About Australia

Australia is a country, and continent, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its major cities  Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide  are coastal, but its capital, Canberra, is inland and nicknamed the "Bush Capital." The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, Great Barrier Reef, the vast Outback (interior desert wilderness) and unique animal species including kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses.

Interactive map of Australia - click on a locality to go there

AdelaideTasmaniaLauncestonGeelongGippslandCanberraHobartCanberraAlice SpringsWollongongKalgoorlieSouth AustraliaLake EyrePort AugustaNewcastleBourkeCharlevilleBrisbaneBundabergQueenslandGeraldtonWestern AustraliaKarrathaPerthDerbyNorthern TerritoryKatherinePort HedlandTennant CreekWyndhamSunshine CoastDarwinMt IsaCape YorkGold CoastNew South WalesRockhamptonMelbourneSydneyMt GambiercentralTownsvilleCooktownVictoriaAlbanyMackay

Australia's People

Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people generally referred to as Australoids or Aborigines, arrived about 40,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained static - depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons - their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged from 1 person per square mile along the coasts to 1 person per 35 square miles in the arid interior.
  • About Aboriginal Culture

  • Australia may have been sighted by Portuguese sailors in 1601, and Capt. James Cook claimed it for the United Kingdom in 1770. At that time, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. The aboriginal population currently numbers more than 300,000, representing about 1.7% of the population. Since the end of World War II, efforts have been made both by the government and by the public to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs.

    Immigration has been essential to Australia's development since the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations, most settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook similar to those of Americans. However, since the end of World War II, the population has more than doubled; non-European immigration, mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, has increased significantly since 1960 through an extensive, planned immigration program. From 1945 through 1996, nearly 5.5 million immigrants settled in Australia, and about 80% have remained. Britain and Ireland have been the largest sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia.

    The 1970s saw progressive reductions in the size of the annual immigration program due to economic and employment conditions; in 1969-70, 185,000 persons were permitted to settle, but by 1975-76 the number had dropped to 52,700. Immigration has slowly risen since. In 1995-96, Australia accepted more than 99,000 regular immigrants. In 1999-2000, Australia accepted 82,000 new immigrants. In 2014, the number had reached 212,700. At 30 June 2014, 28.1% of Australia's estimated resident population (6.6 million people) was born overseas.

    Although Australia has between two to three persons per square kilometre, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries. Less than 15% of the population live in rural areas.

    Australia's Culture

    Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but distinctive Australian features have evolved from the environment, aboriginal culture, the influence of Australia's neighbours and the many migrants from around the world who have chosen to call Australia home. The vigour and originality of the arts in Australia - films, opera, music, painting, theatre, dance, and crafts - are achieving international recognition.

    Australia has had a significant school of painting since the early days of European settlement, and Australians with international reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, and Arthur Boyd. Writers who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White. Australian movies are also well known.

    Potted History

    The idigenous peoples of Australia are believed to have arrived about 40,000 years ago, perhaps by boat across the waters separating the island from the Indonesia archipelago. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English explorers observed Australia before 1770, when Lieut. James Cook explored the east coast and claimed it for Great Britain.

    On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day), the First Fleet under Capt. Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney, and formal proclamation of the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales followed on February 7. Many but by no means all of the first settlers were convicts, condemned to a 7-year sentence of Transportation to New South Wales for offences that today would often be thought trivial. The early-19th century saw the beginning of government policies to allow free trade, private enterprise, the emancipation of convicts and assist the immigration of free persons. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to a dramatic increase in population, wealth, and trade.

    The six British colonies that now constitute the states of the Australian Commonwealth were established in the following order: New South Wales, 1788; Tasmania, first settlement 1803, granted colonial independence 1825; Western Australia, first settlement 1829, granted self government, 1890; South Australia, first settlement 1836, granted self government, 1857; Victoria, first settlement 1803, granted colonial independence 1851; and Queensland, first settlement 1824, granted colonial independence 1859. The Northern Territory was first settled by Europeans in 1824, annexed by South Australia in 1863, separated from South Australia to become a territory under Commonwealth control 1911. For a brief time between 1926 and 1931 the Northern Territory was divided into North Australia and Central Australia at the 20th parallel of South latitude.

    Discussions between Australian and British representatives led to adoption by the British Government of an act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900.

    The first federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901 by the Duke of York (later King George V). In May 1927, the seat of government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city designed by an American, Walter Burley Griffin. The first session of Parliament in that city was opened by another Duke of York (later King George VI). Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942, which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs. Its passage formalized a situation that had existed for years. The Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last vestiges of British legal authority.

    Mount Schank, near Port MacDonnell in South Australia, is classed as Australia's only active volcano. It is believed to have been active as recently as 2,000 years ago.

    Australia's volcanic 'hot spots'

    Earth's crust is made up of a number of large saegments called tectonic plates. Australia sits upon the Indo-Australian plate. plate boundaries are areas of intense geological activity - earthquakes and volcanoes are common in places where the plates meet. As there are no plate boundaries passing through Australia, earthquake and volcanic activity is comparatively rare.

    However, hot spot volcanoes can form away from the plate boundaries. This occurs when a crustal plate drifts over an area of hot mantel. heat rises, melts part of the rock mass above and initiates volcanic activity. As the plates continue to drift, volcanic activity shuts down, but may reoccur in a new area. Australia is travelling northward and has been drifting over a hot spot that at present is believed to be under Bass Strait. Old volcanoes such as the Warrumbungles are believed to have been active above this hot spot. Australia's most recent volcanic activity was in the south (near the coast around the border of South Australia and Victoria).

    Significant portions of the land surfaces of Australia and New Zealand are covered by rocks that were originally molten. Volcanic rocks are igneous rocks that have cooled at or near the Earth's surface from lava, ash, and/or other materials associated with volcanic activity. The range of landforms developed upon this rock type includes volcanic spires, lava plains, crater lakes and granite domes and boulders. A wide range of features resulted, including crater lakes, ash cones, and lava plains.

How Big Is Australia?
Get the precise deatils about Australia's size and where it fits into the bigger scheme of things.
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  • Australia's Antipodes
    If you dug a hole from anywhere in Australia right through the centre of the earth to the other side, where would you come out?
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    • Only In Australia
      A collection of stories, facts and myths that could only happen in Australia.
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      • Finding The Centre of Australia
        The quest to find the centre of Australia and the centres of its states and territories.
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        • Extreme Australia
          Australia's biggest, smallest, oldest, highest, hottest, coldest, highest.
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          • Australia's National Anthem
            The story of "Advance Australia Fair" - Australia's National Anthem.
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            • Australia's Currency
              Australia's national currency is the Australian dollar (AUD) which comes in polymer (plastic) notes of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Coins are in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent denominations as well as $1 and $2 denominations.
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              • Mysteries and Myths
                Australian recorded history is peppered with myths, legends, far fetched stories, as well as an equal number of facts that are stranger than fiction.
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                • Maritime Exploration of Australia
                  A look at two millenia of journeys and expedition in search of what the ancients referred to as Terra Australis Incognita.

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