About Australia [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of Australia; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.

Location

Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean

Climate

Generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north

Terrain

Mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast

Elevation

lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m

Geo Notes

World's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts

Approved Official Names

conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
conventional short form: Australia

Capital City

name: Canberra
geographic coordinates: 35 17 S, 149 13 E
time difference: UTC+10
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins first Sunday in October; ends first Sunday in April
note: Australia is divided into three time zones

Administrative Divisions

6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Natuaral Hazards

Cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires
volcanism: volcanic activity occurs on the Heard and McDonald Islands

Environmental Issues

Soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; limited natural fresh water resources

Life Expectancy

total population: 81.72 years
male: 79.33 years
female: 84.25 years (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.055 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

English 78.5%, Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2%, Vietnamese 1%, other 8.2%, unspecified 5.7% (2006 Census)

Religions Practiced

Catholic 25.8%, Anglican 18.7%, Uniting Church 5.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 3%, Eastern Orthodox 2.7%, other Christian 7.9%, Buddhist 2.1%, Muslim 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 11.3%, none 18.7% (2006 Census)

Legal System

Based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts International Criminal Court jurisdiction with conditions

Dependent Areas

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

National Holiday

Australia Day, 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorated as the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)

Illicit Drugs

Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of licit opiate products; government maintains strict controls over areas of opium poppy cultivation and output of poppy straw concentrate; major consumer of cocaine and amphetamines

Telephone System

general assessment: excellent domestic and international service
domestic: domestic satellite system; significant use of radiotelephone in areas of low population density; rapid growth of mobile telephones
international: country code - 61; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable with links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; the Southern Cross fiber optic submarine cable provides links to New Zealand and the United States; satellite earth stations - 19 (10 Intelsat - 4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean, 2 Inmarsat - Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, 2 Globalstar, 5 other) (2007)

Broadcast Media

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) runs multiple national and local radio networks and TV stations, as well as Australia Network, a TV service that broadcasts throughout the Asia-Pacific region and is the main public broadcaster; Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), a second large public broadcaster, operates radio and TV networks broadcasting in multiple languages; several large national commercial TV networks, a large number of local commercial TV stations, and hundreds of commercial radio stations are accessible; cable and satellite systems are available (2008)

Background

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 climate-change issues such as the depletion of the ozone layer and more frequent droughts, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Economy Overview

Australia's abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive reserves of coal, iron ore, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. A series of major investments, such as the US$40 billion Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas project, will significantly expand the resources sector. Australia also has a large services sector and is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food. Key tenets of Australia's trade policy include support for open trade and the successful culmination of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, particularly for agriculture and services. The Australian economy grew for 17 consecutive years before the global financial crisis. Subsequently, the Rudd government introduced a fiscal stimulus package worth over US$50 billion to offset the effect of the slowing world economy, while the Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to historic lows. These policies - and continued demand for commodities, especially from China - helped the Australian economy rebound after just one quarter of negative growth. The economy grew by 1.5% during the first three quarters of 2009 - the best performance in the OECD. Unemployment, originally expected to reach 8-10%, peaked at 5.7% in late 2009 and fell to 5.3% by February 2010. As a result of an improved economy, the budget deficit is expected to peak below 4.2% of GDP and the government could return to budget surpluses as early as 2015. The Australian financial system remained resilient throughout the financial crisis and Australian banks have rebounded. Australia was one of the first advanced economies to raise interest rates - three times since October 2009 - and the government removed the wholesale funding guarantee for financial institutions in March 2010. During 2010, the government will focus on raising Australia's economic productivity, managing the symbiotic, but sometimes tense, economic relationship with China, passing emissions trading legislation, and dealing with other climate-related issues such as drought and devastating bushfires. Australia is engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with China and Japan.

National Anthem

name: "Advance Australia Fair"
lyrics/music: Peter Dodds McCORMICK
note: adopted 1984; although originally written in the late 19th century, the anthem did not become official until 1984; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)

Australia location map
Size

total: 7,741,220 sq km
land: 7,682,300 sq km
water: 58,920 sq km
note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island

Australia flag
Population

21,515,754 (July 2010 est.)

Nationality

noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian

Ethnic Groups

white 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%

HIV/AIDS Rate

0.2% (2007 est.)

Independence Date

1 January 1901 (from the federation of UK colonies)

Government Type

Federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm

Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Internet Users

15.17 million (2008)

Internet Hosts

13.361 million (2010)

Internet Country Code

.au

Number Airports

465 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 326
over 3,047 m: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 148
914 to 1,523 m: 140
under 914 m: 14 (2010)

Number Heliports

1 (2010)

Railways

total: 37,855 km
broad gauge: 142 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 24,409 km 1.435-m gauge (1,094 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 13,304 km 1.067-m gauge (1,193 km electrified) (2008)

Roadways

total: 812,972 km
paved: 341,448 km
unpaved: 471,524 km (2004)

Inland Waterways

2,000 km (mainly used for irrigation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems) (2006)

Ports & Terminals

Brisbane, Cairns, Dampier, Darwin, Fremantle, Gladstone, Geelong, Hay Point, Hobart, Jervis Bay, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Adelaide, Port Dalrymple, Port Hedland, Port Kembla, Port Lincoln, Port Walcott, Sydney

National Budget

revenues: $278.7 billion
expenditures: $317 billion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

-$41.33 billion (2009 est.)
-$47.79 billion (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar - 1.2894 (2009), 1.2059 (2008), 1.2137 (2007), 1.3285 (2006), 1.3095 (2005)

Inflation Rate

1.8% (2009 est.)
4.4% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

Mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel

Agricultural Products

Wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry

Labor Force

11.6 million (2009 est.)

Main Occupations

agriculture: 3.6%
industry: 21.1%
services: 75% (2009 est.)

Unemployment Rate

5.6% (2009 est.)
4.3% (2008 est.)

GDP (USD Parity)

$848.4 billion (2009 est.)
$838.4 billion (2008 est.)
$820.3 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$39,900 (2009 est.)
$39,900 (2008 est.)
$39,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 25.4% (1994)

Family Income Gini

30.5 (2006)
35.2 (1994)

Below Poverty

NA%