Australia

Where in the World?

 

Australia is the only island continent on Earth. Because it is positioned in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by water, it has the nickname “the land down under”. It combines a wide variety of landscapes. These include interior deserts, hills and mountains,

tropical rainforests, and densely populated coastal strips with long beaches and coral reefs off the shoreline.

Here in the World

Australia on the map

People and the Past

Indigenous people, called Aborigines, have inhabited the island continent for over 40,000 years before arrival of the first Europeans. Today, about 60,000 Aborigines live in Australia. Many different cultures of Aborigines evolved across the country and off-shore islands. Evidence of their history can be seen in artifacts and spectacular rock art sites throughout the continent.

The British founded the first European settlement in 1788 and named it Sydney. Many of the first settlers were convicts. Free settlers arrived in increasing numbers, particularly after the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century

Today 99% of the population is of European or Asian descent.

In recent years sports have helped many people discover more about Australia. In 2000, Australia hosted the summer Olympic Games. Australia also has had top sports stars in cricket, sailing, swimming, cycling and tennis. Top national sports are cricket and Aussie Rules football.

Making A Living

The strong, services-based economy has seen sustained growth while mining and agriculture provide the country’s main share of exports.

Australia's Unique Creatures

Because it is isolated from other continents, Australia has an abundance of unique plant and animal life. Many of its animals are the most recognizable in the world, such as kangaroos, koalas, wombats, cockatoo parrots and dingoes. Australia is home to the world’s only two egg-laying mammal species, the platypus and the echidna. Australia also has five of the world’s deadliest snakes and the second largest land lizard, the perenti (pur-en-tee). Australia is interesting for wildlife it doesn’t have – no native cats, no monkeys, and no hoofed animals (like cows and antelopes).

Australia is home to the largest living structure on Earth – the Great Barrier Reef – off its eastern coastline in the western Pacific Ocean. The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2000 km north to south and is the only living thing on Earth that can be seen from the moon.

Australia FastFACTS

FastFACTS about the Land Down Under

  • Full name: Commonwealth of Australia
  • Nickname: The Land Down Under or Oz
  • Population: 20.7 million (UN, 2007)
  • Capital: Canberra
  • Largest city: Sydney
  • Area: 7.7 million sq km
  • Highest point: Mawson Peak 2745 m
  • Lowest point: Lake Eyre 15 m
  • Major language: English
  • Major religion: Christianity, traditional Aboriginal Dreamtime beliefs
  • Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 84 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Ores and metals, wool, wheat, sugar, sheep, beef, fuels, transport machinery and equipment
  • Income per person (average): US $35,960 (World Bank, 2007)
  • Internet domain: .au
  • International dialing code: +61