeditor of "History Australia" and the author of "Cultural History in Australia," "Inventing Australia," "On Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia," and" The Oxford Book of Australian Travel Writing."