Australia Facts, Description, People, Language, Economy
Australia, located in the Asia Pacific region, is a stable, culturally diverse, western democracy made up of of 6 semi-autonomous states and two territories. It is the 6th largest country and the 12th largest economy in the world. Australia has a multicultural English speaking population of 24.5 million people.
Located between 10° and 39° South latitude in the Southern Hemisphere in southeast of Asia, Australia is the world’s smallest continent and its biggest island. (Because Australia is a continent it doesn't officially earn the title of biggest island. This title goes to Greenland). It is bounded by the India Ocean on the west, the Timor, Arafura and Coral seas to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea to the southeast.
Australia is the 6th biggest country in the world comprising of a landmass of 7,682,300 km² and includes 8,222 islands in its territory. It is about 31 times bigger than the UK, 22 times bigger than Germany and a bit smaller than the continental USA. Australia is approximately 4000 kilometres wide, from east to west and spans three time zones. It is 3860 kilometres long from its most northerly point of Cape York to its most southerly point on the island of Tasmania. Being an island continent Australia has 34,218 kilometres of coastline and over 10,000 beaches.
The continent of Australia is the oldest, smallest, flattest and second driest continent on earth (Antarctica is the driest). The highest point in Australia is Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales which is 2,228 metres above sea level. The lowest point is the dry lake bed of Lake Eyre in South Australia which is 15 metres below sea level.
The geography of the country is extremely diverse, ranging from the snow-capped mountains to large arid deserts, tropical rainforests and temperate forests. Because of its location in the middle of a tectonic plate, Australia does not have any active volcanoes. The country has 10 deserts that cover nearly 20% of its landmass. The largest of these is the Great Victorian Desert located in Western Australia which is 1.5 times larger than all of the UK. Even though it is the driest continent in the world; because of its sheer size, it has more snowfall than Switzerland.
The Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Australia is the world's largest coral reef.
Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere. As a consequence its weather is “upside down”. That is; its seasons are the opposite of those in the western hemisphere. Summer is from December to February and winter is from June to August.
The Land of Oz
The Strine word "Oz" is a phonetic shortened form of the word Australia. It first appeared in 1906 as “Oss” and sometimes as “Aus” (rhymes with boss). This morphed into “OZ”, sounding the same as oss and Aus. This transformation may have been a consequence of the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.
What the People of Australia Call Their Home We Come from the Land Down Under
Australia, Oz, Land Down Under, Aussie - The people of Australia refer to their country by these names.
The Country - It is a stretch of land about 400 kilometres deep along the south-eastern and south-western seaboard of Australia immediately outside a city. Upper Beaconsfield, the Great Ocean Road , the Dandenongs are in "the country".
The official name for Australia is the Commonwealth of Australia.
The nation of Australia was official proclaimed on the 1st of January 1901 when the former colonies and territories of the British Empire that occupied the continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania agreed to join together (federate) to form a country. These now constitute six states and two territories.
The capital of Australia is Canberra and is located in the Australian Capital Territory.
As an anachronism from its colonial past, the Head of State of the Commonwealth of Australia is the monarch of the United Kingdom who is represented in Australia by the Governor General. Each state too has its own Governor General appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom. There has been some debate of Australia cutting its ties with the UK and becoming a republic. However, there hasn't been great enthusiasm from the Australian people to do so yet.
How Did Australia get its Name? Who Named Australia
In about 200AD a Greek astronomer and mapmaker named Claudius Ptolemy believed that the earth had to be balanced or it would topple over. So he drew in an imaginary land on the bottom of his maps of the world. Over time this imaginary land came to be referred to as Terra Australis Incognita which means the Unknown Southern Land.
Dutch explorers of the 17th century referred to the northern, western and southern coasts of the Australian continent as Nova Hollandia (Latin for 'New Holland'). The first ever recorded used of the word in English was in “A note of Austrialia del Espíritu Santo” by Sir Richard Hakluyt in the publication Hakluytus Posthumus. Hakluyt borrowed this name from the Spanish who in 1606 called the present day island of Vanuatu "Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" (Southern-Austrian Land of the Holy Spirit). “Austrialia” being a concatenation of Australis and Austria whose kings ruled Spain at that time. The British explorer James Cook in 1770 used the word "Astralia" but only in to context of the Spanish name for Vanuvatu. Cook continued to use the term New Holland and called the land he claimed for the British New South Wales. George Shaw in his work Zoology of New Holland of 1794 wrote "the vast Island or rather Continent of Australia, Australasia, or New Holland, which has so lately attracted... particular attention." It was the English explorer Matthew Flinders who was the first to circumnavigate the entire continent in 1803 and referred to it in his hand drawn map of the continent as Terra Australis but in a footnote to his 1814 book A Voyage to Terra Australis he noted:
"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."
On 12 December 1817, Governor Lachlan Macquarie recommended to the British Colonial Office that the "Australia" be adopted as the name of the continent still being referred to as New Holland. Finally, in 1824, the British Admiralty agreed that the continent should be officially called Australia.
Population of Australia Australian People
The people of Australia are called Australians. Their general cultural outlook is Western (similar to that of the United Kingdom and USA) but it has evolved into a uniquely Australasian cultural identity. Australian live in a harmonious multicultural society which respects the different cultures, religions and customs of all its people.
The population of Australia is approximately 24.5 million people and grows at the rate of roughly 400,00 people an year. It is one of the least populated places on earth. There are less people in all of Australia than are in just a city such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta or New Delhi. There are only 3 people per square kilometre. By comparison China has 146, India 441, Japan 348, USA 35 and UK 269. Because most of the interior of the country is extremely hot and arid most of the population lives along the more hospitable eastern coastal area of the country.
Australia is also has one of the most highly urbanised societies in the world, about 90% of the population live in cities and towns. The country's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, hold nearly 30% of the entire population of the country.
Almost 94% of the population are of European decent and as a result we have a western outlook and culture. Over 90% of the population is made up of immigrants or the children of immigrants who arrived here during the last two centuries. 28% percent of people living in Australia today were born in a foreign country and migrated here. Nearly 50% of all Australians living today are from an overseas country or have at least one parent who was born overseas.
While we may all call ourselves Australians, if you were to ask the question were did your come from or what is your ethnicity the statistics are as follows: English 25.9%, Australian 25.4%, Irish 7.5%, Scottish 6.4%, Italian 3.3%, German 3.2%, Chinese 3.1%, Indian 1.4%, Greek 1.4%, Dutch 1.2%, other 20% and Aboriginal 2.5%. Over one third of the population report two ancestries, such as English-Irish for example.
Australian Language Australian English and Multilingual Population
Australia is an English speaking country. While there is no “official” language as such. English is the first language of the majority of the population and the language used in government and business communications.
The English used in Australia is "Australian English" which is derived from British English. So for example, Australians spell color as colour and center as centre. Australians also love to shorten words and create slang words. They make up all sorts of new words, referred to as Strine, adding a rich vocabulary of new words to their language such as rellie (a relative), and tradie (a trades-person). The Australian accent and the pronunciation of words is uniquely Australian and sits somewhere between that of the British and Americans.
Because Australia is a multicultural society made up of people from all over the world; there are about 225 different languages and dialects spoken by people living in Australia. The most common languages spoken other than English are Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hindi and Tagalog.
Australian Economy 12th Largest in the World
Australia has a stable modern market economy which is the 12th largest in the world. It is about the same size as that of Russia and bigger than that of Spain and Mexico. The average growth rate over the last 17 years has been 3%. It has first world social, education, health and transport infrastructure. The service sector constitutes 59% of Australian GDP, mining 5%, manufacturing 7%, retail 5% and construction 9%. Australia is a major exporter of wheat, wool, iron-ore, gold, liquefied natural gas and coal.
Australian System of Government Federal, State and Local
Australian Compulsory Voting System
Australia has a compulsory voting system where all eligible citizens are expected to exercise their civic responsibility by selecting their elected representatives of government. As a consequence of this voter turnout at elections is about 95%. Those who do not vote without good cause (such as illness or religious prohibition) may be fined up to $170 and even an appear in a court of law.
(The voter turnout in general elections in the UK in 2015 was 59% and only 55% in the US general election of 2016.)
Australia is a representative democracy following the Westminster System of government (like that of the UK). Being a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen is the head of state and the powers of government are limited by the constitution. There are three branches of government. These are the legislative, which makes laws, the executive which administers the laws made by the legislative branch and runs the government and the judicial branch which interprets the and uphold the laws of the land. Adequate checks and balances exist, including a free and raucous press to ensure that no branch of government abuses its authority.
Federal Commonwealth Government
The federal government is responsible for trade, taxation, immigration, citizenship, social security, defence, industrial relations and foreign affairs. Commonwealth law overrules state laws where the law is within these constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
Every state and territory has its own parliament and its own constitution. State and territory governments are responsible for those powers not administered by the commonwealth government. Typically these cover education, health and safety and public infrastructure.
The powers of local government vary from state to state and are those allocated by the state government. These usually include town planning, building codes, waste and sanitary services, and community facilities.
Australia's long isolation from the rest of the world has allowed Australian fauna to evolve separately from those in other parts of the world, but many fill similar niches in the local environment. For example the Echidna is an Australian anteater. The Tasmanian Tiger (now extinct) was a marsupial wolf.
Australian Plants Native Australian Plants
Australia has an estimated 27,700 native plant species (The UK has approximately 1,700). These include the Acacia, Eucalyptus and Grevillea.
Our Other Fantastic Pages
Australia has some of the most unusual animals in the world.
Great Barrier Reef
Located in Australia it is the world's largest coral reef.
The Aboriginals were the first people to come to Australia.
The Outback is vast and breathtakingly beautiful.
Waltzing Matilda is Australia's favourite song.