Unless you are actively trying to insult someone, a traveller is unlikely to insult or cause offence to an Australian through any kind of cultural ignorance.
Australian modes of address tend towards the familiar. It is acceptable and normal to use first names in all situations, even to people many years your senior. Many Australians are fond of using and giving nicknames - even to recent acquaintances. It is likely being called such a name is an indication that you are considered a friend and as such it would be rare they are being condescending.
It is generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing in Australia. Bikinis and swimming attire are okay on the beach, and usually at the kiosk across the road from the beach. It is normal to wear at least a shirt and footwear before venturing any further. Most beaches are effectively top optional (topless) while sunbathing. Just about all women wear a top while walking around or in the water. There are some clothing optional (nude) beaches, usually a little further removed from residential areas. Thong bikinis (more commonly called g-string bikinis in Australia as thongs refer to flip-flop footwear) are fine on all beaches and some outdoor pools for both women and men although they are not as common as conventional beachwear. Some outdoor pools have a "top required" policy for women.
Cover up a little more when visiting places of worship such as churches. In warm conditions casual "t-shirt and shorts" style clothing predominates except in formal situations. Business attire, however, is considered to be long sleeved shirt, tie, and long trousers for men, even in the hottest weather.
Using Australian stereotypical expressions may be viewed as an attempt to mock, rather than to communicate. If you pull it off well, you might raise a smile.
Australians are often self-deprecating; however, it is rude to ever agree with a self-deprecating remark. Boasting about achievements is rarely received well.
Most Australians are happy to help out a lost traveller with directions, however many urban dwellers will assume that someone asking "Excuse me", is going to be asking for money, and may brush past. Looking lost, holding a map, looking like a backpacker or getting to the point quickly will probably help.
Aboriginal Australians likely arrived in the Australian landmass 50,000 years ago and number around 1 million people today. They have faced significant discrimination over the years since European settlement took their traditional lands, and sensitivity should be given at all times. Aboriginal people actually come from many different 'nations' with distinctive cultures and identities that spoke up to 250 different languages before European settlement
Many areas of Aboriginal land are free to enter. Some areas carry a request from the Aboriginal people not to enter, and you may choose yourself whether or not to honour or respect that request. An example of an Aboriginal request is climbing Uluru (Ayers Rock). No law prohibits people from climbing the rock (except in heat, rain or strong winds), however, local indigenous communities (The Anangu) request that you do not climb. Uluru holds great spiritual significance to the Anangu. The Anangu feel themselves responsible if someone is killed or injured on their land (as has happened many times during the climb) and request tourists not to place themselves in harm through climbing. Many people who travel to Uluru do climb, however, so you certainly won't be on your own if you choose to do this.
Some Aboriginal land requires permission or a permit, and some areas are protected and illegal to enter. You should check before making plans to travel off the beaten track. Permits are usually just a formality for areas which regularly see visitors, or if you have some other business in the area you are travelling through. Often they are just an agreement to respect the land you are travelling on as Aboriginal land. Some Aboriginal Land Councils make them available online.
If you need to refer to race, the politically correct term is Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal people is usually okay and referring to sacred sites and land as Aboriginal sites, or Aboriginal land is okay too. Avoid using Aborigine or Aboriginal as a noun to describe a person, as some people see negative connotations in these words. The contraction "Abo" is deeply offensive and should never be used. The word Native is also offensive.
Other areas to consider when interacting with indigenous Australians are:
- Australia Day is considered a day of invasion by many Aboriginal people
- It is best not to mention the name of a deceased person to an indigenous Australian. Though Aboriginal custom varies, it is best to avoid the possibility of offence.
- Permission to photograph an Aboriginal person should always be asked, but in particular in the more remote areas such as Arnhem Land. There is an old belief among them that the flash of a camera will steal their soul.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Australia has an equal age of consent set at 16 for all states except Tasmania and South Australia where the age is 17. Queensland outlaws 'sodomy' for under 18s, but is generally supportive of homosexuality. Although a strong majority of Australians support legalising same-sex marriage, the current law does not yet permit this. Nonetheless, Australia officially recognises a 'de facto relationship' for gay couples that is equal to that offered to straight couples - a special Interdependency Visa exists as a gay counterpart to the traditional marriage-based migration route.
Attitudes to homosexuality are similar to those found in most western countries. Although inner Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, caution is still advisable in conservative rural areas, including rural parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory. Australia has outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and legal recourse may be available should you experience discrimination.
Sydney is Australia's gay capital, and hosts one of the world's most famous gay pride festivals - the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras - annually during February and March. The festival culminates in a huge parade through central Sydney which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators. Alice Springs celebrates the "Alice Is Wonderland Festival", a gay and lesbian pride festival in late April/early May. Melbourne has a "Pride March" every year on the first Sunday of February.
(Thanks to WikiVoyage.org)