30’000 km for a Didgeridoo
Western Australia in winter by Werner Wyss
31st October 2008
Gold and water!

Australia in brief
Australia is an independent Western democracy with a population of more than 20 million. It is one of the world’s most urbanised countries, with about 70 per cent of the population living in the 10 largest cities. Most of the population is concentrated along the eastern seaboard and the south-eastern corner of the continent.

Australia’s lifestyle reflects its mainly Western origins, but Australia is also a multicultural society which has been enriched by over six million settlers from almost 200 nations. Four out of ten Australians are migrants or the first-generation children of migrants, half of them from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people totalled 410 003, nearly 2.2 per cent of the population. Two thirds of the indigenous people live in towns and cities. It is generally thought that Aboriginal people began living on the continent 50 000 to 60 000 years ago, and some authorities believe their occupation may date back 100 000 years.

Australia is the only nation to occupy an entire continent. Its land mass of nearly 7.7 million km2 is the flattest and (after Antarctica) driest of continents. Isolation of the Australian island-continent for 55 million years created a sanctuary for the flora and fauna. Australia’s official language is English, by common usage rather than law. The flag of Australia is the only one to fly over a whole continent.

Australia’s national day, Australia Day, on 26 January, marks the date in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, of the British Royal Navy, commanding a fleet of 11 ships, sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney Cove). Phillip formally took possession of the eastern part of the continent for England and established a settlement, now Australia’s largest city, Sydney.

Australia’s friendly, multicultural society, and the safe and welcoming environment. Tourism is one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing industries. In 2002, 4.8 million international tourists visited Australia, a quarter of them from Japan and another quarter from other countries of East Asia.

Japan remains Australia's largest single export market, buying 19 per cent of total merchandise exports in 2001 - 02. The United States accounts for 10 per cent, Korea 8 per cent and New Zealand 6 per cent. China, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Indonesia were also significant export markets. Australia's imports have always been dominated by manufactures.

This document has been prepared by Australia's International Public Affairs branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Summary).