Australian Dictionary: Words and Expressions You Will Often Here While Down Under

Below is a list of words, expressions and institutions that you will regularly hear about once you land in the land down under. I expect this list to expand as you guys send me words that you often use within your Australian experience. For more information on Australian slang words check out Koala Net

Oz/ Aussie: Australia

DIMIA: Until and unless you become an Australian citizen, and to a lesser extent when you become a permanent resident, DIMIA (meaning The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs) is like a traditional African father: remains pretty much in the background when you’re in line. Step out of line and they come down on you with fury and viscous anger.

Have you heard stories of people who were picked up from their homes and deported on the spot, from out of the blue? These are the guys that did it.

Detention centres: These are places where people who the government thinks shouldn’t be in the country are kept. Otherwise, mess with DIMIA and their rules, this is where you get locked up. Avoid this place!

EFTPOS (pronounced Efft-Poss or Eff-Poss): This is when you use your debit card to make a purchase as opposed to using cash. When a business says EFTPOS is allowed, that means you can use your savings/debit card.

Goon bag: Goon refers to really really really cheap wine. A Goon bag is an even cheaper box of this far-from-dear wine. Usually 4-5 litres of goon is sold for less than $20. This stuff messes you up, I know many vomit stains can be attributed to the goon bag.

A root: (Usage: I am going to get a root) Sex or sexual intercourse.

Footy: Depends on which state you are in: refers to either rugby or the Australian sport, AFL Football. The use of the term depends on which of the two sports is more popular in the State

Btw: And to think they call football, or soccer or whatever Americans call it, a sissy sport??!!)

Sheila: A woman

Cockatoo: If you head out to the country, you may here the expression cockatoo: that’s a chicken.

Ocker: According to Koala Net, it refers to an unsophisticated person. Typically this is used to refer to blue collar workers who are crude in the manner they carry themselves. Great guys IMO though. Also referred to as Yobbo. Once you’ve seen an ocker or yobbo once you have a pretty clear picture of who they are that’s hard to forget.

Stubby: A 375ml. beer bottle (They really love alcohol, or as Aussies call it, piss across all age groups in this country)

Spunk: Good looking person. Usually a male, could go either way.

Sickie: A day that you take off from work because of illness.

Chuck a sickie: Take a day off work claiming illness when you are actually quite healthy.

Snag: An Australian sausage that’s usually grilled or barbecued….speaking of which….

Barbie: A barbecue or an event centered around barbecuing food.

Dole: This is the Australian equivalent of welfare. Money given to support people who are unemployed for one reason or another.

Dole Bludger: These are people who are on the dole when it’s unjustified or are seen to be lazy and exploiting the dole.

Pom: A British person

Yank: An American

Kiwi: A New Zealander

Supa/ Super (pronounced like Super): Short for superannuation. Money automatically taken out of every wage or salary and placed in a fund where it’ll be cashed out when you retire. If you return to Africa after working here feel free to withdraw your super then and go home with it.

Work hours limit: This goes by many names but is basically the idea that as an international student, you are limited to 20 hours of work per week during the school term -during holiday time you can work as much as you want. A lot of students due to various circumstances choose to defy this rule by working more than 20 hours. In general this comes to bite students in the butt when:

a) Their working too much interferes with their studies in any way shape or form: The University reports you, an investigation begins and it snowballs on and on and on…..

b) You have friends who either don’t like you, are envious of you or want to make money by reporting you to DIMIA.

c) You have employers who are dissatisfied with you and chose to report you.

In short, before you come here, please make sure you have thought through how you will be supported while you do your studies. Otherwise you may hear the dreaded word……

Deportation: You are deported when you break DIMIA or the Government’s rules and they don’t want you anymore. Doesn’t look good on your record.

States, Cities and Suburbs/Territories: Australia is a federal country that has 6 states:

1) New South Wales 2) Queensland 3) South Australia 4) Tasmania (an island separate from the Australian mainland) 5) Victoria 6) Western Australia

Australia also has a number of territories, refer to this article for more information.

Each of these states and territories then divides into cities, complete with their own city councils and mayors. For example, in Victoria there is:

1) City of Melbourne (which has the ever popular mayor John So) 2) City of Knox 3) City of Whitehorse 4) City of Monash, just to name a few.

Each of these cities consists of suburbs. Which leads me to:

Address: Back in Kenya, we used to use the Post Office Box system. That means that when someone used to ask me for my mailing address I would refer them to a mail box in the middle of the city whereas when asked for my residential address I could only describe it according to the landmarks that were on our road. Though a lot of houses have numbers on them, I don’t remember using them often to get to someone’s house.

In Australia though, unless you take advice I gave you on previous posts, your mailing address will be your residential address and it’ll look a little something like this:

24 Carvey Street,

Glen Iris,

VIC 3134

NB: The above is not a real address but merely an example

You need:

a) A street name and the number of the home or mail box on the street (24 Carvey Street)

b) The suburb-not the city or State (Glen Iris)

c) State or territory, usually abbreviated into two or three letters (VIC meaning Victoria, NSW meaning New South Wales, NT meaning Northern Territory)

d) Post code (4 digit number that usually only has relevance to the mailing company. Good to know if you are sending a letter e.g. 3150, 3000 etc etc)

Have any words to the add to the ‘Australian dictionary’? Leave a comment below and spread the word!

Be blessed,

Bless others,



  • By gal africana, April 23, 2008 @ 9:14 am

    Root, Shiela, Pom…hmmmm! Interesting. Do YOU actually use these words? A root doesn’t sound particularly fun…why on earth is it called that? Oi! Has that giraffe print always been there? Me likey :-)

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

    @gal: At the moment I am playing around with the design of the site so that it’s easy for people to read what I write. Thanks for the compliments. Expect a few more changes over the coming days and I hope you likey them changes too.
    Pom and Yank are pretty much the only way that Brits and Americans are described by the typical Aussie. Sheila is one of those words where it depends on who you’re talking to and where, but everyone understands.
    Root….yeah, that word is used a lot. In fact, I will tell you the story of how this couple got married. This is the story the man told me:

    “I wanted a root and I heard she was good for that. So as soon as she broke up with me mate (I felt there was no need to explain mate) I went for her. She gave me a root. One root became two. Two became three. She kept giving me roots and two years later we were married.”

  • By gal africana, April 23, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

    LMAO! THAT is too funny haha That story makes me want a root…without knwing what a root is that is…hahaha you’ve made my day!

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

    @gal: Glad I could be of service!

  • By whome, June 13, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

    the root to marriage… lol! :-) brilliant story

  • By Mwangi, June 13, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

    @whome: Glad you enjoyed it. Btw, where have you been, haven’t heard from you in a while.

  • By Karls, December 11, 2008 @ 7:30 am

    Just thought I’d clear something up. A cockatoo isn’t a chicken… It’s commonly a white bird of flight with a yellow headcrest that makes a horrific squacking sound. Good work on the others!

  • By Mwangi, December 11, 2008 @ 8:09 am

    @Karls: Oops, a chook is a chicken isn’t it? Thanks for the clarification……….

  • By Paul Watson, January 24, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    hahahah…. love it guys….. FYI from an Aussie….Sheila and Ocker are pretty much out of use……since 40 years. Cockatoo is a parrot yes (white or black)….. it is usually called a Cocky… not to be confused with the pink and grey one (which is a Galah) …or with ‘Cocky’ or ‘cow cocky’ which means farmer.

    Gal Africana…good luck with ur root !

    from Aussie Paul

  • By admin, January 27, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    @Paul: Thanks for the heads up on sheila and ocker. I saw them both on some show a while back and thought they were still in vogue. Any other knowledge you want to impart on us, feel free………….

  • By kate, April 15, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    hi i am a young cameroonian i read and liked ur site please i need help i am in cameroon and i wish to travel to australia soonest i need someone to help me with an invitation letter is it possible to have a cameroonian out there to help.Will be glad to have help most preferably from a Cameroonian in south australia for a short visit.


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