Population: 21,262,641 (July 2010 estimate)
Land Area: 2,988,901 square miles (7,741,220 sq km)
Coastline: 16,006 miles (25,760 km)
Highest Point: Mount Kosciuszko at 7,313 feet (2,229 m)
Lowest Point: Lake Eyre at -49 feet (-15 m)
Australia (map) is a country located in the Southern Hemisphere near Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. It is an island nation that makes up the Australian continent as well as the island of Tasmania and some other small islands. Australia is considered a developed nation and it has the world's thirteenth largest economy. It is known for a high life expectancy, its education, quality of life, biodiversity and tourism.
History of Australia
Due to its isolation from the rest of the world, Australia was an uninhabited island until about 60,000 years ago. At that time, it is believed that people from Indonesia developed boats that were able to carry them across the Timor Sea, which was lower in sea level at the time.
Europeans did not discover Australia until 1770 when, Captain James Cook mapped the island's east coast and claimed it for Great Britain. On January 26, 1788, colonization of Australia began when Captain Arthur Phillip landed in Port Jackson, which later became Sydney. On February 7, he issued a proclamation which established the colony of New South Wales.
Most of the first settlers in Australia were convicts who were transported there from England. In 1868 the movement of prisoners to Australia ended and shortly before that, in 1851, gold was discovered in Australia which significantly increased its population and helped grow its economy.
Following the establishment of New South Wales in 1788, five more colonies were founded by the mid 1800's. They were Tasmania in 1825, Western Australia in 1829, South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. In 1901, Australia became a nation but remained a member of the British Commonwealth. In 1911, Australia's Northern Territory became a part of the Commonwealth (prior control was by South Australia).
In 1911, Australia's Capital Territory (where Canberra is located today) was formally established and in 1927, the seat of government was transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. On October 9, 1942, Australia and Great Britain ratified the Statute of Westminster which began to formally establish the country's independence and in 1986, The Australia Act was passed which further established the country's independence.
Government of Australia
Today Australia, officially called the Commonwealth of Australia, is a federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm. It has an executive branch with Queen Elizabeth II as the Chief of State as well as a separate prime minister as head of government. The legislative branch is a bicameral Federal Parliament consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Australia's judicial system is based on English common law and it comprised of the High Court as well as lower level federal, state and territorial courts.
Economics and Land Use in Australia
Australia has a strong economy due to its extensive natural resources, well developed industry and tourism. The main industries in Australia are mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals and steel manufacturing. Agriculture also plays a role in the country's economy and its main products include wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits, cattle, sheep and poultry.
Geography, Climate and Biodiversity of Australia
Australia is located in Oceania between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans. Although it is a large country, its topography is not too varied and most of it consists of low desert plateau. There are however fertile plains in the southeast. Australia's climate is mostly arid to semiarid, but the south and east are temperate and the north is tropical.
Although most of Australia is arid desert, it supports a wide range of diverse habitats, thus making it incredibly biodiverse. Alpine forests, tropical rainforests and a wide variety of plants and animals thrive there because of its geographic isolation from the rest of the world. As such, 85% of its plants, 84% of its mammals and 45% of its birds are endemic to Australia. It also has the greatest number of reptile species in the world as well as some of the most venomous snakes and other dangerous creatures like the crocodile. Australia is most famous for its marsupial species, which include the kangaroo, koala and wombat.
In its waters, around 89% of Australia's fish species both inland and offshore are endemic. In addition, endangered coral reefs are common on Australia's coast - the most famous of these is the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system and it stretches over an area of 133,000 square miles (344,400 sq km). It is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and supports many different species, many of which are endangered.
Central Intelligence Agency. (15 September 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - Australia. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/as.html
Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Australia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107296.html
United States Department of State. (27 May 2010). Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2698.htm
Wikipedia.com. (28 September 2010). Australia - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia
Wikipedia.com. (27 September 2010). Great Barrier Reef - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef