Australia: The land "Down Under"




Anthem Advance Australia Fair
Watch on youtube (with lyrics)
Capital Canberra
Largest city Sydney
National language English (de facto)
Government Federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Area 1,7,617,930 km2, 2,941,299 sq mi
Population ~ 22 million
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Internet TLD .au


Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent (the world's smallest), the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the northeast, and New Zealand to the southeast. Australia has six states—New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia—and two major mainland territories—the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
The capital city of Australia is Canberra. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth largest Australian city overall. The largest city in Australia and Oceania is Sydney with a population of 4,504,469. It is also the state capital of New South Wales, and is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. Other large cities are the mainland state capitals: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Society and culture

Since 1788, the primary basis of Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture. Distinctive cultural features have also arisen from Australia's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations.


Most of the estimated 22 million Australians are descended from colonial-era settlers and immigrants from Europe, with almost 90% of the population being of European descent. For generations, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin. In the 2006 Australian Census, the most commonly nominated ancestry was Australian (37.13%), followed by English (31.65%), Irish (9.08%), Scottish (7.56%), Italian (4.29%), German (4.09%), Chinese (3.37%), and Greek (1.84%).


English is the national language. Australian English has a unique accent and a small number of unique terms, some of which have found their way into other dialects of the English-speaking world. Grammar and spelling are largely based on those of British English. According to the 2006 Census, English is the only language spoken at home for close to 79% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Italian (1.6%), Greek (1.3%) and Cantonese (1.2%).


Australia has no state religion. In the 2006 Census, 64% of Australians listed themselves as Christian, including 26% as Roman Catholic and 19% as Anglican. The second-largest religion in Australia is Buddhism (2.1%), followed by Islam (1.7%), Hinduism (0.8%), and Judaism (0.5%). Overall, fewer than 6% of Australians identify with non-Christian religions. About 19% of the population cited "No religion", and a further 12% did not answer (the question is optional). Religion does not play a central role in the lives of much of the population, although young adults are somewhat more religious than their elders.

Government and politics

The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of powers. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia. There are three branches of government: the legislature (the Commonwealth Parliament, comprising the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Representatives), the executive (the Federal Executive Council, the Prime Minister and Ministers of State) and the judiciary (the High Court of Australia and other federal courts).


Australia's per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. All of Australia's major cities fare well in global comparative liveability surveys. There has been an emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactured goods since the start of the century. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for 69% of GDP. Although agriculture and natural resources account for only 3% and 5% of GDP, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia's largest export markets are Japan, China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand.

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