Australia

Australia

Overview
Australia officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 comprising the mainland of the Australian continent
Australia (continent)
Australia is the world's smallest continent, comprising the mainland of Australia and proximate islands including Tasmania, New Guinea, the Aru Islands and Raja Ampat Islands...

, the island of Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 and Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

s. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area.
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Timeline

1616   Dutch sea-captain Dirk Hartog makes second recorded landfall by a European on Australian soil, at the later-named Dirk Hartog Island off the Western Australian coast.

1770   Captain James Cook sights the eastern coast of Australia.

1770   James Cook arrives at and names Botany Bay, Australia.

1770   James Cook formally claims eastern Australia for Great Britain, naming it New South Wales.

1770   James Cook's expedition lands on the east coast of Australia.

1787   Captain Arthur Phillip leaves Portsmouth, England, with eleven ships full of convicts (the "First Fleet") to establish a penal colony in Australia.

1788   The first elements of the First Fleet carrying 736 convicts from England to Australia arrives at Botany Bay.

1808   Rum Rebellion, the only successful (albeit short-lived) armed takeover of the government in Australia.

1813   In Australia, William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth lead an expedition westwards from Sydney. Their route opens up inland Australia for continued expansion throughout the 19th century.

1813   In Australia, Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth, reached Mount Blaxland, effectively marking the end of a route across the Blue Mountains.

 
Encyclopedia
Australia officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 comprising the mainland of the Australian continent
Australia (continent)
Australia is the world's smallest continent, comprising the mainland of Australia and proximate islands including Tasmania, New Guinea, the Aru Islands and Raja Ampat Islands...

, the island of Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 and Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

s. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Neighbouring countries include Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

, and Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

 to the north; the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

, Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

, and New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

 to the north-east; and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 to the south-east.

For at least 40,000 years before Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

,
who belonged to one or more of roughly 250 language groups. After discovery by Dutch
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 in 1770 and settled through penal transportation
Penal transportation
Transportation or penal transportation is the deporting of convicted criminals to a penal colony. Examples include transportation by France to Devil's Island and by the UK to its colonies in the Americas, from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s, and then to Australia between...

 to the colony of New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades; the continent was explored and an additional five self-governing
Responsible government
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

 Crown Colonies
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

 were established.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated
Federation of Australia
The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia formed one nation...

, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 political system which functions as a federal
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

. The federation comprises six states and several territories
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

. The population of 22.7 million is heavily concentrated in the Eastern states
Eastern states of Australia
In Australia, the term eastern states refers to the states adjoining the east coast of Australia. These are the mainland states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. The Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory, while not states, are also included. The term usually includes the...

 and is highly urbanised
Urbanization by country
This is a list of countries by urbanization. There are two measures of the degree of urbanization of a population. The first, urban population, describes the percentage of the total population living in urban areas, as defined by the country...

.

A highly developed country
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

, Australia is the world's thirteenth largest economy and has the world's sixth-highest per capita income. Australia's military expenditure is the world's twelfth largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom
Economic freedom
Economic freedom is a term used in economic and policy debates. As with freedom generally, there are various definitions, but no universally accepted concept of economic freedom...

, and the protection of civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

 and political rights. Australia is a member of the G20, OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

, WTO
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

, APEC
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region...

, UN
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, ANZUS
ANZUS
The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty is the military alliance which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States to cooperate on defence matters in the Pacific Ocean area, though today the treaty is understood to relate to attacks...

, and the Pacific Islands Forum
Pacific Islands Forum
The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum...

.

Etymology


Pronounced ustralian English phonology in Australian English
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

, the name Australia is derived from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 australis, meaning "southern". The country has been referred to colloquially as Oz since the early 20th century. Aussie
Aussie
Aussie is Australian slang for an Australian.-Pronunciation:In Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, the word is pronounced , with a sound; however, in the United States, it is most often pronounced with an sound...

 is a common colloquial term for "Australian".

Legends of Terra Australis Incognita
Terra Australis
Terra Australis, Terra Australis Ignota or Terra Australis Incognita was a hypothesized continent appearing on European maps from the 15th to the 18th century...

—an "unknown land of the South"—date back to Roman times and were commonplace in medieval geography, although not based on any documented knowledge of the continent. Following European discovery, names for the Australian landmass were often references to the famed Terra Australis.

The earliest recorded use of the word Australia in English was in 1625 in "A note of Australia del Espíritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt", published by Samuel Purchas
Samuel Purchas
Samuel Purchas , was an English travel writer, a near-contemporary of Richard Hakluyt.Purchas was born at Thaxted, Essex, and graduated at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1600; later he became a B.D., and with this degree was admitted at Oxford in 1615. In 1604 he was presented by James I to the...

 in Hakluytus Posthumus, a corruption of the original Spanish name Austrialia del Espíritu Santo for an island in Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

. The Dutch adjectival form Australische was used in a Dutch book in Batavia
History of Jakarta
The history of Jakarta begins with its first recorded mention as a Hindu port settlement in the 4th century. Ever since, the city had been variously claimed by the Indianized kingdom of Tarumanegara, Hindu Kingdom of Sunda, Muslim Sultanate of Banten, Dutch East Indies, Empire of Japan, and finally...

 (Jakarta
Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

) in 1638, to refer to the newly discovered lands to the south. Australia was later used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur dans la Découverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe, a 1676 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny
Gabriel de Foigny
Gabriel de Foigny is the author of an important utopia, La Terre Australe connue, 1676.-Life:All we know about Foigny, including his identity , is based exclusively on the second edition of Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique...

, under the pen-name Jacques Sadeur. Referring to the entire South Pacific region, Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple was a Scottish geographer and the first Hydrographer of the British Admiralty. He was the main proponent of the theory that there existed a vast undiscovered continent in the South Pacific, Terra Australis Incognita...

 used it in An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean in 1771. By the end of the 18th century, the name was being used to refer specifically to Australia, with the botanists George Shaw
George Shaw
George Shaw was an English botanist and zoologist.Shaw was born at Bierton, Buckinghamshire and was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, receiving his M.A. in 1772. He took up the profession of medical practitioner. In 1786 he became the assistant lecturer in botany at Oxford University...

 and Sir James Smith
James Edward Smith
Sir James Edward Smith was an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.Smith was born in Norwich in 1759, the son of a wealthy wool merchant. He displayed a precocious interest in the natural world...

 writing of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia or New Holland
New Holland (Australia)
New Holland is a historic name for the island continent of Australia. The name was first applied to Australia in 1644 by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman as Nova Hollandia, naming it after the Dutch province of Holland, and remained in use for 180 years....

" in their 1793 Zoology and Botany of New Holland, and James Wilson
James Wilson
James Wilson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Wilson was elected twice to the Continental Congress, and was a major force in drafting the United States Constitution...

 including it on a 1799 chart.

The name Australia was popularised by the explorer Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders
Captain Matthew Flinders RN was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent, which had previously been...

, who pushed for it to be formally adopted as early as 1804. When preparing his manuscript and charts for his 1814 A Voyage to Terra Australis
A Voyage to Terra Australis
A Voyage to Terra Australis: Undertaken for the Purpose of Completing the Discovery of that Vast Country, and Prosecuted in the Years 1801, 1802, and 1803, in His Majesty's Ship the Investigator was a sea voyage journal written by English mariner and explorer Matthew Flinders...

, he was persuaded by his patron, Sir Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage . Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him,...

, to use the term Terra Australis as this was the name most familiar to the public. Flinders did so, but allowed himself the footnote: This is the only occurrence of the word Australia in that text; but in Appendix III, Robert Brown
Robert Brown (botanist)
Robert Brown was a Scottish botanist and palaeobotanist who made important contributions to botany largely through his pioneering use of the microscope...

's General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis
General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis
General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis is an 1814 paper written by Robert Brown on the botany of Australia...

, Brown makes use of the adjectival form Australian throughout,—the first known use of that form. Despite popular conception, the book was not instrumental in the adoption of the name: the name came gradually to be accepted over the following ten years. Lachlan Macquarie
Lachlan Macquarie
Major-General Lachlan Macquarie CB , was a British military officer and colonial administrator. He served as the last autocratic Governor of New South Wales, Australia from 1810 to 1821 and had a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony...

, a Governor of New South Wales, subsequently used the word in his dispatches to England, and on 12 December 1817 recommended to the Colonial Office that it be formally adopted. In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

History


Human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago, possibly with the migration of people by land bridge
Land bridge
A land bridge, in biogeography, is an isthmus or wider land connection between otherwise separate areas, over which animals and plants are able to cross and colonise new lands...

s and short sea-crossings from what is now South-East Asia. These first inhabitants may have been ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. At the time of European settlement in the late 18th century, most Indigenous Australians were hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

s, with a complex oral culture
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 and spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime
Dreamtime
In the animist framework of Australian Aboriginal mythology, The Dreaming is a sacred era in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed The Creation.-The Dreaming of the Aboriginal times:...

. The Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, part of Queensland, Australia. They are culturally and genetically linked to Melanesian peoples and those of Papua New Guinea....

, ethnically Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

n, were originally horticulturalists and hunter-gatherers.

Following sporadic visits by fishermen from the Malay Archipelago
Malay Archipelago
The Malay Archipelago refers to the archipelago between mainland Southeastern Asia and Australia. The name was derived from the anachronistic concept of a Malay race....

, the first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent were attributed to the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon
Willem Janszoon
Willem Janszoon , Dutch navigator and colonial governor, is probably the first European known to have seen the coast of Australia. His name is sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz....

. He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

 on an unknown date in early 1606, and made landfall on 26 February at the Pennefather River
Pennefather River
The Pennefather River in Queensland, Australia, is located on western Cape York Peninsula at . The river is about 11 km long and up to about 2km wide.- External links :**...

 on the western shore of Cape York, near the modern town of Weipa
Weipa, Queensland
Weipa is the largest town on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia. At the 2006 census, Weipa had a population of 2,830; the largest community on Cape York Peninsula. It exists because of the enormous bauxite deposits along the coast...

. The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of "New Holland" during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement. William Dampier
William Dampier
William Dampier was an English buccaneer, sea captain, author and scientific observer...

, an English explorer and privateer landed on the north-west coast of Australia in 1688 and again in 1699 on a return trip. In 1770, James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 sailed along and mapped the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain. Cook's discoveries prepared the way for establishment of a new penal colony
Penal colony
A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general populace by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory...

. The British Crown Colony
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

 of New South Wales was formed on 26 January 1788, when Captain Arthur Phillip
Arthur Phillip
Admiral Arthur Phillip RN was a British admiral and colonial administrator. Phillip was appointed Governor of New South Wales, the first European colony on the Australian continent, and was the founder of the settlement which is now the city of Sydney.-Early life and naval career:Arthur Phillip...

 led the First Fleet
First Fleet
The First Fleet is the name given to the eleven ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people, including 778 convicts , to establish the first European colony in Australia, in the region which Captain Cook had named New South Wales. The fleet was led by Captain ...

 to Port Jackson
Port Jackson
Port Jackson, containing Sydney Harbour, is the natural harbour of Sydney, Australia. It is known for its beauty, and in particular, as the location of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge...

. This date became Australia's national day, Australia Day
Australia Day
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia...

. Van Diemen's Land
Van Diemen's Land
Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the island of Tasmania, now part of Australia. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to land on the shores of Tasmania...

, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803 and became a separate colony in 1825. The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Australia in 1828.

Separate colonies were carved from parts of New South Wales: South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

 in 1836, Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

 in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia. South Australia was founded as a "free province"—it was never a penal colony. Victoria and Western Australia were also founded "free", but later accepted transported convicts
Convicts in Australia
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their...

. A campaign by the settlers of New South Wales led to the end of convict transportation to that colony; the last convict ship arrived in 1848.

The indigenous population, estimated at 750,000 to 1,000,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease. The "Stolen Generations" (removal of Aboriginal children from their families), which historians such as Henry Reynolds
Henry Reynolds (historian)
Henry Reynolds is an eminent Australian historian whose primary work has focused on the frontier conflict between European settlement of Australia and indigenous Australians.-Education and career:...

 have argued could be considered genocide, may have contributed to the decline in the Indigenous population. Such interpretations of Aboriginal history are disputed by conservative commentators such as former Prime Minister John Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 as exaggerated or fabricated for political or ideological reasons. This debate is known within Australia as the History wars
History wars
The history wars in Australia are an ongoing public debate over the interpretation of the history of the British colonisation of Australia and development of contemporary Australian society...

. The Federal government gained the power to make laws with respect to Aborigines following the 1967 referendum
Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals)
The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration 1967, which became law on 10 August 1967 following the results of the referendum...

. Traditional ownership of land—aboriginal title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius
Terra nullius
Terra nullius is a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning "land belonging to no one" , which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished...

 ("land belonging to no one") before European occupation.

A gold rush
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

 began in Australia in the early 1850s, and the Eureka Rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

. Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government
Responsible government
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence, and international shipping.
On 1 January 1901 federation of the colonies
Federation of Australia
The Federation of Australia was the process by which the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia formed one nation...

 was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation, and voting. The Commonwealth of Australia was established and it became a dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

 of the British Empire in 1907. The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed in 1911 as the location for the future federal capital of Canberra. Melbourne was the temporary seat of government from 1901 to 1927 while Canberra was constructed. The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the federal parliament in 1911. In 1914, Australia joined Britain in fighting World War I, with support from both the outgoing Liberal Party and the incoming Labor Party. Australians took part in many of the major battles fought on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

. Of about 416,000 who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 152,000 were wounded. Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial...

 (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation—its first major military action. The Kokoda Track campaign
Kokoda Track campaign
The Kokoda Track campaign or Kokoda Trail campaign was part of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought between July and November 1942 between Japanese and Allied—primarily Australian—forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua...

 is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Britain's Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 is an Act of the Australian Parliament that formally adopted the Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Imperial Parliament enabling the legislative independence of the various self-governing Dominions of the British Empire...

 in 1942, but it was backdated to 1939 to confirm the validity of legislation passed by the Australian Parliament during World War II. The shock of the UK's defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 as a new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has been a formal military ally of the US, under the ANZUS
ANZUS
The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty is the military alliance which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States to cooperate on defence matters in the Pacific Ocean area, though today the treaty is understood to relate to attacks...

 treaty. After World War II Australia encouraged immigration from Europe. Since the 1970s and following the abolition of the White Australia policy
White Australia policy
The White Australia policy comprises various historical policies that intentionally restricted "non-white" immigration to Australia. From origins at Federation in 1901, the polices were progressively dismantled between 1949-1973....

, immigration from Asia and elsewhere was also promoted. As a result, Australia's demography, culture, and self-image were transformed. The final constitutional ties between Australia and the UK were severed with the passing of the Australia Act 1986
Australia Act 1986
The Australia Act 1986 is the name given to a pair of separate but related pieces of legislation: one an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, the other an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

, ending any British role in the government of the Australian States, and closing the option of judicial appeals to the Privy Council
Privy council
A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

 in London. In a 1999 referendum
Australian republic referendum, 1999
The Australian republic referendum held on 6 November 1999 was a two-question referendum to amend the Constitution of Australia. The first question asked whether Australia should become a republic with a President appointed by Parliament following a bi-partisan appointment model which had...

, 55 per cent of Australian voters and a majority in every Australian state rejected a proposal to become a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 with a president appointed by a two-thirds vote in both Houses of the Australian Parliament. Since the election of the Whitlam Government
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

 in 1972, there has been an increasing focus in foreign policy on ties with other Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim
The Pacific Rim refers to places around the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The term "Pacific Basin" includes the Pacific Rim and islands in the Pacific Ocean...

 nations, while maintaining close ties with Australia's traditional allies and trading partners.

Governance


Australia is a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 with a federal
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 division of powers. It uses a parliamentary system
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 of government with Queen Elizabeth II at its apex as the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s. The Queen resides in the United Kingdom, and she is represented by her viceroys in Australia, (the Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

 at the federal level and by the Governors
Governors of the Australian states
The Governors of the Australian states are the representatives of the Queen of Australia in each of that country's six states. The Governors perform the same constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level as does the Governor-General of Australia at the national level...

 at the state level), who by convention act on the advice of her ministers. Supereme executive authority is vested by the constitution of Australia
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

 in the sovereign, but the power to exercise it is conferred by the constitution specifically to the Governor-General. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General's reserve power
Reserve power
In a parliamentary or semi-presidential system of government, a reserve power is a power that may be exercised by the head of state without the approval of another branch of the government. Unlike a presidential system of government, the head of state is generally constrained by the cabinet or the...

s outside a Prime Minister's request was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

The federal government is separated
Separation of powers in Australia
The doctrine of separation of powers refers to the separation of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. A strict separation is not maintained in Australia, following the Westminster system and the doctrine of responsible government. Nevertheless, it is clear that it has been heavily...

 into three branches:
  • The legislature: the bicameral Parliament
    Parliament of Australia
    The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

    , defined in section 1 of the constitution as comprising the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), the Senate
    Australian Senate
    The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. Senators are popularly elected under a system of proportional representation. Senators are elected for a term that is usually six years; after a double dissolution, however,...

    , and the House of Representatives
    Australian House of Representatives
    The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

    ;
  • The executive: the Federal Executive Council
    Federal Executive Council
    The Federal Executive Council is the formal body holding executive authority under the Constitution of Australia. It is equivalent to the other Executive Councils in other Commonwealth Realms such as the Executive Council of New Zealand and is equivalent to the Privy councils in Canada and the...

    , in practice the Governor-General as advised by the Prime Minister and Ministers of State;
  • The judiciary: the High Court of Australia
    High Court of Australia
    The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

     and other federal courts
    Australian court hierarchy
    There are two streams within the hierarchy of Australian courts, the federal stream and the state and territory stream. While the federal courts and the court systems in each state and territory are separate, the High Court of Australia remains the ultimate court of appeal for the Australian...

    , whose judges are appointed by the Governor-General on advice of the Council.

In the Senate (the upper house), there are 76 senators: twelve each from the states and two each from the mainland territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). The House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

 (the lower house) has 150 members elected from single-member electoral divisions, commonly known as "electorates" or "seats", allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms except for those from the territories, whose terms are not fixed but are tied to the electoral cycle for the lower house; thus only 40 of the 76 places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution
Double dissolution
A double dissolution is a procedure permitted under the Australian Constitution to resolve deadlocks between the House of Representatives and the Senate....

.

Australia's electoral system
Australian electoral system
The Australian electoral system has evolved over nearly 150 years of continuous democratic government, and has a number of distinctive features including compulsory voting, preferential voting and the use of proportional voting to elect the upper house, the Australian Senate.- Compulsory voting...

 uses preferential voting
Preferential voting
Preferential voting is a type of ballot structure used in several electoral systems in which voters rank candidates in order of relative preference. For example, the voter may select their first choice as '1', their second preference a '2', and so on...

 for all lower house elections with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT, which, along with the Senate and most state upper houses, combine it with proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 in a system known as the single transferable vote
Single transferable vote
The single transferable vote is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through preferential voting. Under STV, an elector's vote is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate, and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, any surplus or...

. Voting is compulsory
Compulsory voting
Compulsory voting is a system in which electors are obliged to vote in elections or attend a polling place on voting day. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he or she may be subject to punitive measures such as fines, community service, or perhaps imprisonment if fines are unpaid...

 for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over in every jurisdiction, as is enrolment (with the exception of South Australia). Although the Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General, in practice the party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.

There are two major political groups that usually form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party is an Australian political party. It has been the governing party of the Commonwealth of Australia since the 2007 federal election. Julia Gillard is the party's federal parliamentary leader and Prime Minister of Australia...

, and the Coalition
Coalition (Australia)
The Coalition in Australian politics refers to a group of centre-right parties that has existed in the form of a coalition agreement since 1922...

 which is a formal grouping of the Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

 and its minor partner, the National Party
National Party of Australia
The National Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Traditionally representing graziers, farmers and rural voters generally, it began as the The Country Party, but adopted the name The National Country Party in 1975, changed to The National Party of Australia in 1982. The party is...

. Independent members and several minor parties—including the Greens
Australian Greens
The Australian Greens, commonly known as The Greens, is an Australian green political party.The party was formed in 1992; however, its origins can be traced to the early environmental movement in Australia and the formation of the United Tasmania Group , the first Green party in the world, which...

 and the Australian Democrats
Australian Democrats
The Australian Democrats is an Australian political party espousing a socially liberal ideology. It was formed in 1977, by a merger of the Australia Party and the New LM, after principals of those minor parties secured the commitment of former Liberal minister Don Chipp, as a high profile leader...

—have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses.

Following a partyroom leadership challenge
Australian Labor Party leadership election, 2010
A leadership election of the Australian Labor Party was held on 2010. The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, was challenged by the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, for the leadership of the party, and therefore the prime ministership, since the ALP has held a majority in...

, Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard
Julia Eileen Gillard is the 27th and current Prime Minister of Australia, in office since June 2010.Gillard was born in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales and migrated with her family to Adelaide, Australia in 1966, attending Mitcham Demonstration School and Unley High School. In 1982 Gillard moved...

 became the first female Prime Minister in June 2010. The last federal election was held on 21 August 2010 and resulted in the first hung parliament
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

 in over 50 years. Gillard was able to form a minority Labor government with the support of independents.

States and territories


Australia has six states—New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

, Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, and Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

—and two major mainland territories—the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 and the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, often abbreviated ACT, is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and is the smallest self-governing internal territory...

 (ACT). In most respects these two territories function as states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments. By contrast, federal legislation overrides state legislation only in areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution
Section 51 of the Australian Constitution
Section 51 of the Constitution of Australia grants legislative powers to the Australian Parliament only when subject to the constitution. When the six Australian colonies joined together in Federation in 1901, they became the original States and ceded some of their powers to the new Commonwealth...

; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including those over schools, state police, the state judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government, since these do not fall under the provisions listed in Section 51.

Each state and major mainland territory has its own parliament
Parliaments of the Australian states and territories
The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia. Before the formation of the Commonwealth in 1901, the six Australian colonies were self-governing, with parliaments which had come into existence at various...

unicameral
Unicameralism
In government, unicameralism is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house...

 in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the other states. The states are sovereign entities, although subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house
Lower house
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide the lower house has come to wield more power...

s are known as the Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly is the name given in some countries to either a legislature, or to one of its branch.The name is used by a number of member-states of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as a number of Latin American countries....

 (the House of Assembly
House of Assembly
House of Assembly is a name given to the legislature or lower house of a bicameral parliament. In some countries this may be at a subnational level....

 in South Australia and Tasmania); the upper house
Upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

s are known as the Legislative Council
Legislative Council
A Legislative Council is the name given to the legislatures, or one of the chambers of the legislature of many nations and colonies.A Member of the Legislative Council is commonly referred to as an MLC.- Unicameral legislatures :...

. The head of the government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 in each state is the Premier
Premiers of the Australian states
The Premiers of the Australian states are the de facto heads of the executive governments in the six states of the Commonwealth of Australia. They perform the same function at the state level as the Prime Minister of Australia performs at the national level. The territory equivalents to the...

, and in each territory the Chief Minister
Chief Minister
A Chief Minister is the elected head of government of a sub-national state, provinces of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, notably a state of India, a territory of Australia or a British Overseas Territory that has attained self-government...

. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor
Governors of the Australian states
The Governors of the Australian states are the representatives of the Queen of Australia in each of that country's six states. The Governors perform the same constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level as does the Governor-General of Australia at the national level...

; and in the Northern Territory, the Administrator
Administrator of the Northern Territory
The Administrator of the Northern Territory is an official appointed by the Governor-General of Australia to exercise powers analogous to that of a state governor...

. In the Commonwealth, the Queen's representative is the Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

.

The federal parliament directly administers the following territories:
  • Ashmore and Cartier Islands
    Ashmore and Cartier Islands
    The Territory of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands is an external territory of Australia consisting of two groups of small low-lying uninhabited tropical islands in the Indian Ocean situated on the edge of the continental shelf north-west of Australia and south of the Indonesian island of...

  • Australian Antarctic Territory
    Australian Antarctic Territory
    The Australian Antarctic Territory is a part of Antarctica. It was claimed by the United Kingdom and placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1933. It is the largest territory of Antarctica claimed by any nation...

  • Christmas Island
    Christmas Island
    The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

     and Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    The Territory of the Cocos Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka....

  • Coral Sea Islands
    Coral Sea Islands
    The Coral Sea Islands Territory includes a group of small and mostly uninhabited tropical islands and reefs in the Coral Sea, northeast of Queensland, Australia. The only inhabited island is Willis Island...

  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands
    Heard Island and McDonald Islands
    The Heard Island and McDonald Islands are an Australian external territory and volcanic group of barren Antarctic islands, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The group's overall size is in area and it has of coastline...

  • Jervis Bay Territory
    Jervis Bay Territory
    The Jervis Bay Territory is a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was surrendered by the state of New South Wales to the Commonwealth Government in 1915 so that the Federal capital at Canberra would have "access to the sea"....

    , a naval base and sea port for the national capital in land that was formerly part of New South Wales


Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

 is also technically an external territory; however, under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 it has been granted more autonomy and is governed locally by its own legislative assembly. The Queen is represented by an Administrator, currently Owen Walsh
Owen Walsh
Owen Edward John Walsh is the current Administrator of the Australian territory of Norfolk Island.Walsh was educated at the University of Tasmania, from which he graduated with degrees in Arts and Law...

.

Foreign relations and military



Over recent decades, Australia's foreign relations
Foreign relations of Australia
The foreign relations of Australia have spanned from the country's time as Dominion and later Realm of the Commonwealth to become steadfastly allied with New Zealand through long-standing ANZAC ties dating back to the early 1900s, and the United States throughout the Cold War, to its engagement...

 have been driven by a close association with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 through the ANZUS pact
ANZUS
The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty is the military alliance which binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States to cooperate on defence matters in the Pacific Ocean area, though today the treaty is understood to relate to attacks...

, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum
Pacific Islands Forum
The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum...

. In 2005 Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit
East Asia Summit
The East Asia Summit is a forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian region. Membership will expand to 18 countries including the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011. EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings...

 following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and in 2011 will attend the Sixth East Asia Summit
Sixth East Asia Summit
The East Asia Summit is a nominally annual meeting of national leaders from the East Asian region and adjoining countries. The Sixth East Asia Summit will be chaired by Indonesia.-US refocus :...

 in Indonesia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Commonwealth Heads of Government
The leaders of the nations with membership in the Commonwealth of Nations are collectively known as the Commonwealth Heads of Government. They are invited to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings every two years, with most countries being represented by either their Head of Government...

 meetings provide the main forum for cooperation.


Australia has pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation. It led the formation of the Cairns Group
Cairns Group
The Cairns Group is an interest group of 19 agricultural exporting countries, composed of Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Uruguay.-History...

 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region...

. Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

 and the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

, and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement and Closer Economic Relations
Closer Economic Relations
Closer Economic Relations is a free trade agreement between the governments of New Zealand and Australia. It is also known as the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement and sometimes shortened to...

 with New Zealand, with another free trade agreement being negotiated with China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

—the Australia – China Free Trade Agreement—and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 in 2011, Australia–Chile Free Trade Agreement, ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Area, and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
The Trans-Pacific Partnership , also known as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, is a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to further liberalise the economies of the Asia-Pacific region; specifically, Article 1.1.3 notes: “The Parties seek to support the wider...

.

Along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Singapore, Australia is party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements
Five Power Defence Arrangements
The Five Power Defence Arrangements are a series of defence relationships established by a series of bilateral agreements between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore signed in 1971, whereby the five states will consult each other in the event of external aggression...

, a regional defence agreement. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to multilateralism
Multilateralism
Multilateralism is a term in international relations that refers to multiple countries working in concert on a given issue.International organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are multilateral in nature...

, and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance. The 2005–06 budget provides A$2.5 billion for development assistance; as a percentage of GDP, this contribution is less than that recommended in the UN Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

. Australia ranks seventh overall in the Center for Global Development
Center for Global Development
The Center for Global Development is a non-profit think tank based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on international development. It was founded in November 2001 by former senior U.S. official Edward W. Scott, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, C. Fred Bergsten, and...

's 2008 Commitment to Development Index
Commitment to Development Index
The Commitment to Development Index , published annually by the Center for Global Development, ranks the world’s richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit the five billion people living in poorer nations. Rich and poor countries are linked in many ways; thus the Index looks...

.

Australia's armed forces—the Australian Defence Force
Australian Defence Force
The Australian Defence Force is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy , Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units...

 (ADF)—comprise the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

 (RAN), the Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

, and the Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 (RAAF), in total numbering 80,561 personnel (including 55,068 regulars and 25,493 reservists). The titular role of Commander-in-Chief is vested in the Governor-General, who appoints a Chief of the Defence Force
Chief of the Defence Force (Australia)
Chief of the Defence Force is the most senior appointment in the Australian Defence Force . The CDF commands the ADF under the direction of the Minister of Defence, in a coequal arrangement with the Secretary of Defence, the most senior public servant in the Department of Defence.The position is a...

 from one of the armed services on the advice of the government. Day-to-day force operations are under the command of the Chief, while broader administration and the formulation of defence policy is undertaken by the Minister
Minister for Defence (Australia)
The Minister for Defence of Australia administers his portfolio through the Australian Defence Organisation, which comprises the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. Stephen Smith is the current Minister.-Ministers for Defence:...

 and Department of Defence
Department of Defence (Australia)
The Australian Department of Defence is a Federal Government Department. It forms part of the Australian Defence Organisation along with the Australian Defence Force . The Defence mission is to defend Australia and its national interests...

.

In the 2010–11 budget, defence spending was A$25.7 billion, representing the 14th largest defence budget in the world but accounting for only 1.2 per cent of global military spending. Australia has been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping, disaster relief, and armed conflict; it currently has deployed
Current Australian Defence Force deployments
As of March 2009, around 3,000 Australian Defence Force personnel are deployed on overseas operations. An additional 500 personnel are deployed on domestic maritime security tasks and 520 as the ADF's response to the February 2009 Victorian bushfires....

 approximately 3,330 defence force personnel in varying capacities to 12 overseas operations in areas including East Timor
Operation Astute
Operation Astute is an Australian-led military deployment to East Timor to quell unrest and return stability in the 2006 East Timor crisis. It is currently headed by Brigadier Bill Sowry, and commenced on 25 May 2006 under the command of Brigadier Michael Slater...

, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan
Operation Slipper
Operation Slipper is the Australian Defence Force contribution to the war in Afghanistan. The operation commenced in late 2001 and is ongoing...

.

Geography and climate




Australia's landmass of 7617930 square kilometres (2,941,299.2 sq mi) is on the Indo-Australian Plate
Indo-Australian Plate
The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean, and extends northwest to include the Indian subcontinent and adjacent waters...

. Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans, it is separated from Asia by the Arafura
Arafura Sea
The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean overlying the continental shelf between Australia and New Guinea.-Geography:The Arafura Sea is bordered by Torres Strait and through that the Coral Sea to the east, the Gulf of Carpentaria to the south, the Timor Sea to the west and the Banda and Ceram...

 and Timor
Timor Sea
The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia and to the west by the Indian Ocean....

 seas. The world's smallest continent and sixth largest country by total area, Australia—owing to its size and isolation—is often dubbed the "island continent", and is sometimes considered the world's largest island. Australia has 34218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands), and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 of 8148250 square kilometres (3,146,056.9 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory. Excluding Macquarie Island
Macquarie Island
Macquarie Island lies in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about half-way between New Zealand and Antarctica, at 54°30S, 158°57E. Politically, it has formed part of the Australian state of Tasmania since 1900 and became a Tasmanian State Reserve in 1978. In 1997 it became a world heritage...

, Australia lies between latitudes
9th parallel south
The 9th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 9 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

 and 44°S
44th parallel south
The 44th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 44 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

, and longitudes 112°
112th meridian east
The meridian 112° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 154°E
154th meridian east
The meridian 154° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, Australasia, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

.

The Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world'slargest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately...

, the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2000 kilometres (1,242.7 mi). Mount Augustus
Mount Augustus National Park
Mount Augustus National Park is located 852 km north of Perth, 490 km by road east of Carnarvon and 390 km northwest of Meekatharra, in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia...

, claimed to be the world's largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. At 2228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko
Mount Kosciuszko
Mount Kosciuszko is a mountain located in the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park. With a height of 2,228 metres above sea level, it is the highest mountain in Australia...

 on the Great Dividing Range
Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through...

 is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak
Mawson Peak
Mawson Peak is a mountain on Heard Island, an external Australian territory in the Southern Ocean. With its summit at , it is the second highest peak in any state or territory of Australia, surpassed only by the Mount McClintock in the Britannia Range in Australian Antarctic Territory...

 on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island
Heard Island and McDonald Islands
The Heard Island and McDonald Islands are an Australian external territory and volcanic group of barren Antarctic islands, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The group's overall size is in area and it has of coastline...

 is taller at 2745 metres (9,006 ft).

Australia is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils; desert
Deserts of Australia
Deserts cover a large portion of the land in Australia. Most of the deserts lie in the central and north-western part of the country. The largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid...

 or semi-arid land commonly known as the outback
Outback
The Outback is the vast, remote, arid area of Australia, term colloquially can refer to any lands outside the main urban areas. The term "the outback" is generally used to refer to locations that are comparatively more remote than those areas named "the bush".-Overview:The outback is home to a...

 makes up by far the largest portion of land. The driest inhabited continent, only its south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a large proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.

Eastern Australia is marked by the Great Dividing Range that runs parallel to the coast of Queensland, New South Wales, and much of Victoria—although the name is not strictly accurate, as in parts the range consists of low hills and the highlands are typically no more than 1600 metres (5,249 ft) in height. The coastal uplands
Eastern Australian temperate forests
The Eastern Australian temperate forests are an ecoregion of open forest on uplands behind the east coast of New South Wales and southern Queensland, Australia.-Location and description:...

 and a belt of Brigalow grasslands lie between the coast and the mountains, while inland of the dividing range are large areas of grassland. These include the western plains
Southeast Australia temperate savanna
The Southeast Australia temperate savanna ecoregion is a large area of grassland dotted with eucalyptus trees running north-south across central New South Wales, Australia.-Location and description:...

 of New South Wales, and the Einasleigh Uplands
Einasleigh Uplands
The Einasleigh Uplands are an ecoregion of savanna and woodland located on a large plateau in inland Queensland, Australia.-Location and description:...

, Barkly Tableland, and Mulga Lands
Mulga Lands
The Mulga Lands are an Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia region of eastern Australia consisting of dry sandy plains scattered with mulga trees.-Location and description:...

 of inland Queensland. The northern point of the east coast is the tropical rainforested Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula
Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia, the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth...

.
The landscapes of the northern part of the country—the Top End
Top End
The Top End of northern Australia is the second northernmost point on the continent. It covers a rather vaguely-defined area of perhaps 400,000 square kilometres behind the northern coast from the Northern Territory capital of Darwin across to Arnhem Land with the Indian Ocean on the west, the...

 and the Gulf Country
Gulf Country
The Gulf Country is the name given to the region of woodland and savanna grassland surrounding the Gulf of Carpentaria in north western Queensland and eastern Northern Territory on the north coast of Australia...

 behind the Gulf of Carpentaria
Gulf of Carpentaria
The Gulf of Carpentaria is a large, shallow sea enclosed on three sides by northern Australia and bounded on the north by the Arafura Sea...

, with their tropical climate—consist of woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

, grassland
Grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

, and desert. At the north-west corner of the continent are the sandstone cliffs and gorges of The Kimberley, and below that the Pilbara. South and inland of these lie more areas of grassland: the Ord Victoria Plain
Ord Victoria Plain
Ord Victoria Plain is an Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia region in Western Australia. and Northern Territory.-Location and description:...

 and the Western Australian Mulga shrublands
Western Australian Mulga shrublands
The Western Australian Mulga shrublands is a large dry World Wildlife Fund ecoregion of inland Western Australia .-Location and description:This is a hot, dry area with little rainfall....

. At the heart of the country are the uplands of central Australia
Central Ranges xeric scrub
The Central Ranges xeric scrub is a deserts and xeric shrublands ecoregion of Australia. -Location and description:The region consists of sandy plains with some areas of rocky highland. These plains have a dry climate but do get some rain in both summer and winter...

; prominent features of the centre and south include the inland Simpson
Simpson Desert
The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes in Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland in central Australia. It is the fourth largest Australian desert, with an area of 176,500 km² ....

, Tirari and Sturt Stony
Tirari-Sturt stony desert
The Tirari-Sturt stony desert is a large dry World Wildlife Fund ecoregion of southern Australia.-Location and description:The Tirari-Sturt stony desert ecoregion contains the gibber plains and red sands of the large Sturt Stony Desert, the Tirari Desert to its southwest and the Flinders and...

, Gibson
Gibson Desert
The Gibson Desert covers a large dry area in the state of Western Australia and is still largely in an almost "pristine" state. It is about in size, making it the 5th largest desert in Australia, after the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, Tanami and Simpson deserts.-Location and description:The Gibson...

, Great Sandy, Tanami
Great Sandy-Tanami desert
The Great Sandy-Tanami desert is a World Wildlife Fund ecoregion of Western Australia extending into the Northern Territory.-Location and description:...

, and Great Victoria
Great Victoria Desert
The Great Victoria Desert is a barren and sparsely populated desert area of southern Australia.-Location and description:The Great Victoria is the biggest desert in Australia and consists of many small sandhills, grassland plains, areas with a closely packed surface of pebbles and salt lakes...

 deserts, with the famous Nullarbor Plain
Nullarbor Plain
The Nullarbor Plain is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. It is the world's largest single piece of limestone, and occupies an area of about...

 on the southern coast.

The climate of Australia is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole
Indian Ocean Dipole
The Indian Ocean Dipole is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.-The phenomenon:...

 and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years...

, which is correlated with periodic drought
Drought in Australia
Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over a three month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns...

, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclone
Cyclone
In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. Most large-scale...

s in northern Australia. These factors induce rainfall to vary markedly from year to year. Much of the northern part of the country has a tropical predominantly summer rainfall (monsoon) climate. Just under three quarters of Australia lies within a desert or semi-arid zone. The southwest corner of the country
Southwest corner of Western Australia
The south-west corner drainage region of Western Australia is one of only two temperate and relatively fertile parts of mainland Australia. It covers about 140,000 square kilometres, or a little less than 2% of the continent...

 has a Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

. Much of the southeast (including Tasmania) is temperate.

Environment



Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine
Alpine climate
Alpine climate is the average weather for a region above the tree line. This climate is also referred to as mountain climate or highland climate....

 heaths to tropical rainforest
Tropical rainforest
A tropical rainforest is an ecosystem type that occurs roughly within the latitudes 28 degrees north or south of the equator . This ecosystem experiences high average temperatures and a significant amount of rainfall...

s, and is recognised as a megadiverse country
Megadiverse countries
The megadiverse countries are a group of countries that harbor the majority of the Earth's species and are therefore considered extremely biodiverse...

. Because of the continent's great age, extremely variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota
Biota (ecology)
Biota are the total collection of organisms of a geographic region or a time period, from local geographic scales and instantaneous temporal scales all the way up to whole-planet and whole-timescale spatiotemporal scales. The biota of the Earth lives in the biosphere.-See...

 is unique and diverse. About 85 per cent of flowering plants, 84 per cent of mammals, more than 45 per cent of birds, and 89 per cent of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species.


Australian forests
Forests of Australia
Australia has many forests of importance due to significant features, despite being one of the driest continents. Australia has approximately 147 million hectares of native forest which represents some 19% of land use....

 are mostly made up of evergreen species, particularly eucalyptus
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Members of the genus dominate the tree flora of Australia...

 trees in the less arid regions, wattles
Acacia
Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

 replace them in drier regions and deserts as the most dominant species. Among well-known Australian fauna
Fauna of Australia
The fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia...

 are the monotreme
Monotreme
Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials and placental mammals...

s (the platypus
Platypus
The platypus is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young...

 and echidna
Echidna
Echidnas , also known as spiny anteaters, belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. There are four extant species, which, together with the platypus, are the only surviving members of that order and are the only extant mammals that lay eggs...

); a host of marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

s, including the kangaroo
Kangaroo
A kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae . In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus, Red Kangaroo, Antilopine Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo. Kangaroos are endemic to the country...

, koala
Koala
The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia, and the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae....

, and wombat
Wombat
Wombats are Australian marsupials; they are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds, approximately in length with a short, stubby tail. They are adaptable in their habitat tolerances, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania, as well as...

, and birds such as the emu
Emu
The Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia...

 and the kookaburra
Kookaburra
Kookaburras are terrestrial kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea. They are large to very large, with a total length of . The name is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, and is onomatopoeic of its call...

. Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world. The dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

 was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

. Many plant and animal species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna
Australian megafauna
Australian megafauna are a number of large animal species in Australia, often defined as species with body mass estimates of greater than 30 kilograms, or equal to or greater than 30% greater body mass than their closest living relatives...

; others have disappeared since European settlement, among them the thylacine
Thylacine
The thylacine or ,also ;binomial name: Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf...

.

Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced
Invasive species in Australia
Invasive species are a serious threat to the native biodiversity of Australia and are an ongoing cost to Australian agriculture.Management and the prevention of the introduction of new invasive species are key environmental and agricultural policy issues for the Australian federal and state...

 plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas
Protected areas of Australia
Protected areas of Australia include Commonwealth and off-shore protected areas managed by the Australian government, as well as protected areas within each of the six states of Australia and two self-governing territories , which are managed by the eight state and territory...

 have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity
Biodiversity Action Plan
A Biodiversity Action Plan is an internationally recognized program addressing threatened species and habitats and is designed to protect and restore biological systems. The original impetus for these plans derives from the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity...

 to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 65 wetland
Wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

s are listed under the Ramsar Convention
Ramsar Convention
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, i.e., to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural,...

, and 16 natural World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

s have been established. Australia was ranked 51st of 163 countries in the world on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index
Environmental Performance Index
The Environmental Performance Index is a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental performance of a country's policies. This index was developed from the Pilot Environmental Performance Index, first published in 2002, and designed to supplement the environmental targets...

.

Climate change
Climate change in Australia
Climate change has become a major issue in Australia due to drastic climate events since the turn of the 21st century that have focused government and public attention. Rainfall in Australia has increased slightly over the past century, although there is little or no trend in rainfall in northeast...

 has become an increasing concern in Australia in recent years, with many Australians considering protection of the environment to be the most important issue facing the country. The Rudd Ministry has initiated several emission reduction activities; Rudd's first official act, on his first day in office, was to sign the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

. Nevertheless, Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, lower than those of only a few other industrialised nations. Rainfall in Australia has slightly increased over the past century, both nationwide and for two quadrants of the nation, while annual mean temperatures increased significantly over the past decades. Water restrictions
Water restrictions in Australia
Water restrictions have been enacted in many cities and regions in Australia, which is the Earth's driest inhabited continent, in response to chronic water shortages resulting from the drought. Depending upon the location, these can include restrictions on watering lawns, using sprinkler systems,...

 are frequently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought
Drought in Australia
Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over a three month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns...

.

Economy



Australia has a market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

 with high GDP per capita and low rate of poverty. The Australian dollar
Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is the currency of the Commonwealth of Australia, including Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu...

 is the currency for the nation, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states
Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands comprise 20,000 to 30,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are also sometimes collectively called Oceania, although Oceania is sometimes defined as also including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago....

 of Kiribati
Kiribati
Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

, Nauru
Nauru
Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

, and Tuvalu
Tuvalu
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

. After the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Australian Securities Exchange
Australian Securities Exchange
The Australian Securities Exchange was created by the merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange in July 2006. It is the primary stock exchange group in Australia....

 is now the ninth largest in the world.

Ranked third in the Index of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

 (2010), Australia is the world's thirteenth largest economy and has the ninth highest per capita GDP; higher than that of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, and the United States. The country was ranked second in the United Nations 2010 Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 and first in Legatum's 2008 Prosperity Index
Legatum Prosperity Index
The Legatum Prosperity Index is an annual ranking developed by the Legatum Institute of 110 countries. The ranking is based according to a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, personal wellbeing, and quality of life. Norway topped the lists of the the last two reports, those of...

. All of Australia's major cities fare well in global comparative livability surveys; Melbourne reached first place on The Economists 2011 World's Most Livable Cities
World's Most Livable Cities
The world's most liveable cities is an informal name given to any list of cities as they rank on a reputable annual survey of living conditions. Two examples are the Mercer Quality of Living Survey and The Economists World's Most Livable Cities .Liveability rankings are designed for use by...

 list, followed by Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide in sixth, eighth, and ninth place respectively. Total government debt in Australia is about $190 billion. Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest household debt levels in the world.
An emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactured goods has underpinned a significant increase in Australia's terms of trade
Terms of trade
In international economics and international trade, terms of trade or TOT is /. In layman's terms it means what quantity of imports can be purchased through the sale of a fixed quantity of exports...

 since the start of the century, due to rising commodity prices. Australia has a balance of payments
Australia's balance of payments
In trade terms, the Australian economy has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years. One single factor that undermines balance of payments is Australia's narrow export base....

 that is more than 7 per cent of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account
Current account
In economics, the current account is one of the two primary components of the balance of payments, the other being the capital account. The current account is the sum of the balance of trade , net factor income and net transfer payments .The current account balance is one of two major...

 deficits for more than 50 years. Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6 per cent for over 15 years, in comparison to the OECD annual average of 2.5 per cent. There are differing opinions based on evidence as to whether or not Australia had been one of the few OECD nations to avoid experiencing a recession during the late 2000s global financial downturn. Six of Australia's major trading partners had been in recession which in turn affected Australia, and economic growth was hampered significantly over recent years.

The Hawke Government
Bob Hawke
Robert James Lee "Bob" Hawke AC GCL was the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia from March 1983 to December 1991 and therefore longest serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister....

 floated
Floating exchange rate
A floating exchange rate or fluctuating exchange rate is a type of exchange rate regime wherein a currency's value is allowed to fluctuate according to the foreign exchange market. A currency that uses a floating exchange rate is known as a floating currency....

 the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system. The Howard Government
Howard Government
The Howard Government refers to the federal Executive Government of Australia led by Prime Minister John Howard. It was made up of members of the Liberal–National Coalition, which won a majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives at four successive elections. The Howard Government...

 followed with a partial deregulation of the labour market
WorkChoices
The Workplace Relations Act 1996, as amended by the Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2005, popularly known as Work Choices, was a Legislative Act of the Australian Parliament that came into effect in March 2006 which involved many controversial amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996, the...

 and the further privatisation of state-owned businesses, most notably in the telecommunications industry. The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10 per cent Goods and Services Tax
Goods and Services Tax (Australia)
The GST is a broad sales tax of 10% on most goods and services transactions in Australia. It is a value added tax, not a sales tax, in that it is refunded to all parties in the chain of production other than the final consumer....

 (GST). In Australia's tax system
Taxation in Australia
There are many forms of taxation in Australia. Individuals and companies in Australia may be required to pay taxes or charges to all levels of government: local, state, and federal governments...

, personal and company income tax
Income tax in Australia
Income tax in Australia is the most important revenue stream within the Australian taxation system.Income tax is levied upon three sources of income for individual taxpayers: personal earnings , business income and capital gains...

 are the main sources of government revenue.

In July 2011, there were 11,450,500 people employed, with an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent. Youth unemployment (15–24) rose from 8.7 per cent to 9.7 per cent over 2008–2009. Over the past decade, inflation has typically been 2–3 per cent and the base interest rate 5–6 per cent. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for about 70 per cent of GDP. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat and wool, minerals such as iron-ore and gold, and energy in the forms of liquified natural gas and coal. Although agriculture
Agriculture in Australia
Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter. Agriculture and its closely related sectors earn $155 billion-a-year for a 12% share of GDP. Australian farmers and graziers own 135,996 farms, covering 61% of Australia’s landmass. There is a mix of irrigation and dry-land farming...

 and natural resources account for only 3 per cent and 5 per cent of GDP respectively, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia's largest export markets are Japan, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand. Australia is the world's fourth largest exporter of wine, in an industry contributing $5.5 billion per annum to the nation's economy.

Demography


For generations, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin. In the 2006 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestry was Australian (37.13 per cent), followed by English
English Australian
English Australians, also known as Anglo-Australians are Australians of English descent, are the single largest ethnic group in Australia and the largest 'ancestry' identity in the Australia Census after "Australian"...

 (32 per cent), Irish
Irish Australian
Irish Australians have played a long and enduring part in Australia's history. Many came to Australia in the eighteenth century as settlers or as convicts, and contributed to Australia's development in many different areas....

 (9 per cent), Scottish
Scottish Australian
Scottish Australians are residents of Australia who are of Scottish ancestry.According to the 2006 Australian census 130,204 Australian residents were born in Scotland, while 1,501,204 claimed Scottish ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry.- History :The links between...

 (8 per cent), Italian (4 per cent), German
German Australian
German religious refugees represented the first major wave of German settlement in Australia, arriving in South Australia in 1838. Some were active as missionaries and explorers in Australia from early in the 19th century, and German prospectors were well-represented in the 1850s gold rushes...

 (4 per cent), Chinese
Chinese Australian
Chinese Australian is an Australian of Chinese heritage. In the 2006 Australian Census, 669,890 Australian residents identified themselves as having Chinese ancestry, either alone or with another ancestry....

 (3 per cent), and Greek
Greek Australian
Greeks are the seventh-largest ethnic group in Australia, after those declaring their ancestry simply as "Australian". In the 2006 census, 365,147 persons declared having Greek ancestry, either alone or in conjunction with another ethnicity....

 (2 per cent).

Australia's population has quadrupled since the end of World War I, much of the increase from immigration
Immigration to Australia
Immigration to Australia is estimated to have begun around 51,000 years ago when the ancestors of Australian Aborigines arrived on the continent via the islands of the Malay Archipelago and New Guinea. Europeans first landed in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but colonisation only started in 1788. The...

. Following World War II and through to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that nearly two out of every seven Australians were born overseas. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s. By 2050, Australia's population is currently projected to reach around 42 million.

In 2001, 23.1 per cent of Australians were born overseas; the five largest immigrant groups were those from the United Kingdom
Anglo-Celtic Australian
Anglo-Celtic Australian are citizens of Australia with British and/or Irish ancestral origins.-Demography:From the beginning of the colonial era until the mid-20th century, the vast majority of settlers were British or Irish...

, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam
Vietnamese Australian
A Vietnamese Australian is an Australian either born in Vietnam or is an Australian descendant of the former. Communities of Overseas Vietnamese are referred to as Việt Kiều or người Việt hải ngoại.-History in Australia:...

, and China. Following the abolition of the White Australia policy
White Australia policy
The White Australia policy comprises various historical policies that intentionally restricted "non-white" immigration to Australia. From origins at Federation in 1901, the polices were progressively dismantled between 1949-1973....

 in 1973, numerous government initiatives have been established to encourage and promote racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism
Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g...

. In 2005–06, more than 131,000 people emigrated to Australia, mainly from Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Oceania
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

. The migration target for 2010–11 is 168,700, compared to 67,900 in 1998–99.
The Indigenous population—mainland Aborigines
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 and Torres Strait Islanders
Torres Strait Islands
The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea but Torres Strait Island known and Recognize as Nyumaria.The islands are mostly part of...

—was counted at 410,003 (2.2 per cent of the total population) in 2001, a significant increase from 115,953 in the 1976 census. A large number of Indigenous people are not identified in the Census due to undercount and cases where their Indigenous status is not recorded on the form; after adjusting for these factors, the ABS estimated the true figure for 2001 to be around 460,140 (2.4 per cent of the total population).

Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are 11–17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state
Failed state
The term failed state is often used by political commentators and journalists to describe a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government...

"-like conditions.

In common with many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2004, the average age
Population pyramid
A population pyramid, also called an age structure diagram, is a graphical illustration that shows the distribution of various age groups in a population , which forms the shape of a pyramid when the population is growing...

 of the civilian population was 38.8 years. A large number of Australians (759,849 for the period 2002–03) live outside their home country.

Language



Although Australia has no official language, English is so entrenched that it has become the de facto national language. Australian English
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

 is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon. Grammar and spelling are similar to that of British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 with some notable exceptions. According to the 2006 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 79 per cent of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Italian (1.6 per cent), Greek (1.3 per cent) and Cantonese (1.2 per cent); a considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. A 2010–2011 study by the Australia Early Development Index found that the most common language spoken by children after English was Arabic, followed by Vietnamese, Greek, Chinese, and Hindi.

Between 200 and 300 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact, of which only about 70 have survived. Many of these are exclusively spoken by older people; only 18 Indigenous languages are still spoken by all age groups. At the time of the 2006 Census, 52,000 Indigenous Australians, representing 12 per cent of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home. Australia has a sign language
Sign language
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's...

 known as Auslan
Auslan
Auslan is the sign language of the Australian deaf community. The term Auslan is an acronym of "Australian sign language", coined by Trevor Johnston in the early 1980s, although the language itself is much older...

, which is the main language of about 5,500 deaf people.

Religion



Australia has no state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

. In the 2006 census, 64 per cent of Australians listed themselves as Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

, including 26 per cent as Roman Catholic and 19 per cent as Anglican
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

. About 19 per cent of the population cited "No religion
Irreligion in Australia
Atheism, agnosticism, deism, scepticism, freethought, secular humanism or general secularism is increasing in Australia. Post-war Australia has become a highly secularised country...

" (which includes humanism
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

, atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

, agnosticism
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

 and rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

), which was the fastest-growing group from 2001 to 2006, and a further 12 per cent did not answer (the question is optional) or did not give a response adequate for interpretation. The largest non-Christian religion in Australia is Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 (2.1 per cent), followed by Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 (1.7 per cent), Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 (0.8 per cent) and Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 (0.5 per cent). Overall, fewer than 6 per cent of Australians identify with non-Christian religions. Weekly attendance at church services in 2004 was about 1.5 million: about 7.5 per cent of the population.

An international survey, made by the private, not-for profit German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 think-tank, the Bertelsmann Foundation
Bertelsmann Foundation
The Bertelsmann Foundation is the largest private operating non-profit foundation in Germany, created in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn. The Bertelsmann Foundation holds 77.4 percent of Bertelsmann AG....

, found that "Australia is one of the least religious nations in the western world, coming in 17th out of 21 [countries] surveyed" and that "Nearly three out of four Australians say they are either not at all religious or that religion does not play a central role in their lives.". A survey of 1,718 Australians by the Christian Research Association
Christian Research Association
The Christian Research Association was founded in 1985 to study the Christian faith in Australia. Its work consists of major research projects, overviews of research on religion in Australia, and contract research for Christian organisations, including local reports based on Australian Census...

 at the end of 2009 suggested that the numbers of people attending religious services per month in Australia has dropped from 23 per cent in 1993 to 16 per cent in 2009, and while 60 per cent of 15 to 29-year-old respondents in 1993 identified with Christian denominations, 33 per cent did in 2009.

Education



School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia. All children receive 11 years of compulsory education from the age of 6 to 16 (Year 1 to 10), before they can undertake two more years (Years 11 and 12), contributing to an adult literacy rate that is assumed to be 99 per cent. A preparatory year
Kindergarten
A kindergarten is a preschool educational institution for children. The term was created by Friedrich Fröbel for the play and activity institute that he created in 1837 in Bad Blankenburg as a social experience for children for their transition from home to school...

 prior to Year 1, although not compulsory, is almost universally undertaken. In the Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries (member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

). Government grants have supported the establishment of Australia's 38 universities; all but one is public. OECD places Australia as among the most expensive nations to attend university. There is a state-based system of vocational training, known as TAFE Institutes
Technical and Further Education
In Australia, training and further education or TAFE institutions provide a wide range of predominantly vocational tertiary education courses, mostly qualifying courses under the National Training System/Australian Qualifications Framework/Australian Quality Training Framework...

, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58 per cent of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications, and the tertiary graduation rate of 49 per cent is the highest among OECD countries. The ratio of international to local students in tertiary education in Australia is the highest in the OECD countries.

Health



Life expectancy in Australia in 2006 was 78.7 years for males and 83.5 years for females. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, while cigarette smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and disease. Australia has one of the highest proportions
Obesity in Australia
Obesity in Australia has been described as an "epidemic" with "increasing frequency." The Medical Journal of Australia found that obesity in Australia more than doubled in the two decades preceding 2003, and the unprecedented rise in obesity has been compared to the same health crisis in...

 of overweight citizens among developed nations
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

.

Total expenditure on health (including private sector spending) is around 9.8 per cent of GDP. Australia introduced universal health care
Universal health care
Universal health care is a term referring to organized health care systems built around the principle of universal coverage for all members of society, combining mechanisms for health financing and service provision.-History:...

 in 1975. Known as Medicare
Medicare (Australia)
Medicare is Australia's publicly funded universal health care system, operated by the government authority Medicare Australia. Medicare is intended to provide affordable treatment by doctors and in public hospitals for all resident citizens and permanent residents except for those on Norfolk Island...

 it is now nominally funded by an income tax surcharge known as the Medicare levy, currently set at 1.5 per cent. The states manage hospitals and attached outpatient services, while the Commonwealth funds the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or PBS is a program of the Australian Government that provides subsidised prescription drugs to residents of Australia. The PBS ensures that all Australians have affordable and reliable access to a wide range of necessary medicines.-History:The PBS was established...

 (reducing the costs of medicines) and general practice.

Culture




Since 1788, the basis of Australian culture has been strongly influenced by Anglo-Celtic
Anglo-Celtic
Anglo-Celtic is a term used to describe people of British and Irish descent. The term today is mainly used outside of Britain and Ireland, particularly in Australia but also in Canada, New Zealand and the United States, where a significant diaspora is located....

 Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

. Distinctive cultural features have also arisen from Australia's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture
Culture of the United States
The Culture of the United States is a Western culture originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore...

 has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations.

Arts




Australian visual arts are thought to have begun with the cave
Cave painting
Cave paintings are paintings on cave walls and ceilings, and the term is used especially for those dating to prehistoric times. The earliest European cave paintings date to the Aurignacian, some 32,000 years ago. The purpose of the paleolithic cave paintings is not known...

 and bark painting
Bark painting
Bark painting is an Australian Aboriginal art form, involving painting on the interior of a strip of tree bark. This is a continuing form of artistic expression in Arnhem Land and other regions in the Top End of Australia including parts of the Kimberley region of Western Australia...

s of its Indigenous peoples. The traditions of Indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally, through ceremony and the telling of Dreamtime
Dreamtime
In the animist framework of Australian Aboriginal mythology, The Dreaming is a sacred era in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed The Creation.-The Dreaming of the Aboriginal times:...

 stories. From the time of European settlement, a theme in Australian art has been the natural landscape, seen for example in the works of Albert Namatjira
Albert Namatjira
Albert Namatjira , born Elea Namatjira, was an Australian artist. He was a Western Arrernte man, an Indigenous Australian of the Western MacDonnell Ranges area...

, Arthur Streeton
Arthur Streeton
Sir Arthur Ernest Streeton was an Australian landscape painter.-Early life:Streeton was born in Mount Duneed, near Geelong, and his family moved to Richmond in 1874. In 1882, Streeton commenced art studies with G. F. Folingsby at the National Gallery School.Streeton was influenced by French...

 and others associated with the Heidelberg School
Heidelberg School
The Heidelberg School was an Australian art movement of the late 19th century. The movement has latterly been described as Australian Impressionism....

, and Arthur Boyd
Arthur Boyd
Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd, AC, OBE was one of the leading Australian painters of the late 20th Century. A member of the prominent Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia, his relatives included painters, sculptors, architects or other arts professionals. His sister Mary Boyd married John Perceval,...

.

The country's landscape remains a source of inspiration for Australian modernist artists; it has been depicted in acclaimed works by the likes of Sidney Nolan
Sidney Nolan
Sir Sidney Robert Nolan OM, AC was one of Australia's best-known painters and printmakers.-Early life:Nolan was born in Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne, on 22 April 1917. He was the eldest of four children. His family later moved to St Kilda. Nolan attended the Brighton Road State School and...

, Fred Williams
Fred Williams
Frederick Ronald Williams OBE was an Australian painter and printmaker. He was one of Australia’s most important artists, and one of the twentieth century’s major painters of the landscape...

, Sydney Long
Sydney Long
Sydney Long was an Australian Artist.Born on 20 August 1871 at Ifield, Goulburn, New South Wales, Sydney Long began formal art classes at the New South Wales Art Society in 1890. in 1894 his Heidelberg School-influenced painting 'By Tranquil Waters' caused a small scandal, but was purchased by the...

, and Clifton Pugh
Clifton Pugh
Clifton Ernest Pugh AO, was an Australian artist and three-time winner of Australia's Archibald Prize. He was strongly influenced by German Expressionism, and was known for his landscapes and portraiture...

. Australian artists influenced by modern American and European art include cubist Grace Crowley
Grace Crowley
Grace Crowley was an Australian artist and modernist painter.-Early life:She was born Grace Adela Williams Crowley in 1890 on May 28, at Forrest Lodge, Cobbadah, in North-Western New South Wales. She was the fourth child of Henry, a grazier, and Elizabeth...

, surrealist James Gleeson
James Gleeson
James Timothy Gleeson was Australia's foremost artist. He was also a poet, critic, writer and curator. He played a significant role in the Australian art scene, including serving on the board of the National Gallery of Australia.-Early life:Gleeson was born in the Sydney district of Hornsby and he...

, and pop art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

ist Martin Sharp
Martin Sharp
Martin Sharp is an Australian artist, underground cartoonist, songwriter and film-maker. Sharp has made contributions to Australian and international culture since the early 60s, and is hailed as Australia's foremost pop artist...

. Contemporary Indigenous Australian art
Contemporary Indigenous Australian art
Contemporary Indigenous Australian art is the modern art work produced by Indigenous Australians. It is generally regarded as beginning with a painting movement that started at Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs, Northern Territory in 1971, involving artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri...

 is the only art movement of international significance to emerge from Australia and "the last great art movement of the 20th century"; its exponents have included Emily Kngwarreye
Emily Kngwarreye
Emily Kame Kngwarreye was an Australian Aboriginal artist from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory. She is one of the most prominent and successful artists in the history of contemporary Indigenous Australian art.-Life:Born in 1910, Kngwarreye did not take up painting seriously until...

. Art critic Robert Hughes
Robert Hughes (critic)
Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, AO is an Australian-born art critic, writer and television documentary maker who has resided in New York since 1970.-Early life:...

 has written several influential books about Australian history and art, and was described as the "world's most famous art critic" by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. The National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia is the national art gallery of Australia, holding more than 120,000 works of art. It was established in 1967 by the Australian government as a national public art gallery.- Establishment :...

 and state galleries maintain Australian and overseas collections.

Many of Australia's performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each state, and a national opera company, Opera Australia
Opera Australia
Opera Australia is the principal opera company in Australia. Based in Sydney, its performance season at the Sydney Opera House runs for approximately eight months of the year, with the remainder of its time spent in the The Arts Centre in Melbourne...

, well-known for its famous soprano
Soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

 Joan Sutherland
Joan Sutherland
Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE was an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s....

. At the start of the 20th century, Nellie Melba
Nellie Melba
Dame Nellie Melba GBE , born Helen "Nellie" Porter Mitchell, was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the early 20th century...

 was one of the world's leading opera singers. Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.
Australian literature
Australian literature
Australian literature is the written or literary work produced in the area or by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding colonies. During its early western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its literary tradition begins with and is linked to...

 has also been influenced by the landscape; the works of writers such as Banjo Paterson
Banjo Paterson
Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, OBE was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales where he spent much of his childhood...

, Henry Lawson
Henry Lawson
Henry Lawson was an Australian writer and poet. Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson, Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period and is often called Australia's "greatest writer"...

, and Dorothea Mackellar
Dorothea Mackellar
Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar, OBE was an Australian poet and fiction writer.The only daughter of noted physician and parliamentarian Sir Charles Mackellar, she was born in Sydney in 1885...

 captured the experience of the Australian bush
The Bush
"The bush" is a term used for rural, undeveloped land or country areas in certain countries.-Australia:The term is iconic in Australia. In reference to the landscape, "bush" describes a wooded area, intermediate between a shrubland and a forest, generally of dry and nitrogen-poor soil, mostly...

. The character of the nation's colonial past, as represented in early literature, is popular with modern Australians. In 1973, Patrick White
Patrick White
Patrick Victor Martindale White , an Australian author, is widely regarded as an important English-language novelist of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, two short-story collections and eight plays.White's fiction employs humour, florid prose, shifting narrative...

 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

, the first Australian to have achieved this. Australian winners of the Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and...

 have included Peter Carey and Thomas Keneally
Thomas Keneally
Thomas Michael Keneally, AO is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982 which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor...

; David Williamson
David Williamson
David Keith Williamson AO is one of Australia's best-known playwrights. He has also written screenplays and teleplays.-Biography:...

, David Malouf
David Malouf
David George Joseph Malouf is an acclaimed Australian writer. He was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2000, his 1993 novel Remembering Babylon won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1996, he won the inaugural Australia-Asia Literary Award in 2008, and he was...

, and J. M. Coetzee, who recently became an Australian citizen, are also renowned writers, and Les Murray
Les Murray (poet)
Leslie Allan Murray, AO , known as Les Murray, is an Australian poet, anthologist and critic. His career spans over forty years, and he has published nearly 30 volumes of poetry, as well as two verse novels and collections of his prose writings...

 is regarded as "one of the leading poets of his generation".

Media



The Australian cinema industry
Cinema of Australia
Cinema of Australia, more commonly referred to as the Australian film industry, refers to the system of production, distribution, and exhibition of films in Australia. Film production commenced in Australia in 1906 with the production of The Story of the Kelly Gang, the earliest feature film made...

 began with the 1906 release of The Story of the Kelly Gang
The Story of the Kelly Gang
The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian film that traces the life of the legendary bushranger Ned Kelly . It was written and directed by Charles Tait. The film ran for more than an hour, and was the longest narrative film yet seen in Australia, and the world. Its approximate reel length...

, which is regarded as being the world's first feature-length
Feature length
Feature length is motion picture terminology referring to the length of a feature film. According to the rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a feature length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes to be eligible for an Academy Award.The term may also...

 film; but both Australian feature film production and the distribution of British-made features declined dramatically after World War I as American studios and distributors monopolised the industry, and by the 1930s around 95 per cent of the feature films screened in Australia were produced in Hollywood. By the late 1950s feature film production in Australia had effectively ceased and there were no all-Australian feature films made in the decade between 1959 and 1969.

Thanks to initiatives by the Gorton
John Gorton
Sir John Grey Gorton, GCMG, AC, CH , Australian politician, was the 19th Prime Minister of Australia.-Early life:...

 and Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

 federal governments, the New Wave of Australian cinema
Australian New Wave
The Australian New Wave was an era of resurgence in worldwide popularity of Australian cinema...

 of the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, some exploring the nation's colonial past, such as Picnic at Hanging Rock
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1967 drama and mystery novel by Australian author Joan Lindsay. She wrote it over a four-week period at her home Mulberry Hill in Baxter, on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. It was first published in 1967 in Australia by Cheshire Publishing and was released in...

 and Breaker Morant
Breaker Morant (film)
Breaker Morant is a 1980 Australian film about the court martial of Breaker Morant, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring British actor Edward Woodward as Harry "Breaker" Morant...

, while the so-called "Ocker
Ocker
The term "ocker" is used both as a noun and adjective for an Australian who speaks and acts in an uncultured manner, using a broad Australian accent...

" genre produced several highly successful urban-based comedy features including The Adventures of Barry McKenzie
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is a 1972 Australian film starring Barry Crocker, telling the story of an Australian 'yobbo' on his travels to the United Kingdom. Barry McKenzie was originally a character created by Barry Humphries for a cartoon strip in Private Eye...

 and Alvin Purple
Alvin Purple
Alvin Purple was a 1973 Australian comedy film starring Graeme Blundell, written by Alan Hopgood and directed by Tim Burstall.It received largely negative reviews from local film critics. Despite this it was a major hit with Australian audiences...

. Later hits included Mad Max
Mad Max
Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller and revised by Miller and Byron Kennedy over the original script by James McCausland. The film stars Mel Gibson, who was unknown at the time. Its narrative based around the traditional western genre, Mad Max tells a story...

 and Gallipoli
Gallipoli (1981 film)
Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Gallipoli Campaign. During the...

. More recent successes included Shine
Shine (film)
Shine is a 1996 Australian film based on the life of pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown and spent years in institutions. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Lynn Redgrave, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Noah Taylor, John Gielgud, Googie Withers, Justin Braine, Sonia Todd, Nicholas Bell, Chris...

 and Rabbit-Proof Fence
Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
Rabbit-Proof Fence is a 2002 Australian drama film directed by Phillip Noyce based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara...

. Notable Australian actors include Judith Anderson
Judith Anderson
Dame Judith Anderson, AC, DBE was an Australian-born American-based actress of stage, film and television. She won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award and was also nominated for a Grammy Award and an Academy Award.-Early life:...

, Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn
Errol Leslie Flynn was an Australian-born actor. He was known for his romantic swashbuckler roles in Hollywood films, being a legend and his flamboyant lifestyle.-Early life:...

, Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman
Nicole Mary Kidman, AC is an American-born Australian actress, singer, film producer, spokesmodel, and humanitarian. After starring in a number of small Australian films and TV shows, Kidman's breakthrough was in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm...

, Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman
Hugh Michael Jackman is an Australian actor and producer who is involved in film, musical theatre, and television.Jackman has won international recognition for his roles in major films, notably as action/superhero, period and romance characters...

, Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger
Heath Andrew Ledger was an Australian television and film actor. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger moved to the United States in 1998 to develop his film career...

, Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Roy Rush is an Australian actor and film producer. He is one of the few people who has won the "Triple Crown of Acting": an Academy Award, a Tony Award and an Emmy Award. He has won one Academy Award for acting , three British Academy Film Awards , two Golden Globe Awards and four Screen...

, and Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett
Catherine Élise "Cate" Blanchett is an Australian actress. She came to international attention for her role as Elizabeth I of England in the 1998 biopic film Elizabeth, for which she won British Academy of Film and Television Arts and Golden Globe Awards, and earned her first Academy Award...

—current joint director of the Sydney Theatre Company
Sydney Theatre Company
The Sydney Theatre Company is one of Australia's best-known theatre companies operating from The Wharf Theatre near The Rocks area of Sydney, as well as the Sydney Theatre and the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre....

.

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly referred to as "the ABC" , is Australia's national public broadcaster...

 and the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service
Special Broadcasting Service
The Special Broadcasting Service is a hybrid-funded Australian public broadcasting radio and television network. The stated purpose of SBS is "to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect...

), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services, and numerous public, non-profit television and radio stations. Each major city has at least one daily newspaper, and there are two national daily newspapers, The Australian
The Australian
The Australian is a broadsheet newspaper published in Australia from Monday to Saturday each week since 14 July 1964. The editor in chief is Chris Mitchell, the editor is Clive Mathieson and the 'editor-at-large' is Paul Kelly....

 and The Australian Financial Review
The Australian Financial Review
The Australian Financial Review is a leading business and finance newspaper in Australia.Fairfax Media publishes it in a compact format six days a week, Monday to Saturday....

. In 2010, Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 placed Australia 18th on a list of 178 countries ranked by press freedom
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

, behind New Zealand (8th) but ahead of the United Kingdom (19th) and United States (20th). This relatively low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia; most print media are under the control of News Corporation
News Corporation
News Corporation or News Corp. is an American multinational media conglomerate. It is the world's second-largest media conglomerate as of 2011 in terms of revenue, and the world's third largest in entertainment as of 2009, although the BBC remains the world's largest broadcaster...

 and Fairfax Media
Fairfax Media
Fairfax Media Limited is one of Australia's largest diversified media companies. The group's operations include newspapers, magazines, radios and digital media operating in Australia and New Zealand. Fairfax Media was founded by the Fairfax family as John Fairfax and Sons, later to become John...

.

Cuisine



The food of Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 was largely influenced by the area in which they lived. Most tribal groups subsisted on a simple hunter-gatherer diet, hunting native game and fish and collecting native plants and fruit. The general term for native Australian flora and fauna used as a source of food is bush tucker. The first settlers
First Fleet
The First Fleet is the name given to the eleven ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people, including 778 convicts , to establish the first European colony in Australia, in the region which Captain Cook had named New South Wales. The fleet was led by Captain ...

 introduced British food
British cuisine
English cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with England. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with wider British cuisine, largely due to the importation of ingredients and ideas from places such as North America, China, and India...

 to the continent which much of what is now considered typical Australian food is based on the Sunday roast
Sunday roast
The Sunday roast is a traditional British main meal served on Sundays , consisting of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy....

 has become an enduring tradition for many Australians. Since the beginning of the 20th century, food in Australia has increasingly been influenced by immigrants to the nation, particularly from Southern European and Asian cultures
Culture of Asia
The culture of Asia is human civilization in Asia. It features different kinds of cultural heritage of many nationalities, societies, and ethnic groups in the region, traditionally called a continent from a Western-centric perspective, of Asia...

. Australian wine
Australian wine
The Australian Wine Industry is the fourth largest exporter of wine around the world, with 760 million litres a year to a large international export market and contributes $5.5 billion per annum to the nation's economy...

 is produced in 60 distinct production areas totaling approximately 160,000 hectares, mainly in the southern, cooler parts of the country. The wine regions in each of these states produce different wine varieties and styles that take advantage of local climates and soil types. The predominant varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley...

, Chardonnay
Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is originated from the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand...

, Merlot
Merlot
Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured wine grape, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to derive from the Old French word for young blackbird, merlot, a diminutive of merle, the blackbird , probably from the color of the grape. Merlot-based wines...

, Sémillon
Sémillon
Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, most notably in France and Australia.-History:The origin of the Sémillon grape is hard to determine. It is known that it first arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and by the 1820s the grape covered over 90 percent...

, Pinot noir
Pinot Noir
Pinot noir is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot noir grapes...

, Riesling
Riesling
Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally...

, and Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French word sauvage and blanc due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France., a possible descendant of savagnin...

. In 1995, an Australian red wine, Penfolds Grange
Penfolds Grange
Penfolds Grange is an Australian wine, made predominantly from the Shiraz grape and usually a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is widely considered Australia's "first growth" and its most collectable wine...

, won the Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator
Wine Spectator is a lifestyle magazine that focuses on wine and wine culture. It publishes 15 issues per year with content that includes news, articles, profiles, and general entertainment pieces...

 award for Wine of the Year, the first time a wine from outside France or California achieved this distinction.

Sport




Around 24 per cent Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities in Australia. Australia has strong international teams in cricket
Cricket in Australia
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Australia, at international, domestic and local levels. Unlike most other sports played in Australia, cricket generates equal interest in all states of the nation. In 2007, a survey by Sweeney Sports found that 52% of the Australian public have an...

, field hockey
Field hockey
Field Hockey, or Hockey, is a team sport in which a team of players attempts to score goals by hitting, pushing or flicking a ball into an opposing team's goal using sticks...

, netball
Netball Australia
Netball Australia is the peak governing body for the sport of netball in Australia. The organisation's stated objectives for Australian netball are to achieve national and international success in competition, encourage greater participation and spectator involvement, and ensure excellence in all...

, rugby league
Rugby league in Australia
Rugby league football is one of the most popular sports in Australia. It is the dominant winter sport on the eastern seaboard of Australia, including the states of New South Wales and Queensland as well as the Australian Capital Territory, which together comprise around half of the country's...

, and rugby union
Rugby union in Australia
Rugby union is the third most popular winter sport in Australia, with its history dating back to 1864.The principal competition in Australian rugby union is Super Rugby, which is a multi-regional competition across the southern hemisphere...

, having been Olympic or world champions at least twice in each sport in the last 25 years for both men and women where applicable. Australia is also powerful in track cycling, rowing
Rowing (sport)
Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, on lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and the discipline. The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on the oar blades as they are pushed against the water...

, and swimming, having consistently been in the top-five medal-winners at Olympic or World Championship level since 2000. Swimming is the strongest of these sports; Australia is the second-most prolific medal winner in the sport in Olympic history.

Some of Australia's most internationally well-known and successful sportspeople are swimmers Dawn Fraser
Dawn Fraser
Dawn Fraser AO, MBE is an Australian champion swimmer. She is one of only two swimmers to win the same Olympic event three times – in her case the 100 meters freestyle....

, Murray Rose
Murray Rose
Iain Murray Rose AM was born on 6 January 1939 in Nairn, Scotland, but he moved to Australia with his family at an early age after World War II. He took up swimming as a boy and was an Olympic Games champion at age 17....

, Shane Gould
Shane Gould
Shane Elizabeth Gould, MBE is an Australian former swimmer who won three gold medals, a silver and bronze in 1972 Summer Olympics. It was the greatest performance by an Australian at a single Olympics.-Biography:...

, and Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
Ian James Thorpe OAM , nicknamed the Thorpedo and Thorpey, is an Australian swimmer who specialises in freestyle, but also competes in backstroke and the individual medley. He has won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian, and with three gold and two silver medals, was the most...

; sprinters Shirley Strickland
Shirley Strickland
Shirley Barbara Strickland AO, MBE , later Shirley de la Hunty, was an Australian athlete. She won more Olympic medals than any other Australian in running sports.-Family:...

, Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert
Elizabeth Cuthbert AM, MBE is an Australian athlete, and a fourfold Olympic champion....

, and Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman
Catherine Astrid Salome "Cathy" Freeman, OAM is former Australian sprinter, who specialised in the 400 metres event. She became the Olympic champion for the women's 400 metres at the 2000 Summer Olympics, at which she lit the Olympic Flame.Freeman was the first ever Aboriginal...

; tennis players Rod Laver
Rod Laver
Rodney George "Rod" Laver MBE is an Australian former tennis player who holds the record for titles won in career, and was the World No. 1 player for seven consecutive years, from 1964 to 1970...

, Roy Emerson
Roy Emerson
Roy Stanley Emerson is an Australian former tennis player who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles. He is the only male player to have won singles and doubles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments. His 28 Grand Slam titles are an all-time record for a male...

, Ken Rosewall
Ken Rosewall
Kenneth Robert Rosewall AM MBE is a former world top-ranking amateur and professional tennis player from Australia. He won 23 Majors including eight Grand Slam singles titles and before the Open Era a record fifteen Pro Slam titles . Rosewall won 9 slams in doubles with a career double grand slam...

, Evonne Goolagong
Evonne Goolagong
Evonne Fay Goolagong Cawley, AO, MBE is a former World No. 1 Australian female tennis player. She was one of the world's leading players in the 1970s and early 1980s, when she won 14 Grand Slam titles: seven in singles , six in women's doubles, and one in mixed doubles.-Early life:Goolagong is the...

, and Margaret Court; cricketers Donald Bradman
Donald Bradman
Sir Donald George Bradman, AC , often referred to as "The Don", was an Australian cricketer, widely acknowledged as the greatest batsman of all time...

 and Shane Warne
Shane Warne
Shane Keith Warne is a former Australian international cricketer widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game. In 2000, he was selected by a panel of cricket experts as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, the only specialist bowler selected in the quintet...

; three-time Formula One
Formula One
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile . The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which...

 world champion Jack Brabham
Jack Brabham
Sir John Arthur "Jack" Brabham, AO, OBE is an Australian former racing driver who was Formula One champion in , and . He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name....

; five-time motorcycle grand prix world champion Mick Doohan; golfers Greg Norman
Greg Norman
Gregory John Norman AO is an Australian professional golfer and entrepreneur who spent 331 weeks as the world's Number 1 ranked golfer in the 1980s and 1990s...

 and Karrie Webb
Karrie Webb
Karrie Ann Webb AM is Australia's most successful female professional golfer, and one of the top players in the history of global women's golf. She currently plays mainly on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour and also turns out once or twice a year on the ALPG Tour in her home country. She is a member of...

; cyclist Hubert Opperman
Hubert Opperman
Sir Hubert Ferdinand Opperman, OBE , referred to as Oppy by Australian and French crowds, was an Australian cyclist and politician, whose endurance cycling feats in the 1920s and 1930s earned him international acclaim....

; and prodigious billiards player Walter Lindrum
Walter Lindrum
Walter Albert Lindrum, OBE , often known as Wally Lindrum, was an Australian professional player of English billiards who held the World Professional Billiards Championship from 1933 until his retirement in 1950. He was named Walter Albert to have the initials of the state where he was born - W.A....

. Nationally, other popular sports include Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, Aussie rules or footy is a sport played between two teams of 22 players on either...

, horse racing, squash, surfing, soccer, and motor racing. The annual Melbourne Cup
Melbourne Cup
The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major Thoroughbred horse race. Marketed as "the race that stops a nation", it is a 3,200 metre race for three-year-olds and over. It is the richest "two-mile" handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races...

 horse race and the Sydney to Hobart
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, Australia on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart. The race distance is approximately...

 yacht race attract intense interest.

Australia has participated in every summer Olympics of the modern era, and every Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and takes place every four years....

. Australia hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics
1956 Summer Olympics
The 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations...

 in Melbourne and the 2000 Summer Olympics
2000 Summer Olympics
The Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games or the Millennium Games/Games of the New Millennium, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

 in Sydney, and has ranked among the top six medal-takers since 2000. Australia has also hosted the 1938
1938 British Empire Games
The 1938 British Empire Games was the third British Empire Games, the Commonwealth Games being the modern-day equivalent. Held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia from February 5–12, 1938, they were timed to coincide with Sydney's sesqui-centenary...

, 1962
1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
The 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Perth, Western Australia, Australia from 22 November-1 December 1962. Athletic events were held at Perry Lakes Stadium in the suburb of Floreat and swimming events at Beatty Park in North Perth....

, 1982
1982 Commonwealth Games
The 1982 Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia from 30 September–9 October 1982. The Opening Ceremony was held at the QEII Stadium , in the Brisbane suburb of Nathan. The QEII Stadium was also the venue which was used for the athletics and archery competitions during the...

, and 2006 Commonwealth Games
2006 Commonwealth Games
The 2006 Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia between 15 March and 26 March 2006. It was the largest sporting event to be staged in Melbourne, eclipsing the 1956 Summer Olympics in terms of the number of teams competing, athletes competing, and events being held.The site...

. Other major international events held in Australia include the Australian Open
Australian Open
The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam tennis tournament held in the southern hemisphere. The tournament was held for the first time in 1905 and was last contested on grass in 1987. Since 1972 the Australian Open has been held in Melbourne, Victoria. In 1988, the tournament became a hard court...

 tennis grand slam
Grand Slam (tennis)
The four Major tennis tournaments, also called the Slams, are the most important tennis events of the year in terms of world tour ranking points, tradition, prize-money awarded, strength and size of player field, and public attention. They are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and...

 tournament, international cricket matches, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix
Australian Grand Prix
The Australian Grand Prix is a motor race held annually and is held to be the pinnacle of motor racing in Australia. The Grand Prix is the oldest surviving motor racing competition held in Australia having been held 76 times since it was first run at Phillip Island in 1928. Since 1985 the race has...

. Sydney hosted the 2003 Rugby World Cup
2003 Rugby World Cup
The 2003 Rugby World Cup was the fifth Rugby World Cup and was won by England. Originally planned to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, all games were shifted to Australia following a contractual dispute over ground signage rights between the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and Rugby World...

 and the annual Australia–New Zealand Bledisloe Cup
Bledisloe Cup
Rugby Union's Bledisloe Cup is contested by the Australia national rugby union team and New Zealand national rugby union team. It is named after Lord Bledisloe, the former Governor-General of New Zealand who donated the trophy in 1931. The trophy was designed in New Zealand by Nelson Isaac, and...

 is keenly watched. The highest-rating television programs include sports telecasts such as the summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Rugby League State of Origin
Rugby League State of Origin
State of Origin is an annual best of three series of rugby league football matches contested by the Maroons and the Blues, who represent the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales respectively...

, and the grand final
Grand Final
Grand Final is a predominantly Australian sport term used to describe a match that decides a league champion.It originated in Victoria and South Australia and has become specifically significant Australian culture...

s of the National Rugby League
National Rugby League
The National Rugby League is the top league of professional rugby league football clubs in Australasia. The NRL's main competition, called the Telstra Premiership , is contested by sixteen teams, fifteen of which are based in Australia with one based in New Zealand...

 and Australian Football League
Australian Football League
The Australian Football League is both the governing body and the major professional competition in the sport of Australian rules football...

. Skiing in Australia
Skiing in Australia
Skiing in Australia takes place in the high country of the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as in the Australian Capital Territory, during the Southern Hemisphere winter....

 began in the 1860s and snow sports take place in the Australian Alps
Australian Alps
The Australian Alps are the highest mountain ranges of mainland Australia. They are located in southeastern Australia and straddle the Australian Capital Territory, south-eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria...

 and parts of Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

.

External links