Australian Researchers’ Mobility Portal

At a glance

population20.8 million
official languageEnglish
capital cityCanberra
major citiesSydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide
political systemconstitutional monarchy with Parliamentary democracy
land area7,741,220 km²
currencyAustralian dollar (AUD)
national dayAustralia Day, 26th January

See www.australia.gov.au/About_Australia for more detail.

Culture

Bluey

The Culture and Recreation Portal provides access to online services and information in the fields of culture and recreation: www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au.

An summary of the Australian culture, and the historical roots, can be found on the Wikipedia entry Culture of Australia.

Australians are a unique mix of people. Indigenous Australians have inhabited Australia for an estimated 60,000 years. The remainder of Australia’s population are settlers, or descendants of settlers, who have arrived during the past two centuries. Of particular note are: the United Kingdom, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Lebanon, India, China and Vietman.

Australia’s culture reflects the nation’s unique blend of new influences and old traditions. The nation has thriving ethnic media, an international business reputation, an innovative artistic community, diverse religious and cultural activities and variety in foods, restaurants, fashion and architecture

The languages most commonly spoken in Australia are English, Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Mandarin. Collectively, Australians speak over 200 languages, including over 45 Indigenous languages.

Quality of life

Australia is ranked in the top 10 countries on the Human Development Index and the Worldwide Quality-of-Life Index, which consider factors such as life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living. All of its major cities perpetually appear on various lists of the world’s most livable cities.

Brief history

Adopted from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Australia in Brief: Ancient heritage, modern society.

Before the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples inhabited most areas of the Australian continent. Each people spoke one or more of hundreds of separate languages, with lifestyles and cultural traditions that differed according to the region in which they lived. Their complex social systems and highly developed traditions reflect a deep connection with the land and environment.

The first recorded European contact with Australia was in 1606, when Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon charted the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. Over the next two centuries, European explorers and traders continued to chart the coastline of Australia, then known as New Holland. It was not until 1770 that an Englishman, Captain James Cook, aboard the Endeavour, extended a scientific voyage to the South Pacific in order to further chart the east coast of Australia and claim it for the British Crown.

Britain decided to use its new outpost as a penal colony; the First Fleet of 11 ships carried about 1,500 people — half of them convicts. The fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1788.

The convicts were joined by free immigrants from the early 1790s onwards. The wool industry and the gold rushes of the 1850s provided an impetus for free settlers to come to Australia. The vastness of the land and new wealth based on farming, mining and trade made Australia a land of opportunity.

The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 through the federation of six states under a single constitution. The founders of the new nation believed they were creating something new and were concerned to avoid the pitfalls of the old world. They wanted Australia to be harmonious, united and egalitarian, and had progressive ideas about human rights and the observance of democratic procedures.

From 1900 to 1914 great progress was made in developing Australia’s agricultural and manufacturing capacities.

Out of the First World War was born one of Australia’s most enduring values: the ‘ANZAC’ ethos of courage and spirit. Every year on 25 April, Australia commemorates the brave but devastating battle fought by the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps — ANZAC — at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. The day also commemorates all Australian soldiers who have fought in wars since then.

During the Second World War Australian forces made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in Europe and in Asia and the Pacific. The generation that fought in the war and survived came out of the war with a sense of pride in Australia’s capabilities.

After the war Australia entered a boom period. Millions of refugees and migrants arrived in Australia, many of them young people.

The economy developed strongly in the 1950s with major nation-building projects such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a hydro-electric power scheme located in Australia’s southern alps. The rate of home ownership rose dramatically from barely 40% in 1947 to more than 70% by 1960.

Today Australia is one of the most cosmopolitan and dynamic societies in the world.

Climate

Most of Australia experiences a mild climate. Temperatures generally vary from 5°C to 35°C across a year. Most cities, however, can experience much hotter weather during the peak of summer with temperatures reaching over 40°C.

For more detailed information, see the Bureau of Meteorology website.