Australia is a vast continent, yet it can be hard to tell which state a person comes from based on their sound alone. This is because Australia is such a young country. The Europeans who first came ashore in 1788, were all from a wide variety of regions across England, each with different dialects. In order to understand each other, they had to minimise their dialect variations.
Thanks to this environment, children growing up in Australia came to speak with a more homogenous accent than their parents, which was the beginning of Middle Australian. Records from the 1800s show that this sound was admired by the English at the time. Caroline Leakey wrote in 1859: “You cannot fail shortly to note how very well the common children speak, even where the parents set them no good pronunciative example.”
Only 100 years after the First Fleet did the new movement of ‘Cultivated English’ catch on. The Southern accent from England was set as the gold standard to be taught in schools. It is thought that the famous ‘Strayan’ drawl emerged as a reaction to the enforcement of Cultivated English.
Once again in our present time, the Australian sound is changing. Just as speakers with posh accents are no longer common, extreme examples of a broad Australian accent are difficult to find today.