Menu > Australia
Australia's original inhabitants, the Aborigines, have settled between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago. They arrived via land bridges and short sea-crossings from Southeast Asia at a time where sea levels were lower.
Many European explorers have sailed around Australia in the 16th and 17th century. The land was even called New Holland by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. In 1770, James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia and claimed it for Britain.
The first British settlement was established in 1788 at Port Jackson, naming it New South Wales, which today is the territory of Sydney. This date later became Australia's national day, Australia Day, the 26th of January.
Other British colonies were created in the 19th century. They all formed a federation of colonies in 1901, and the Commonwealth of Australia was born, independent, but as a Dominion of the British Empire.
After the United Kingdom's defeat in Asia in World War II, and the threat of Japanese invasion, Australia turned to the United States as a new ally. The final constitutional ties with the UK ended in 1986, and now Australia is increasing focus as part of the Asia-Pacific region.
Located between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, Australia is a country that covers most of the Australia-Oceania continent. It borders on the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea on the north, and the Tasman Sea on the south-east.
Australia consists of six states, which are the New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA). There are also two major mainland territories, the Northern Territory (NT) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Most of the population resides along the south-east coast, mainly in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Australia has a wide variety of landscapes. These include deserts, mountains, from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests and long beaches. The country also hosts a great variety of marsupial animals such as the koala and the kangaroo.
Mount Augustus, located in Western Australia, is the world's biggest monolith. But Uluru, also called Ayers Rock, is the most popular monolith and is an icon for Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef. It extends for over 2,000 kilometres on the north-eastern coasts of the country.
The primary basis of Australia's culture is Anglo-Celtic with some indigenous influence. But during the past 50 years, the Australian culture has been inspired by non-Speaking English countries, and by Asian culture. American popular culture has also influenced Australia in the music and movie domains.
90% of Australia's population is of European descent with English being the official language. The three largest ethnic groups are either born in New Zealand, Vietnam or China. The country has no state religion, although 64% of Australians call themselves Christian.
The visual arts started with the indigenous people with landscape paintings in the caves that occurred around 50,000 years ago. After the arrival of the British, many Australian painters, such as Arthur Streeton, Arthur Boyd and Albert Namatjira, have also been demonstrating landscapes on their works of art.
Australia has a long history of film production, from Crocodile Dundee to The Matrix . Many Australian actors are also known worldwide, including Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.
Sport plays an important element of Australian culture, with rugby being very popular. Australia is one of the few countries that has participated in every single summer Olympic Games, and has hosted the 1956 Games in Melbourne and the 2000 Games in Sydney.
- Australia is the 6th biggest country worldwide, located on the smallest continent.
- The word kangaroo means "What did you say" in the aboriginal language, when the first European settlers asked about that animal.
- The name Australia is derived from the Latin word "Australis", which means the south. Legends of an "unknown land of the south" dated back to Roman times but they were not based on any actual knowledge of the continent.
- Australia is the driest country; it has the lowest precipitation of any of the world's inhabited continents (Antarctica gets less).
- The tropical north of Australia is home to the world's largest species of crocodile, the salt water crocodile. Males can occasionally grow to lengths of over 6 meters (20 feet). Each year one or two people are eaten by crocodiles in Australia.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (www.wikipedia.org).
BBC News - Country Profile: Australia (news.bbc.co.uk).
Australia facts on National Geographic (www3.nationalgeographic.com).
World Flag Database (www.flags.net).