Michele: All public schools in the state of Queensland follow the same school year schedule. Just as in the US the exact schedule varies by state but the general formula is the same. There are four terms that each last 10 or 11 weeks separated by two week holidays. Term 1 starts in mid- to end January and Term 4 ends in mid Dec. Term 2 has the most public holidays with the Queen's birthday and the like. Additionally, each term has 1 or 2 student-free days equivalent to curriculum days. The schedule is much like the schedule in the US with several major differences.
Two weeks between terms: This is a civilized length to a holiday! Two weeks give you enough to get somewhere and relax as well as have some time after you return to decompress from the holiday. I am a strong proponent of two week holidays between terms.
The school year is longer: Rather than 180 days of school, the Aussie kids attend about 200 days of school. I really see nothing wrong with this. More days can mean more learning or more time to explore topics of interest.
Shorter summer break: Aussie kids get 6 weeks summer break over Christmas and New Years. I may be in the minority but I think that 6 weeks is plenty of time for a kid to get sufficiently bored that they are ready to head back to school. We no longer live in a predominantly agrarian society where kids are needed on the farm for 10 weeks of harvesting etc. Don't get me wrong, I like summer and lazy days. But it seems to me that 6 is plenty. With 6 weeks I won't be scrambling so much to get my kids into camps to keep them occupied.
We are currently in the second week of holiday between terms 3 and 4. We've been doing everything we can to get the kids as bored as possible and it looks to have worked.