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Ten Odd News Stories out of Australia
Following up on my recent list “Ten Odd News Stories Out of New Zealand,” I thought I’d look over what we call “The Ditch” to my Australian neighbors and see what oddities are turning up in the headlines over there.
Turns out, the Aussies have some rather strange goings-on over their way, too, and here’s just a handful of oddball stories that have hit the headlines in Australia’s recent(ish) times.
10 Wallaby Mugs Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny’s best-laid plans were almost ruined this past Easter if a mischievous male wallaby—oddly named Polly—had his wicked way.
In Clarence Point, Tasmania, local resident Amanda Sparkles and her two daughters were awakened around 6 am by loud noises on Easter Sunday. Instead of catching the Easter Bunny in the act, Amanda explained how she was surprised to find a wallaby stealing Easter eggs hidden around the property. “The very naughty boy had been on the deck, caravan, swing set, spa bath, collecting and hiding all the eggs he could find,” she wrote in a post on Facebook.
Brought into care as an infant after his mother was killed by a car, Polly is now a 20-kilogram (44-pound) adult and freely roams around the Sparkles’ farm, where Amanda is a registered wildlife rehabilitator.
As with dogs, cats, and many other animals, chocolate is also bad for wallabies and kangaroos, so Polly could not indulge in any of his stolen goodies. Amanda was able to use a piece of his favorite vegetable as a bribe to retrieve one of the eggs in his possession.
Once Polly had handed over his Easter egg, Amanda and her daughters realized they had another problem—all of the other Easter eggs were still missing. “We then started looking around to see if there were any more,” she said. “We couldn’t really see many at all, but Polly kept on going in and out of the bushes… We realized he’d gathered up eggs and put them all into the shrubs.”
9 Death Threats and the Robot Waitress
A Sydney restaurant owner says she received several death threats earlier this year after using a robot waitress amid pandemic staff shortages.
The Matterhorn, a Swiss restaurant on Sydney’s North Shore, recently spent $AU 28,000 on a high-tech robot waitress to help carry plates and take customer orders. The robot, named Bella, also sings “Happy Birthday” to customers, as singing in indoor restaurants is currently not permitted in the state under Covid regulations.
The Matterhorn’s owner, Liarne Schai, explained that Bella wasn’t merely a gimmick, as international border closures and staff poaching resulted in a critical worker shortage throughout the hospitality industry. Wages for some positions have skyrocketed during the pandemic, with casual waiting jobs advertised for as much $AU 80 per hour. (Sheesh, where can I sign up?) Despite paying their staff “well above award wages,” The Matterhorn just couldn’t compete with these inflated wages, so they invested in Bella.
“99.9 percent of the customers love Bella,” explained Schai. “It’s the funniest thing to watch people talking to it like it’s a person, but the nicest part of it is by the time the novelty wears off, she fades into the background like a good waiter does anyway,” she said.
However, not everyone was impressed by the restaurant’s robotic employee. They received an email insinuating that the restaurant was “part of the right-wing prefecture and that we were facilitating robots taking over the world.” Following media reports about Bella, a man phoned the restaurant to issue death threats to the owners. “He said that he’d seen us on the news and that he wanted the owners to die the most horrible, painful, torturous, cancerous death possible,” Schai explained.
Rather than being some kind of evil robotic overlord bent on the destruction of humanity, Schai described Bella as being more of an “automatic trolley.” Bella allows the human staff to spend more time with the customers, giving them “an extra seven to eight minutes servicing each table that we would normally be spending running back and forth.”
8 The Shocking Case of the Un-Australian Vegemite Toast
In April 2022, a cafe in Sydney was labeled as being “un-Australian” for its miserly serving of Vegemite toast.
For those that don’t know, Vegemite (and its far superior rival Marmite) is concentrated yeast extracts. It is a dark, thick spread, kind of malty, and super salty. Kiwi kids and Aussie kids alike are raised on the stuff, and it’s safe to say that for the uninitiated, it’s an acquired taste.
But back to the story…
A customer at the cafe took to social media to share what they had been served—a somewhat anemic-looking piece of buttered toast with a meager smear of Vegemite. It immediately sparked a heated debate about “how much Vegemite is the right amount?” In this instance, the cafe clearly fell well short with its stingy offering.
One person criticized the cafe for messing up every step of what should really be a no-brainer. “Not enough toasting, not enough butter, not enough Vegemite,” they said. Another person added, “I always wondered how badly you can f**k up Vegemite on toast. We have a new leader.”
Some critics went as far as to call it “un-Australian,” while others questioned why you’d order something like Vegemite toast from a cafe in the first place. And in case you’re wondering if this is really such a big deal, in November of last year, a man was served Vegemite on toast for breakfast while being held at the Albany Police Station. He apparently became outraged about the thickness of the Vegemite and angrily smeared the iconic Australian spread all over his cell, later requiring a “specialist cleaner” to clean up the mess.
7 The Alien Sea Creature with Human Lips
In April 2022, long-time Bondi resident, Drew Lambert, was shocked to come across a bizarre “alien-like” creature washed up on the beach when he was out for his morning jog.
Lambert later explained how he first thought it could be a “weird form of shark.” However, he noticed the mouth was on the bottom of its body, and while its skin was not dissimilar to a shark, it lacked a dorsal fin. “[I thought] oh my god, that’s weird. It looked like it was puckering up for a kiss,” he explained. “I just looked at it and said, ‘What the hell? Does this fish have human lips on it?’ “he added.
A supervisor at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Laetitia Hannan, later confirmed that despite its missing fins and tail, it appeared to be a coffin ray, a fish native to Australia. Another name for it is the numbfish, as they are capable of dishing out electric shocks to fight off predators, generating up to 200 volts of electricity. While some divers have been on the receiving end of a rather nasty shock, none are known to have proven fatal.
6 Woman Loves Herself… a Lot
In May 2020, Sydney teacher Patricia Christine made the ultimate commitment… to herself. In a 30-minute “self-commitment ceremony” attended by nine of her closest friends, she married herself.
Having called off her engagement to an ex-partner eight years ago, Patricia said she felt under psychological pressure created by society to get married before turning 30. In total, the event cost approximately $AU 95. Patricia purchased her own Bohemian wedding dress, diamond wedding ring, and flowers.
During the unique ceremony, which took place in a local park, Patricia put forward her views on the importance of self-love. She later explained that she hoped that her act of marrying herself would motivate other young women to accept themselves, regardless of their relationship status and any societal pressure to get married.
She explained that in the vows she made to herself in an “emotional’ ceremony,” she promised to love herself despite the mistakes she had made in life and committed to trusting herself to follow her dreams. “I wanted to defy societal expectations and show women that the most important relationship we have is with ourselves,” she stated. Adding “we search our whole lives to make a huge declaration to another, but we don’t do it for ourselves first.”
5 Gigantic Crocodile Eats Dinosaur
Massive spiders the size of your face, a whole bunch of deadly snakes (there’s a 2-decade old list that says that 21 of the 25 most toxic snakes in the world are all from Australia!), sharks, box jellyfish, and stonefish—just to name a few of the deadly critters that can be found around Australia. And of course, there are crocs. Earlier this year, scientists were excited by the discovery of a massive 95-million-year-old crocodile relative that fed on dinosaurs.
It was named Confractosuchus sauroktonos, which means “broken crocodile dinosaur killer,” the “broken” in the crocodile’s name is a reference to the enormous, smashed boulder where the fossils were discovered. While this specimen measures some 2 to 2.5 meters (6.5 to 8 feet) in length, museum research associate Matt White believes it would have grown considerably larger had it not died.
The fossil species found in a rock bed in eastern Australia is from the Cretaceous Period, when most of the more commonly known dinosaurs roamed Earth. Making this find all the more exciting was that the croc had a partly-digested and near-complete chicken-sized dinosaur in its stomach. The juvenile as yet unidentified ornithopod (a medium-to-large plant-eating dinosaur) weighed around 1.5 kilograms (3.5 pounds) at the time of its death. The croc likely also died shortly afterward, resulting in the half-digested dinosaur in its belly getting fossilized too.
While the fossil croc was missing its tail and limbs, most of the smaller dinosaur’s skeleton was still intact even after it was swallowed. Scans revealed that the croc bit down so hard on it that it ended up breaking one of the ornithopod’s femurs in half and even left a tooth embedded in the other femur.
This discovery is believed to be the first definitive evidence that crocodiles were eating dinosaurs in Australia. “It is likely dinosaurs constituted an important resource in the Cretaceous ecological food web,” said White. “Given the lack of comparable global specimens, this prehistoric crocodile and its last meal will continue to provide clues to the relationships and behaviors of animals that inhabited Australia millions of years ago,” he added.
4 M&M’s Stacking
Queenslander Brendan Kelbie is, by his own admission, a serial record-breaker. His Guinness World Records include: most drumstick flips in one minute (98), longest duration spinning a basketball on a pair of spectacles (29.67 sec), longest time spinning a basketball on the nose (9.57 sec), and longest duration to spin a fidget spinner on one toe (6 min 52.28 sec), just to name a few!
In October 2021, Kelbie laid claim to yet another record—when he stacked six M&M’s on top of each other, and it stood for at least 10 seconds before falling. Guinness requirements also specify that flavored M&M’s such as peanut are not permitted, and only the plain chocolate ones can be used.
“I’ve decided to break this record because I’m a serial record breaker, and I am a versatile world record holder,” he told Guinness.
3 Unlicensed Cooler
In November 2021, an unnamed 25-year-old man in Kerang, Victoria, was stopped by the Swan Hill Police Service while driving a motorized cooler on the sidewalk. Police shared photos on social media of the small cooler being loaded onto a rather large tow truck as the “vehicle” was impounded for 30 days.
Police stated that while the driver of the cooler passed a breathalyzer test and was not intoxicated, he did not have a valid driver’s license, and he had, in fact, never held one. As a result, the driver is now facing charges of driving without a license and driving an unregistered motor vehicle.
“This motorized esky (a brand of portable cooler) is considered a vehicle due to the size/engine capacity and must comply with legislative requirements and road rules,” the police statement read.
2 Extra Leg of Lamb
Sam Kuerschner, a sheep farmer from Orroroo, South Australia, said a lamb born in 2021 was destined to become a family pet instead of dinner when he discovered that the animal had an extra leg growing out of the back of its head.
He said he felt rather shocked after discovering that the lamb had a fully-sized fifth leg attached to his head in what “looks like a mullet” hairstyle (no mutton chop beard was mentioned). However, the lamb did not appear to be affected in any way by the extra appendage. “It seemed completely happy and healthy and didn’t seem to be suffering any kind of medical issue,” Kuerschner explained.
He was sure his children would be keen to have the unusual pet. “When the time comes to wean it off its mother, I think I’ll take it home, and it can run around the house yard. I’ve got three little kids, and they’ll be fascinated to have that as a bit of a special pet for hopefully the rest of its life,” he said.
Polymelia is a birth defect in which an affected individual has more than the usual number of limbs. The extra limb is most commonly shrunken and/or deformed. However, in this instance, the leg is apparently fully formed and appears to be attached to the back of the sheep’s head by flesh rather than a bone joint. Veterinarian Paul Nilon estimated that one in 200,000 sheep is born with an extra limb.
1 The Echidna Penis That Broke the Internet
In April 2022, Australian Geographic was accused of being more like Australian GeoGRAPHIC after posting an NSFW pic of an echidna penis on Facebook. Sometimes known as spiny anteaters, echidnas are unusual quill-covered, egg-laying mammals resembling hedgehogs that are native to Australia.
“Have you ever seen an echidna’s penis?” the post began. Fans of Australian flora and fauna were taken aback by what came next…an engorged echidna penis thrust onto their screens in full technicolor, all in the name of science.
“Labeled one of the ‘weirdest penises of the animal kingdom,’ it’s bright red and has four heads,” the post explained. “Now there’s a dinner conversation starter…” concluded the post. You’re not wrong there!
People commenting on the post were busy trying in vain to compose themselves after gazing upon the colorful, multi-headed “d*ck pic.”
“I cannot un-see this,” wrote once traumatized page subscriber, “scarred for life!”
“Wears condoms. They fit like a glove,” another quipped.
Reproductive biologist Jane Feleon explains,” We’re not really sure why it looks so weird, but we do know that they only use their penis for mating, not urine.” Adding “because they don’t need it for urine, they had the freedom to make it much more elaborate.” Elaborate…so that’s what they’re calling it these days!