Want to pick up some fair dinkum (that means true/real in Aussie slang) souvenirs of your trip Downunder? As a proud Aussie, I’d hate to see you walk away with anything less than the best Australian souvenirs from your holiday in my homeland. So here are four true blue Aussie mementoes to take home from the land Downunder.
What more appropriate birthstone for an October baby (like myself) than a glittering opal. Australia’s national gemstone, forms in the arid outback region once covered by an inland sea. Seasonal rains, carry silica down into the cracks and crevices of ancient rocks and deposit it there for safekeeping. As the water dries up, the silica left behind forms stunning gems. What’s even cooler than that, are the opals that have formed in fossilized dinosaur bones and marine creatures.
The kaleidoscopic colours characteristic of precious opals are a result of silica spheres bending white light into its component colours, much like a prism. Australia is responsible for 95% of the world’s opal supply to the jewellery industry, making it the ideal place to pick up a little opalescent accessory during your visit.
“Akubra” is like “Band Aid,” in that it’s a brand name that has become synonymous with a product. In Akubra’s case, wide-brimmed bush hats made of rabbit fur felt and traditionally popular with dwellers of rural Australia. They aren’t those terrible, stereotypical cork hats Aussie’s are often depicted wearing, but the hat of Jackaroos and Jillaroos (Aussie cowboys and cowgirls). Akubra makes “The Croc” style especially for the Crocodile Dundee wannabes amongst us.
For the rest of you, I would suggest something from the Heritage collection, for an authentically Aussie look. Akubra has been supplying the Australian military with their distinctive slouch hat since the early 20th century, so you know these hats can take a beating. Most importantly, Akubra still manufactures its hats in Australia. For those concerned about wearing fur, consider that rabbits are an introduced species in Australia and a serious pest endangering native ecosystems and annoying farmers – you’d be doing us a favour!
What goes around comes around
Like karma, a returning boomerang is designed to come back. There are also non-returning styles among other variations of the tool used by Indigenous Australians for activities such as hunting, combat and sport. However, the flat, slightly v-shaped, aerofoil wings that exhibit the clingy, dependent behaviour of always returning, are the most commonly recognized boomerang form.
Boomerangs aren’t exclusive to Australia’s indigenous tribes but are most strongly associated with them. Australia’s oldest known boomerang was found in South Australian swampland and dates back 10,000 years, so take home a historical and cultural icon to hang on your wall.
Leaves of silver & gold
Eucalyptus or gum trees as they are commonly referred to, are flowering trees native to Australia. Of the world’s 700 known species, only nine are not found Downunder. I have been stunned on my travels to find pockets of Eucalyptus growing around the globe. As it turns out, these homeland signatures were useful to colonial powers and introduced into many parts of the world to use as building materials. Eucalypts are the sole diet of cute and cuddly koala’s, and they produce an oil that possesses useful antibacterial qualities.
In the late 1980s, Aussies Patrick and Amelia Carfax devised a way to capture and preserve the characteristic foliage of a eucalypt by plating it in precious metals. Their company, Rock Leaf Australia, create pendants from signature Aussie leaves and nuts that make unique souvenirs or gifts.
Tea Tree Oil
Indigenous Australians have known about the healing properties of Tea Tree Oil for thousands of years. When European settlers arrived in Australia, they noticed Aboriginies boiling up the leaves to make a potent tea, hence they called the plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, “Tea Tree”. Studies in the 1920s showed that oil distilled from the Tree was a powerful antiseptic, and it was used extensively by the Australian military during World War II. Today, Tea Tree Oil has been developed into many useful products, which make a great, practical souvenir. The most well known Aussie brand for Tea Tree is Thursday Plantation, but you will find other, smaller-scale producers too.
Take home a wearable Australian souvenir and shop one of our uniquely Aussie (and sustainable) brands such as:
Cue for upmarket office wear.
Citizen Wolf‘s made-to-measure tees (if you have the time).
Native Swimwear an Aboriginal-owned swimwear brand that uses recycled marine plastic waste.
Carla Zampatti for special occasion wear.
You can find a much bigger list of ethical Aussie clothing brands here.
A childhood favourite
May Gibbs was born in England in 1877 and relocated with her family to Australia when she was just four years old. She grew up across South Australia and Western Australia, showing talent for botanical illustrations as a teen. After studying art, Gibbs found her ultimate muse in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
From the bushland blossomed the first of many long-treasured characters, the Gumnut Brownies (later “Gumnut Babies”) and she worked until her ninetieth year, creating a legacy of children’s tales and artwork that lingers in libraries and homes across the country. You can buy products featuring May Gibbs’ delightful illustrations at her home-turned-museum in Neutral Bay, Sydney or from the online store.
Did you know that ugg boots originated in Australia? While they are available worldwide now, only a small proportion are genuine Australian-made ugg boots or even real sheepskin. I recently purchased a new pair and it was tough to sort through the knock-offs and imports from the real deal. For uggs made in Australia seek out brands like Jumbo, Emu and Original Ugg Boots and Ugg Since 1974. Don’t expect to pay less than AUD100 – real uggs are investment pieces and you should get many years to wear out of them. This is especially if you only wear them as house slippers as us Aussies do – to us it is a fashion faux pas to wear them in public – the name “ugg” comes from “ugly” after all. Good brands usually make the boots with removable insoles so they can be replaced after some wear. Enjoy those deliciously, warm foot-hugs!
Grown Alchemist, Sukin and Jurlique have long been some of my favourite Australian skincare brands, that I stock up on every time I’m at home. Sukin is super affordable and can be picked up at the supermarket. If you’re looking for a special gift or to treat yourself, Grown and Jurlique are a little more luxurious and generally available at pharmacies and department stores.
Indigenous Australian art tells the stories of landscapes, wildlife and people in a myriad of styles (not just dot painting). Genuine Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artworks won’t come cheap, so beware of inexpensive knock-offs. If an original isn’t in your budget, look for a print. Also, don’t restrict yourself to canvas, Indigenous designs can be found on clothing and homewares, woven into basketry and more.
Books for casual cooks
Foodies and cooking enthusiasts will love Australian cuisine – fresh and diverse. Take home a cookbook from one of our notable Aussie chefs and culinary heros including the likes of Bill Granger, Donna Hay, Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and Curtis Stone.
For affordable Australian souvenirs you can pick up easily at the supermarket, check out this list of edible mementos.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,