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ABOUT AUSTRALIA

GENERAL INFORMATION
Australia is a diverse and beautiful country. Within this vast continent, Australians enjoy a high standard of living, a favorable climate, and stable social, economic and political conditions. Australia offers a wealth of travel experiences, from the vastness and drama of the outback, to the spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef and its islands, the cosmopolitanism of Sydney and arguably some of the best beaches in the world. Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one night and meet Crocodile Dundee the next will have to re-think their grasp of geography in this huge country. It is this sheer vastness, and the friction between the ancient land steeped in Aboriginal lore and the New World cultures being heaped upon it, which gives Australia much of its character.

Full country name: Commonwealth of Australia
Area: 7,682,300 sq km
Population: 19.5 million
Capital city: Canberra (pop: 313,000)
People: 94% European descent, 4% Asian, 1.5% Aboriginal
Languages: English, Aboriginal languages (plus numerous other European, Arabic and Asian languages)
Religion: 75% Christian, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 0.5% Jewish
GDP: US$418 billion
GDP per head: US$22,000
Annual growth: 4.5%
Inflation: 3%
Major products/industries: Minerals, oil, coal, gold, wool, cereals, meat.
Major trading partners: Japan, ASEAN, South Korea, US and the EU.



GEOGRAPHY
Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, covering around 7.6 million square kilometers - about the same size as continental USA. It measures about 4000 km from east to west, and about 3200 km north to south. Within and around Australia's 36,000 kilometers of coastline can be found some of the most stunning natural wilderness regions in the world. Among these are: the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches for hundreds of kilometers along the eastern coast of Australia; the tropical rainforest of Cape York; Kakadu National Park; Ayers Rock and many, many others. Fertile coastal plains with lush landscapes skirt the country, and whilst much of the interior is desert, there are many inland areas that are used for farming. 50% of the continent is suitable for livestock rearing, with 6 percent used for crop growing. Forests cover 18% of the land, and the surrounding oceans are rich in marine life.

HISTORY
Australia's original inhabitants, known as Australian Aborigines, have the longest continuous cultural history in the world, with origins dating back to the last Ice age. Although mystery and debate shroud many aspects of Australian prehistory, it is generally accepted that the first humans traveled across the sea from Indonesia about 70,000 years ago. The first visitors, called 'Robust' by archaeologists because of their heavy-boned physique, were followed 20,000 years later by the more slender 'Gracile' people, the ancestors of Australian Aborigines.

Europeans began to encroach on Australia in the 16th century: Portuguese navigators were followed by Dutch explorers and the enterprising English pirate William Dampier. Captain James Cook sailed the entire length of the eastern coast in 1770, stopping at Botany Bay on the way. After rounding Cape York, he claimed the continent for the British and named it New South Wales.

In 1779, Joseph Banks (a naturalist on Cook's voyage) suggested that Britain could solve overcrowding problems in its prisons by transporting convicts to New South Wales. In 1787, the First Fleet set sail for Botany Bay under the command of Captain Arthur Philip, who was to become the colony's first governor. The fleet comprised 11 ships, 750 male and female convicts, four companies of marines and supplies for two years. Philip arrived in Botany Bay on 26 January 1788, but soon moved north to Sydney Cove, where there was better land and water. For the new arrivals, New South Wales was a harsh and horrible place, and the threat of starvation hung over the colony for at least 16 years. Free settlers began to be attracted to Australia over the next decades, but it was the discovery of gold in the 1850s that changed the face of the colony. The huge influx of migrants and several large finds boosted the economy and irrevocably changed the colonial social structures. Aborigines were ruthlessly pushed off their tribal lands as new settlers took up land for farming or mining. The Industrial Revolution in England required plenty of raw materials, and Australia's agricultural and mineral resources expanded to meet the demand.

Australia became a nation when federation of the separate colonies took place on 1 January 1901 (although many of the legal and cultural ties with England remained). Australian troops fought alongside the British in the Boer War, WWI and WWII. However, the USA's role in protecting Australia from Japanese invasion during WWII marked the beginning of a shift in allegiance. Australia subsequently followed the USA into both the Korean and Vietnam wars in Asia.

Post WWII immigration brought a flood of European immigrants, many of them non-British. The immigrants have since made an enormous contribution to the country, enlivening its culture and broadening its vision. The post-war era was a boom time in Australia as its raw materials were once again in great demand. In the 1980s, Australia accepted large numbers of Asian refugees, especially from Vietnam. Socially and economically, Australia is still trying to come to terms with its place in Asia.

CLIMATE
Whilst famous for its hot, sunny weather, Australia's size (the country spans 30 degrees of latitude) means that there is a surprising range of weather conditions across the country. These range from a cool, temperate climate in the south-east, Mediterranean conditions in the south-west, arid or semi-arid conditions in much of the interior, through to a tropical climate in the far north of the continent. During the winter months, mountain ranges in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania even receive regular snowfalls.

. Average daily max/min temperatures (°C) Average monthly rainfall (mm) Average daily sunshine (hours)
January July January July January July
Adelaide 29/17 15/7 21 82 10 5
Brisbane 29/21 21/9 160 62 8 8
Canberra 28/13 11/0 62 42 9 6
Darwin 32/25 30/21 431 1 6 10
Hobart 22/12 12/4 42 47 8 5
Melbourne 26/14 13/6 49 48 9 4
Perth 32/17 18/8 7 163 12 6
Sydney 26/19 16/8 104 99 7 7



GOVERNMENT
Australia is an independent state within the British Commonwealth. It is a peaceful country, and enjoys a stable, three-tier system of democratic government.

The first tier of government is the Commonwealth or Federal Government. This is responsible for national affairs, including the national economy, foreign policy, defense, social services, immigration and the postal service. It also collects most of the country's taxation. Federal government is located in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory. At a second tier, the six States and two Territories each have their own governments. These are mainly responsible for education, health, transport and natural resources. The third tier is the system of local governments at community level, which controls functions such as building and planning approvals, road works and rubbish disposal.

POPULATION
The Australian population recently passed 19 million, giving Australia one of the lowest population densities in the world (by way of comparison, the Mexico City metropolitan area has a population of over 20 million). The majority of Australia's inhabitants live on or near the coast, with over 85% of the population being urban dwellers. Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are together home to more than 40% of the total population (a combined total of around 7 million people), and Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide each have a population in excess of 1 million people.

Land Area and Population of States & Territories, and Capital Cities State/Territory Area (Sq km) Population Capital Population Queensland 1,730,648 3.34m Brisbane 1.52m New South Wales 800,642 6.20m Sydney 3.88m Victoria 227,416 4.56m Melbourne 3.38m Tasmania 68,401 0.47m Hobart 0.20 South Australia 983,482 1.47m Adelaide 1.08m Western Australia 2,529,875 1.77m Perth 1.30m Northern Territory 1,349,129 0.18m Darwin 0.08m Australian Capital Territory 2,431 0.31m Canberra 0.31m

ECONOMY
Australians enjoy a high standard of living and a relaxed lifestyle largely due to the country's favorable economic climate. Traditionally, Australia owed its strong economy to primary industry. Agriculture was for many decades the main contributor to the national economy. Australia continues to be the world's leading producer of wool, and is also a prominent beef and wheat grower. Indeed, one third of Australia's revenue earnings are from wool, wheat, meat, sugar and dairy products.

In recent years, Australia's mineral wealth has been the main contributor to the country's export earnings. Australia is one of the world's leading producers of iron ore, bauxite, nickel, uranium, lead, zinc, copper, gold, silver and diamonds. Australia is also a major producer of coal, and the oil and gas industries have flourished in recent years. The main manufacturing products produced in Australia are iron and steel, construction materials, petrochemicals, motor vehicles and electrical goods. Trade and service industries - and especially the tourism industry - also provide major sources of revenue for the Australian economy.

COST OF LIVING
The estimated average price of some common goods and services are mentioned below. Cost of these products may vary slightly from place to place and brand to brand especially the prices of the food items.

Food Items (Unit) Price in Aus$
Bread white loaf (650 g.) 2.45
Biscuits (250 g.) 1.65
Flour (1 kg.) 1.80
Breakfast cereal (500 g.) 2.50
Rice basmati (1kg) 1.45
Milk (1 liter) 1.25
Cheese (500 g) 1.85
Lamb meet (1 kg.) 6.00
Chicken frozen (1 kg.) 3.70
Sausages (1 kg.) 4.65
Oranges (1kg.) 2.45
Banana (1.kg.) 2.65
Potatoes (1 kg.) 1.25
Onions (1kg.) 1.50
Carrots (1 kg.) 2.25
Tomatoes (1kg.) 3.75
Peaches (500 g) 1.10
Pineapples (450 g.) 1.20
Peas frozen (1kg.) 2.55
Eggs (1 dozen) 3.00
Tea (180 g.) 3.40
Coffee (180g) 7.10
Sugar (1kg) 1.30
Jam (500 g.) 2.65
Baby food (150 g.) 0.85

Others necessities Prices in Aus $
Shirt (1 unit) 40-70+
Trousers (1 unit) 35-75+
Suit (1 unit) 200-450+
Shoes (1 Pair) 35-130+
Haircut 10-30
Rental Charges/week(1 bedroom apartment) 150 - 225
Rental Charges/week(2 bedroom apartment) 190 - 320

In Australia, commodity prices are relatively low. Those who choose to cook their own food will be able to manage their living expenses at an incredibly low cost. Processed food is expensive and so are imported food items.

Prices of cars are high in Australia at least by 25% when compared to other western countries and almost double the prices when compared to USA.

EDUCATION
Australia's education system is a three-tier structure combining school education, vocational education and training, and higher education and involving funding and administration at state and federal level. The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs provides policy development and implementation for all levels of education. State Governments have the constitutional responsibility for providing education at the school level, with the Federal Government supplementing their funds for agreed objectives linked to national social justice policies such as providing educational opportunities for disadvantaged groups. Fee-paying private schools are an important part of the school scene, catering for 28 per cent of students across the country.

Vocational education and training are funded mainly at the state level, with the Federal Government providing about 26 per cent of total funding to implement national priorities for improving the productivity and skills of the workforce through training programs. The largest provider of the skills required by the workforce is the network of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Colleges, now numbering 287 throughout Australia. The Australian National Training Authority provides advice and strategic direction in this sector, and the Federal Government has established the National Employment and Training Task Force to improve training and find jobs for young people. Higher education is a national responsibility, with the Federal Government providing $4.9 billion in 1994-95 for public universities in all states and territories. There has been a significant increase in funding for higher education in recent years, resulting in a 37 per cent increase in student numbers between 1988 and 1993. Students may have their fees paid through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), but are required to repay the debt when they enter the workforce. Subject to a means test, they may also be paid a non-refundable living allowance. There are some privately funded higher education institutions, including colleges for teachers and theologians.

HEALTH
PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
The National Health Service in Australia is called Medicare. It provides health care services and programs such as free public hospital care, help with the cost of out-of-hospital care, and free or subsidized medical treatment by practitioners such as doctors, specialists and participating optometrists. Medicare also assists with the cost of most medicines prescribed by doctors.

All permanent residents of Australia have access to Medicare services and also some visa applicants. Overseas travelers are not usually entitled to Medicare's free services, however there are some exceptions. The best way to find out more is to visit an office. It is important when you move to Australia to register with Medicare if you are eligible, as it gives you free access to most medical services. To enroll in Medicare, you should wait approximately 7 days after your arrival in Australia (to allow time for Medicare to receive your visa details) and then go to a Medicare office.

PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE
Another option is private health insurance. It covers treatments in private or public hospitals, and can include some services that Medicare does not cover, such as dental and optical services.

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