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