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Australia Travel Guide:

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History   Geography    People    Economy    Communications    Transportation
 

Map of Australia's leading cities

Map of Australia and its major cities

 

History   Top of Page
  Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.   
Geography   Top of Page
Location Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean  (known in Australia and the surrounding countries as the Great Southern Ocean).  
Geographic Coordinates 27 00 S, 133 00 E  
Area Total: 7,686,850 sq km
Water: 68,920 sq km
(Note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island)
Land: 7,617,930 sq km
 
Area - Comparative Slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states     
Land Boundaries 0 km  
Coastline 25,760 km  
Climate Generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north  
Terrain Mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast  
Elevation Extremes Lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
Highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m
 
Natural Resources Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum  
Geography Note World's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer  
Natural hazards Cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires  
People   Top of Page
Population 20,264,082 (July 2006 est.)
 
Age Structure 0-14 years: 19.3% (male 2,023,375/female 1,929,229)
15-64 years: 67.4% (male 6,945,068/female 6,831,653)
65 years and over: 13.2% (male 1,197,494/female 1,507,357) (2007 est.)
 
Nationality Noun: Australian(s)
Adjective: Australian
 
Ethnic Groups Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%
 
Religions Catholic 26.4%, Anglican 20.5%, other Christian 20.5%, Buddhist 1.9%, Muslim 1.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 12.7%, none 15.3% (2001 Census)  
Language English, native languages  
Literacy Literacy:
Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 100%
 
Government   Top of Page
Country Name Conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
Conventional short form: Australia
 
Government Type Democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign  
Capital Canberra   
Administrative Divisions Administrative divisions:
6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Dependent areas:
Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island

 
Independence 1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)   
Flag Description Blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; the remaining half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars  
Economy   Top of Page
Overview Australia has an enviable Western-style capitalist economy with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Robust business and consumer confidence and high export prices for raw materials and agricultural products are fueling the economy. Australia's emphasis on reforms, low inflation, and growing ties with China are other key factors behind the economy's strength. Drought and strong import demand pushed the trade deficit up in recent years, although the trade balance improved in 2006. Housing prices probably peaked in 2005, diminishing the prospect that interest rates would be raised to prevent a speculative bubble. Conservative fiscal policies have kept Australia's budget in surplus since 2002.  
Currency Australian dollar  
Currency Code AUD  
Communications   Top of Page
Telephone System  Excellent domestic and international service  
Internet Country Code .au  
Transportation   Top of Page
Railways total: 38,550 km
broad gauge: 3,727 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 20,519 km 1.435-m gauge (1,877 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 14,074 km 1.067-m gauge (2,453 km electrified)
dual gauge: 230 km dual gauge (2006)
 
Roadways total: 810,641 km
paved: 336,962 km
unpaved: 473,679 km (2004)
 
Waterways 2,000 km (mainly used for recreation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems) (2006)  
Ports and Terminals Brisbane, Dampier, Fremantle, Gladstone, Hay Point, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Hedland, Port Kembla, Port Walcott, Sydney  
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