Australia, formally the Commonwealth of Australia, is a nation that spans the Australian continent, including the mainland, the island of Tasmania, and a slew of smaller islands. It is the sixth-largest nation in the globe in terms of total area. To the north are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor; to the north-east are the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; and to the south-east is New Zealand. Canberra is the capital of Australia, while Sydney is the biggest metropolitan area.
Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 50,000 years prior to the arrival of the first British settlers in the late 18th century. Indigenous Australians spoke languages classified into approximately 250 groupings. Following the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Great Britain claimed Australia’s eastern half in 1770 and colonized it originally through convict transportation to the colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. The population increased rapidly over the following decades, and by the 1850s, the majority of the continent had been explored, with the establishment of five more self-governing crown colonies. The six colonies federated on 1 January 1901, creating the Commonwealth of Australia. Since then, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system in which it operates as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy composed of six states and numerous territories. The 24 million-strong population is largely urbanized and centered along the eastern coast.
Australia has the 13th biggest economy in the world and the ninth greatest per capita income (IMF). With the world’s second-highest human development index, the nation excels in several areas, including quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and civil freedoms and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Geography of Australia
The land mass of Australia is either the smallest continent in the world or the largest island in the world. make up most of the land area of Oceania.
The Australian nation comprises the Australian mainland and some smaller islands (such as Tasmania). With an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres, it is the sixth largest country in the world. Its size is comparable to that of the 48 contiguous United States, although it has less than a tenth of the population, with distances between cities and towns easily underestimated. Australia is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the west and the South Pacific Ocean to the east. To the southeast is the Tasman Sea, which separates it from New Zealand, while to the northeast is the Coral Sea. Australia’s northern neighbours are Papua New Guinea, East Timor as well as Indonesia, which are divided from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
All of Australia is very urbanised, with most of the population being highly concentrated on the east and southeast coasts. Most inland regions are semi-arid. The most populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but Western Australia is by far the most populous state.
Australia has large areas that have been cleared for agriculture, but there are still many areas of native forest in large national parks and other undeveloped areas. Australia’s long-term concerns include salinity, pollution, biodiversity loss, and the management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
Culture of Australia
Australia has a multicultural population that practices almost every religion and lifestyle. Over a quarter of Australians were born outside Australia, and another quarter have at least one foreign-born parent. Virtually every major Australian city reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that took place after World War II and continued until the 1970s. In the half century after the war, the Australian population boomed from around 7 million to just over 20 million. The cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are culturally diverse and host communities from all parts of the world.
In all major cities, you will find a variety of global foods in many restaurants. Melbourne promotes itself as a centre for the arts, while Brisbane introduces itself through a variety of multi-cultural urban villages. Adelaide is known as a centre for festivals and German cultural influences, while Perth is known for its food and wine culture, pearls, gems and precious metals, and the International Festival of Fringe Arts. Smaller rural settlements generally still reflect the majority Anglo-Celtic culture, often with a small Aboriginal population. Most of the rural areas of the country are still welcoming visitors and typically have a history and local products to share.
There are about half a million Australians who identify as Aboriginal. Most live in the major cities, but some live in Aboriginal communities scattered around the country. There are many opportunities and cultural activities for people who want to explore their culture.
Contrary to popular mythology, descendants of convicts are a minority, and even in the years of transport, settlers outnumbered convict migrants by at least five to one.
People in Australia in general can be relatively socially conservative in comparison to some European cultures. However, Australians tend to be more relaxed when it comes to religious observance. Address modes are informal and familiar, and most Australians address you by your first name from first contact and expect you to do the same to them.
Demographics of Australia
Until World War II, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants were from the British Isles, and the majority of Australians have British or Irish ancestry. At the 2011 Census of Australia, the main nominated ethnic ancestries being English (36.1%), Australian (35.4%), Irish (10.4%), Scottish (8.9%), Italian (4.6%), German (4.5%), Chinese ( 4.3%), Indian (2.0%), Greek (1.9%) and Dutch (1.7%).
Since the end of the WWI, Australia’s population has quadrupled, most of this population increase is the result of immigration. After World War II and up to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that almost two in seven Australians were born in another country. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration rate includes categories for family members and refugees. By 2050, the current Australian population is expected to reach around 42 million. However, population density remains among the lowest in the world at 2.8 people per square kilometre. As such, Australians have more living space per person than residents of any other nation.
24.6% Australians where born elsewhere and 43.1% of the population had as least one parent born overseas. The five largest immigrant groups were those from Britain, New Zealand, China, India and Vietnam. After the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, numerous government initiatives were launched to promote and encourage racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism. In 2005-2006, more than 131,000 people migrated to Australia, mainly from Asia and Oceania. The migration target for 2012-2013 is 190,000 compared to 67,900 in 1998-1999.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – was estimated at 548,370 (2.5% from the total population), significantly increased in 2011 compared to 115,953 in the 1976. The increase is partly due to many people of Indigenous heritage being previously overlooked in the census due to undercounting and cases where their Indigenous status was not recorded on the form. Indigenous Australians have higher than average rates of incarceration and unemployment, lower levels of education and lower life expectancy for men and women, 11 and 17 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians respectively. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having ‘state failed’ conditions.
Like many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population with more retirees and fewer people of working age. An average age of the population in 2004 was 38.8 years.
Religion in Australia
Australia does not have a state religion; section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making laws establishing a religion, enforcing religious observance or prohibiting the free practice of a religion. According to the 2011 census, 61.1% Australians identified as Christian, from which 25.3% were identified as Roman Catholic and 17.1% as Anglican. 22.3% from the population said they had “no religion”; 7.2% identify themselves with non-Christian religions, of which the most numerous are Buddhism (2.5%), to be followed by Islam (2.2%), Hinduism (1.3%) and Judaism (0.5%). The remaining 9.4% of the population did not give an adequate answer.
Prior to European settlement, the animistic beliefs of Indigenous Australians had been practised for many thousands of years. Mainland Australian Aboriginal spirituality is known as Dreamtime and places great emphasis on belonging to the land. The collection of stories it contains shaped Aboriginal law and customs. Aboriginal art, history and dance continue to draw on these spiritual traditions. The spirituality and customs of the Torres Strait Islander people living on the islands between Australia and New Guinea reflected their Melanesian origins and dependence on the sea. The 1996 Australian census counted more than 7000 respondents as adherents of a traditional Aboriginal religion.
Since the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788, Christianity has become the most important religion in Australia. Christian churches have played a significant role in the development of education, health and social services in Australia. For much of Australia’s history, the Church of England (now known as the Anglican Church of Australia) was the largest religious denomination. Multicultural immigration, however, contributed significantly to a decline of its relative position, giving the Roman Catholic Church the advantage from recent immigration for becoming the largest group. Similarly, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism have grown in Australia over the last half century.
Australia has one of the lowest religious attachments in the world. In 2001, only 8.8% of Australians attended church weekly.
Economy of Australia
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy with a GDP per capita comparable to other advanced economies.
The service industry, including tourism, education and financial services, accounts for just over half of Australia’s GDP – about 60%. Within the services sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia as it creates jobs, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.
Primary industries – mining and agriculture – have accounted for most of Australia’s exports in recent decades. In addition to wheat, beef and wool, iron ore and coal are by far the largest exports. The mining sector is sensitive to global demand for iron ore, with events in the Chinese and Indian economies having a direct impact.
Australia has a comprehensive social security system and a higher minimum wage than the US or the UK. Due to the lack of supply, artisans in Australia are well paid, often more than white-collar workers.
Politics in Australia
Australia has a federal system of government with six state governments and two territories, as well as a national government. It also has several overseas territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans that are given considerable autonomy and are often not fully integrated with the rest of Australia. Laws vary slightly from state to state, but for the most part are fairly uniform.
The national parliament is based on the British Westminster system, with some elements from the American congressional system. It consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives at the federal level. Each member of the House of Representatives (colloquially referred to as the Member of Parliament (MP)) represents an electoral division, with more populous states having more electoral divisions and thus more MPs. On the other hand, similar to the US Senate, each Australian state has an equal number of senators, with 12 senators elected directly by the people of each state and 2 senators each from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Prime Minister is the head of the national government and leader of the political party (or coalition of parties) that has the most members in the House of Representatives.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is also Queen of Australia and Head of State and is represented in Australia by the Governor-General. It was not until 1975 that the Governor-General was able to dismiss the incumbent government and the then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Since then, constitutional ties have weakened and the roles of the Queen and the Governor-General are largely symbolic, with the Prime Minister being the one who exercises the greatest authority in government. A referendum to make Australia a republic was rejected in 1999 (the idea of replacing the Queen with a political appointment did not appeal to most Australians). Republicanism in Australia remains a regular topic of conversation, albeit low on the list of real priorities.
State and territory governments are organised in a similar way to national governments, with a state parliament acting as the legislature and the premier (prime minister in the territories) as the head of government. There is also a Governor for each state who acts as the Queen’s representative in a mostly ceremonial role.
The two main political parties in Australia are the Australian Labour Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party, which operates in coalition with the National Party (referred to only as the “Coalition”). In addition, there are smaller parties including the Greens, and independents. While the Liberal Party is a conservative on the centre-right, where the concept of liberal applies to a free market economy.
Things To Know Before Traveling To Australia
In Australia, there can be up to five different time zones during summer time, and three at other times.
In the east, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria always have the same time. Queensland does not observe daylight saving time and is therefore one hour behind the other eastern states during this time.
In the middle, South Australia and the Northern Territory are half an hour behind in winter, but the Northern Territory does not observe daylight saving time, while South Australia does. During daylight saving time, South Australia is half an hour behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, but half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory stays half an hour behind Queensland, but moves one and a half hours behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
In the west, Western Australia is two hours behind the eastern states in winter and also does not observe daylight saving time. It is three hours behind the eastern states that observe daylight saving time (two hours behind Queensland).
There are no official abbreviations or names for the Australian time zones, and you may see some variations used. EST, CST, WST as well as EDT, CDT are sometimes used. Sometimes AEST, etc., with the prefix “A” to distinguish them from North American time zones with the same names. Abbreviations are not used in conversation. People tend to say Sydney time, Brisbane time or Perth time. Expect blank looks from most people when you start talking about Central Daylight Saving Time.
In states that use daylight saving time, it begins on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.
|New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania. ACT||UTC+10||UTC+11|
The mains voltage specified in AS 60038 has been 230V with a tolerance of +10% -6% and 50Hz since 2000. This was done for voltage harmonisation reasons – however, 240V (and rarely 250V) is within the tolerance and is commonly supplied. Mains voltage is still popularly referred to as “two forty volts”. Hotel bathrooms are often fitted with a type I, C and A plug labelled “for shaver only”, as shown right, and a normal 3-prong (earthed) plug; two-prong (the two angled pins) non-earthed plugs are also common. For larger appliances, a 3-phase (415V) plug is also used.
Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents can work in Australia without a permit, but others need a work visa. It is illegal for foreigners to do paid work in Australia on a tourist visa. Be aware that any form of compensation for services rendered, whether monetary or otherwise (e.g. room and board), is considered payment in Australia, which means that such work would be illegal on a tourist visa. Volunteering is allowed as long as it is related to the trip (i.e. not the main purpose of the trip). Foreign nationals on student visas are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during school holidays. Working illegally in Australia carries a very real risk of arrest, detention, deportation and a permanent ban on re-entry to Australia. All visitors who are not permanent residents or Australian citizens (including New Zealand citizens who are not also permanent residents or Australian citizens) are not eligible to access the Australian Unemployment Insurance Scheme and have limited or no access to the Australian government’s health care payment system.
Payment and taxes
Most Australian employers pay by direct deposit into Australian bank accounts, so you should open a bank account as soon as possible. You can open an account from overseas with some banks, such as Commonwealth Bank and HSBC.
You also need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) as soon as possible. You can apply for a TFN for free online at the Australian Taxation Office website, but you can usually get it faster by simply visiting an Australian Taxation Office. You can also start working without a tax number, but it is advisable to get one as soon as possible as your employer will have to deduct 45% of your wages for tax if you don’t provide a number. Register your TFN with your bank as soon as possible or the interest you receive will be taxed at the highest rate. The Australian tax year runs from 1 July to 30 June and tax returns for each year are due on 30 October, four months after the end of the year. Find out about Australian tax obligations and how to complete an Australian tax return from the Australian tax authorities.
The Australian employer makes a compulsory payment on your behalf from your earnings into an Australian superannuation (retirement) fund. Visitors on a temporary work visa who are not Australian or New Zealand citizens must apply for this money when they leave Australia. This payment is known as the Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP) and you can apply for it online. New Zealand citizens can transfer their superannuation money to their KiwiSaver account in New Zealand; contact your provider to arrange this transfer.
Working Holiday Programme
Australia has a working holiday program for citizens of certain countries aged 18 to 30. This programme allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter the country. You can work during this time, but only for 6 months with the same employer. The idea is that you take a leave of absence that is subsidised by casual or short-term employment. If you are interested in working leave, some useful skills and experience might be: Office skills that you can use for temporary work, or hospitality skills that you can use to work in a bar or restaurant. An alternative is seasonal work, such as fruit picking, although many seasonal jobs require you to work outside of major cities. If you work in seasonal work for three months, you can apply for a second 12-month visa.
You can apply for a Working Holiday Visa online, but you do not need to be in Australia at the time. It usually only takes a few hours to process your application and costs around $360 (as of April 2013). When you arrive in Australia, get the Working Holiday Visa “notarised” so you can present it to your future employer.
The easiest way to get a work visa (subclass 457, 186 and 187) is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. Your employer must prove that they cannot hire someone with your skills in Australia. Locally advertised jobs usually require a valid work visa before your application can be considered. It may take a few months from the start of the application process to obtain the visa, and you will need to undergo a medical examination by an immigration doctor before it is granted (including a chest X-ray to show you do not have tuberculosis). An employer with good experience and effective immigration lawyers could have your 457 approved within a week. Note that your work visa is only valid for the employer who sponsored you and that you must leave within 30 days of the end of your employment.
The RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa (subclass 187) is the easiest visa for employers to obtain, although you must live and work in a designated ‘regional’ area. These areas tend to be rural and away from major cities, although Adelaide is included in this scheme.
Qualified independent visas (subclass 189, 190, 489) can be applied for if you have a valuable specialised skill and do not want to be tied to a particular employer.
There is also a temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) that allows graduates of Australian universities to stay and work in Australia. This visa is usually valid for between 18 months and 4 years, depending on your level of education and your major field of study. Your major field of study must be on a list of skilled occupations for which there is a labour shortage in Australia. This list is updated every year and whether you can get this visa depends on the list when you graduate, not when you start your studies.
You can apply for immigration as a professional or business person, but this procedure takes longer than applying for a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residence status as a work or study visa holder, but your application will not be automatically accepted. If you have a lot of money, there are a number of investor visas that allow you to live in Australia for permanent residence. After four years of legal residence, including one year as a permanent resident, you can apply for Australian citizenship.
There are several opportunities for volunteering in Australia. Many global organisations offer longer trips for those who want to give up their time to work with local people on projects such as habitat restoration, conservation and development, scientific research and education programs, such as Australian Volunteers, World Wildlife Fund, International Student Volunteers Australia, Youth Challenge Australia, Gap 360 and Xtreme Gap Year.