Aussie quick facts
- Population: 22,715,709 (2011 estimate)
- Capital: Canberra
- GDP: US$882.362 billion (2010)
- GDP per capita: US$39,764 (IMF 2010)
- Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world by area, and lies in the Southern Hemisphere. It has an approximate area of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,299 square miles) and roughly 34,000km of coastline, making it the world’s smallest continent but largest island.
Australia is 3700km in distance from its southernmost to its northernmost point, and stretches about 4000km across, with the Pacific and Indian Oceans bordering its shores.
Australia is the flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the semi-arid land (‘the Outback’) making up a large proportion of its area.
It is understood that the continent has been inhabited by Indigenous Australians for over 40,000 years. It was ‘Discovered’ by Dutch explorers in 1606. The eastern half was ‘claimed’ by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788.
On 1 January 1901, the by then six British colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia.
Since then, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system with a constitutional monarchy, with six states and two self-governing territories. The population is heavily concentrated in the eastern states.
Living standards in Australia
According to the IMF, in 2010 Australia ranked 10th in the world by annual GDP per capita (US$39,764 per year)
Australia also ranks highly in many international national performance studies, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom and the protection of civil liberties and political rights.
Four of Australia’s main cities are in the top nine most liveable cities in the world (Economist Intelligence Unit Liveability Poll 2011).
Immigration to Australia in modern times
Of course the very first migrants came to Australia tens of thousands of years ago. Immigration though has been the main engine of population growth in Australia in modern times, particularly since World War Two.
Government immigration policies in the 1950s and 1960s were specifically focussed on attracting migrants from Europe, characterised by the nowadays universally deplored ‘White Australia Policy’.
From the 1970’s, such a discriminatory immigration policy was abandoned. Modern Australian immigration policy favours multiculturalism with jobs skills, family and refugee status the key qualifying factors in the strict Australian visa system.
Even so, British citizens still comprise the largest single national group of new immigrants who move to Australia each year (also see: The British move to Australia)
IMAGE: The New Australia – A Mother is kissed by her son after she takes up Australian citizenship at Australia Day celebrations in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Dominic O’Brien)
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