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The large region on the south-east corner of the world map, comprising islands off the south east coast and islands of Asia is considered as Oceania - a term coined in 1831 by one of the French explorers. Due to the large number of islands in the juncture between Oceania and Asia, there are various interpretations of what exactly is Oceania's inclusion. Modern geographers and scientists classify Oceania into Near Oceania (Australia, New Guinea and Solomon Islands) and Remote Oceania (Polynesia, Micronesia, Melaneisa, islands such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa). According to the official government data, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea the Pacific Island, some of which are countries appear in the official count.

The plate of Australia is surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is the continent mainland. Mainly desert around the centre, the country is populated mainly on the southern-western and south-eastern coasts where the climate is temperate. The landscapes in the northern parts have a tropical climate with rainforest, grassland, mangrove swamps and woodland. The climate around Oceania is heavily dependent on ocean currents and periodic drought, with minimum undulations on the continental terrain. Northern Australia is also prone to cyclones due to the tropical low pressure trend.

Most of the islands in northern Oceania face a typically tropical climate with hot humid summers and heavy rainfalls like the ones known in Indonesia and New Guinea. Heavy rain forests make for dense vegetation and growth, which is less abundant in most areas of the continental mainland.
Down south, New Zealand lies deeper into the temperate latitudes, approximately equivalent to that of Italy or Spain in the northern hemisphere. New Zealand's North Island is prone to volcanoes, with its highest peak Mt. Ruapehu being an active one. The South Island of New Zealand is the biggest land mass of the country with the Southern Alps running along its length dividing the island. The country is the peeping out part of a much bigger continent, with the land mostly submerged under the sea. The unusual terrain with extraordinary landscape is believed to be a result of straddling on dynamic boundaries between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates.

The southern parts of Oceania see the sun less often in the winter with as short as four hours of day time mostly across New Zealand and some parts of Australia. However, over the year, New Zealand experiences over 2000 excess hours of daytime owing to hemisphere exposure to the sun in summer. In milder seasons New Zealand faces adequate rainfall and the warmest months lie between November and March. The flora and fauna in the region is unusual owing to unique migratory patterns and makes southern Oceania a greatly attractive destination in terms of natural beauty and wildlife.

History, people and culture
The first human population in Australia is believed to date back to 30,000 - 40,000 BC with tribes holding evidence of similar bio-geographical identities; and categorized as the Mungo Man. The indigenous Australian is probably the descendant of the Mungo Man. Polynesians are said to have discovered New Zealand as settlement grounds by the end of the first millennium.

The first European arrival was made in 1606 by the Dutch, who marked their navigation at northern and western coastlines of Australia, although settling there was abandoned as a plan. The UK formally claimed south-western Australia in 1829. As the colonies and separations were created, the indigenous population estimated at about 350,000 gradually fell to continuous battles to acquire land power. The occupation in New Zealand was intense through the early 19th century, with the beginning of trade affairs. British Sovereignty prevailed over most of Oceania until the Federation of States of Australia was formed in 1901 after rebellious economic steps taken to success by local administrative powers.

Australia and New Zealand are dominions of the UK under the Statute of Westminster Act, marking their detachment from the UK Law since the post war reforms. The Pacific Islands Forum (est. 2000) was founded as the South Pacific Forum in 1971 with the Independence of Fiji and Tonga. Indonesia was granted full Independence in 2002. Fiji has been subject to 3 coups in the last 25 years.

Prior to colonization, almost 300 indigenous languages are believed to have been spoken in the continental mainland and proximity. Most of the indigenous languages have become extinct through years of thinning of the local population. Today, about 70 indigenous languages have survived amongst which 20 are endangered. With English becoming the "de-facto" language in Australia and most of New Zealand, southern Oceania has its own distinctive vocabulary. With world class contributions in Film, Pop music, Theatre and native music, present day Australian culture is most renowned for a rich tradition in ballet. Independent cultures are also known to thrive suggesting the region's commendable status of tolerance. Archie Roach, Yothu Yindi and NoKTuRNL have proved commercial success in the indigenous music scene.

Rugby is an inherent part of most of the Oceanic countries. The Australia - New Zealand rivalry is famous the world over. Australian sports are played with great fervour. A general culture of the 'underdog' identity is prevalent in the sense that Aussies invariably support the weaker of the neutral sides in a game. A glorifying reputation in southern Oceania is the unanimous stand against gender discrimination.

New Zealand has often claimed to be a 'classless society' till the 1980's. A prevalence of the welfare state culture in New Zealand is believed to restrict personal success and growth. National sections often face discrimination and usually belong in the lower standards of living. Although a working-man's paradise, local New Zealanders have more than a little to complain about the cliché. With little success in standard-raising after the last Labour reforms, New Zealand economics still needs to go a long way in achieving the distinction that marks Australia.

Places of Interest and night life
The Oceania region is very thinly populated. Vibrant cities offer great architecture and varied places of interest, some with a great history. The continental mainland and New Zealand, apart from the Pacific Islands, offers some of the most beautiful wild and untamed locations for getaways. Most of the international sports arenas are worth a visit especially during summer. The culture of hard-play makes Australians renowned for their competitive attitude in most major games in world-sport.   

  • The Blue Mountains - Close to Sydney, this has been the city's favourite wild getaway. The Blue Mountains hold a legendary history about holding the European immigrants with 25 years of laborious effort in crossing the barrier. The National Park for the preservation of the Blue Mountains provides for bushwalks, visits to the gorges, cliffs and gum trees. With the foothills beginning 65 km into the land from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a definite source of rejuvenation.
  •  Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound - Located on the southern New Zealand island, this is the wildest spot in the country with breathtaking scenery. The park, as is the case for Milford Sound, derives its name from the formation of glaciers creating fiords. Positioned in the far south-western corner of the island, the Te Anau Township serves as the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Surrounded by exceptionally rocky faces up to 1200 meters high, Milford Sound is an exhilarating experience on boat as the sound runs 15 km inwards from the Tasman Sea. Most car routes to Milford are avalanche prone and tourists are not allowed to drive rental cars.
  • Ninety mile beach - The upper end of the North island of New Zealand offers an uninterrupted stretch of ninety miles along the shores. Mainly an attraction for drive lovers, the region is renowned for its spotless ambience.
  • Mornington Peninsula - Located close to Port Phillip, an hour drive from Melbourne, this serves as a paradise in summer sprinkled with vineyards, beaches, galleries, golf courses and restaurants. Water sports are a regular feature in the Mornington Peninsula. Abundant sea life is another major attraction. Events like yacht sports and Jazz festivals are regular features on the peninsula in summer.
  • Kakadu National Park - Located in the northern territory of Australia, this is a place to learn about Aboriginal origins, especially in the rock art galleries. Abundant with wildlife and waterfalls the northern beaches also serve for excellent fishing.
  • Adelaide Festival Center - This serves as a home of performing arts including ballet concerts, operas, drama, rock concerts and jazz festivals.

The Arts, The Sydney Opera House and Her Majesty's Theatre are the other similar places to visit for performing arts. Drinking is an inherent part of the urban Australian night life. The islands of Oceania also offer a great clubbing experience with many famous pubs and restaurants around. The vibrancy and ethnic contribution in art and music in the continent also pushes nightlife fun to a higher priority for most tourists. The nightlife culture may be a shade quieter in New Zealand owing to the climate, but offers for great entertainment overall.

Original Authors: Shampa
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 17/11/2009
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