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Australia was the last great landmass to be discovered by the Europeans. Long before the British claim it as their own, European explorers and trades had been dreaming of the riches to be found in the unknown – some said mythical – southern land (terra australis) that was supposed to form a counterbalance to the landmass north of the equator. The continent they eventually found had already been inhabited for tens of thousands of years.

Official name Commonwealth of Australia (the states federated in 1901 to form

the Commonwealth of Australia)

Status Independent federative state, within the Commonwealth headed

by the British Queen

Monarch Queen Elizabeth II

Government Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy

Governor-General Michael Jeffery

Prime Minister Julia Gillard (since June 24, 2010)

Area 2,941,299 sq.mi. (7,617 ,930 sq.km.)

Population 19,855,288 (2006). Most Australians live in cities along the

eastern and south-eastern coastal plains

Nationality Australian

Australian natives Aborigines/Koori

Capital Canberra (in the Australian Capital Territory – ACT)

Largest cities Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide

Anthem Advance Australia Fair (a frequently heard but unofficial anthem

Is the popular folk song “ Waltzing Matilda” )

Language English, Aboriginal languages (almost 15% of Australians

speak a language other than English at home)

Religions Anglicans 36%, Protestants 25%, Roman Catholics 25%

Currency Australian dollar (AUD)

The flag The Australian national flag has a royal blue background with

five white stars (the Southern Cross) on the right, a large white

seven-pointed star (the Federation Star) on the bottom left and

the British flag ( the Union Jack) on the top left. The Union Jack

represents Australia’s historical link with Britain, the Federation

Star represents Australia’s six states and its territories, and the

Southern Cross is a prominent feature of the southern hemis-

phere night sky.

Coat of arms The official emblem of the Australian Government consists of

a shield containing the badges of the six states. The supporters

are native Australian fauna – a kangaroo and an emu. A yellow-

flowered native plant, wattle, also appears in the design. The

Crest of the Arms is a seven-pointed gold star symbolic of natio-

nal unity on a gold and blue wreath.

National day Australia Day – January 26 (in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip,

of the British Royal Navy, commanded a fleet of 11 ships and

sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney Cove).

National Colours In 1984 Australia officially adopted green and gold as its national

colours – colours its prominent athletes had worn unofficially for

many years.

Location: Australia is unique – an island continent of 7.7 million square kilometers, and a single nation. It is some 4,000 kilometres wide and 3,000 kilometres from north to south.

Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere south of Asia comprising the mainland of the world’s smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania, and a number of other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the sixth largest country in the world and the lowest of all the continents: only 2% of its land area is over 1,000 metres; Lake Eyre, in central Australia, has the lowest point of 16 metres below sea level. Australia’s landmass is on the Indo-Australian Plate.

It is bounded on the north by the Torres Strait and the Timor Sea, on the east by the Coral and Tasman seas, and on the south and west by the Indian Ocean. Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas.

The neighbouring countries are Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east and New Zealand to the south-east.

The coastline is approx. 34,218 km. and is washed by three oceans and four seas.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef lies a short distance off north-east and extends for over 2,000 kilometres. It is not only the most extensive reef system in the world, but the biggest structure made by living organisms. Drilling on the reef has indicated that the coral may be more than 500 metres thick. Most of the reef is about two million years old, but there are sections dating back 18 million years.

Australia has six states, two major mainland territories, and other minor territories.

The states and their capital cities are: New South Wales (Sydney), Queensland (Brisbane), South Australia (Adelaide), Tasmania (Hobart), Victoria (Melbourne), and Western Australia (Perth). The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory (Darwin) and the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).

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