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Commonwealth of Australia
Flag Coat of arms
AnthemAdvance Australia FairN1
Capital Canberra
Largest city Sydney
Official language(s) NoneN2
National language English (de facto)N2
Demonym Australian,
Aussie[1][2] (colloquial)
Government Federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, see Government of Australia
 -  Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Quentin Bryce
 -  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 -  Constitution 1 January 1901 
 -  Statute of Westminster 11 December 1931 
 -  Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 9 October 1942 (with effect from 3 September 1939) 
 -  Australia Act 3 March 1986 
 -  Total 7,617,930 km2 (6th)
2,941,299 sq mi 
 -  2010 estimate 22,191,295[3] (51st)
 -  2006 census 19,855,288[4] 
 -  Density 2.833/km2 (232nd)
7.3/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $799.054 billion[5] (18th)
 -  Per capita $36,918[5] (15th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.013 trillion[5] (14th)
 -  Per capita $46,824[5] (13th)
HDI (2007) 0.970[6] (very high) (2nd)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone variousN3 (UTC+8 to +10.5)
 -  Summer (DST) variousN3 (UTC+8 to +11.5)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .au
Calling code +61

Australia (pronounced /əˈstreɪljə/ ə-STRAYL-yə or /ɒˈstreɪljə/ o-STRAYL-yə,[7] or /ɔːˈstreɪliə/ aw-STRAY-lee-ə), officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent (the world's smallest),[8][9] the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.N4 Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the southeast.

For some 40,000 years before European settlement commenced in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 individual nations[10] of indigenous Australians.[11] After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606,[12] the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years; the continent was explored, and during the 19th century another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.

On 1 January 1901 the six colonies became a federation and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The population is 22 million, with approximately 60% concentrated in and around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. The nation's capital city is Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory.

Australia is a prosperous developed country, with a multicultural society. It ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance such as human development, quality of life, health care, life expectancy, public education, economic freedom and the protection of civil liberties and political rights.[13] Australian cities rank among the world's highest in terms of cultural offerings and quality of life. It is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, OECD, ANZUS, APEC, South Pacific Forum and the World Trade Organization.



The name Australia is derived from the Latin australis, meaning "southern". Legends of an "unknown land of the south" (terra australis incognita) date back to Roman times and were commonplace in medieval geography but were not based on any documented knowledge of the continent.

The first recorded use of the word Australia in English was in 1625 in "A note of Australia del Espíritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt" and published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumus.[14] The Dutch adjectival form Australische was used by Dutch East India Company officials in Batavia to refer to the newly discovered land to the south in 1638. Australia was used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur dans la Découverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe, a 1676 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny under the pen-name Jacques Sadeur.[15] Alexander Dalrymple then used it in An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean (1771), to refer to the entire South Pacific region. In 1793, George Shaw and Sir James Smith published Zoology and Botany of New Holland, in which they wrote of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia or New Holland".[16] It also appeared on a 1799 chart by James Wilson.[17]

Artist's rendition of Port Jackson, the site where Sydney was established, viewed from the South Head. (From A Voyage to Terra Australis.)

The name Australia was popularised by Matthew Flinders who, as early as 1804, pushed for the name to be formally adopted. When preparing his manuscript and charts for his 1814 A Voyage to Terra Australis he was persuaded by his patron, Sir Joseph Banks, to use the term Terra Australis as this was the name most familiar to the public. Flinders did so, but allowed himself the footnote:

"Had I permitted myself any innovation on the original term, it would have been to convert it to Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth."[18]

This is the only occurrence of the word Australia in that text; but in Appendix III, Robert Brown's General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis, Brown makes use of the adjectival form Australian throughout,[19] this being the first known use of that form.[20] Despite popular conception, the book was not instrumental in the adoption of the name: the name came gradually to be accepted over the following ten years.[21] Lachlan Macquarie, a Governor of New South Wales, subsequently used the word in his dispatches to England, and on 12 December 1817 recommended to the Colonial Office that it be formally adopted.[22] In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

The word Australia in Australian English is pronounced [əˈstɹæɪljə, -liə].[23] Since early in the 20th century, the country has been sometimes referred to locally and internationally as Oz.N5 Aussie is common colloquially as an adjective and also as a noun referring to an Australian.N6


Human habitation of Australia is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago[24] possibly with the migration of people by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now Southeast Asia. These first Australians may have been ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. At the time of European settlement in the 18th century, most Indigenous Australians were hunter-gatherers, with a complex oral culture and spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, were originally horticulturalists and hunter-gatherers.

A replica of Lieutenant Cook's ship HM Bark Endeavour in Cooktown Harbour

The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent both belong to the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula on an unknown date in early 1606. On 26 February 1606, he made landfall at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York, near the modern town of Weipa. During the 17th century the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of what they called New Holland but made no attempt at settlement. In 1770 James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain.[25] Cook's discoveries prepared the way for establishment of a new penal colony. The British Crown Colony of New South Wales began a settlement at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date was later to become Australia's national day, Australia Day. Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803 and became a separate colony in 1825. The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Australia in 1829.

Separate colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia. South Australia was founded as a "free province"—that is, it was never a penal colony. Victoria and Western Australia were also founded "free" but later accepted transported convicts.[26] The transportation of convicts to the colony of New South Wales ceased in 1848 after a campaign by the settlers.[27]

A calm body of water is in the foreground. The shoreline is about 200 metres away. To the left, close to the shore, are three tall gum trees; behind them on an incline are ruins, including walls and watchtowers of light-coloured stone and brick, what appear to be the foundations of walls, and grassed areas. To the right lie the outer walls of a large rectangular four-storey building dotted with regularly spaced windows. Forested land rises gently to a peak several kilometres back from the shore.
Port Arthur, Tasmania was Australia's largest gaol for transported convicts.

The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at 350,000 at the time of European settlement,[28] declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly because of infectious disease.[29] The "Stolen Generations" (removal of Aboriginal children from their families), which historians such as Henry Reynolds have argued could be considered genocide by some definitions,[30] may have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population.[31] Such interpretations of Aboriginal history are disputed by some conservative commentators, such as former Prime Minister Howard, as being exaggerated or fabricated for political or ideological reasons. This debate is known within Australia as the History Wars. Following the 1967 referendum, the Federal government gained the power to implement policies and make laws with respect to Aborigines. Traditional ownership of land—native title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius (literally "no one's land") at the time of European occupation.

The Last Post is played at an ANZAC Day ceremony in Port Melbourne, Victoria. Similar ceremonies are held in most suburbs and towns.

A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, and the Eureka Stockade rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience. Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire. The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence, and international shipping. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation, and voting. The Commonwealth of Australia was born and it became a dominion of the British Empire in 1907. The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed from a part of New South Wales in 1911 to provide a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra. (Melbourne was the temporary seat of government from 1901 to 1927 while Canberra was being constructed.) The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the Commonwealth in 1911.[32] In 1914 Australia joined Britain in fighting World War I, with support from both the outgoing Liberal Party and the incoming Labor Party.[33] The Australians took part in many of the major battles fought on the Western Front.[34] Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation—its first major military action.[35] The Kokoda Track campaign is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II.[36]

Australian soldiers display Japanese flags they captured at Kaiapit, New Guinea in 1943.

Britain's Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it in 1942, but backdated it to the beginning of World War II to confirm the validity of legislation passed by the Australian Parliament during the war. The shock of the UK's defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has been a formal military ally of the US, under the ANZUS treaty. After World War II, Australia encouraged immigration from Europe; since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia policy, immigration from Asia and elsewhere was also encouraged. As a result, Australia's demography, culture, and self-image have been transformed. The final constitutional ties between Australia and the UK were severed with the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any British role in the government of the Australian States, and ending judicial appeals to the UK Privy Council.[37] At the 1999 referendum, 54% of Australian voters rejected a proposal to become a republic with a president appointed by two-thirds vote of both houses of the Australian Parliament. Since the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972, there has been an increasing focus on the expansion of ties with other Pacific Rim nations while maintaining close ties with Australia's traditional allies and trading partners.


Parliament House, Canberra was opened in 1988, replacing the provisional Parliament House building opened in 1927.

The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of powers. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General at federal level and by the Governors at state level. Although the Constitution gives extensive executive powers to the Governor-General, these are normally exercised only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General's reserve powers outside the Prime Minister's direction was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.[38]

There are three branches of government:

The bicameral Commonwealth Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate (the upper house) of 76 senators, and a House of Representatives (the lower house) of 150 members. Members of the lower house are elected from single-member constituencies, commonly known as "electorates" or "seats", allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. In the Senate, each state is represented by twelve senators, and each of the territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) by two. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms, since only half of places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution. Although the Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General, in practice the party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.[41]

There are two major political groups that form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party, and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of two parties: the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party. Independent members and several minor parties—including the Greens and the Australian Democrats—have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses. The Labor Party came to office with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister following the November 2007 election. Every Australian parliament (federal, state, and territory) then had a Labor government until September 2008 when the Liberal Party formed a minority government in association with the National Party in Western Australia. In the 2004 election, the previous governing coalition led by John Howard won control of the Senate—the first time in more than 20 years that a party (or a coalition) has done so while in government. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over, in each state and territory and at the federal level.[42] Enrolment to vote is compulsory in all jurisdictions except South Australia.[43]

States and territories

Perth Adelaide Melbourne Canberra Sydney Brisbane Darwin Hobart Tasmania Australian Capital Territory Australian Capital Territory Western Australia Northern Territory South Australia Queensland New South Wales Victoria Tasmania Great Australian Bight Tasman Sea Indian Ocean Coral Sea Indonesia Papua New Guinea Gulf of Carpentaria Arafura Sea East Timor Timor Sea Great Barrier Reef
A clickable map of Australia's states and mainland territories

Australia has six statesNew South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia—and two major mainland territories—the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In most respects these two territories function as states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments. By contrast, federal legislation only overrides state legislation in certain areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including powers over education, police, the judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government as these do not fall under the provisions listed in Section 51.[44]

Each state and major mainland territory has its own legislature or parliament: unicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states. The states are sovereign, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier, and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor; an Administrator in the Northern Territory, and the Australian Governor-General in the ACT, have analogous roles.[citation needed]

The federal government directly administers the following territories:

Norfolk Island is also technically an external territory; however, under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 it has been granted more autonomy and is governed locally by its own legislative assembly. The Queen is represented by an Administrator, currently Owen Walsh.[45]

Foreign relations and military

Over recent decades, Australia's foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the ANZUS pact, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum. In 2005 Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings provide the main forum for cooperation. Australia has energetically pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation. It led the formation of the Cairns Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization, and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement and Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand. Australia is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan, with whom Australia has close economic ties as a trusted partner in the Asia-Pacific region.[46] Australia, along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Singapore are party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a regional defence agreement. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to multilateralism along with its middle power allies Canada and the Nordic countries, and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance. The 2005–06 budget provides A$2.5 billion for development assistance;[47] as a percentage of GDP, this contribution is less than that recommended in the UN Millennium Development Goals. Australia ranks 7th overall in the Center for Global Development's 2008 Commitment to Development Index.[48]

Australia's armed forces—the Australian Defence Force (ADF)—comprise the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in total numbering 73,000 personnel (including 53,000 regulars and 20,000 reservists).[49] Australia's military is 68th largest in the world, but one of the world's smallest in per capita terms. All branches of the ADF have been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping (most recently in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, and Sudan), disaster relief, and armed conflict, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The government appoints the Chief of the Defence Force from one of the armed services; the current Chief of the Defence Force is Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. In the 2006–07 budget, defence spending was A$22 billion,[50] accounting for less than 1% of global military spending. Australia was placed 27th on the 2008 Global Peace Index, primarily due to its presence in Afghanistan.[51] While the Governor-General is the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, he or she does not play an active part in the ADF's command structure as the elected Australian Government controls the ADF.[52]


Climatic zones in Australia, based on the Köppen climate classification

Australia's landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi)[53] is on the Indo-Australian Plate. Surrounded by the IndianN4 and Pacific oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. The world's smallest continent[9] and sixth largest country by total area,[8] Australia – owing to its size and isolation – is often dubbed the 'island continent'[54] and variably considered the world's largest island.[55] Australia has 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands)[56] and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Australia seen from space

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef,[57] lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith,[58] is located in Western Australia. At 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island is taller at 2,745 metres (9,006 ft).

By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the outback. Australia is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils, and is the driest inhabited continent. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the continent have a temperate climate. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a great proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.

The landscapes of the northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.[59]


The koala and the eucalyptus form an iconic Australian pair

Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the continent's great age, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic.[60] Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species.[61]

Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 64 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention, and 15 natural World Heritage Sites have been established.[62] Australia was ranked 46th of 149 countries in the world on the 2008 Environmental Performance Index.[63] Australian forests often contain a wide variety of eucalyptus trees and are mostly located in higher rainfall regions.

Most Australian woody plant species are evergreen and many are adapted to fire and drought, including many eucalypts and acacias. Australia has a rich variety of endemic legume species that thrive in nutrient-poor soils because of their symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Among well-known Australian fauna are the monotremes (the platypus and the echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, the koala, and the wombat; the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles; and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra. Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world.[64] The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE.[65] Many plant and animal species became extinct soon after first human settlement,[66] including the Australian megafauna; others have become extinct since European settlement, among them the thylacine.[67]

Climate change has become an increasing concern in Australia in recent years,[68] with many Australians considering protection of the environment to be the most important issue facing the country.[69] The first Rudd Ministry has initiated several emission reduction activities;[70] Rudd's first official act, on his first day in office, was to sign the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are one of the highest in the world, lower than those of only a few other industrialised nations including the United States and Canada.[citation needed] Rainfall in Australia has slightly increased over the past century, both nationwide and for two quadrants of the nation,[71] while annual mean temperatures increased significantly over the past decades.[72] Water restrictions are currently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought.[73]


The Super Pit in Kalgoorlie, Australia's largest open cut gold mine

The Australian dollar is the currency of the Commonwealth of Australia, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu. After the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Australian Securities Exchange is now the 9th largest in the World.[74]

Australia is one of the most laissez-faire free market economies, according to the Index of Economic Freedom. Australia's per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the United States, UK, Germany, and France. The country was ranked second in the United Nations 2009 Human Development Index, first in Legatum's 2008 Prosperity Index, and sixth in The Economist worldwide Quality-of-Life Index for 2005. All of Australia's major cities fare well in global comparative liveability surveys;[75] Melbourne reached 2nd place on The Economist's 2008 World's Most Livable Cities list, followed by Perth at 4th, Adelaide at 7th, and Sydney at 9th.[76]

An emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactures has underpinned a significant increase in Australia's terms of trade during the rise in commodity prices since the start of the century. Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years.[77] Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% for over 15 years, a period in which the OECD annual average was 2.5%.[77] Australia did not fall into a technical recession during the late 2000s recession that affected most other Western countries [78]

Destination and value of Australian exports in 2006

The Hawke Government floated the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system.[79] The Howard Government followed with a partial deregulation of the labour market and the further privatisation of state-owned businesses, most notably in the telecommunications industry.[80] The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST), which has slightly reduced the reliance on personal and company income tax that characterises Australia's tax system.

In January 2007, there were 10,033,480 people employed, with an unemployment rate of 4.6%.[81] Over the past decade, inflation has typically been 2–3% and the base interest rate 5–6%. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for 69% of GDP.[82] Although agriculture and natural resources account for only 3% and 5% of GDP respectively, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia's largest export markets are Japan, China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand.[83]


Historic population[84]
Year Indigenous population
pre 1788 350,000 approximate
Year Non Indigenous population Increase
1788 900  —
1800 5,200 477.8%
1850 405,400 7,696.2%
Year Total population Increase
1900 3,765,300  —
1910 4,525,100 20.2%
1920 5,411,000 19.6%
1930 6,501,000 20.1%
1940 7,078,000 8.9%
1950 8,307,000 17.4%
1960 10,392,000 25.1%
1970 12,663,000 21.9%
1980 14,726,000 16.3%
1990 17,169,000 16.6%
2000 19,169,100 11.6%
2009 21,828,704 13.6%
The Barossa Valley one of Australia's wine-producing regions in South Australia. Fewer than 15% of Australians live in rural areas.

Most of the estimated 22 million Australians are descended from colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants from Europe, with almost 90% of the population being of European descent. For generations, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin. In the 2006 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestry was Australian (37.13%),[85] followed by English (31.65%), Irish (9.08%), Scottish (7.56%), Italian (4.29%), German (4.09%), Chinese (3.37%), and Greek (1.84%).[86]

Australia's population has quadrupled since the end of World War I,[87] spurred by an ambitious immigration program. Following World War II and through to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that nearly two out of every seven Australians were born overseas.[88] Most immigrants are skilled,[89] but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and refugees.[89]

In 2001, 23.1% of Australians were born overseas; the five largest immigrant groups were those from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam, and China.[83][90] Following the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, numerous government initiatives have been established to encourage and promote racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism.[91] In 2005–06, more than 131,000 people emigrated to Australia, mainly from Asia and Oceania.[92] The migration target for 2006–07 was 144,000.[93] The total immigration quota for 2008–09 is around 300,000—its highest level since the Immigration Department was created after World War II.[94][95]

Nearly three quarters of Australians live in metropolitan cities and coastal areas. The beach is an integral part of the Australian identity.[96]

The Indigenous population—mainland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders—was counted at 410,003 (2.2% of the total population) in 2001, a significant increase from the 1976 census, which counted an indigenous population of 115,953.[97] A large number of Indigenous people are not identified in the Census due to undercount and cases where their Indigenous status is not recorded on the form; after adjusting for these factors, the ABS estimated the true figure for 2001 to be approximately 460,140 (2.4% of the total population).[98]

Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are 11–17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians.[83][99][100] Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state"-like conditions.[101][citation needed]

In common with many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2004, the average age of the civilian population was 38.8 years.[102] A large number of Australians (759,849 for the period 2002–03)[103] live outside their home country.


English is the national language.[104] Australian English is a major variety of the language. It has a unique accent and a small number of peculiar terms, some of which have found their way into other varieties of English. Australian English has less internal dialectal variation than either British English or American English. Grammar and spelling are largely based on those of British English.[citation needed] According to the 2001 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for around 80% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Chinese (2.1%), Italian (1.9%), and Greek (1.4%).[citation needed]

A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. It is believed that there were between 200 and 300 Indigenous Australian languages at the time of first European contact. Only about 70 of these languages have survived, and many are only spoken by older people; only 18 Indigenous languages are still spoken by all age groups.[105] An indigenous language remains the main language for about 50,000 (0.25%) people. Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 6,500 deaf people.


Australia has no state religion. In the 2006 census, 64% of Australians listed themselves as Christian, including 26% as Roman Catholic and 19% as Anglican. About 19% of the population cited "No religion" (which includes humanism, atheism, agnosticism, and rationalism), which was the fastest-growing group (refer difference in census 2006 versus census 2001 results) and a further 12% did not answer (the question is optional) or did not give a response adequate for interpretation. The second largest religion in Australia is Buddhism (2.1%), followed by Islam (1.7%), Hinduism (0.8%) and Judaism (0.5%). Overall, fewer than 6% of Australians identify with non-Christian religions.[106] Weekly attendance at church services in 2004 was about 1.5 million: about 7.5% of the population.[107] Religion does not play a central role in the lives of much of the population, although young adults are somewhat more religious than their elders.[108]


School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia. In most Australian States at 5–6 years of age all children receive 11 years of compulsory education, then can move on to complete two more years (Years 11 and 12), contributing to an adult literacy rate that is assumed to be 99%. In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries (member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Government grants have supported the establishment of Australia's 38 universities the majority of universities receive government funding. There is a state-based system of vocational training, higher than colleges, known as TAFE Institutes, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications,[83] and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. The ratio of international to local students in tertiary education in Australia is the highest in the OECD countries.[109]


The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne was the first building in Australia to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004

Since 1788, the primary basis of Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture. Distinctive Australian cultural features have also arisen from the country's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian culture has been strongly influenced by American popular culture, particularly through television and cinema. Other cultural influences are from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking countries.

Australian visual arts are thought to have begun with the cave and bark paintings of its Indigenous peoples.[111] The traditions of Indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally and are tied to ceremony and the telling of the stories of the Dreamtime. From the time of European settlement, a theme in Australian art has been the Australian landscape, seen for example in the works of Albert Namatjira, Arthur Streeton and others associated with the Heidelberg School, and Arthur Boyd. The country's landscape remains sources of inspiration for Australian modernist artists; it has been depicted in acclaimed works by artists such as Sidney Nolan, Grace Cossington Smith, Fred Williams, Sydney Long, and Clifton Pugh. Australian artists influenced by the modern American and European art include cubist Grace Crowley, surrealist James Gleeson, abstract expressionist Brett Whiteley, and pop artist Martin Sharp. The National Gallery of Australia and the various state galleries maintain Australian and overseas collections, from early in the 20th century until the present,

Sunlight Sweet by Australian landscape artist Arthur Streeton

Many of Australia's performing arts companies (see Theatre of Australia and Dance in Australia) receive funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each of the states' capital cities, and a national opera company, Opera Australia, which became prominent through the singer Joan Sutherland. Nellie Melba was her famous predecessor. Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state dance companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.

Performance of Aboriginal song and dance in the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney

The Australian cinema industry began with the 1906 release of the The Story of the Kelly Gang, which is regarded as being the world's first feature-length film[112], but both Australian feature film production and the distribution of British-made features declined dramatically after World War I as American studios and distributors monopolised the industry[113] and by the 1930s around 95% of the feature films screened in Australia were produced in Hollywood. By the late 1950s feature film production in Australia had effectively ceased and there were no all-Australian feature films made in the decade between 1959 and 1969[114]. Thanks to initiatives by the Gorton and Whitlam federal governments, the New Wave of Australian cinema of the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, some exploring the nation's colonial past, such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant, while the so-called "Ocker" genre produced several highly successful urban-based comedy features including The Adventures of Barry MacKenzie and Alvin Purple. Later hits included Mad Max and Gallipoli. More recent successes included Shine, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Happy Feet. Australia's diverse landscapes and cities have served as primary locations for many other films, such as The Matrix, Peter Pan, Superman Returns, and Finding Nemo. Recent well-known Australian actors include Judith Anderson, Errol Flynn, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette, Naomi Watts, and current joint director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Cate Blanchett.

Australian literature has also been influenced by the landscape; the works of writers such as Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, and Dorothea Mackellar captured the experience of the Australian bush. The character of colonial Australia, as represented in early literature, is popular with modern Australians. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Australian to have achieved this. Colleen McCullough, Thomas Keneally, David Williamson, and David Malouf are also renowned writers.

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services, and numerous public, non-profit television and radio stations (see Television in Australia and Media of Australia). Each major city has daily newspapers, and there are two national daily newspapers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. According to Reporters Without Borders in 2008, Australia was in 25th position on a list of 173 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (7th) and the United Kingdom (23rd) but ahead of the United States (48th). This low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia;[115] in particular, most Australian print media are under the control of News Corporation and Fairfax Media.

Australian food traditions have largely been shaped by those that have settled in Australia. Throughout the majority of Australian history, Australian cuisine was based on traditional Indiginous bushfood using native berries, fruit, fish, kangaroo and even insects such as the Witchetty grub. Later, British food was introduced, brought to the country by the first British settlers, with the Sunday roast an enduring tradition in many Australian families. In the 19th and especially 20th century, food began to reflect the influences of Mediterranean and Asian cultures, introduced by many immigrants who arrived in Australia during this period. Today, food from all over the world is popular in Australia, with Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian and Mexican cuisine standing out.

Cricket has been an important part of Australia's sporting culture since the 19th Century

Approximately 24% Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities in Australia.[83] Australia has strong international teams in cricket, soccer / football, field hockey, netball, rugby league, rugby union, and performs well in cycling, rowing, and swimming. Some of Australia's most successful sportspersons are swimmers Dawn Fraser, Murray Rose, and Ian Thorpe, sprinter Betty Cuthbert, tennis players Rod Laver and Margaret Court, and cricketer Donald Bradman. Nationally, other popular sports include Australian rules football, horse racing, surfing, football (soccer), and motor racing. Australia has participated in every summer Olympic Games of the modern era, and every Commonwealth Games. Australia hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and has ranked among the top six medal-takers since 2000.[116] Australia has also hosted the 1938, 1962, 1982, and 2006 Commonwealth Games. Other major international events held in Australia include the Grand Slam Australian Open tennis tournament, international cricket matches, and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. The highest-rating television programs include sports coverage such as the summer Olympic Games, State of Origin, and the grand finals of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League.[117]

International rankings

See also


  1. ^ Australia also has a royal anthem, "God Save the Queen (or King)", which is played in the presence of a member of the Royal family when they are in Australia. In all other appropriate contexts, the national anthem of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair", is played.[118]
  2. ^ English does not have de jure status.[104]
  3. ^ There are minor variations from these three time zones, see Time in Australia.
  4. ^ Australia describes the body of water south of its mainland as the Southern Ocean, rather than the Indian Ocean as defined by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). In 2000, a vote of IHO member nations defined the term "Southern Ocean" as applying only to the waters between Antarctica and 60 degrees south latitude.
  5. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary records a first occurrence in 1908, in the form Oss.
  6. ^ Oz is often taken as an oblique reference to the fictional Land of Oz in the film The Wizard of Oz (1939), based on L. Frank Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).[119] Australians' "image of Australia as a 'Land of Oz' is not new, and dedication to it runs deep".[120] The spelling Oz is likely to have been influenced by the 1939 film, though the pronunciation was probably always with a /z/, as it is also for Aussie, sometimes spelt Ozzie.[121] The Baz Luhrmann film Australia (2008) makes repeated reference to The Wizard of Oz, which appeared just before the wartime action of Australia. One reviewer writes: "You even nod with approval at Luhrmann's audacity for cribbing from 'The Wizard of Oz' in his depiction of his Land of Oz, Australia, as a magical place over the rainbow."[122] Some critics have even speculated that Baum was inspired by Australia, in naming the Land of Oz: "In Ozma of Oz (1907) Dorothy gets back to Oz as the result of a storm at sea while she and Uncle Henry are traveling by ship to Australia. So, like Australia, Oz is somewhere to the west of California. Like Australia, Oz is an island continent. Like Australia, Oz has inhabited regions bordering on a great desert. One might almost imagine that Baum intended Oz to be Australia, or perhaps a magical land in the center of the great Australian desert."[123]


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  37. ^ Australia Act text.
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  41. ^ Word Definition: Prime Minister of Australia
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  46. ^ Japan-Australia Relations,
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  54. ^ "Islands". Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  "Being surrounded by ocean, Australia often is referred to as an island continent. As a continental landmass it is significantly larger than the many thousands of fringing islands ..."
  55. ^ "Australia in Brief: The island continent". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2009-05-29.  "Mainland Australia, with an area of 7.69 million square kilometres, is the Earth’s largest island but smallest continent."
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  61. ^ Lambertini, A Naturalist's Guide to the Tropics, excerpt at
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  66. ^ Humans to blame for extinction of Australia's megafauna. The University of Melbourne.
  67. ^ "Additional Thylacine Topics: Persecution". The Thylacine Museum. 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006. ; "National Threatened Species Day". Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australian Government. 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2006. 
  68. ^ Atmosphere: Major issue: climate change, Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006.
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  85. ^ The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that most who list "Australian" as their ancestry are part of the Anglo-Celtic group. [3]
  86. ^ "20680-Ancestry by Country of Birth of Parents – Time Series Statistics (2001, 2006 Census Years) – Australia". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 June 2007.,%202006%20Census%20Years)&producttype=Census%20Tables&method=Place%20of%20Usual%20Residence&topic=Ancestry&. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
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  88. ^ "Background note: Australia". US Department of State. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  89. ^ a b Australian Immigration Fact Sheet.
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  91. ^ "The Evolution of Australia's Multicultural Policy". Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-02-19. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  92. ^ Settler numbers on the rise.
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  95. ^ 300,000 skilled workers needed – Evans.
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  • Denoon, Donald, et al. (2000). A History of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0631179623.
  • Hughes, Robert (1986). The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding. Knopf. ISBN 0394506685.
  • Macintyre, Stuart (2000). A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521623596.
  • Powell JM (1988). An Historical Geography of Modern Australia: The Restive Fringe. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521256194.
  • Robinson GM, Loughran RJ, and Tranter PJ (2000) Australia and New Zealand: economy, society and environment. London: Arnold; NY: OUP; 0-340-72033-6 paper 0-340-72032-8 hard).

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Oceania : Australia
Quick Facts
Capital Canberra, ACT
Government Parliamentary democracy (federal constitutional monarchy)
Currency Australian Dollar (AUD$)
Area 7,686,850 km2
Population 21,234,176 (July 2007 est.)
Language English
Electricity 230V/50Hz (Plug Type I)
Calling Code +61
Internet TLD .au
Time Zone UTC +8 to +10

Australia [1] is the only country that has a whole continent itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.



Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.

Australia has an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres (2,966,152 sq mi). Many travellers underestimate the distances between cities and towns.

Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes: forest areas survive in extensive national parks and some other areas.


As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. The north is hot and tropical, while south tends to sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C. Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England.

As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the timing of the seasons is reversed with respect to Europe and North America. June-August is winter in Australia while December-February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. On the other hand, in the southern parts of the country, the summer tends to be hot and dry with temperatures sometimes climbing as high as 45°C, while winters tend to be much cooler (5-20°C) and is when most of the rain falls. The seasons start at the beginning of the months rather than on the solstices. Christmas falls in the summer in Australia.

Summer tends to be the peak travel season through much of the south, with the winter (dry) season the peak travel season in the tropics, although most attractions remain open year-round.

Much of Australia is prone to severe drought, especially during the summer months.


The continent of Australia was first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close (spiritual) relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian aboriginal people maintained a hunter-gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aboriginal people is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of the Aboriginal people amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.

Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600's, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.

In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 Apr 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on 22 Aug 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by more than 160 years.

Following the exploration period, the first wave of British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigenous populations drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society.

While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were along the east coast, Adelaide (settled in 1836) and Perth being settled by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.

The system of separate colonies federated to form the self-governing British dominion of Australia in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia, with New Zealand opting out of the federation. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a proportionally huge contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit. Australia ended all constitutional links with the United Kingdom in 1986, with both the British and Australian parliaments passing the Australia Act, though the British queen retained her position as the head of state, with an appointed Governor-General as her representative in Australia.

Government in Australia is based on a federal system (with States and a National Governments) similar to the USA, but these Governments follow a British model, with two elected houses (similar to the US House and Senate) with an unelected representative of the Queen of The United Kingdom in the (notionally powerless) executive position 'above' the parliament. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999.

Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Most of the population is concentrated in the south-east of the country, to the east of the Great Dividing Range. Most of the inland and western areas of the country are at best semi-habitable desert, known as the Outback. The most-inhabited states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.


Broadly speaking, Australian culture closely resembles that of the United Kingdom. Contrary to popular mythology, descendants from convicts are in a small minority, and even during the years of transportation free settlers outnumbered convict migrants by at least five to one.

Australia also has a large multicultural population from various nations and practicing almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-fifth of Australians were born to immigrant parents. The most multicultural cities are Melbourne and Sydney. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially promotes itself as a centre for the arts. Smaller rural settlements generally still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), however virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s; in the half century after the war when Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.

There are approximately half a million Australians who identify as being of Aboriginal descent. Many fewer maintain elements of traditional Aboriginal culture.

Australian English was once known for its colour and colloquialisms but has lost a great deal of this to outside influence, although people in rural areas still tend to speak in a broader accent, using many of the slang words that have become outmoded in metropolitan areas. There is very little provincialism in Australia and although accents tend to be broader and slower outside of the large cities.

Australians can be socially conservative compared to some European cultures, and most resemble Canadians or New Zealanders in their political outlook. They tend to be relaxed in their religious observance. While the mythic Australian sense egalitarianism has declined in economic terms, modes of address still tend to be casual and familiar compared to some other cultures. Most Australians irrespective of socioeconomic status will tend to address you by your first name and will expect that you do the same to them.


The national holidays in Australia are:

  • January 1: New Years' Day
  • January 26: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
  • Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
  • April 25: ANZAC Day, honouring military veterans
  • Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (celebrated in Western Australia in September)(WA observes Foundation Day a week earlier)
  • December 25: Christmas Day
  • December 26: Boxing Day

Many states observe Labour Day, but on completely separate days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays.

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday (Easter excepted), the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are sometimes declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the major retail shutdowns will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed on public holidays. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day morning and Christmas Day.

Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave every year and domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.


Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies.

Services – tourism, education, financial services. The service industry accounts for the majority of the Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – about 69%. Within the service sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia, as it provides employment, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.

The minimum wage in Australia set by the federal government is $14.31 per hour; even higher than the minimum wage in the United States or the United Kingdom. However, the individual states are free to set their own minumum wages higher than what is prescribed by the federal government. As such, even workers doing low-skilled menial jobs are relatively well paid.

Agriculture is yet another significant part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 3% of the GDP, although historically it was far more important, representing 80% of the GDP as recently as the 1950s.


Australia can have up to five different time zones during the daylight savings period, and three at other times.

In the east, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria always have the same time. Queensland has the same time during the winter, but as the state spans over 18 degrees of latitude (meaning significantly different sunset times between the north and south) it doesn't have daylight saving in summer. So it is an hour behind the other eastern states during the daylight saving period.

In the centre South Australia and the Northern Territory are a half an hour behind the eastern states in the winter, but only South Australia has daylight savings. South Australia remains half an hour behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania but moves half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory remains half an hour behind Queensland, but moves an hour behind South Australia, and a hour and a half behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

In the west Western Australia is two hours behind the eastern states in winter, but doesn't observe daylight saving, and moves three hours behind the eastern states that observe daylight saving.

There are no official abbreviations or names for Australian time zones, and you may see a few variations used. EST, CST, WST along with EDT, CDT are sometimes used. Sometimes AEST, etc, with the 'A' prefix distinguishing them from the North American time zones with the same names. In conversation, it is usual to just use the name of the place. Everybody understands Sydney time, Brisbane time, or Perth time. Expect blank stares from most if you start talking about Central Summer Time.

In those states which observe daylight saving, it commences on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.

State/Territory standard time zone daylight saving time zone
Western Australia UTC/GMT+8 N/A
South Australia UTC/GMT+9.5 UTC/GMT+10.5
Northern Territory UTC/GMT+9.5 N/A
Queensland UTC/GMT+10 N/A
New South Wales UTC/GMT+10 UTC/GMT+11
Australian Capital Territory UTC/GMT+10 UTC/GMT+11
Victoria UTC/GMT+10 UTC/GMT+11
Tasmania UTC/GMT+10 UTC/GMT+11
Australia regions
Australia regions
New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) (NSW) & (ACT)
New South Wales is Australia's most populous state. The Harbour City of Sydney is Australia's largest city. The coast of New South Wales is lined with beachside communities, each one offering experiences for the traveller. A little inland are the mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains, and the purpose built capital city of Canberra, excised from New South Wales. Further inland still expect sweeping plains, turning from agriculture to desert the further inland you venture.
Northern Territory (NT)
From the red deserts surrounding Uluru and Alice Springs up to the tropics of Darwin and Kakadu National Park, the Northern Territory is stunningly beautiful, and easier to access than you might think.
Queensland (QLD)
Famous for its sunny warm weather, Queensland offers coastal exploration from the vibe of the Gold Coast to the tropics of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also home to tropical rainforests of the Daintree National Park, and the island resorts of the Whitsundays. Inland lies the ranges of the hinterland, and further on the vast expanses and beauty of outback Australia.
South Australia (SA)
Renowned for the fine wines of the Barossa Valley, the beauty of the Flinders Ranges and the outback, and the beaches and events and culture of the City of Churches, Adelaide.
Tasmania (TAS)
Separated from the mainland by Bass Strait, Tasmania has rugged beauty of Cradle Mountain and the west, the beaches of the east, and the complete wilderness of the south. Hobart was the site of the second European settlement in Australia, and many historic sites are well preserved. The island has well developed facilities for travellers.
Victoria (VIC)
Small, vibrant and with something for everyone, Victoria has dramatic surf beaches along the southwest and central coast, green rolling farmland and photogenic national parks. The diversity of rural Victoria is very easy to access due in part to its size and well maintained roads. Australia and Victoria's sporting, shopping, fashion and food capital is Melbourne.
Western Australia (WA)
A vast state. The south-west contains the state capital and major city of Perth closely surrounded by the wildflower, wine growing and scenic destinations of the Margaret River and Albany. North to the tropics and the beachside destination of Broome. Small townships, roadhouses, mining communities and national parks scattered around the long distances between.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
  • Canberra - the purpose-built national capital of Australia
  • Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
  • Brisbane - capital of sun-drenched Queensland and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches.
  • Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts. A great place for people to getaway to and relax.
  • Darwin - Australia's tropical northern capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
  • Hobart - Picturesque and quiet capital of Tasmania. Site of the second convict settlement in Australia.
  • Melbourne - Australia's second largest city. Melbourne is a large sporting, shopping and cultural capital. Melbourne is regarded as Australia's most European city in style.
  • Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
  • Sydney - Australia's oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales

Other cities can be found under their respective state and regional articles.

  • Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), are iconic rock formations located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.
  • The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region in New South Wales, including The Three Sisters.
  • Kings Canyon, a mighty chasm reaching a depth of 270 metres in Watarrka National Park, Red Centre.
  • The amazing Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine.

Get in

Everybody except citizens of New Zealand requires some form of visa for Australia. There are three types of visas:

  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), an electronic tourism or business visa available to holders of certain passports [2]. These are valid for visits of up to 3 months and allow multiple entries for a year. Australian employment is not allowed. ETAs are available online [3] for A$20 and may be available through your travel agent. Apply for the ETA through your travel agent if buying tickets from them, as the fee for applying online is usually waived.
  • eVisitor [4], for citizens of the EU, Norway and Switzerland and a few European microstates. Free, but otherwise effectively identical to the ETA.
  • Non-electronic visas, the only option if you do not hold an ETA/eVistor-eligible passport, also required if you are staying for a longer period of time or wish to seek Australian employment. These will require a written application and processing by an Australian consulate or embassy. Contact the Department of Immigration [5] for more information.

New Zealanders may travel to and work in Australia for any length of time without a visa, although Australia can still choose to deny entry if you have eg. a criminal record. Non-citizen permanent residents of New Zealand are not eligible for visa-free entry.

Overstaying or violating any terms of your visa can result in deportation and a 3-year entry ban.

Customs and quarantine

Australia has strict quarantine requirements regarding importing animal and vegetable derived products (any food, wooden products, seeds, etc). You must declare all such material, and all baggage is scanned and examined by dogs prior to entry.

Most manufactured, packaged food (chocolates, cookies, etc) is usually found to be acceptable, and will be returned to you. With items found to be a risk, you will be given the options available to you to have the goods processed, removed from Australia, or destroyed.

Even permitted food items must be declared to customs and inspected before they are allowed into the country. There is no penalty provided goods are declared properly. There is no delay associated with declaring items. Everyone goes through the same queue and scanning processes. If in any doubt, just declare it, and you will have no problems.

If you accidentally fail to declare an item you may incur an on-the-spot fine of $220, which must be paid immediately. The law has the possibility of extremely heavy penalties including fines (in the order of thousands of dollars) and even a possible jail term if you deliberately try to evade quarantine.

Australian customs also require you to declare if you are bringing $10,000 or more in or out of the country. There are no restrictions on the amount of money that can be brought in or out, but you will be asked to complete some paperwork.

By plane

Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, (IATA: SYD; ICAO: YSSY). After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Cairns. There are also direct international services into Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand or Southeast Asia.

To Sydney it is a 3-hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the west of the United States of America and Canada, a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, a 13-16 hours flight from South America, and up to a 24+ hour flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, some travellers from Europe opt to have a stop-over, commonly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

If you have to change to a domestic flight in a gateway city, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have distinct domestic terminals, requiring some time and complexity to transit, check the guides. Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast have all gates in the one terminal building or within easy walking distance of each other.

Discount airlines

There are some routes into Australia that are operated by discount airlines, that can often be combined with other fares to make getting to Australia cheaper. Select your point of entry and exit to give you a cheaper round-trip, and possibly some interesting stopover opportunities on the way.

By boat

November to February is the cruising season, and there are usually about 10 ships that arrive in Australia from other countries during this time. You can cruise to Australia, and then fly home.

Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Carribean, all offer cruises to Australia across the Pacific.

By overland tour

There are a couple of expedition companies such as Ozbus or Exploratory Overland Expeditions that conduct organized trips from London to Sydney but the last leg of the journey involves flying to Darwin from East Timor or Singapore while the bus is shipped across. These are targeted at backpackers able to take months for the trip.

Get around

Australia is huge but sparsely populated. By land area it is the world's sixth biggest country, but the population of the entire country is 22,000,000. This means that great distances separate its cities and after leaving one city, you can sometimes expect to travel for hours before finding the next trace of civilization.

Almost all modern Australian maps, including street directories, use the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) as their grid reference, which is for all purposes identical to the WGS84 used by the GPS. You can locate most things on an Australian map or street directory if you just have the "GPS coordinates".


There are restrictions on carrying fruit and vegetables between states and even between regions of states that are involved in fruit growing. If you are driving long distances or interstate, or flying between states, don't stock up on fruits and vegetables.

By car

Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways, and cars are a commonly used method of transport. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. Some parts are dual carriageway but many sections are one lane each way. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Distances and speeds are specified in kilometres and fuel is sold by the litre.

Australia drives on the left. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right should take care when they first drive, and again when they are driving on country roads with little traffic.

Generally, overseas licenses are valid for visitors for three months without an international drivers permit (IDP); if the licence is in English. If the licence is not in English an IDP is required. Licensing regulations and road rules vary a little from state to state.

Australia's low population density makes for long driving times between major centres; its large size results in long travel times between key locations. Here are some indicative travel times:

It is almost impossible to predict your travel time just by knowing the distance. Seek local advice for the best route, and how much time to allow. Averaging 100km/h or more is possible on some relatively minor highways when they are straight and there are few towns. On other national highways that traverse mountain ranges and travel through small towns, even averaging 60km/h can be a challenge.

While major highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed roads anywhere in inland Australia is advised to take advice from local authorities, check weather and road conditions, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tyres, matches, food and water (minimum 4-5 litres per person per day). Some of these roads might see one car per month (or less). Cellular coverage does not extend to many remote areas and you should take some precautions in case of emergency. It is a good idea to advise a friend, relative or trustworthy person of your route and advise them to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. The carrying of an EPIRB or satellite phone should be considered when travelling in remote areas, especially where you may not be able to make contact for several days as police will not automatically start looking for you if you don't report in. These can be borrowed from some local police stations, such as those in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. It is not unusual for people stranded in remote areas to wait for a week or more before being rescued (if they are lucky enough that anyone notices they are missing). Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you rapidly. If stranded, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Do not take this advice lightly, even local people die out there when their car breaks down and they are not reported missing. If you do have to abandon your car (say you breakdown and then get a lift), call in quickly to the local police station, to avoid the embarrassment and cost of a search being started for you.

Car rental is widely available in major cities and towns around Australia. National chains include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty. In smaller towns car rental can be difficult to find. One way fees usually apply, and restrictions usually exist on travelling into or out of Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

See: Driving in Australia and Buying or renting a car in Australia

By plane

Due to the large distances involved, flying is a well-patronised form of travel in Australia. Services along the main business travel corridor (Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane) are run almost like a bus service, with flights leaving every 15 minutes during the day.

The only way to get the best airfare is to visit each of the airlines pages directly, and compare fares. Never assume the Qantas fare will be more expensive, as their online deals are often the cheapest available on a route. The best fares are always available on the most competitive routes. Consolidator websites and travel agents almost invariably add a surcharge to direct booking. Use them to compare, but always check the airline website before booking.

There are four domestic airlines in Australia that operate jet aircraft linking capital cities and major destinations.

  • Qantas [11], the only nation-wide full service airline, flying to major cities and some larger regional towns;
  • Virgin Blue [12], a nation-wide budget airline, flying to major cities and a few larger regional towns;
  • Jetstar [13], Qantas's discount arm with limited service and assigned seating.
  • Tiger Airways Australia [14], one of Asia's largest LCC has a main hub in Melbourne and a secondary hub in Adelaide serving about 10 destinations across the mainland and Tasmania, prices are very competitive.

Several airlines service regional destinations. Expect discounts on these airlines to be harder to come by, and for standard airfares to be above what you would pay for the same distance between major centres.

  • Qantaslink [15], the regional arm of Qantas, covering the smaller cities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia;
  • Regional Express [16], covering larger towns & cities on the eastern seaboard as well as country South Australia;
  • Skywest [17], covering regional Western Australia, Bali and Darwin;
  • Airnorth [18], covering the Northern Territory;
  • MacAir Airlines [19], covering regional Queensland (services currently disrupted due to being placed in administration);
  • Sharp Airlines [20], covering several regional towns in Victoria and South Australia.
  • National Jet [21], independently operates flights to Cocos Islands and Christmas Island and subcontracts to Qantas on some other domestic routes.

By train

Visitors from countries with well-developed long distance rail systems such as Europe and Japan may be surprised by the lack of high-speed, inter-city rail services in Australia. A historical lack of cooperation between the states, combined with sheer distances and a relatively small population to service, have left Australia with a national rail network that is relatively slow and used mainly for freight. As a result, travel between major cities will not only be faster by air, but often cheaper as well depending on the route you wish to travel. Train travel between cities is, however, more scenic, and tourists are likely to see more of Australia travelling by train than they would otherwise see, as well as cutting down on their carbon footprint. It is also often a cost effective way of getting to regional towns and cities, which don't have the frequent and cheap flights found between the capital cities.

The long-distance rail services that do exist are mainly used to link regional townships with the state capital, such as Bendigo to Melbourne, or Cairns to Brisbane. In Queensland, a high speed train operates between Brisbane to Rockhampton and Brisbane to Cairns. Queensland also has passenger services to inland centres including Longreach (The Spirit of the Outback), Mount Isa (The Inlander), Charleville (The Westlander) and Forsayth (The Savannahlander). There are also inter-city train services operated by Great Southern Railways on the routes Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan) however as noted above, these are not "high speed" services, so if you do not enjoy train travel as part of your holiday in its own right then this is probably not for you.

Tasmania has no passenger rail services. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, and the Australian Capital Territory has only a single railway station close to the centre of Canberra.

Long distance train operators

Rail passes

  • East Coast Discovery Pass. Get on and off as many times as you like on the east coast trains between Melbourne and Cairns. Different prices apply depending on which section of the line you want to traverse. One way travel only is permitted. Discounts apply on other train journeys, and often bus connections to local towns are included. This ticket is available to everyone, international visitors and Australian residents.
  • Australian Flexi-Pass. Available to non-Australian passport holders. Allows unlimited train travel on the Ghan and the Indian Pacific, New South Wales Countrylink and Queensland Rail. It will get you to every capital city on mainland Australia, as well as the tropical north of Queensland. If you are not travelling to Western Australia or the Northern Territory there are probably cheaper options.

Local public transport

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Wollongong and Newcastle have train services integrated into the city public transport. See those articles for details.

By car

Many tourist attractions may only be accessed by a motor vehicle. Self drive rentals offer the freedom and flexibility to really enjoy Australia's famous landmarks and scenic coastline, minus the rush of an organized tour or safety concerns on public transport. The international operators are conveniently located at the Airports, but are twice the price of large established independent car hire firms.

By motorail

Some trains allow you to carry your car with you on special car carriages attached to the back of the train.

The Ghan and the Indian Pacific allow you to transport cars between Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth, and Darwin. You cannot remove your car at any of the intermediate stations.

Queensland Rail have motorail services on the Sunlander and the Spirit of the Outback, allow cars from Brisbane to Cairns and Longreach.

By bus

Bus travel in Australia is cheap and convenient, although the distances involved for interstate connections are daunting. Greyhound has the largest bus route network.

  • Firefly Express, 1300 730 740 (+61 3 8318 0318 - international callers, ), [27]. Firefly Express has services connecting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.  edit
  • Greyhound, 1300 473 946 (), [28]. Greyhound travels to over 1100 destinations in Australia daily every day of the year. It has a variety of ticketing options allow you to travel at your own pace, hopping on and off as many times as your ticket allows.  edit

By boat

Due to Australia's size and layout inter city ferries are not common.

  • The Spirit of Tasmania,[30]. The only long distance ferry route connects Tasmania to the mainland and runs between Melbourne and Devonport. The Spirit of Tasmania carries cars and passengers on the route across Bass Strait daily.

By thumb

Whilst it is certainly possible to hitchhike in Australia, it is not common, and is often frowned upon by both locals and the police, at least in metropolitan areas. In rural areas it is a common thing to see a tourist on the side of the road with bags and thumb out, however, depending on the area many will not stop for fear of you being a potential criminal - especially in the Northern Territory. Your best time to hitchhike is early morning, preferably showered and shaved, near the exit to a town.

If you are in a position where you have no choice to hitchhike due to a broken down car, or other similar problem, you may be able to get a passing motorist to give you a lift to the nearest town to call for help. It would be rare that you’d find a motorist who would take you further afield. Most major inter-city routes have specific help stations which people can call for help from.

By bicycle

Cycling the long distances between towns is not particularly common, and most long distance highways in Australia have poorly developed facilities for cyclists. Never-the-less some intrepid travellers do manage to cover the longer distances by bicycle, and have a different experience of Australia. Trips and routes need careful planning to ensure the correct supplies are carried. To cycle between Sydney and Brisbane you would have to allow 2-3 weeks with around 80-100km per day.


There is much to see in Australia that you can't see easily in its natural setting anywhere else:


Australian flora and fauna is unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs). Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia would not be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.

Wildlife parks and zoos

  • Wildlife parks and zoos are in every capital city, but also check out the animal parks if you are passing through smaller towns, like Mildura or Mogo, or staying on Hamilton Island. See the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary if you are in South Australia, or visit the koalas with best view in the world, at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

In the wild

  • Kangaroos and wallabies reside in national parks all around the country. You won't see any kangaroos hopping down the street in Central Sydney, but they are abundant not too far from the centre of the nation's capital
  • Wombats and Echidna are also common, but harder to find due to their camouflage and tunnelling. See lots of Echnida on Kangaroo Island.
  • Koalas are present is forests around Australia, but are very notoriously hard to spot, and walking around looking upwards into the boughs of trees will usually send you sprawling over a tree root. Best seen during the day, there is a thriving and friendly population on Raymond Island near Paynesville in Victoria. You have a good chance on Otway Coast, on the Great Ocean Road, or even in the National Park walk near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
  • Emu are more common in central Australia. You will certainly see some if you venture to the outback national park at Currawinya
  • Platypus are found in reedy flowing creeks with soft river banks in Victoria and Southern New South Wales - seen at dusk and dawn - you have to have a bit of luck to see one. Try the platypus reserves in Bombala or Delegate in New South Wales, or in Emu Creek at Skipton just out of Ballarat.


Australia has many landmarks, famous the world over. From Uluru in the red centre, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney.

The unusual

See some of the Big things in Australia.


Weekend sport is an integral part of the Australian culture from the capital cities to country towns. The vast majority of games are played over the Weekend, with the most important games generally played on Friday night. Every professional league is televised, with every match to be viewed on either Free to Air or Pay television.

  • In the winter in Victoria Aussie Rules (Australian Football) is more than just a sport, it is a way of life. Catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There are many teams from Melbourne, with Adelaide and Western Australia hosting two teams each, Sydney and Brisbane both have a single team.
  • In summer, international cricket is played between Australia and at least two touring sides. The games rotate around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game catch the New Year's test match at the Sydney cricket ground played for 5 days starting from the 2nd of January. Melbourne also hosts the iconic Boxing Day Test match, with Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth almost always hosting one Test Match per Season. Darwin and Tasmania also host the occasional match.

Or for a more lively entertaining form, that only takes a few hours, try a twenty-twenty match. The final form is "One Day" Cricket, international matches generally start at 1PM and finish at 10 or 11PM (a "Day-Nighter"), with most domestic and occasional international matches played from 11AM to 6PM. The traditional Australia Day game, once a 5 day match but now a One Day International, is held in Adelaide every January 26th.

  • The Australian Open, one of the tennis Grand Slams, is played annually in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
  • Rugby League is played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League competition played in Winter. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, a team from New Zealand, with the rest of the teams coming from suburban areas in Sydney, and some in regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra.
  • Netball is Australia's largest female sport, and there are weekly games in an international competition between Australia and New Zealand teams.
  • Football is a small event by European standards, but there is still the A-League, which is a fully professional league involving teams from Australia and one from New Zealand competition, with games played weekly during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional "state league" played during winter, with most clubs being built around a specific ethnic/migrant community.
  • in the surf. Australia has seemingly endless sandy beaches. Follow the crowds to the world famous Bondi Beach in Sydney, or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Or find a stretch all for yourself. The surf is smaller and warmer in the Tropical North, where the reef breaks the swell, and larger are colder in the south with waves rolling in from the Southern Ocean. (And yes, in the middle it is just right).
  • in calm tropical oceans. Cable Beach in Broome is swept pristine daily by the tide, has perfect sand, and warm water - go in winter.
  • in thermal pools. South of Darwin there are many natural thermal pools, surrounded by palms and tropical foliage. The most expensive resort in the world couldn't dream of making a pool this good.
  • in freshwater lakes. Inland Australia tends to be dry, but there are freshwater lakes where you would least expect them. Explore inland of Cairns at the Atherton Tablelands, or head outback to the Currawinya National Park.
  • in rivers. If its hot, and there is water, there will be a place to swim. Wherever you are, just ask around for the favourite swimming spot, with a waterhole and rope to swing on.
  • in man-made pools. The local swimming pool is often the hub of community life on a summer Sunday in the country towns of New South Wales and Victoria. Many of the beachside suburbs of Sydney have man made rock pools for swimming by the ocean beaches.
  • on the beach! Find your spot by the water, and get out the towel. Tropical north in the winter, down south in the summer. As always when in Australia, protect yourself from the sun.
  • Rock Climbing
  • Skiing. New South Wales and Victoria have well developed ski facilities. Tasmania can also have skiing for a few months of the year, given the right weather.

See Winter sports in Australia


It has been said that if there are two flies crawling up a wall, then you just need to look around to find the Aussie who will be running a book.

  • Casinos. Crown Casino in Melbourne is Australia's largest, nicely located at Southbank, but there are others scattered in every capital city as well as Cairns.
  • Day at the races. All capital cities have horse racing every weekend, with on-track and off-track betting available, they are usually family occasions, and fashion and being seen are part of the event. Just about every pub in New South Wales will have a TAB, where you can place a bet without leaving your chair at the bar. Greyhound racing and trotting happens in the evenings, usually with smaller crowds, more beer, and less fashion. Smaller country towns have race meetings every few months or even annually. These are real events for the local communities, and see the smaller towns come to life. Head outback to the Birdsville races, or if you find the streets deserted it is probably ten past three on the first Tuesday in November (the running of the Melbourne cup).
  • The unusual. The lizard races, cane toad races, camel races, crab races. Betting on these races is totally illegal, and at you will find the TIB (Totally Illegal Betting) around the back of the shed at the annual guinea pig races at Grenfell.
  • Two up. If you are around for Anzac Day (25th April), then betting on coins thrown into the air will be happening at your local RSL club, wherever you are.
  • If none of this appeals, and you just have too much money in your pocket, every town and suburb in Australia has a TAB. Pick your sport, pick a winner, and hand over your money at the counter.

Gambling is illegal for under-18's. This can often restrict entry to parts of pubs, clubs, and casinos for children.


Expect everyone to speak English. Generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults.

There is no single commonly used second language. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists. Some warning signs at beaches are written in several foreign languages.

Australians usually do not speak a second language fluently unless they are part of a family who immigrated recently. As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including (but not limited to) Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian and Greek.

Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding some Australians. Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. A few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive elsewhere are common vernacular in Australian speech. Root in Australia means sex, so to "root for" a team may not mean what you think. Fanny, as in the UK, means vagina and is not used widely. Still, Australians are familiar enough with the differences to know what you mean, but they still may have a laugh at your expense.

Visitors who do not speak basic English will find communicating with Australians difficult, and should do some advance planning. There are some tour companies who specialise in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages.

Aboriginal people living in rural aboriginal communities continue to speak various Aboriginal languages. The Torres Strait Islanders, who originate from a group of islands in northern Queensland near Papua New Guinea also continue to speak their own languages. Some elders speak limited English.



Australian prices are roughly equivalent to countries in North America, Western Europe or Japan.

A basic takeaway meal - a burger, fancy sandwich, or couple of slices of pizza would cost $5-10, a Big Mac costs $4.50, and you can usually grab a pie for around $3, or a sausage roll for $2.50. A takeaway pizza from Pizza Hut big enough to feed two costs around $10.

A cafe meal costs around $10-$15, and a main course in a restaurant goes from around $15 upwards.

A middy/pot (285ml) of house beer will cost you around $4, and a glass of house wine around $6 in a low end pub. To take away, a case of 24 cans of beer will cost around $35, or a bottle of wine around $8

Dorm accommodation in a capital city is around $40, but can run as low as $20 in Cairns or cheaper backpacker centres. A basic motel in the country or in the capital city suburbs would cost around $100 for a double. Formule 1/Motel 6 style hotels (which are not common) can be around $60-$70 for a double. City Centre Hotel accommodation in capital cities can be obtained for around $150 upwards for a double.

Car hire will cost around $65 a day. Public transport day passes from $10-$17 day depending on the city. Fuel is cheaper than Europe, but more expensive than the United States.

An airfare between neighbouring eastern capitals is around $100 each way, or around $350 to cross the country, if you are flexible with dates and book in advance. A train trip on the state run trains will usually cost slightly less. A bus trip, a little less again. A train trip on the private trains will be the most expensive way to travel.

There is usually no admission charge to beaches or city parks. Some popular National Parks charge between $10-$20 per day (per car, or per person depending on the state) while many National Parks are free. Art Galleries and some attractions are free. Museums generally charge around $10 per admission. Theme parks charge around $70 per person.


Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $ or sometimes, A$. There are 100 cents in every dollar. The dollar is called 'the Australian dollar' usually written as 'AUD' when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries that call their currency 'the dollar'. All prices in this guide are in A$ unless otherwise specified.

The dollar is not pegged to any other currency (although it is pegged by many others), and is a highly traded currency on world foreign exchange markets, particularly by currency speculators. Its exchange value to other currencies can be quite volatile, and 1-2% changes in a day are reasonably regular occurances.

No other currency is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia. Some businesses in international terminals of some airports may accept some other currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars).

The coin denominations are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper.

If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents the amount will be rounded to the nearest five cents if you are paying in cash. The exact amount will be charged if paying by credit or debit card.

Moneychangers in most Australian airports and banks charge a fee of anywhere from $5-$10 depending on the amount. A no-commission moneychanger can be found in most Australian capital cities.


Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. Australian ATMs are deregulated and may impose a surcharge over what is charged by your bank or card issuer. The fees can very between institutions and between locations. The ATM must display the charges either on-screen or on a visible sticker by the ATM. The charges will be displayed and you will have the option to stop the transaction before you are charged. Check with your bank as to what additional fees they apply to withdrawals in Australia.

Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. These exchange outlets - especially the ones at the airport - can charge 10% over the best exchange that can be obtained from shopping around. Australian banks usually offer an exchange rate around 2.5% from the current exchange midpoint. A flat commission of $5-8 can be charged on top. Some outlets advertise commission free exchange, usually accompanied by a worse rate of exchange. Don't assume every bank will offer the same exchange. A simple calculation will let you know what offers the best deal for amount you wish to exchange. There are vouchers for commission free exchange at American Express available in the tourist brochure at Sydney Airport.

There is also no need to arrive in Australia with cash if you have a Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa card: international airport terminals will have multiple teller machines that can dispense Australian currency without the hefty commissions of the exchanges.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. If you have an Australian bank account, many supermarkets also provide a "cash out" service which you can use to withdraw money over the counter when paying for your purchases. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos.

VISA or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted and are both accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted. However, a surcharge of around 1.5% when using a credit card for payment is becoming more and more common. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations, but they may not be accepted or may incur a surcharge at smaller stores or fuel stations. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is never accepted.


Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though vendors are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-value goods or purchases involving several items. For example, it would not be unusual to get 10% of an item of jewelry that was not already reduced in price. The person you are dealing with may have limited authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.


Tipping is never compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip.

It is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment (usually as a convenience so the change does not hang around loose on someone's person - not as a gratuity), rather than a fixed percentage.


Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last 5 cents, unless you indicate that they should round the fare to the nearest dollar (it is not unusual for passengers to instruct the driver to round up to the next whole dollar).


In a suburban or country restaurant where table service is offered, they will certainly take a tip of 5%-10% should you decide to leave one, but it is almost always not expected, and locals usually do not leave any.

In a cafe or more informal restaurant, even with table service, and even in tourist centres, leaving a tip is unusual. Sometimes there is a coin jar by the cashier labelled 'Tips', but more often than not, diners do not leave one.

Trading hours

Australia's base trading hours are M-F 9AM-5PM. Shops usually have a single night of late night trading, staying open until 9PM on Thursdays (Fridays in Canberra, Brisbane CBD, and Adelaide CBD). Opening hours beyond these base hours vary by the type of store, by location, and by state. See the guides for more local information.

Major supermarket chains in main centres are generally open at least until 10pm, and often until midnight. Smaller convenience stores like 7/11 are open 24 hours in major centres. The exception is Western Australia, which legally limits opening hours for major supermarkets to 6PM.

Fuel/Service stations are open 24 hours in major centres, but often close at 6pm and on Sundays in country towns.

Australia's weekend is on Saturday and Sunday of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal in larger cities on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. Again, Western Australia is an exception with restrictions on large stores opening on Sundays. In smaller country towns shops are closed on Sundays and often also on Saturday afternoons.

Tourist-oriented towns and shops may stay open longer hours. Tourist areas within cities, such as Darling Harbour in Sydney has longer trading hours every night.

Australian banks are open M-F 9AM-4PM only, often closing at 5PM on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.


Australia has a sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST that applies all goods and services except unprocessed foods, education and medical services. GST is always included in the price of any item you purchase rather than added at the time of payment.

Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies.

Sales tax refunds

If you buy items over $300 at one place at one time you can obtain a refund of the GST if you take the items out of Australia within 30 days. Pack the items in hand luggage, and present the item(s) and the receipt at the TRS, after immigration and security when leaving Australia. Also allow an extra 15 minutes before departure. The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card. There is no refund available for services.

  • Restaurants. Australians eat out frequently, and restaurants are nearly everywhere, with a large range in larger towns and cities.
  • BYO Restaurants: BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find small low-cost restaurants that are not licensed to serve but allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine purchased elsewhere. This is frequently much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Beer can be taken to some BYO restaurants, others allow only wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee which can vary from $2 or $3, to $15, or may be calculated by head. BYO is not usually permitted in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
  • Pubs. The counter lunch is the name for a lunch served in the bar of a pub. Traditionally served only at lunchtime in the lounge. Today some pubs provide lunch and dinner and many have a separate bistro or restaurant. Meals of steak, chicken parmigiana, nachos are common.
  • Clubs. Clubs, such as bowling clubs, leagues clubs, RSLs are in many towns and cities. They are most common in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Most allow visitors, and sometimes offer good value meals. Some offer attractive locations, like the water views from the Twin Towns in Tweed Heads.
  • Cafes. Most towns and suburbs have a cafe or coffee shop, serving breakfast and light meals and cakes throughout the day. Not unusual for them to close before dinner.
  • Bakeries. Usually a good place to buy bread rolls, a pie or a sausage roll. Some, like the Beechworth bakery, or the bakery in historic Gundagai offer an experience as well.
  • Fast food restaurants. McDonalds, Subway and KFC are common. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack's. Red Rooster is a Australian chain, offering barbecued chicken and other mostly chicken-based items.
  • Take-away. Milk bars or take-away stores usually sell pies, barbecued (rotisserie) chicken, hamburgers, fish and chips, gyros, kebabs. Ubiquitous in every town and suburb.
  • Food Courts. Most shopping centres have a food court, even in country towns.
  • Picnic. The Australian climate is usually amenable to getting whatever food you can, and heading to the nearest park, river, lake or beach.
  • Barbecue is a popular Australian pastime and many parks in Australia provide free barbecues for public use. Contrary to the stereotype, Australians rarely "Throw a shrimp on the barbie" (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn). Steaks, chops, chicken fillets, fish, kebabs are popularly barbecued.
Try the pie
Try the pie
  • Kangaroo. If you fancy some, it is commonly available from most supermarkets and butchers shops. Head to the nearest park, and barbecue it until medium rare. It tastes much like beef. It occasionally makes it onto the menu in restaurants, mostly in tourist areas. Kangaroos aren't endangered, and kangaroo grazing does far less damage to the sensitive Australian environment than hoofed animals, and far less carbon emissions too. If you are not ready to go vegetarian, kangaroo is the best environmental statement you can make while barbecuing.
  • Crocodile meat from farms in the Northern Territory and Queensland is widely available around the top end, and occasionally elsewhere. At Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia, you can see the ancient reptile on a farm while munching on a croc burger.
  • Emu. Yes, you can eat the Australian Coat of Arms. Emu is low in fat, and available in some speciality butchers. Try the Coat of Arms pie in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast.
  • Bush Tucker. Many tours may give you an opportunity to try some bush tucker, the berries, nuts, roots, ants, and grubs from Australia's native bush. Macadamia nuts are the only native plant to Australia that is grown for food commercially. Taste some of the other bush foods, and you will discover why.

Beyond cuisine

Vegemite, a salty yeast-based spread, best spread thinly on toast. If you aren't up to buying a jar, any coffee shop wiill serve vegemite on toast at breakfast time. It may not even be on the menu, but the vegemite will be out the back in the jar next to the marmalade. If you do buy a jar, the secret is it to spread it very thin, and don't forget the butter as well. It tastes similar to Marmie or Cenovis.

The Tim Tam is a chocolate fudge-filled sandwich of two chocolate biscuits, all dipped in chocolate. You can buy a packet (or two) from any supermarket or convenience store in the country. To consume one requires nibbling the chocolate off both ends of the Tim-Tam, then using the biscuit as a straw to suck up your favourite hot beverage, typically coffee. The hot drink melts the fudge centre and creates an experience hard to describe, but finesse is needed to suck the whole biscuit into your mouth in the microseconds between being fully saturated and dissolving. You may need more than one to perfect the manoeuvre, known as the Tim-Tam Slam. They are sold in packets of 9, so be careful buying a packet to share with your travel partner, as the fight over the last Tim-Tam may disrupt onward travel arrangements.

The lamington, a small sponge cake covered in a thin layer of chocolate and then dipped in desiccated coconut. Can be obtained from most bakeries, but the home-baked form is often found at a local Saturday morning market. Under no circumstances should you buy a packaged plastic wrapped one from a supermarket, unless desperate.

The pavlova, a meringue cake with a cream topping usually covered with fresh fruit. Often the source of dispute with New Zealand over the original source of the dessert. A popular alternative to Christmas pudding during the holiday season

ANZAC biscuits are a mix of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and golden syrup which were baked and sent to soldiers by support organisations and families to world war soldiers. Again, best found on market stalls rather than the packaged variety in supermarkets. On ANZAC day in April, they are everywhere.

Damper is a traditional type of bread that was baked by drovers and stockmen. It is made with the most basic of ingredients (flour, water and perhaps some salt) and usually cooked in the embers of a fire. Do not expect to find this bread in urban bakeries - it is only commonly served to tourists on camping trips in the Outback. Best eaten with as much butter and jam as possible since authentic damper is dry, tough and tasteless.

A 'pie floater' is a South Australian dish which is available around Adelaide. It consists of an upside down pie in a bowl of thick mushy pea soup. Similar variations on a pie theme are available around the country.

A Chiko Roll is a deep-fried snack inspired by the egg roll or the spring roll. Contrary to what the name suggests, it contains no chicken. Its filling is made of boned mutton, vegetables, rice and barley, and seasonings. Its shell is thicker than an egg roll, meant to survive handling at football matches or drunken benders at pubs. Available anywhere you can buy fish and chips.

Other cuisines

Cuisines widely available in Australia, often prepared by members of the relevant culture, include:

  • Chinese. Synonymous with the term "takeaway" in the past generations. Many Chinese restaurants still cater to takeaway addicts today, mostly of the Australianized Chinese variety, but major cities have small "Chinatowns" or suburbs with a large number of ethnic Chinese residents, that have excellent restaurants serving authentic Chinese food.
  • Thai, especially in Sydney. As above, suburban Thai restaurants of indifferent quality are starting to replace the previous generation of Chinese restaurants of indifferent quality, but Australia also has excellent and authentic Thai restaurants.
  • Italian, the Italian community is one of the largest ethnic communities of non Anglo-Saxon origin in Australia, and they have contributed greatly to the cafe culture that has flourished across the major cities over the past few decades. Restaurants either serve Italian food that has been adapted to suit Australian tastes, or authentic regional Italian food, with the latter tending to be pricier and in more upmarket surrounds.
  • Greek, as above.
  • Lebanese, especially in Sydney
  • Indian, especially North Indian
  • Japanese, including bento takeaway shops and sushi trains
  • Vietnamese, although many are Vietnamese Chinese run and thus provide a more Chinese experience
  • Asian Fusion refers generally to Asian-inspired dishes


Eating vegetarian is quite common in Australia and many restaurants offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes. Some will have an entire vegetarian menu section. Vegans may have more difficulty but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu should offer some flexibility. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as in the coastal backpacker-friendly towns along the east coast. The market town of Kuranda or the seaside towns of Byron Bay are a vegetarian's paradise. In other country towns and regional areas be prepared to shop in supermarkets or to carry extra food with you, as vegetarians are often poorly catered for in such areas. Most towns will have a Chinese restaurant that can provide steamed rice and vegetables.

Religious diets

People observing kosher or halal will easily be able to find specialist butchers in the capital cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capital cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in a strict religious manner.


All of the capital cities and many regional towns in Australia host a "farmer's market", which is generally held each week in a designated area on a Saturday or Sunday. These markets mostly sell fresh fruits and vegetables, as hygiene standards in Australia forbid the selling of meat directly from market stalls. Butchers who set up shop at a farmer's market would usually trade their wares from a display cabinet within their truck. The attraction of markets is the lower prices and freshness of the produce. The attraction for the traveller will be the cheap and excellent fruits on offer - depending on the region and season. In regional areas the market is usually held outside the town itself in an empty paddock; markets in capital cities are easier to reach but the prices are typically more in line with those you would find in supermarkets. It’s best to ask a local as in most cases they will be able to direct you.




Drinking beer is ingrained in Australian culture. Although Fosters is promoted as an Australian beer overseas, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia. There are the mass produced Australian beers available everywhere and widely consumed, produced by the two primary brewers, Lion Nathan, and Carlton United. There are second-tier brewers, whose products are widely distributed, such as Little Creatures, Coopers and Boags. There are also local microbrew choices, which can be harder to find, but often worth seeking out. There are also usually a wide range of imported European and American bottled beers available in all but the most basic pub.

Light (Lite) beer refers to lower alcoholic content, and not lower calories. It has around half the alcohol of full strength beer, and is taxed at a lower rate, meaning it is also cheaper than full strength beer.


Australia produces quality wine on a truly industrial scale, with large multinational brands supplying Australian bottleshops and exporting around the world. There are also a multitude of boutique wineries and smaller suppliers. Very good red and white wine can be bought very cheaply in Australia, often at less than $10 a bottle, and even the smallest shop could be expected to have 50 or more varieties to choose from.

The areas of the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, and Margaret River are particularly renowned for their wineries and opportunities for cellar door sampling, but northern Victoria and Mudgee, also have a large variety. You are never too far from a wine trail anywhere in southern Australia.

Try the local wines wherever you can find them, and ask for local recommendations. Try not to get taken in by the label, or the price tag. The best wine is rarely the one with the best artwork, or the most expensive price. However, it is probably wise to avoid the house wine if it comes straight from a cask (4-litre container). Wines at the cellar door are almost invariably sold at around 20% premium to the same wine in the shops in the local town.

If you insist on overseas wines, the Marlborough region of New Zealand is usually well represented on wine lists and in bottle shops in Australia.

See also Grape grazing in Australia.


Bundaberg Rum (Bundy) is an Australian dark rum particularly popular in Queensland and many Queenslanders will not touch any other brand of rum. It is probably the most famous Australian made spirit, mass produced in Bundaberg and available everywhere.

You will have to search much harder to find other Australian distilled spirits, mostly from niche players, but there are distilleries in every state of Australia if you look hard enough. Drop into the Lark Distillery on the scenic Hobart waterfront precinct. Pick up a bottle of 151 East Vodka in Wollongong or after a few days in Kununurra you are definitely going to need an Ord River Rum.

Mixed drinks are also available, particularly vodka, scotch, bourbon and other whiskey mixers. Jim Beam bourbon is probably the most commonly drunk, so those from Kentucky should feel right at home. Spirits are also available as pre-mixed bottles and cans but are subject to higher taxation in this form, so it is cheaper to mix them yourself, or ask the bartender to do it. Spirits are served in all pubs and bars, but not in all restaurants.

Legal aspects

The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years. It is illegal either to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age. It is illegal to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The only legally acceptable proof-of-age is an Australian drivers licence, state-issued proof-of-age card or a passport, and it would be wise to carry one if you want to purchase alcohol or tobacco and look under 25, as both alcohol and cigarettes retailers must ask for ID if you look under 25. It is illegal to go into a gambling area of a pub or club when under 18.

Often there is a lounge, restaurant or bistro area in a pub or club that permits under-age people provided they are accompanied by a responsible adult over 18 and don't approach the bar or wander around. Some city pubs even have video games, and playgrounds for children. Some country pubs have large open areas out in the back where kids can run and play.

In general, you can take alcohol (say a bottle of wine or beer) to consume at a park or beach. Alcohol consumption is banned in some public places as 'street drinking'. These are often indicated by signs and is particularly the case in parks and footpaths where public drunkenness has been a problem. However, if you are a family with your picnic basket and blanket out at lunchtime with a bottle of wine, you are unlikely to encounter any problems.

Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licensed venues: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. In some but not all states you can buy alcohol in supermarkets, or in a supermarket-owned shop very close by. In those states where you can't, bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity.

Public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at night time but much less so during the day. Public drunkenness is an offence but you would only likely ever be picked up by the police if you were causing a nuisance. You may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.

Driving while affected by alcohol is both stigmatized and policed by random breath testing police patrols in Australia, as well as being inherently dangerous. Drink driving is a very serious offence in Australia, punishable by a range of mechanisms including loss of license. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. In Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs or alcohol will always result in arrest and a required court appearance many weeks from the date of arrest and it can comprehensively disrupt travel plans. Random breath testing is common early Saturday and Sunday mornings, and many people are caught the morning after.

A shout

Buying a round of drinks is a custom in Australia, as it is in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is generally expected in a pub, when you arrive and make your first trip to the bar that you will offer to buy a drink for others you are drinking with. Similarly this will likely be done to you when someone else joins the group. This is called a shout, and incurs an obligation that you will generally return the favour in a following round, and that also you will generally maintain the same drinking pace as your associates in the round throughout the evening. If someone in the same round as you has an empty glass, who is ahead of you in drinks bought, you should declare that it is your shout, and make your way to the bar. If someone offers to buy you a drink, but does not offer to buy for the person who already has bought you a drink, you should say you are already in a shout, and decline. If they buy you and the people in your round a drink, they have joined the shout. Its generally not polite to switch between shouts during an evening. It you are in a large shout, and you decline a drink, you still have to buy a drink for the round when it comes to your turn. You are well advised it you wish to skip a round, to do so on your shout. It is generally poorly received to buy a round, and then to refuse a drink when one is purchased for you. Often the drink will just be bought for you without even asking. Don't be surprised if someone who bought you a drink earlier in the night, later says that it is your shout. Not joining a shout can be awkward in some groups. The best way is to say you are driving, and you will buy your own drinks. This is also an acceptable way to drop out after one round, when the score is even.


If you are intending to study in Australia, you may need to be on a visa class that allows this, rather than a tourist visa. Students and academics invited to visit Australian universities will generally also need an appropriate visa, even if their visit is of a short enough period to be covered by a tourist electronic visa. For extremely short term or part time courses, check with your Australian consulate or embassy.

Australian students attend a high school program of approximately six years, and enter university (also called "uni") at seventeen or eighteen years of age. (In Australia, neither "school" nor "college" are used to refer to tertiary institutions; they are referred to only as "universities" - in fact, some primary and secondary educational institutions are referred to as 'colleges') Australian undergraduate programs are usually three to four years in length. A fifth year is compulsory in some professional undergraduate programs such as engineering, law, medicine and dentistry. Medicine at the undergraduate level is either five or six years. Students in three-year degree programs can take an optional fourth year known as honours if they want to proceed into a postgraduate research program, whereas students enrolled in four year programs typically can incorporate their honours thesis into their fourth year.

Australia does not have universities whose prestige competes with Harvard or the other Ivies in the US or Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. However many are ranked in the top 200 in the world (Times Higher Education Supplement).

All tuition at university level is in English, save for courses that specifically focus on other languages. Students who have not previously earned a qualification in an English speaking program (or passed high school English) will have to take one of a number of English competency tests before being allowed to enrol.

Postgraduate studies in Australia fall into two classes: coursework and research. Coursework degrees are generally at the Masters level. Research degrees are at the Masters and Doctoral level.


Undergraduate admission to university is centralised at the state level. You make a single application for admission to the state admissions body stating your course preferences. The universities select students from this common applicant pool based upon their ranking and preferences. Unless you are applying for a creative arts degree, your ranking will be based solely on previous academic performance at both high school and previous university studies.

Postgraduate admission is managed by individual universities and you will need to apply separately to each institution you are considering.

Tuition fees

The full fees are very competitive compared to many Western universities. Australian citizens have the option of substantially reduced fees and also have the option of deferring payment and having the money taken from their taxable income along with tax after graduation. Other students will generally be required to pay full tuition on enrolment each semester.

Scholarships are rarely awarded for undergraduate or postgraduate coursework degrees. A comparatively large number of scholarships are available for postgraduate research usually covering both tuition, where required, and living costs. These are awarded by individual universities.


Accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and tourist destinations. It comes in a number of different styles.


Camping is a popular pastime. Most caravan parks will rent camping sites by the night, where you can pitch a tent, and these are available in most towns and cities. The caravan park will provide showers and toilets, and sometimes washing and cooking facilities. Sometimes for an additional fee. Expect to pay around $20 for a tent site, and a few dollars per person. You can even find caravan parks right on the beach, with lagoon swimming pools and playgrounds all free for guests.

National parks often provide camping sites, which expect you to be more self-sufficient. Often toilets are provided and sometimes cold showers. Camping permits are usually required, and popular spots fill up during the holidays in summer. Mostly in Australia it is common to be within an hours drive of a national park or recreation area that will permit some form of camping, even in the capital cities. Expect to pay around $5-$10 per night per person for a camping permit, and national park admission fees in the more popular national parks (eg: Wilsons Promontory National Park, Kosciuszko National Park, etc), however entry and camping is free in the majority of national parks.

Some other camping areas are run by government or even local landowners. Expect around $10 per person per night, depending on the time of year.

You can try your luck sleeping on a beach or pitching a tent overnight in a highway rest area, or out in the bush for a free bed. Most rest areas and beaches prohibit camping and many even prohibit overnight parking to discourage this. Generally the closer you are to civilisation or a tourist area, the greater the chance of being hassled by the authorities.

Camping in state forests is often preferable to national parks if you're after a camping experience over sightseeing, as collecting of your own fire wood is allowed (sometimes felling of trees is permissible dependent on the area) and camping is not restricted to camp sites. Some other activities that are generally allowed in state forests that are not allowed in national parks are: bringing in dogs/pets, open fires, motorbikes and four-wheel driving. State forests are generally free to stay in, although you will need to check locally if public access is allowed.

Hostels and Backpackers

Budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often with dormitories is approximately $20-$30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and food storage areas. Most hostels also have living room areas equipped with couches, dining tables, and televisions.

There are several backpacker hostel chains in Australia, including the most well known YHA, and Nomads [31]. There are many independent ones also. If you are staying many nights in the same brand of hostel, consider their discount cards, which usually offer a loyalty bonus on accommodation, and other attraction and tour discounts negotiated by the chain.


Most pubs in Australia offer some form of accommodation. It can vary from very basic shabby rooms, to newly renovated boutique accommodation. The price is usually a good reflection of what you are in for. It is still quite unusual to have a private bathroom, even in the nicer pubs.

Outside of the major centres, the pub is called a Hotel. A motel won't have a public bar. A motel that does have a bar attached is called a Hotel/Motel.

In very small towns local pubs offer the only accommodation available to travellers. Accommodation in these pubs tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms.

Pub accommodation is even available in the centre of Sydney, making getting back to your room after a beer a simple endeavour.

If you travel as a single, and want a private room, pubs usually have single rooms at a discount over a double room. Most motels will charge the same price for one or two people sharing a room.


Typically, motel-style accommodation will have a private room with a bed or number of beds, and a private shower and toilet. Many motels have family rooms, that will usually have a double bed and two single beds in the one room.

Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost upwards from $80. Usually the cost is the same for one or two adults, with any extra people charged an additional fee. Prices for additional children can range from free to $20 per child. During quiet times its not unusual for motels to offer standby discounts.

Most motels will serve a cooked or continental breakfast to your room in the morning, for an additional charge. Some may have a restaurant or serve an evening meal. Some may have a toaster in the room.

A number of local and international chains offer motel-style accommodation:


All state capitals have at least one major hotel at 5 star standard, with several available in the major capitals. The majority of Australia's hotels are located in the Central Business Districts (CBD) of the capital city. Hotel services and hospitality are often excellent such as room cleaning services, free morning newspapers, meals to your door and a high-speed internet connection up to 24mb/s (often with a premium fee).

All hotels have a restaurant (or bistro, depending on the type of hotel you are staying in). The restaurant or bistro would often serve food that comparable to many other up-market restaurants outside the hotel. Also on the ground floor would normally be a fully equipped bar.


Cabins are an economical way for families to stay while travelling. Sometimes built on private land, sometimes in caravan parks, cabins typically have a kitchen / lounge area, and one, two or three bedrooms.

Farm Stay

Much as the name suggests, this usually involves a cabin or homestead accommodation on a working property. Suited for a stay of two or more days, this accommodation usually allows you to get a little involved in the running of the farm if you wish. It is common for dinner to be provided in the homestead, and a breakfast pack to be provided to your cabin.

Holiday home

Holiday homes are homes rented by their owners, often using local real estate agents or specialised web sites. Sometimes located in prime positions, but also sometimes in the residential sections of cities and towns. Minimum rental periods of at least 2 days usually apply, rising to a week during periods when they are busy. At a minimum will have bedrooms, a lounge, bathroom.

Bed and Breakfasts

Bed and Breakfasts tend to be a premium form of accommodation in Australia, often focussed on weekend accommodation for couples. They certainly don't offer the discount form of accommmodation they do in part of the United Kingdom, and the local motel will usually be cheaper.

Sometimes extra rooms in a person's home, but often a purpose built building. You should expect a cosy, well kept room, a common area, and a cooked breakfast. Possibly private facilities. Substantial discounts often apply for mid-week stays at bed and breakfasts.


There are many true resorts around Australia. Many have lagoon pools, tennis, golf, kids clubs, and other arranged activities. The island of the Whitsundays have a choice of resorts, some occupying entire islands. Port Douglas also has many resorts of a world standard.

Serviced apartments

Serviced apartments are widely available, for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms.

Caravanning, Campervan, Motorhome and RV

Caravan parks exist in most towns and cities in Australia that will provide powered and unpowered sites for Caravans. You will commonly see the Grey Nomad brigade on their trips around Australia in motorhomes and caravans.

The camper trailer has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camping lifestyle, whether it be weekends away or an extended trip into the great outdoors where no facilities exist. You will need to be self-sufficient and carry suitable spares and a good tool kit.

  • Australian Campertrailer Group, [32].
  • Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia, [33].

Station Wagons / Vans

In most parts of Australia it is illegal to sleep in your vehicle but it is possible to get around this by simply rigging up curtains all around the windows so no one can see in from the outside. Trade vans can be picked up for as little as $1000, with a more trustworthy van setting you back no more than $3000-$4000. Add a mattress, pillow, portable gas cooker, cookware and a 20L water container and you are off. If you get caught the fine could be as much as $150 each, so do it at you own risk. But if you are strategic in where you stay you probably won't get caught. Just be sensible and don't the disturb the locals. Also, be aware of parking restrictions in certain parts of the cities and town, including overnight parking restrictions. The parking inspectors can be ruthless and a $100+ fine is not uncommon.

All cities and towns in Australia have free public toilets. Many parks, and most beaches have free electric BBQ's as well. Popular beaches have fresh water showers to wash the salt water off after you swim, so for those on a tight budget (or for those that just love waking up at the beach) simply wash in the ocean (please do not pollute the ocean or waterways by using detergents or soaps) and rinse off at the showers. Almost all taps in Australia are drinking water, the ones that aren't will be marked. Service stations (petrol/gas) almost always have taps, so these are a good place to refill the water containers each time you refuel.

Some of the best experiences you may have in Australia will be by taking that road on the map that looks like it heads to a beach, creek, waterfall or mountain and following it. You may just find paradise and not another soul in sight. And lucky you, you've got a bed, food and water right there with you.

Travelling in a small group lowers the fuel bill per head, as this will likely be your biggest expense.

Enjoy, and respect the land by taking your rubbish/bottles/cigarette butts with you and disposing of them properly.


Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia can work in Australia without any further permits, but others will require a work visa. All visitors who do not hold Australian permanent residency or citizenship (including New Zealand citizens who aren't also Australian permanent residents or citizens) are not allowed to access Australian social security arrangements for the unemployed, and will have limited, or more usually, no access to the Australian government's health care payment arrangements.

Payment and taxes

Most Australian employers pay via direct deposit to Australian bank accounts. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Your passport will not be enough ID to open a bank account. You will need to show the bank teller 100 points of ID [34].

As soon as you have an address it is wise to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). You can apply for it online (though, only in Australia) for free at the Australian Tax Office website [35], though you can generally get it quicker if you just go to one of their offices. The Australian financial year runs from July 1 to June 30, and tax returns for each financial year are due on October 30, four months after the accounting period concludes. Check with Australian tax agents about Australian tax liability and filing an Australian tax return.

Australian employers will make compulsory payments out of your earnings to an Australian superannuation (retirement savings) fund on your behalf. Temporary visitors who are not citizens of either Australia or New Zealand can have this money returned to them [36] when they leave Australia.

Working holidaymaker scheme

Australia has a working holidaymaker program for citizens of certain countries between 18 and 30 years of age. It allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter. You may work during that time, but only for 6 months at any one employer (was 3 months until July 2006). The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidised by casual or short-term jobs. If you're interested in a working holiday, some useful skills and experience might be: office skills to be used for temp work; or hospitality skills to be used for bar or restaurant work. An alternative is seasonal work like fruit-picking, although much seasonal work will require that you work outside the major cities. Working for 3 months in seasonal work will allow you to apply for a second 12 month visa.

You can apply online for a working holiday visa [37], but you must not be in Australia at the time. It takes just a few hours to process usually and it costs about $170. On arriving in Australia ask for the working holiday visa to be "evidenced", so you can show your future employer. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs. Don't waste your time applying for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship for a different visa class. Contract jobs generally mean employers are looking for solid experience, so make your resume reflect that. Search for jobs on Seek [38]. It is wise to try arranging a few interviews and prospects before you arrive in Australia in order to be in the better paid jobs.

Sponsored work visas

The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. However, this is just 'easier', not 'easy' as such. Your employer will need to demonstrate that they cannot hire anyone with your skills in Australia, and the approval will take several months. If in search of sponsorship, be prepared for a long wait. Note that getting the visa might take a couple of months from the beginning of the application process, and that you will need a medical examination by a doctor approved by the immigration officials before it can be granted (among other things, you will need a chest x-ray to show that you do not have tuberculosis). Check with your local Australian High Commission, Consulate or Embassy and the the Immigration Department's website [39].


You can apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer than receiving a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residency as the holder of a work or study visa, but your application will not be automatically accepted. After four years of permanent residency you are eligible to apply for Australian citizenship.


There are several volunteer opportunities in Australia. Many worldwide organisations offer extended travel for those wanting to volunteer their time to work with locals on projects such as habitat restoration, wildlife sanctuary maintenance & development, scientific research, & education programs.

  • Australian Volunteers, [40].
  • World Wildlife Fund (AU), [41].
  • International Student Volunteers Australia, [42].
  • Youth Challenge Australia, [43].


Unless you are actively trying to insult someone, a traveller is unlikely to insult or cause offence to an Australian though 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, doctors and academics. 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 is it would be rare they are being condescending.

It is generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing in Australia. Bikinis and swimming attire is 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, and are rarely arrogant. 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.

Indigenous Australians

Do not mention the name of a deceased person to an indigenous Australian. Though Aboriginal custom varies, it is best to avoid the possibility of offence.

Some areas of land are sacred to Aboriginal people, and require additional respect.

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.

Other areas require permission, others require a permit, and some others are protected and illegal to enter. Some areas in Australia are only open to indigenous populations and non-indigenous people will require a permit to travel to or through these areas. Tourists should check these regulations before making plans. Permits are often available if you agree to show a suitable level of respect to the land you are travelling on, and 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 Aborigine or Aboriginal used as a noun to describe a person, as some people see negative connotations in these words.

Stay safe


The number 000 (called 'triple zero' or 'triple oh') can be dialled from any telephone in Australia free of charge. This number will connect you with emergency operators for the police, fire brigade, and ambulance service. The first question that the operator will ask is which service you need. If you are in need of assistance, but cannot speak, press 55 after you have called triple zero. This confirms that you are in need of assistance and have not called by accident.

If you require assistance during a flood, storm, cyclone, tsunami, earthquake or other natural disaster you can contact the State Emergency Service in each state (except for Northern Territory) on 132 500. You will be connected with your local unit and help can be organised from there. Note that if the emergency is life-threatening, call triple zero.

If you want to contact these services but the situation is not an emergency, don't call 000 -- you can call the police assistance line on 131 444. Poisons information advice, who can also advise on snake, spider and insect bites, is available on 131 126. Information on locating the nearest medical services can be obtained by calling 1800 022 222 (except for Tasmania).

You can dial 000 from all mobile phones. Mobile phones sold in Australia recognise it as the emergency number and will use any available network to place the call. However, if you have a phone obtained outside Australia, using the universal emergency number 112 is a better idea. Using 112 will use any available network, will work even if your phone is not roaming, and will work even if the phone does not have a SIM. 112 works from Australian purchased phones too.

Hearing or speech impaired people with TTY equipment can dial 106. Those with Internet connectivity can use the Internet Relay Service, via the website [44].

Calls from fixed line/landline phones may be traced in order to assist the emergency services to reach you. The emergency services have limited ability to trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, especially outside of urban areas, so be sure to calmly and clearly provide details of your location. Because of the number sequence for emergency calls, around 60% of calls to the emergency numbers are made in error. Nobody will likely respond to your call unless you can effectively communicate to the operator that you need assistance.

Emergency numbers from other countries (for example, '911' in the USA) do not work in Australia. '112' will not work from a landline phone.

Take care on the roads

Keep a sense of perspective. Tourists are far more likely to be killed or injured as pedestrians, drivers or passengers on Australian roads than all the other causes of death and injury combined.

Driving between cities and towns can take longer than you think, especially if you are used to freeway or motorway driving in Europe or North America. Avoid the stresses of fatigue by not planning to drive too far in a day.

Driving between capitals also comes with the risk of hitting or crashing due to swerving to avoid wildlife, especially kangaroos which have a habit of being spooked by cars and then, bewilderingly, jumping in front of them. Take extra care when driving through areas with vegetation close to the road and during dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active. Wild life is not usually an issue in urban areas with the exception on Canberra where a series of parks provides ample habitat for kangaroos, which often cross major roads.

Urban Australians jaywalk, dodge cars, and anticipate the sequence of lights. Although most Australians will stop for a red light, running the amber light is common, so ensuring the traffic has stopped before stepping from the curb is always a good idea. People from countries who drive on the right will take a while to get used to looking the right way when crossing.

Beach going

Around 10-20 overseas travellers drown in Australia each year. Most of these drownings occur at ocean beaches, where statistics put visitors at at significantly higher risk than locals.

Beach goers should swim between the red and yellow flags which designate patrolled areas. Beaches are not patrolled 24-hours a day or even during all daylight hours. In most cases the local volunteer surf lifesavers or professional lifeguards are only available during certain hours, and at some beaches only on weekends, and often only during summer. If the flags aren't up, then there's no one patrolling - and you shouldn't swim. If you do choose to swim, be aware of the risks, check conditions, stay within your depth, and don't swim alone.

Hard surfboards and other water craft e.g. surf skis, kayaks etc., are not permitted between the red and yellow flags. These craft must only be used outside of the blue 'surfcraft permitted' flags.

Australian ocean beaches sometimes can have strong rips that even the strongest swimmers are unable to swim against. Rips are invisible channels of water flowing away from the beach. These channels take out the water which the incoming surf waves bring into shore. Beach goers can mistakenly use these channels or areas since they can appear as calm water and look to be an easier area into which to swim. Problems arise when the swimmer tries to swim back into shore against the outgoing current or rip, tire quickly, and end up drowning.

If you are caught in a rip at a patrolled beach, conserve your energy, float or tread water and raise one hand. The surf lifesavers will come out to you. Don't wait until you are so tired you can't swim any more. You will probably find local swimmers or surfers will also quickly come to your aid. Usually the flags are positioned where there are no rips, but this isn't always the case as rips can move.

If you are caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach stay calm to conserve energy and swim parallel to the beach (not against the pull of the current). Most rips are only a few metres wide, and once clear of the undertow, you will be able to swim or catch a wave to return to shore. Never swim alone. Don't think that the right technique will get you out of every situation. In the surf out the back of the beach, treading water can be hard with waves pounding you every few seconds. Unless you have seen it happen, its hard to appreciate how quickly a rip can take you 50 metres out to sea and into much larger wave breaks. If you are at an unpatrolled surf beach proceed with great caution and never go out of your depth.

Beach signs often have a number, or an alphanumeric code on them. This code can be given to emergency services if required, for them to locate you quickly.

Crocodiles and Box Jellyfish are found on tropical beaches, depending on the time of year and area. Sharks occur on southern beaches. See the section below on dangerous creatures. Patrolled beaches will be monitoring the ocean for any shark activity. If you hear a siren go off at the beach it indicates a shark sighting, so make your way to shore.

Natural disasters


Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) occur in the tropics during summer. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather, is available from the Bureau of Meteorology’s warning page [45] or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on 1900 926 113.


In the tropical north the Wet Season occurs over the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods to those regions. It is not unusual for some coastal areas to be cut off for a day or two while the water recedes. It can still be a good time to visit some of the well populated, tourist-oriented areas, and, except in unusually heavy flooding, you can still get to see the pounding waterfalls and other attractions that can make this an interesting time to visit.

Floods in outback and inland Australia are rare, occurring decades apart, so you would be unlucky to encounter them. However, if you are planning to visit the inland or the outback and the area is flooded, then you should reconsider. The land is flat, so the water can take weeks to move on, leaving the land boggy. Insects and mosquitoes go crazy with all the fresh water pooling around, and these things eat insect repellent for breakfast and are still hungry. Roads close, often adding many hours to driving times. Many attractions often lie on a short stretch of dirt road off the main highways, and these sections become impassable, even if the main road remains open. Plan to return in a few weeks, and the land will still be green, the lakes and rivers will still be flowing, and the bird life will still be around.

The wettest period for the south of the country is usually around the winter months of June, July, and August. There is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding. The capital cities are rarely, if ever, significantly affected by floods.


National parks and forested areas of southern Australia, including some parts of major cities next to national parks and forests, can be threatened by bushfires (wildfires) in summer.

If the fire risk is extreme, parks may be closed, especially the backcountry areas, so you will need to have an alternative plan if you intend to camp or hike in parks during summer. If there is a fire in a park, it will usually be closed entirely.

Entire country towns can sometimes be evacuated when there is a bushfire threatening them. Often there can be no signs of the fire at evacuation time, but you should leave early, as evacuating through a fire front is dangerous. The best advice is just to move on, and not stay around to watch.

Make sure any fires you light are legal and kept under control. The fire service operates a fire ban system during periods of extreme fire danger. When a fire ban is in place all outdoor fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, and it is your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Fines or even gaol terms apply for lighting fires that get out of control, not to mention the feeling you may get at being responsible for the property, wildlife, and person damage that you may cause.

If you are caught in a bushfire, most fires will pass over quickly. You need to find shelter that will protect you from the smoke and radiant heat. A house is best, then a car, then a clearing, a cave, or on the beach is the best location. Wet everything what you can. Stay low and cover your mouth. Cover yourself with non-flammable (woolen) clothing or blankets, and reduce the skin directly exposed to the heat. If you have access to a tap gather water early, don't rely on water pressure as the fire front approaches. If your holiday goes no further than cities, major towns, and beaches, this won't really concern you.

Water supply

Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert. It can also get hot. Some parts of the country are always in drought.

When travelling in remote areas, away from sealed roads, where the potential to become stranded for up to a week without seeing another vehicle is very real, it is vital that you carry your own water supply (4 gallons or 7 litres per person per day). Do not be misled by entries on maps such as 'well' or 'spring' or 'tank' (or any entry suggesting that there is a body of water). Nearly all are dry, and most inland lakes are dry salt pans.

Many cities and towns have water restrictions, limiting use of water in activities like washing cars, watering gardens, or public showers. It is common to see signs in accommodation asking visitors to limit the length of their showers.

Poisonous and dangerous creatures

Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of insects, reptiles and marine life on the planet. However, with very few exceptions, the average tourist is unlikely to encounter any of these in an urban environment. The vast majority of deaths from bites and stings in Australia are due to allergic reactions to bees and wasps.

Some of the information spread about Australia's dangerous wildlife is blown out of proportion. However, you should take warnings about jellyfish and crocodiles seriously in the tropics, and keep your distance from snakes in the national parks and bushland wherever you are.

If travelling in rural areas it would be a good idea to carry basic first aid equipment including compression bandages and to learn what to do after a snake or spider bite.

Snakes and spiders

Australia is home to six of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Never try to pick up any snake, even if you believe it to be a non-poisonous species. Most people bitten by snakes were trying to pick up the snake, kill the creature, or inadvertently step on one whilst out walking. Snakes will generally try to put as much distance between themselves and you as possible, so if you see a snake while out walking, simply go around it or walk the other way. Walking blindly into dense bush and grassy areas is not advisable, as they are places where snakes may hide.

It is common to see spiders in Australia, and most will do you no harm. Wear gloves while gardening or handling leaf litter. Check or shake out clothing, shoes, etc that have been left outside before putting them on. Don't put your fingers under rocks, into tree holes, where spiders might be.

The world's deadliest spider is the Sydney Funnel Web spider, found in and around Sydney and eastern New South Wales. Until the late 1970s a bite from this spider could result in death, but anti-venom is now available. The spider is anywhere up to 5 cm large, and is usually black. If you are in an area that is known for having Funnel Web spiders and you are bitten by a spider you believe could be a Funnel Web it is important you get to hospital as quickly as possible. Funnel Webs can seek shelter indoors when there is a lot of rain, however they are usually found under rocks, especially if recent gardening has taken place.

The Red Back spider (easily identified by a red mark on its abdomen), is common and after a bite it is important to seek medical attention, however it is not as urgent as with a Funnel Web. Red Backs typically hide in dark places and corners. It is highly unusual to see them indoors, however they can hide in sheds, around outdoor tables and chairs and under rocks or other objects sitting on the ground.

Anti-venom is available for most spider and snake bites. If bitten you should immobilise the wound (by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages) and seek immediate medical help. If you are in an isolated area send someone else for help. The venom of some snakes (the taipan in particular) can take effect within fifteen minutes, but if the wound is immediately immobilised and you rest it is possible to delay the onset of poisoning by one to a few hours, depending on the creature. If possible, you should attempt to identify the creature that bit you (in the case of spiders it might be possible to trap it in a jar and take it to the hospital) so that the appropriate anti-venom can be administered swiftly.

First aid treatment for spider bites may vary in Australia compared to other areas of the world. Always seek medical advice after a bite has occurred.


Travellers in northern Queensland, Northern Territory, or northern Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal stings from the Box Jellyfish if swimming in the ocean between October and May. They are very hard to detect and can be found in very shallow water. Stings from these jellyfish are 'excruciating' and often fatal. Vinegar applied immediately to adhering tentacles will lessen the amount of venom injected, but immediate medical assistance will be required. The danger season varies by location. In general the jellyfish are found close to shore, as they breed in the estuaries. They are not generally found out on the Great Barrier Reef, and many people swim on the reef without taking any precautions. Seek out reliable local information. Some locals at the beach can be cavalier to the risks.

Irukandji are another species of tiny (fingernail sized) jellyfish that inhabit the waters off of Northern Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific islands. They are also very hard to see, and can be dangerous, although bites are rare. Unlike the box jellyfish they are found out on the reef. The initial bite can go unnoticed. There is debate as to whether they can be fatal, but they certainly can place a victim in hospital, and cause extreme pain lasting days. If you have nausea or shooting pains not long after emerging from the water seek medical treatment.

A "stinger-suit" that is resistant to jellyfish stings costs around $100 or can be hired for around $20 a week.

Blue Ring Octopus

Found in rock pools around the coasts of Australia is the tiny, but still deadly poisonous, Blue Ring Octopus. Usually a dull sandy-beige colour, the creature has bright blue circles on its skin if threatened. The Blue Ring Octopus is rare and shy. Bites occur only if you pick one up and place it on your hand. In the history of Australia there are only two confirmed deaths by Blue Ring Octopus.


Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or north Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal attacks by saltwater crocodiles in and adjacent to northern waters (ocean, estuarine and fresh water locations) between King Sound, Western Australia, and Hervey Bay, Queensland. Saltwater crocodiles in these areas can reach 25 feet in length and can attack in water without warning. Despite what their name implies, they can be found in both salt and fresh water. On land, crocodiles usually lie motionless, but they have the ability to move with extraordinary speed in short bursts. There are relatively few attacks resulting in injury — most attacks are fatal. Dangerous swimming areas will usually have prominent warning signs. In these regions only swim in inland waters if you are specifically advised that they are safe. Since 1970 there has been about one crocodile attack on a human each year.

The smaller freshwater crocodile is, unlike the saltwater, timid and will avoid humans if possible. The freshwater may attack to defend itself or its eggs or if startled. They can inflict a nasty bite but due to their small jaws and teeth this will rarely cause death in humans.

Dangerous flora

The Gympie bush (Dendrocnide moroides), also known as the stinging tree, is a stinging plant, whose microscopic stinging hairs on leaves and branches can cause severe pain for up to several weeks. They are mostly found in North-east Queensland, especially in rain forest clearings. However, the Gympie bush and other closely related species (there are about five) of stinging tree can be found in south-east Queensland, and further south in eastern Australia. People bushwalking in such areas are advised not to touch the plant for any reason.

Violent crime

Crime rates in Australia are roughly comparable with other first world countries: few travellers will be victims of crime. You should take normal precautions against bag snatching, pick pocketing and the like. There are some areas of the large cities that are more dangerous after dark, but there generally aren't "no-go" areas in the sense that the police refuse to patrol them or that it is dangerous to enter them if you aren't a local.

Australian police are approachable and trustworthy, and you should report assaults, theft or other crime to the police as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should you offer an Australian police officer (or for that matter, any other government official such as a customs officer) a bribe or gratuity, as this is a crime and they will enforce the laws against it.

When leaving your car alone, make sure it is locked, that the windows are rolled up, and that there are no obvious targets for theft in the vehicle, as thieves will often smash windows to get at a phone, GPS or bag that is visible in the car.


Racism is a sensitive subject in Australia. There are laws against any form of racial vilification or discrimination. It is much rarer to find someone who will openly express aggression towards a racial group. Australia is generally a multicultural and racially tolerant society.

Some offensive language used for ethnic groups may not be considered offensive by the standards of some Australians. Some will choose a racial abuse term if involved in an argument, over a more general abusive term.

Terms such as Yank and Pom, and to a lesser extent Wog are used in casual conversation in the presence of those respective nationalities, often between friends, and as such are not seen as offensive.


Attempts to scam tourists are not prevalent in Australia; take normal precautions such as finding out a little bit about your destination. There have been instances of criminals tampering with ATMs so that cash is trapped inside them, or so that they record card details for thieves. You should check your transaction records for odd transactions after using an ATMs and immediately contact the bank controlling the ATM if a transaction seems to be successful but the machine doesn't give you any cash. Always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN to prevent any skimming devices which have cameras recording your PIN.

Illegal drugs

Opium, heroin, amphetamines (speed), cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and hashish among other drugs are all illegal both to possess and to sell in Australia, with trafficking offences usually carrying a jail term. Penalties for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana are typically lower than for other drugs. In South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory jail terms do not apply to first time marijuana offences. Foreigners should not expect more lenient treatment than locals from Australian police for drug offences.

Australia's proximity to Asia means that heroin is a far more commonly used illicit drug than cocaine or crack cocaine. In some areas of large cities you will need to be careful of discarded needles: however these will generally be found in back streets rather than in popular tourist spots. Australia has harm minimisation policies: many cities have a needle exchange program and sometimes safe houses for heroin addicts, and HIV infection is thus comparatively low among heroin users in Australia.

Attempting to import illegal drugs into Australia is taken very seriously, and Australia has even co-operated with the police forces in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore in intercepting drug traffickers arriving from or travelling through those countries despite those countries having the death penalty for trafficking. Even information on Australian citizens has been handed to foreign police to assist in trials leading to possible execution. Australia itself has long jail terms (up to life imprisonment) for drug importation. Do not attempt to bring illegal drugs into Australia. Remember, customs regulations are very strict and are always enforced.

Stay healthy


Exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes frequently results in sunburn. People spending time outdoors during the day should wear sun screen (SPF 30+), clothing, and a hat to shade the sun. Reapply suncreen throughout the day - it wears off quickly if you are sweating or swimming. It is also advisable in some areas to stay out of the sun during the hottest periods of the day. Sunburn hurts, causes the skin to peel, and can make you feel generally unwell. Getting sunburnt on your first day in Australia can really ruin your plans to spend more time in the pool or at the beach.

In the long term sun exposure also causes premature aging and skin cancer.

Food Preparation

Australia's cleanliness standards are high. Restaurants are required to observe strict food preparation standards and food poisoning is no more common than it is in other first world nations.


The tap water in Australia is almost always safe to drink, and it will be marked on the tap if this is not the case. The taste and hardness of the tap water will vary considerably across the country. Bottled water is also widely available. Carrying water on hot days is a good idea. Even being caught in traffic or on a train in the heat can be uncomfortable without anything to drink. Headaches and nausea are early symptoms of not getting enough water on hot days.


Australia does not have endemic communicable diseases that will require non-standard vaccinations. Like many other countries, it will require evidence of yellow fever vaccinations on entry if you will have been in a country with a risk of infection within 6 days before your arrival in Australia.


When travelling in Australia take precautions against mosquito bites. In far northern areas there have been cases of dengue fever. Generally minimising your exposure to mosquitoes anywhere in Australia (using repellents or screens) is advisable.

Medical care

As described above, 000 is the Australian emergency services number and in any medical emergency you should call this number and ask for an ambulance and other emergency services as necessary, to attend.

Australia has first world medical standards. In particular, it is safe to receive blood transfusions in Australia, as donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis and many other blood borne illnesses.

However, since Australia's population density is low, parts of Australia are a long way from medical facilities of any kind. Towns with population 5000 or more will have a small hospital capable of giving emergency treatment in serious emergencies, and larger towns will have a base hospital capable of routine and some kinds of emergency surgery. In severe cases, particularly any kind of injury requiring microsurgery, you will need to be evacuated to one of the capital cities for treatment. Evacuation procedures are well established and normally involve being evacuated by plane or helicopter.

Capital cities will have medical centres where you can drop in, often open on weekends or until late. In country towns you may have to make an appointment, and may have no alternative other than the closest hospital after hours and weekends. You can also expect to wait a few hours if your condition isn't urgent.

Australian citizens and permanent residents who live in the country can receive health care through the taxpayer funded Medicare.

Travellers from New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway are entitled to free reciprocal Medicare treatment for medical problems that occur during their visit, but should familiarise themselves with the conditions of the reciprocal arrangement. For example Irish and New Zealanders are only entitled to free treatment at a hospital, whereas the other reciprocal nationalities are entitled to subsidised treatment at general practitioners as well. No reciprocal programs cover private hospitals, and the full cost will have to be met. Consider travel insurance. If not a citizen or permanent resident of a reciprocal country, you can expect to pay around $60 to see a general practitioner, plus any additional costs for any pathology or radiology required. The charge to pay to visit a local hospital can be much more expensive, private hospitals even more so, up to $500 even if you are not admitted, and thousands if you are.

  • Poisons Information Hotline 13 11 26. Will give free advice if any medication or poisons is taken inadvertently. Will also give advice on what treatment is necessary for things like a spider bite.



Australia offers many Internet access options for travellers.


Internet cafés abound in most centres of population that normally cost $4-$5 per hour. Many internet cafés have 12-20 computers sharing a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet painfully slow. If possible ask if you can check the speed of a café's connection before forking out $4-$5 for an hour.

Public libraries usually offer some for of Internet access to travellers, either free or for a small fee. Some restrict access to email, promoting research use of their facilities. Others offer Wi-Fi as well as terminals, with Wi-Fi usually being free of restrictions.

Major hotels offer Internet access, usually for a fee. It is still unusual to find in-room Internet access in smaller hotels and in motels. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least an Internet terminal at reception.


  • Many coffee shops offer Wi-Fi, some free to their customers.
  • McDonalds has free Wi-Fi in just about all their stores.
  • iiNet [46] offers paid access at all Starbucks outlets ($3 for 1 hour, $6 for 24 hours and $32 for a month's usage). You can connect, and enter your credit card details in the store.
  • Optus [47] has a similar scheme

Some cities have Wi-Fi access provided free in some parts of their centre.

3G Wireless

GPRS and 3G wireless Internet connections are available through all cellular phone networks. EDGE is offered by Telstra only. Australia has cellular networks operated by Telstra [48], Optus [49], Vodafone [50] and Three [51].

If you have a 3G/UMTS-enabled phone, make sure it supports the appropriate frequencies: 850/2100 MHz for Telstra and Three, and 900/2100 MHz for Optus and Vodafone. Also check your with your home carrier for data roaming fees (likely quite expensive).

Vodafone offers 3G access in all major cities on a month by month basis (no contract). No sign up fee, only $39 per month for 1GB down/upload. You need to have your own 3G/UMTS capable laptop card (or a 3G/HSPA capable phone that can be used as a modem) or you buy one from Vodafone for $199 (sim-locked).

There are no restrictions on overseas residents getting a Australian prepaid SIM card. Take your passport for identification in case it is required.


There are many small but reliable ISPs offering dialup Internet the $12–$15 per month flat rate range.

There are also several ISPs who have a pre-paid arrangement at about $1 per hour of use. It can be surprisingly difficult to find Australian dialup ISPs with instant online signup, but they do exist (Beagle [52] is one).

You can buy prepaid dialup cards for several ISP's from Dick Smith stores, for around $20 per month unlimited.

If moving around, check that your ISP has an access number that can be reached via a local call from landlines nationwide (the access number starts with 13), rather than just in the ISP home city. All prepaid cards that can be purchased from Dick Smith have access from anywhere in Australia for a local call fee.


Dialing Codes

The country code for international calls to Australia is +61. When dialing from overseas, omit any leading '0' in the area code.

For example, the local number for the Broken Hill tourist information is 8080 3300. The area code is 08 as Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or anywhere else inside the same area code region you can optionally omit the area code, and just dial 8080 3300. To dial the number from Sydney or anywhere in Australia outside the area code region, you will need to dial 08 8080 3300. If you don't know your area code region, you can still dial the area code, and it will still work. To dial the number from overseas you will need to dial your local international access code (00 for most of Europe or 011 in the USA and Canada) and then dial 61 8 8080 3300, that is drop the leading '0' from the area code.

There can be many ways of writing the same number, as people try to present the number from the caller's perspective.

  • +61 (08) 8080 3300,
  • (61 8) 8080 3300,
  • (08) 8080 3300,
  • 61 8 8080 3300
  • 8080 3300

are all the same number, and the same rules apply. If you are dialing within Australia the area code must begin with a '0'. If you are dialing internationally, there is no leading '0'.

Australian Area Code List:

  • 02 = Central East (New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and north-eastern fringe of Victoria)
  • 03 = South East (Southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania)
  • 04 = Mobile phones Australia-wide (higher call charges apply).
  • 07 = North East (Queensland)
  • 08 = Central & West (Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and far Western New South Wales)

The outgoing international dialing access code (from within Australia) is 0011 (note, "00" and "011", common elsewhere in the world, will not work in Australia).

Local calls are about $0.25 on most fixed lines and $0.50 on all Telstra Pay Phones.

Special Numbers

  • Numbers commencing with 13 are charged at a local call rate, and what they connect you to can vary according to your location. They can be 10 or 6 digit numbers. For example 1300 796 222, will connect you with the Albury tourist information, no matter where you are in Australia. However, 131 008 will connect you with a different local taxi service depending on where you are. 13 22 32 will connect you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne. Calling these numbers internationally can be problematic.
  • Numbers commencing with 18 are free when dialed from a payphone or fixed phone, and commonly used for hotel reservation numbers, or tourist information numbers.
  • Numbers commencing with 19 are premium numbers, often with very hefty call charges (make sure you check before dialing).
  • Numbers commencing with 12 are carrier services, and are dependent on what network you are connected to. For example 12 456 is a general information number for Telstra. Vodafone offer a similar services on 123. These numbers can be premium services as well.

Calling special numbers internationally can often work - just try dialing the number prefixed with the +61 country code. Many locations will give an alternative direct number for use in international dialing. You can use the non-geographical number search on [53] to look up a normal number from a 13 or 18 number.

Mobile Cellular Phones

Australia has three nationwide cellular (mobile) phone networks based on the GSM standard (900 and 1800mhz) operated by Telstra [54], Optus [55] and Vodafone [56]. There are also four UMTS networks, two of which are nationwide. One is operated by Telstra (UMTS 850mhz, also marketed by Telstra as Next G) and Optus (a combination of UMTS 2100mhz and 900mhz). The other two networks are limited to capital cities, are on the 2100mhz band and are operated by Vodafone and Three [57]. Vodafone have announced a nationwide 3G (UMTS) rollout on the 900mhz band.

For those holding foreign SIM cards, international roaming is generally seamless onto Australia's GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA) networks, subject to agreements between operators. Check with your home operator before you leave to be sure.

All carriers offer service in major cities, large towns, and major highways on the East Coast. No carriers offer service in unpopulated areas away from major roads. Telstra's 850mhz 3G network provides wider coverage in smaller towns and lightly populated areas.

Web address for coverage maps are linked below:

You can buy a cheap prepaid mobile phone in Australia with a SIM for around $40 in most retail outlets, supermarkets, and post offices, or a SIM for your existing phone at around $2-$3. You can then top it up with credit using recharge cards you can purchase at all supermarkets, newsagents, some ATMs, and other outlets.

Prepaid calls cost roughly 60c per minute plus 30c flagfall, again depending on the network. SMS is generally 25c. You can buy a seemly infinite variety or packages, caps and bundles, with combinations of data, sms, call time, and SIM cards. Read the fine print, and as a rule, the more "value" that is included in your "package" or "cap", the more expensive the elements of the package are. For example call charges can rise from 60c to $1.20 per minute on a $29 cap that includes $150 value. All is fine if you stay within the minutes allowed for the cap you choose, but it can cost a fortune very quickly if you exceed what you thought you would use.

There are no restrictions on overseas residents getting a Australian prepaid SIM card. Take your passport for identification in case it is required.

Satellite phones

If you need comprehensive coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Expect to pay around $120 per week to hire a satellite phone, plus call costs. Satellite messaging units, which send your location and a help SMS or email, that can be hired for around $80 per week.

These units are only available from specialist dealers, often only in major cities (away from the remote areas you may be visiting). You should be able to acquire or hire these units in your home country before departure if you wish.


Text messages can be sent from many public phones, using the keypad in much the same way as a mobile phone. Follow the instructions on the phone display.


Australia Post [62] runs Australia's postal service. Letters can be posted in any red Australia Post posting box, which are found at all post offices and many other locations. Stamps can be purchased from post offices, some newsagents and hotels. Posting a standard letter costs $0.55 within Australia (up to 250g), or $1.40 for the rest of the world (up to 20g only). It is important to remember that 'domestic' and 'international' stamps are different, as one is taxed whilst the other is not. Therefore, it is necessary to use different stamps when posting internationally - these are less common than the domestic variety and are usually only available at post offices and selected newsagents. Parcels, express mail and other services are also available.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary






Australian (plural Australians)

  1. A person from Australia or of Australian descent.



Australian (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. Of, from, or pertaining to Australia, the Australian people or Australian languages.


Related terms

See also

  • Strine - (colloquial - the Australian language)



Proper noun


  1. Genitive singular form of Australia.

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