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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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  2. ^ "Demonyms, or what do you call a person from ...". The Geography Site. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  3. ^ "Population clock". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 3 January 2010.  The population estimate shown is automatically calculated daily at 00:00 UTC and is based on data obtained from the population clock on the date shown in the citation.
  4. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Australia". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Australia". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  6. ^ Human Development Report 2009. The United Nations. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  7. ^ Macquarie ABC Dictionary. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. 2003. p. 56. ISBN 0 876429 37 2. 
  8. ^ a b "Australia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  "Smallest continent and sixth largest country (in area) on Earth, lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans."
  9. ^ a b "Continents: What is a Continent?". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  "Most people recognize seven continents—Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia, from largest to smallest—although sometimes Europe and Asia are considered a single continent, Eurasia."
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  11. ^ Both Australian Aborigines and Europeans Rooted in Africa – 50,000 years ago.
  12. ^ MacKnight, CC (1976). The Voyage to Marege: Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia. Melbourne University Press.
  13. ^ "Australia: World Audit Democracy Profile". Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  14. ^ Purchas, vol. iv, pp. 1422–32, 1625. This appears to be variation of the original Spanish "Austrialia" [sic].[1] A copy at the Library of Congress can be read online [2].
  15. ^ Sidney J. Baker, The Australian Language, second edition, 1966.
  16. ^ Ferguson, John Alexander (1975). Bibliography of Australia: 1784–1830. 1 (reprint ed.). National Library Australia. p. 77. ISBN 0642990441. 
  17. ^ Estensen, Miriam (2002). The Life of Matthew Flinders. Allen & Unwin. p. 354. ISBN 1-74114 152 4. 
  18. ^ Flinder, Matthew (1814). A Voyage to Terra Australis. 
  19. ^ J. J. Bennett, ed (1866–68). "General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis". The Miscellaneous Botanical Works of Robert Brown, Esq., D.C.L., F.R.S.. 2. pp. 1–89. 
  20. ^ Mabberley, David (1985). Jupiter botanicus: Robert Brown of the British Museum. British Museum (Natural History). ISBN 3-7682-1408-7. 
  21. ^ Estensen p. 450.
  22. ^ Weekend Australian, 30–31 December 2000, p. 16
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  25. ^ RJW (2004-03-29). "The Birth of the Commonwealth of Nations". Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  26. ^ Convict Records Public Record office of Victoria; State Records Office of Western Australia.
  27. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998 Special Article—The State of New South Wales.
  28. ^ Smith, L. (1980), The Aboriginal Population of Australia, Australian National University Press, Canberra.
  29. ^ "Smallpox Through History". Smallpox Through History. 
  30. ^ Tatz, Colin (1999). "Genocide in Australia". AIATSIS Research Discussion Papers No 8. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Archived from the original on 2005-08-08. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  31. ^ Bain Attwood, Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History. (2005) online edition.
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  33. ^ Stuart Macintyre, The Oxford History of Australia: vol 4 (1986), p. 142; C. Bean Ed. (1941). Volume I – The Story of Anzac: the first phase, First World War Official Histories, Eleventh Edition.
  34. ^ "First World War 1914–1918". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  35. ^ Macintyre, 151–3; Liz Reed, Bigger than Gallipoli: war, history, and memory in Australia‎ (2004) p. 5 online.
  36. ^ Hank Nelson, "Gallipoli, Kokoda and the Making of National Identity", Journal of Australian Studies, (1997) v. 53#1 pp. 148–160 online edition.
  37. ^ Australia Act text.
  38. ^ Parliamentary Library (1997). The Reserve Powers of the Governor-General.
  39. ^ Website of Governor-General
  40. ^ Australia Act 1986
  41. ^ Word Definition: Prime Minister of Australia
  42. ^ Evans, Tim (2006). "Compulsory Voting in Australia". Australian Electoral Commission. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  43. ^ "What happens if I do not vote?". Voting Australia – Frequently Asked Questions. Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  44. ^ Website of Federal Government of Australia
  45. ^ " Administrator of Norfolk Island". Australian Government Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  46. ^ Japan-Australia Relations,
  47. ^ Australian Government. (2005). Budget 2005–2006.
  48. ^ Center for Global Development. Commitment to Development Index: Australia, Retrieved on 5 January 2008.
  49. ^ "Section 3: Management and Accountability (Chapter 4: People Management)" (PDF). Defence Annual Report 2007-08. Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-01-31.  (pp. 99–100).
  50. ^ Australian Department of Defence (2006).Portfolio Budget Statements 2006–07. p. 19.
  51. ^ Everingham, Sara. Australia ranks 27th on peace index (2008), Retrieved on 23 January 2008.
  52. ^ Khosa, Raspal (2004). Australian Defence Almanac 2004–05. Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute. p. 4. 
  53. ^ "Australia's Size Compared". Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  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."
  56. ^ "State of the Environment 2006". Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  57. ^ UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1980). "Protected Areas and World Heritage – Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area". Department of the Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  58. ^ "Mount Augustus". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  59. ^ No more drought: it's a "permanent dry"; Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim.
  60. ^ "About Biodiversity". Department of the Environment and Heritage. Archived from the original on 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  61. ^ Lambertini, A Naturalist's Guide to the Tropics, excerpt at
  62. ^ "Australia – UNESCO World Heritage Centre". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  63. ^ "2008 Environmental Performance Index". Yale University. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  64. ^ "Snake Bite", The Australian Venom Compendium.
  65. ^ Savolainen, P. et al. 2004. A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101:12387–12390 PMID.
  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.
  69. ^ ANU poll finds ‘it’s the environment, stupid’, Retrieved on 8 January 2008.
  70. ^ Australia Sets Target of 15% Carbon Reduction by 2020, Announces 2010 Carbon Market, Retrieved on 8 January 2008.
  71. ^ "Regional Rainfall Trends". Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  72. ^ "Annual Australian Climate Statement 2008". Bureau of Meteorology. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  73. ^ Saving Australia's water, BBC News, 23 April 2008.
  74. ^ "On the International Realignment of Exchanges and Related Trends in Self-Regulation – Australian Stock Exchange" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  75. ^ Melbourne 'world's top city' (2004), The Age. Retrieved on 31 January 2009.
  76. ^ "Liveability ranking: Urban idylls.
  77. ^ a b Downwonder The Economist, 29 March 2007.
  78. ^ Australia able to avoid recession, BBC News, Wednesday, 3 June 2009.
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  82. ^ Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2003). Advancing the National Interest, Appendix 1.
  83. ^ a b c d e Australian Bureau of Statistics. Year Book Australia 2005.
  84. ^ "AUSTRALIA: population growth of the whole country". Retrieved 2008-07-22.  19th century figures do not include the indigenous population.
  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. 
  87. ^ "3105.0.65.001—Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2006" (XLS). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-18. "Australian population: (1919) 5,080,912; (2006) 20,209,993" 
  88. ^ "Background note: Australia". US Department of State. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  89. ^ a b Australian Immigration Fact Sheet.
  90. ^ Australian Population: Ethnic Origins.
  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.
  93. ^ Inflow of foreign-born population by country of birth, by year; Australian Immigration Fact Sheet 20. Migration Programme Planning Levels.
  94. ^ Immigration intake to rise to 300,000, 11/06/2008.
  95. ^ 300,000 skilled workers needed – Evans.
  96. ^ The Beach, Retrieved on 31 January 2009.
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  99. ^ Stephen Lunn (26 November 2008). "Life gap figures not black and white". The Australian.,25197,24708205-601,00.html. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
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    "Extract: Dear Mr Rudd". Safecom. Retrieved 2008-10-17.  (3rd last paragraph).
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  107. ^ NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance, National Church Life Survey, Media release, 28 February 2004.
  108. ^ Morris, Lindy. God's OK, it's just the religion bit we don't like (2008), Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on 5 January 2008.
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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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Basic information

Australia is a large country which is ranked 6th in the world for landmass, which measures at 7,682,300 sq km. [1] Australia is also ranked 54th in the world for population which is 21,262,641 as of July 2009. [2] As a oceanic country, Australia is bordered by two bodies of water, The Indian and The South Pacific Ocean. [3] Australia also includes Tazmania, an island off its southern tip. Its geographical features include large mountain ranges (The snowy mountains are home to Mount Koscinsko, the highest mountain in Australia); important bodies of water such as the Savannah Gulf which is home to the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo; the Outback; and numerous beaches on the 18,000 km coast line. The climate ranges from 70% semi-arid in most of the country, to temperate in south and east Australia, to tropical in the Northern regions.[4]

Map of Australia
Map of Australia

The total population of Australia is 21,262,641 as of July 2009, [5] While its national capital is located in Canberra, the cities with the largest population Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. Sydney is the most populous of these mainland state capitals [6] The total population has roughly 1 male per 1 female, 18.6% are 14 years old and younger, 67.9% are between 15-64 years of age, and 13.5% are 65 years of age and older. [7]

Australia has a rather small ethnic diversity, with 92% being white, 7% Asian, and the original inhabitants (aborigines)and others making up 1% of the population. [8] There is a large religious diversity, 25.8% are Catholic, 18.7% are Anglican, 5.7% are United Church, 3% are Presbyterian and Reformed, 2.7% are Eastern Orthodox, 1.7% are Muslim, 2.4% other, 11.3% unspecified, and 18.7% have no religion, according to the 2006 Census.[9] English is the most commonly spoken language in Australia, (78.5%) Chinese, Italian, Greek, Arabic, and Vietnamese are also spoken, but only around 1.5% for each of these languages. However, 8.2% were other and 5.7% unspecified. Aboriginal languages were grouped in other. [10]

Economic Development, Health, and Education

The Australian economy is fairly developed ranking 19th in the world with a Gross Domestic Product is $802.9 billion [11] The GDP per capita is $38,200 (24th in the world)[12] The Australian economy is driven by several industries, mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals and steel. It is a gross exporter of coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment. [13] The currency is the Australian dollar.

Australia, although industrialized and developed, only ranks 196th for infant mortality; having 4.75 deaths per 1,000 live births. [14] Males have a life expectancy of 84.14 years of age, this places Australia as 7th in the world.[15]

In Australia it is expected that by age 15 and over 99% of the total male population and 99% of females of the total male population; will be literate. [16] It is expected that males will spend 20 years in school from primary to tertiary education and females will spend one more year, at 21 years of schooling. [17] The country expends 4.5% of GDP towards education which ranks Australia 86th in the world. [18] Children are not allowed under any circumstances to "drop out" of schooling.

Brief History

The first inhabitants of Australia were the Aborigines, 60,000 years age. This was before cook and the Europeans arrived in Australia and began to map the lands. Europeans did however, name the animals, plants, and recorded the history. The British colonies in Australia were produced from mostly criminals sent to Australia from Britain for exile. On January 1, 1901 the nation was born from six Australian colonies that had been built. A constitution was made and proclaimed Australia's loyalty to England and England's monarch. This constitution formed the federal Government in Australia, now know as The Commonwealth of Australia. After WWII Australia became more multicultural and many convicts being brought to the colonies were able to thrive. An example of this thriving life is Gregory David Roberts who was once a criminal turned successful writer of the book Shantaram. In the past 20 years Australia has become a tolerant and cosmopolitan nation in our world.


Australia is a common-law country derived from The United Kingdom. Its government is described as a federalist and also as a parliamentary democracy. Australia is rated 8th for corruption in the world.[19].

Australia is governed by one Federal Government organized under the [1] one Federal Parliament in Canberra, six state parliaments in each of the six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tazmania) and two territory parliaments, The Northern Territory and The Australian Capital Territory. [20] The Federal Government is led by the Prime Minister, state Governments have chief ministers.[21] The federal judiciary consists of the High Court of Australia, the federal court of Australia, family courts, and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. Federal judges and magistrates are appointed by the government and have to have practiced law for at least five years prior to appointment. State governments vary, but follow and adversarial legal system with a high value on presumption of innocence.

Each local government can pass legislation or by-laws, in conjuction with the constitution. The Territorial and State police enforce these by-laws.


Elections are conducted locally and overseen by states for federal and state elections. Voting can be done by any Australian citizen 18 years of age or older, or has lived for at least one month at their current address. Any criminal serving a sentence of 3 years or more is not eligible. An election for the Prime minister is presented in Australia after he is picked by the speaker of the House of Representatives. The current political party is always lead by the Prime Minister at the time with majoritarian representation from the House. The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd.[22]

Judicial Review

The High Court of Australia adds to its common-law history, judicial review is used in cases concerning the Constitution and disputes. It also has the power to dismiss by-laws that do not adhere to the Constitution and produces decisions on matters that can not be handled in other courts.

Courts and Criminal Law

The court system in Australia is organized in a hierarchical system. Initial matters are handled in state courts first and then can be appealed to The Australian High Court. The only time that this is not the case, is in matters of the Constitution where if an interpenetration has been made, or where the court sees a principle law involved in a case which is publicly important. These cases will go straight to the High Court rather than starting in state or federal courts. These cases will also be heard by the full court which comprises all seven Justices (Judges) if available. The appeals that are heard by the High Court can come from the Supreme courts of states and Federal Courts. Thus, cases are heard by no less than two Justices. The High Court hears cases from arbitration, all the way to family law and trade practices.

Australia has an adversarial legal system. Trials have Justices and barristers (lawyers) who represent the parties present. An appeal book must be present in order for High Court trials, these books provide necessary information for the case, they are formed by the appellant's barrister. Court hearings also involve a counsel (jury) the number of the counsel can deffer depending on the trial and not all cases in court have counsel.

In Australia there is a presumption of innocence, and guilt must be proved. Like The United States the Constitution protects against self-incrimination and voluntary confessions. Voluntary confessions and statements, however, are allowed. A barrister is appointed to all criminals and appeals. Either side can enter an appeal, however once a case is appealed to the High Court, the final decision is binding and may not be appealed any farther. The High Court holds binding decisions over all courts in Australia.

Civil court hearings are used for dispute resolution and damages are often sometimes available to the prosecuting party. Australia has workers compensation, disability benefits, and national health care. The national health care system in Australia is much like the one in Europe and saves many companies from unneeded civil law suits, although there still are some law suits for malpractice.


In Australia most offenses even criminal are only punished by large fines. Murder charges have fairly long jail terms, however there is no capital punishment in Australia. The last reported case of capital punishment in Australia was in 1967 [23] In cases of assault and theft there are much lesser prison terms. In some cases such as with speeding a loss of license or impounding of the car can occur. Some criminal offenses are punished by jailing, but only in crimes seen as heinous. Australia is very strict with drug and drinking while driving offenses. If someone is found with drugs of any kind they are immediately put in jail. The same goes for drinking, there are what are called "Booze Buses" which are check points in the form of hospital buses in the cities at night, they will pull everyone out of the car and if the driver is drinking they are jailed. If any of the passengers have drugs in their system or on them, they are also jailed.

As of June 30th in 2003 there were 23,555 prisoners in Australia. According to statistics the imprisonment rate has risen by nearly 50% in the past 10 years.[24] Fifty-five percent of prisoner in 2003 were male ages 20-34 years of age.[25] Between 1993 and 2003, the female prisoner population has increased by 110%, in comparison to a 45% increase in the male prisoner population.[26] Most of the prisoners in prison are incarcerated for drug offenses, theft, and assault.

Prison conditions in Australia generally hospitable. However, there is now a push for another "Super max" prison to be built in Australia in the next couple of years. These types of prisons will host the mentally ill prisoners, terrorist suspects, and convicted inmates. There is regimented control in these prisons, especially for the terrorist suspects who do not have any visitation rights at all. Prisoners have health care and can practice their own religions. Punishment in Australia emphasizes treatment and confinement. There is a separate prison for women and men. One of the woman's prisons is located in Perth. Juveniles do not really have prisons, however if the juvenile is the at a certain age (determined by each state and territory court) they will be tried as an adult. If juveniles misbehave in school to where they are kicked out they are sent to special rehabilitation housing.[27]

Legal Personnel

Federal justices and Magistrates are appointed by the government on any given day. The person who is being appointed for these position must have at least five years of prior legal experience. More often than not they have previously served as a barrister. A Federal court judge can also be appointed if they served as a justice in a different court. Family court justices must be able to deal with family laws and law matters with proper training, experience, and a good personality for family courts. Judges are called Justices in Australia. All Federal Justices and Magistrates are only appointed at age 70.

Barristers in Australia are the equivalent of lawyers in The United States. Barristers are trained in the same manner as lawyers in America. Barristers must be trained in law school for at least three years. Upon graduation of law school the Bar for the area must be passed and then one year of supervised work must be conducted. The aplication for the bar is intensive and requires a full background check and requires the applicant to disclose some personal information in order to decide if the applicant can be considered as a Barrister.

Law Enforcement

Australia has several different police forces. There is one force for each of the six states and also The Australian Federal Police. Australian police forces are not closely associated with the military forces and military has no responsibility for the maintenance of civil order.

Australian police recruits must complete there secondary education in order to be eligibe for the recruiting process. University training is encouraged for all Australian Federal Police applicants. A extensive medical and psychological test are administered to each recruit. These test measure the physical and mental well-being of a recruit to ensure they are able to handle the day to day stresses of the job. Recruits are also evaluated on their overall suitability, competence, physical fitness, and character.[28]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion

Crime rates are fairly high in Australia. The most common offenses are drug offenses, with 86,470 total for the years 1991-1992. This estimates to 494.1 per 100,000 people.[29] Crime data in Australia are collected from the annual reports of Australian police forces for each year. It is likely that there is significant reporting error due to unreported crimes, such as rape and assault.

Public Opinion on crime and criminal Justice

People in Australia on average do not favor a "tough on crime" perspective. In fact crime has decreased in the past couple of years in Australia.In 2005 the victimization prevalence rate for household crime was 6.2%, compared to 8.9% in 2002. Comparisons with 2002 for all selected types of household crime showed statistically significant decreases in the prevalence rates for: break-in, where the victimization rate in 2005 was 3.3% compared with 4.7% in 2002 attempted break-in, where the victimization rate in 2005 was 2.6% compared with 3.4% in 2002 motor vehicle theft, where the victimization rate in 2005 was 1.0% compared with 1.8% in 2002. For personal crime, the victimization prevalence rate for 2005 remained unchanged from the 2002 figure of 5.3%.[30] Most Australians have faith in the Justice system in Australia.


Family Law

Family law matters are handled by each of the six states individually. There are not many restrictions on the marriage of adult couples, even same sex marriage is allowed in Australia. A special act was put in place for the same sex marriages in 2002, called The Act Amendment (lesbian and gay law reform) Act.[31]Marriages must be conducted by a minister of religion, by a State Registrar, or by other persons authorized by the Attorney-General. Notice of the intended marriage must be given to the official conducting the marriage ceremony at least one month but not more than six months before the marriage.[32] Other paper work must also be completed in order for the marriage to be official, fourteen days after the marriage has taken place. In 1991 an Act was introduced that required minimum ages at marriage of 18 for males and 18 for females. Marriages of minors (for males aged 16 or 17 and for females aged 14 or 15) are allowed only if a judge or magistrate issued an order permitting the marriage or with their parents permission. Under no circumstances may and juvenile under the age of 18 be married.[33]

Divorce is allowed Australia, however certain guidelines must be followed. One can separate without having to file any divorce paperwork. One must be separated for 12 months or more before one can officially file for a divorce. An application is taken by The Federal Magistrates Court, who then decides for or against the divorce. The splitting of properties is decided between the divorcees. This is rarely not taken to court unless absolutely necessary.

Like America, there is no right to child-bearing, and children can be taken from the home if there is suspected abuse or neglect. Adoption rights are obtainable, however they are not set in stone. Adoption of international regions is allowed, however the process is much lengthier. Same sex partners are allowed to adopt as well as male and female partners.

Inheritances are set up privately for the most part. Spouses are legally entitled to most of the spouses' land, buildings, etc. With a will more or less can be given to the spouse and children. There are no probate courts in Australia and any other matters concerning properties will be handled by one of the state courts first if there is any problems with inheritance.

Social Inequality

Women are unrepresented, although they have full citizenship rights, in some aspects of Australian life. For example women are underrepresented in managerial positions in the work place. They also remain unrepresented in the political era as well. There are a lack of family-friendly exceptions and maternity in the work place contributing to w omens under representation.[34] Women are also earning less than those men that are in top positions at work. This is not much different from other areas of the world, including America.

Minors do not have full citizenship rights. They are considered part of a protected community. Elders are also a protected community, however they do have full citizenship rights and are generally not treated much differently than other adults.

There is a severe discrimination against the Aborigines in Australia. In February 208 the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made a public apology to the Indigenous people for abuses of Indigenous ancestors.[35] The Aborigines do not have access to equal opportunity health care in Australia and because of this the life expectancy is much lower for the Indigenous population. The is a lack of proper living areas, clean water, and healthy foods. Many Aborigines suffer from alcoholism. The Aborigines also have separate schools than most Australians, whom pay for private boarding education, thus the Aborigines may not receive a good education. There have been numerous attempts by amnesty groups to try and rectify this rising problem.

Human Rights

Rights in Australia range from protection of Free speech, religion, criminal trials, appeals, bail, and not to be denied the right to vote, and travel.Australians also have rights concerning children protection, health care, and marriage. Recently the right to own a firearm in ones own house was revoked and it has become a law that no person in Australia can own a firearm unless allowed by the Government (such as police etc.)There are many more rights, which are all practiced by the Constitution of Australia and reviewed consistently by the High Courts.

Immigrants who have not attained citizenship in Australia are supplied with some rights like health care, however, they are not given all rights. Immigrants also must be on some sort of visa in the country, school, work, spouse, or working vacation related. It is hard to gain citizen ship into Australia. All immigration paper work for permanent citizenship is done on a point system and so many points are given based on whether or not a person is attending school in Australia, has worked in Australia before, has vacationed to Australia, etc. After a persons temporary visa is expired, they must immediately leave the country. Also, while under a work visa one cannot keep the same job for more than six months at a time. Australia,also,does accept refugees and even has separate schools were people can volunteer to teach and help refugee children from the Middle Eastern areas.[36]

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Australian.



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