Australia is the 6th largest country in the world and has the world's 14th largest economy. It is a is a multicultural democracy with 25 million people.
Australia is a stable, culturally diverse western democracy made up of 6 semi-autonomous states and two territories. Australia has a multicultural English speaking population of approximately 25.36 million people as of 2019. It has first world social, education, health, and transport infrastructure.
The official name of the country is the Commonwealth of Australia. Colloquial names for Australia include Australia, Oz, Land Down Under, and Aussie.
Located between 10° and 39° South latitude in the Southern Hemisphere in the 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 Commonwealth of Australia is made up of six states and two territories.
The six states are: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. The two Territories are: The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory.
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.
The population of Australia is approximately 24.5 million people. 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 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 within 50km the coast. The country's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, hold nearly 30% of the entire population of the country.
Almost 94% of the population is of European descent, 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% 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.
The people of Australia are called Australians. While we may all call ourselves Australians, if you were to ask the question were did you 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.
More than half of the population claim that they are about average in happiness, 29% state that they are happier than average, and 17% are less happy than the average.
The life expectancy of a person in Australia is 82.5 years, compared to 78.5 in the US and 81.2 in the UK.
One percent of Australian households have a net worth above $5 million, and 10% are worth over $1.6 million. Australian have the second-highest median wealth after Switzerland.
There are almost as many passenger vehicles (18+ million) as there are adults in Australia.
Australia's homicide rate is 0.8 per 100,000 population compared to the 5.3 per 100,000 in the United States and 1.2 in the UK. There were 242 murders in Australia in 2017 compared to 13,696 in the USA. (Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime's International Homicide Statistics database).
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.
Ninety-nine percent (99%) of people ages fifteen and above can read and write with understanding a short, simple statement about their everyday life.
Primary and secondary education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and sixteen (School Year 1 - 9/10). The official medium of education is English. Some schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages.
Education is divided into:
–Primary school is from Kindergarten through to Year 6/7.
–Secondary school is from Years 7/8 to 10.
–Senior secondary school is from Years 11 to 12.
–Tertiary education, including universities and vocational education and training (VET) commences after Year 12.
Australia has a stable modern market economy, which is the 12th largest in the world (~A$1.89 trillion in 2019). 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%.
The service sector constitutes 68% 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. The agricultural and mining sectors account for 57% of the nation’s exports.
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 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 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.
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 has a comprehensive universal health care system using public and private service providers. A patient is free to choose their service providers. In 2016–17, Australia spent nearly $181 billion on health.
The public system (Medicare) is free or heavily subsidises and is funded through a tax of 2.7% levied on wage earners. It includes subsidised medicines, public hospitals, community-based services, and affiliated health organisations operated by state and territory governments. Medicare is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents in Australia, and people from countries with reciprocal medical care agreements.
The private system includes privately owned health service providers, such as private hospitals, specialist medical and allied health, and pharmacies. The cost of these services is funded by a combination of government and private entities, such as direct payment by the patient, Private health insurance, and government subsidies and grants.
Australia has some of the most unusual native animals in the world. Over 83% of the mammals, 7% of the birds, 89% of the reptiles, and 94% of the frogs are unique to Australia.
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, and 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.
As a result of Australia's history, geology, climate, and location, it has developed an exotic flora that is found nowhere else in the world. Australia has an estimated 27,700 native plant species (The UK has approximately 1,700). These include the Cycad Palm, Grass Tree, Waratah, Acacia, Eucalyptus and Grevillea.