Formally the Australian Confederation, Australia is a country that includes the Australian mainland, Tasmania and a number of small islands. In terms of total area, it is the sixth largest country in the world. Neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea to the north, Indonesia, East Timor, Solomon Islands and Banuatsu to the north-east and New Zealand to the south-east. The capital of Australia is Canberra and the largest urban area is Sydney.
Before the first British colonisation at the end of the 18th century, Australia was inhabited by Aboriginal Australians who spoke languages and were divided into about 250 groups for about 50,000 years. After a Dutch explorer discovered the continent in Europe in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the United Kingdom in 1770 and first transferred to the New South Wales colony on January 26, 1788. And settled. In the decades that followed, the population grew steadily and by the 1850s most of the continent had been surveyed and five more autonomous Crown Colonies had been established. On 1 January 1901, six colonies merged to form the Australian Federation. Since then, Australia has had a stable liberal democratic political system that acts as the constitutional monarchy of the federal parliament with six states and several territories. The population of 24 million is highly urbanised and mainly concentrated on the east coast.
Australia has the 13th largest economy in the world and the 9th highest per capita income (IMF). With the second highest Human Development Index in the world, the country ranks first in quality of life, health, education, financial freedom, civil liberty and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, the G20, the Federal Government, ANZUS, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organisation, 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.