Anzwers Advertisers


Facts at a glance

Australia is an independent Western democracy with a population of more than 17.6 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 nearly five million settlers from almost 200 nations. Four out of 10 Australians are migrants or the first-generation children of migrants, half of them from non-English speaking backgrounds. In 1991-92, East Asia contributed 41 per cent of settler arrivals.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people totalled 265 378 at the last census, nearly 1.5 per cent of the population. Two thirds of the indigenous people live in towns and cities. Many others live in rural and remote areas, and some still have a broadly traditional way of life. 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, yet it has extremes of climate and topography. There are rainforests and vast plains in the north, snowfields in the south east, desert in the centre and fertile croplands in the east, south and south west. About one third of the country lies in the tropics. Australia has a coastline of 36 735km.

Isolation of the Australian island-continent for 55 million years created a sanctuary for the flora and fauna. Marsupials were saved from competition with more highly developed mammals. Birds unique to Australia also survived, and distinctive trees and plants developed. Australia’s best-known animals are the kangaroo, koala, platypus and spiny anteater. Of more than 700 bird species listed in Australia, 400 - including the large, flightless emu - are found nowhere else. Australia has 20 000 species of plants, including living fossils such as the cycad palm and the grass tree, and brilliant wildflowers such as the waratah, Sturt’s desert pea, the flowering cones of banksia trees, and the red and green kangaroo paw. The continent has 700 species of acacia, which Australians call wattle, and 1200 species in the Myrtaceae family which includes eucalypts or gum trees.

Australia’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, is a revised version of a late 19th-century patriotic song. It was declared the national anthem in April 1984, replacing God Save the Queen, which was designated the royal anthem. In the same year, Australia officially adopted green and gold as its national colours .

Australia’s official language is English, by common usage rather than law. Australian English does not differ significantly from other forms of English, although some colloquial and slang expressions are unique.

The flag of Australia is the only one to fly over a whole continent. The small Union Jack represents the historical link with Britain, the large seven-pointed star represents the six States and the Territories, and the small stars form the Southern Cross - a prominent feature of the southern hemisphere night sky.

Australia’s coat of arms - the official emblem of the Australian Government - was granted by King George V in 1912. The arms consist 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.

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.

Air travel and the great variety of Australia’s attractions are combining to bring more international tourists to Australia every year. Overseas tourists are drawn by Australia’s sunshine, sandy beaches, the vast outback, rainforests, the Great Barrier Reef, unique flora and fauna, the Gold Coast of Queensland, and the attractions of the cities, Australia’s friendly, multicultural society, and the safe and welcoming environment. Tourism is one of Australia’s largest and fastest-growing industries. In 1992, 2.6 million international tourists visited Australia, a quarter of them from Japan and another quarter from other countries of East Asia.

At 1.0 per cent in 1992, Australia’s inflation rate was one of the lowest in the OECD.

Australian workers have achieved one of the lowest rates of industrial disputation in OECD countries. In 1992, the level of industrial disputes was the lowest for 50 years. Wage restraint has delivered real unit labour costs almost eight per cent lower than 10 years ago. Moderate wage outcomes have also been a major factor in achieving low inflation.

Average weekly earnings for full-time employed adult people in February 1993 were $628.30.

More than 60 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports go to the Asia region. Eight of Australia's 12 largest export markets are in East Asia. East Asia accounts for 39 per cent of Australia’s imports. Japan accounts for 25 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports, and supplies 19 per cent of imports. Exports to the ASEAN countries exceed those to either the EC or the Americas. Countries in the Asia region are the fastest growing source for Australia’s imports.

Trade with the rest of the world is Australia’s economic lifeblood. Australia ranks about 19th in the world in value of its international trade. In the year ended 30 June 1993, Australia’s two-way merchandise trade totalled $120 360 million.

Thisdocument has been prepared by Australia's International Public Affairs branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The help received from Australian government departments, associated organisations and other authorities is gratefully acknowledged. Information is current to April 1995. Money values are in Australian currency, weights and measures in Metric.