Adelaide Brisbane Canberra

Geography and Landscape


Australia ( from the Latin australis = southern); originally was called the "Terra australis incognita" = the Unknown Southland), is the smallest of the inhabited continents and is located southeast of Asia, around 3000 kilometers from Singapore.

Australia satellite photoAustralia satellite photoPhoto: Public domain

The nearest other country is Papua New Guinea / Irian Jaya, which is located 200 kilometers from Cape York on the other side of Torres Strait. Apart from the South Pole, Australia is the only continent to lie entirely in the Southern Hemisphere. The continent borders the Pacific Ocean on the east side (more specifically the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea), on the other three sides by the Indian Ocean. Australia has a total land area of 7,682,300 million km2 and a coastline of over 36,000 km. Australia is about the size of the United States (without Alaska). The distance east-west is about 4000 kilometers and the distance north-south about 3200 kilometers. The northernmost point is Cape York, the southernmost South East Cape, the westernmost Steep Point and the easternmost Cape Byron.

The continent of Australia makes up the bulk of the territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations. Directly controlled by the Commonwealth of Australia, the two internal territories, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Northern Territory and the external territories are Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Heard and McDonalds Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Ashmore and Cartier Islands Territory, Christmas Island and Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia's federal capital is Canberra.

Australia has a compact and rounded shape. For example, there are only two notable peninsulas: Cape York Peninsula and Arnhemland. There are also some large sea curves including the Carpentaria wave, the Joseph Bonaparte wave and the Van Diengen wave in the north and the Great Australian Bight, the Spencer wave and the St. Vincent wave in the south.

The average height of 360 meters is the lowest of all continents but Europe. Only 6% is higher than 700 meters above sea level.


The Australian landscape was formed during Earth's earliest history, and the age of some rocks has been estimated at 3 billion years. Australia is therefore called the oldest continent. The last geological changes occurred in the Permian some 230 million years ago. Then mountain ranges were formed whose peaks are above the snow line. Later, some lower plateaus were created on the western and eastern foothills.

Gondwana GondwanaPhoto: LennyWikidata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Today's Australia was created about 50 million years ago when it broke away from the great southern continent of Gondwanaland, a landmass consisting of Africa, South America and India. Over the past 100 to 200 million years, the continent has slowly eroded, making the landscape largely flat and the soil relatively sparse.

In the east of Australia lies the mountain country, which descends with a steep edge to a fertile coastal plain that varies in width. Many rivers break through this mountain country and flow through narrow gorges to the ocean. The mountain country consists of high plains, low mountain ranges, basins and valleys, intersected by rivers that form partly deeply cut, partly wide, flat valleys. The backbone of the area is the Great Dividing Range, a mountain range that extends across the Strait of Bass into the mountains of Tasmania. Australia's highest point is Mount Kosciusko (2230 m) in the Australian Alps (New South Wales), other high peaks in this area are Mount Bogong in Victoria (1986 meters) and Mount Ossa in Tasmania (1617 meters).

Lake Eyre Lake Eyre, AustraliaPhoto: Public domain

Traces of past volcanism can be found in New South Wales (maars, explosion craters). Australia's last active volcano, located in Victoria, did not finally settle until 6,000 years ago. Towards the west, the mountain land gradually merges into the large plains of the central lowland. The average height there is only 180 m and at the deepest points one even comes below sea level. It is divided into three large basins by low ridges: the northern Carpentaria basin where rivers flow through the vast mangrove swamps that reach the Carpentaria wave; furthermore, the large central Eyre basin (9620 km2), in which Lake Eyre (-12 m) forms the lowest point of the continent. It is one of the driest areas of the earth and consists partly of sand deserts, including the Simpson Desert; the rivers that flow here disappear at some point in the reddish sand and loam soil. The largest basin is the Murray-Darling Basin and is separated from the Eyre Basin by the Gray Range and the Main Barrier Range. Australia's only ever-aquifer, the Murray, flows from the Snowy Mountains. The Murray is Australia's largest river system and flows into a bay in South Australia after 2,600 kilometers. Between the Murray and the Darling is a barren, almost treeless, saline plain. This plain is interrupted only by some gallery forests along the dry beds of some rivers, which only carry water during the rainy season.

The central lowland in the west also gradually merges into the great western plateau. This area is about 500-700 m high, very flat with some mountains here and there, including the Macdonnell Ranges that are separated by the Amadeus Lake from the Musgrave Ranges. In the far west lies the Hamersley Range and in the northwest and north the low table mountains of Kimberley and Arnhemland.

On the Kimberley Plateau is Bungle Bungle, an area of 8000 km2 with thousands of 200 meter high beehive-like sandstone masses with caves in it. In between lie vast deserts consisting of elongated reddish sand dunes (Tanami Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert), overgrown with some desert grass, desert oaks and acacias.

In that area are many salt pans and lakes and dry, winding river beds.

Kata Tjuta AustraliaKata Tjuta AustraliaPhoto: Reflexio CC 3.0 Non-Portable no changes made

Some mountains such as Ayers Rock or Uluru (Mother Earth), one of the largest monoliths on Earth (3.5 kilometers long, 348 meters high and a circumference of about 10 kilometers), and Mount Olgas or Kata Tjuta (many heads) were chosen as holy places for the aborigines because of their typical shape. The rock formations of Mount Olgas were once a single monolith like Ayers Rock, but later split into the present 36 domes separated by narrow gorges and slightly wider valleys. Two lower lying areas penetrate deep into this plateau landscape: the Canning Basin in the north and the completely flat Nullarbor Plain in the south (Nullarbor is Latin for "no trees"). It is a vast expanse of limestone (200,000 km2 and thus the largest continuous limestone area in the world), the seabed of a 20 million year old sea, with caves, holes and underground rivers, created by rainwater that seeps through the porous rock. It is dry there and there is almost nothing but plants that can withstand extreme drought, such as blue goose foot and melde. Also in the west, the plateau with a steep edge borders the coastal plain, which, unlike the east coast, is dry here with only a few rivers, which flow into salty beach lakes.

Along the northeastern coast stretches the 2,000-kilometer Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, consisting of over 2,000 interconnected coral reefs and 71 coral islands with over 400 species of coral. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest structure built by living things in the world and covers an area that is almost the size of the United Kingdom.

Great Barrier Reef AustraliaGreat Barrier Reef AustraliaPhoto: Kyle Taylor (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

This living and growing reef, composed of algae and skeletons of tiny coral polyps, varies in width from 15 kilometers in the north to 300 kilometers in the south, and is home to 1500 species of fish, turtles, dugongs (manatees), sharks, jellyfish, sea snakes, dolphins and whales. The Ningaloo Reef is the largest coastal reef in the world and follows the coast over a length of 260 kilometers. The coast is approached up to 100 meters.

On the south coast of Queensland is Frasier Island, with its length of 123 kilometers and average width one of the largest islands in Australia and also the world's largest sand island. The island has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992.

In Shark Bay lies the 110 kilometer long Shell Beach. This beach is one of the only two beaches in the world that consist of non-fossilized shells. The layer of shells can reach a thickness of up to 10 meters.

The Millstream Falls near Ravenshore is the largest waterfall in Australia during the rainy season. Australia's deepest lake, Lake St. Clair, is located in Tasmania and is 200 meters deep.

Between Barrow Creek and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory are the Devil's Marbles, hundreds of granite boulders that stretch along the side of the road for several miles. Some of the larger boulders balance on others.

Wave Rock is a bizarre rock formation near the city of Hyden in Western Australia. The rock has the shape of a surf wave 15 meters high and more than 100 meters long. The colorful vertical stripes reinforce the resemblance to a wave.

The Fitzroy River is 600 kilometers long and flows into the sea at King Sound, north of Derby. Rays, lungfish, and sawfish swim in the river, as well as harmless crocodiles. In the wet summer season, the Fitzroy River swells into a mighty stream, flooding the entire area.

Climate and Weather

Australia Lake Hulme Global Warming Australia Lake Hulme Global WarmingPhoto: Tim J Keegan (CC BY-SA 2.0) no changes made

The seasons in Australia are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. Spring lasts from September to November, summer from December to February, autumn from March to May, and winter from June to August. The seasons as we know them in Europe are only evident in the south.

Due to its location, Australia has a subtropical climate for the most part.

There is only a tropical climate in the far north. This area is characterized by dry, hot summers and very precipitation-rich winters. The so-called 'early storm season' runs from October to late November. The humidity will already increase then, but the precipitation amounts are still not too bad. December and January is the time of the 'early monsoon', when it can be very wet, but there are also dry periods, depending on the trade winds. February and March are the days of the 'late monsoon', which is accompanied by very heavy rainfall. The 'late storm season' of April and May is characterized by strong wind storms. In June and July, the climate is very pleasant with the lowest humidity and a falling temperature. It is hot and dry in August and September. The heaviest showers occur near Darwin, in the far north of Australia. In the rainy season cyclones also occur regularly, on average about five a year. On average, approx. 1470 mm of precipitation falls here. Mount Bellenden Ker in Bellenden Ker National Park in the fertile tropical part of Queensland is Australia's wettest place. In 1979 11,250 mm of rain fell.

Australia RainbowAustralia RainbowPhoto: Nikko73 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Central Australia or the "outback" (70% of the Australian continent) has a real desert climate. In some places it practically never rains. In summer, temperatures can get very high. In the winter period it can cool down a lot at night. Alice Springs has the highest average daytime temperatures that rise in December / January to 35 to 36 °C. Temperatures can sometimes rise above 45 °C there. The highest temperature ever recorded is 53.1 °C at Cloncurry in 1880.

The hamlet of Marble Bar keeps the heat record above 37.8 °C for 161 consecutive days. Central Australia has less than 250 mm of rainfall per year and the dry season lasts more than eight months. Around this area with very little rainfall is a semi-arid zone where there is so much rain that sheep and cattle can be kept.

The north of New South and the south of Queensland have a subtropical climate with pleasant weather all year round, although it can get quite warm in summer. Large cities such as Sydney, Perth and Adelaide have a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters.

Australie Tasmanie Australia TasmaniaPhoto: Diego Delso CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Victoria and Tasmania in the south have a moderate climate. In winter it can get quite cold with snowfall in the higher areas. The rest of the year it is sunny and warm with a chance of heat waves in Victoria. The lowest average daily temperatures of Australia occur in Hobart, Tasmania in January / February with 21 to 22 °C. The average rainfall in Victoria and Tasmania is about 760 mm per year.

Canberra in southeastern Australia has the lowest temperatures in winter. Minimum temperatures are around 1 °C from June to August. The average maximum temperature in Sydney ranges from 15.9 °C to 25.8 °C and that of Melbourne is between 13.3 °C and 25.8 °C. Adelaide has the lowest total rainfall of all capitals and the average temperature ranges from 12.5 °C to 21.5 °C. In summer it can be between 30 °C and 40 °Cf or days in Perth. Brisbane has a subtropical climate and it is warm all year round. The average temperature in winter is 20.4 °C and in summer 29.4 °C. Darwin has a wet season from November to April and the rest of the year it is dry. It is warm all year round and the temperatures are between 19 ° C and 30 °C.

Tropical cyclones occur in the summer and autumn on both the northwest and northeast coasts of Australia (Willy Willies). One of the worst storms in history occurred on December 25, 1974, when a cyclone and floods destroyed the city of Darwin, leaving 20,000 people homeless.

Plants and Animals


Sturt's Desert Pea AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea AustraliaPhoto: Public domain

Many tens of millions of years ago, much of Australia was covered by rainforests. In the Ice Age, the water disappeared and the continent dried out, except in Queensland. Instead, new plants such as eucalyptus and acacia were introduced. From that time on, the Australian plant world formed a separate flora kingdom, called Australis. Many species only occur on this continent.

Many forests were felled by Europeans to serve as pasturage and for timber extraction. Also seeds from imported plants and animals that ate the land had a negative effect on the native plant world. Most plant growth occurs in rain areas such as the northeast, southwest, southeast and Tasmania. The interior is especially very dry, but can become a sea of flowers and plants for a short time after a heavy rain shower. The red-black Sturt's desert pea is especially unsurpassed. In the dune deserts mainly hedgehog grass and thick-leaved salt herbs grow on the salt flats. The Australian bushy white-feathered grass is called Spinifex and is found in the steppes and deserts. Despite everything, there are some 25,000 different types of flowering plants throughout Australia.

One of Australia's major plants is the eucalyptus or gum tree. There are about 700 species in the world, 95% of which are in Australia. The most common species are found in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory have the fewest species. There are small varieties such as the "mallee" and the "snow gums", but also varieties that can reach a height of more than 50 meters, such as the "mountain ash", the "jarra" and the karri tree. Economically, the trees are important for lumber and for the production of eucalyptus oil.

About 700 species of acacia also occur in Australia. They range from ground covers and shrubs to trees that can grow up to ten meters high. Acacias can be found everywhere, both in the dry interior and in the rainforests. The most common species are found in Victoria and Queensland. Australia owes the national colors gold and green to the "wattle", the Australian acacia.

The melaleuca or paper stem is represented in Australia with 150 species, most of which are native. Both small shrubs and trees with a white, peeling bark grow up to 10 meters high. Most species are found in Western Australia and New South Wales. There are no melaleucas in Northern Territory.

Banksia AustraliaBanksia AustraliaPhoto:Public domain

Banksias are shrubs and trees up to 15 meters high that remain green all year round. They often grow in areas where conditions are not too favorable, e.g. on poor coastal soil, sandy moorland and barren sandstone earth in mountain areas. The special thing about these plants is that they can only multiply during forest fires! Only then will temperatures rise to such an extent that the seeds will burst from their shells.

Grevilleas come in many varieties that often hardly look alike. There are 250 varieties that grow close to the ground but can also grow up to 30 meters high. The flowers are also called "spider flowers" and the leaves differ in shape and color depending on the species.

Baobabs are only found in Western Australia and Northern Territory. They can reach 20 meters in height, but the trunk can reach a size of 20 meters. They also occur in the dry areas because the huge trunk can absorb large amounts of water.

Grass trees are found all over Australia. The thick black trunk can reach 6 meters in length and eventually grow grass-like leaves, hence the name. This ancient tree species has been found in Australia alone for 100 million years and survives the most extreme conditions such as drought, floods and fire.

Casuarina's are also everywhere and have needle-like leaves.

The national flower of Australia is the "kangaroo paw". Tasmania is the domain of the southern beeches and one of the longest living trees on earth, the "Huon pine".

Across the continent there are about 470 orchid species.

Western Australia is different in many ways from the rest of Australia, including in terms of plant growth. The state is home to about 8,000 varieties of flowering plants such as the ground orchid, the red and green kangaroo foot, the blue leschenaltias, the dryandra, the banksia, and carnivorous plants such as the drosera or sundew.

In 2003, Australia's tallest tree was officially declared dead. El Grande stood in Tasmania and fell victim to a devastating forest fire. The eucalyptus was 350 years old and 79 meters high.


Australia is the only continent where all three subclasses of the mammals are found: the real mammals, marsupials, and the egg-laying mammals.

The mainland of Australia, like New Guinea, Tasmania, New Zealand and a number of islands in the Pacific Ocean, is part of the animal geographic area of Notogaea and is also referred to as the Australian Region or the South Kingdom. The very special fauna shows the curious history of Australia after the break-up of the southern supercontinent Gondwana. On the other hand, Australia's isolated location has created an animal world unlike any other in the world.

The stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia, are millions of years old and the most primitive life forms in the world. They look like stones, but are actually slow-growing spongy plants, formed by tiny unicellular algae.

In March 2016, a new spider species was unveiled at the World Science Festival in Brisbane. Named Dolomedes briangreenei, the spider was discovered along the east coast of Australia, in and around Brisbane.


Kangaroo AustraliaKangaroo AustraliaPhoto: Alex Proimos CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Almost all higher developed orders are missing among mammals; the approx. 235 species consist of half marsupials (Marsupialia) and egg-laying mammals (Monotremata or beak animals) and half of modern mammals (Placentalia). The last category consists exclusively of bats and rodents. This category also includes the dingo, a feral dog that was introduced long before the arrival of the whites. The dingo cannot bark, but howls louder.

The many marsupials may have arisen as a result of low or missing competition in terms of ecological potential. Due to the lack of competitive modern mammals, the marsupials in Australia have started climbing, swimming, digging, etc., specializing in different types of food. Insectivores, rodents, predators and other types are therefore among the marsupials. Of the sixteen marsupial families in the world, thirteen live exclusively in Australia. Young marsupials are not fully developed at birth and therefore the mother keeps them in a fold of skin called the pouch until the young are strong enough to move independently in the outside world.

In addition, due to human intervention, a number of animal species from elsewhere have displaced the original fauna. The most notorious animal is undoubtedly the rabbit, introduced in 1859 as hunting game and quickly becoming a real pest. Herds of dromedaries live in Central Australia, brought to Australia by explorers. Buffalo herds are found in northern Australia, east of Darwin. Wild horses or brumbies descended from the horses that came from the mainland in the nineteenth century on Fraser Island.

Kangaroos and kangaroo-like wallabies, wallaroes (mountain kangaroos) and pademelons are marsupials. The largest species is the red giant kangaroo that can grow up to two meters. There are about fifty species, including the mountain kangaroo, the quokka or rat kangaroo, the smallest species still found only on Rottnest Island in Western Australia. On the east coast, the most widespread species is the gray giant kangaroo.

The platypus is one of the most remarkable apparitions in the animal world. The animal has a duck's beak, a beaver's tail and webbed feet; in addition, the animal lays eggs, but suckles their offspring. The very shy animal is still quite common in Tasmania and east of the Great Dividing Range.

The rare mountain pygmy opossum, a unique alpine marsupial, lives on the high peaks of Mount Bogong, Mount Buller and Mount Hotham in Victoria.

The koala or marsupial bear is not a bear, but a marsupial, and lives almost exclusively from certain types of eucalyptus leaves, including the red gum tree and the blue gum tree. These leaves contain so much water that it does not need extra water. The koala mainly lives in the states of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and to a lesser extent South Australia. The name koala is taken from the language of the aborigines and means "who does not drink that".

The wombat is related to the koala, only this marsupial lives on the ground and they are mainly found in Tasmania and in the southwestern coastal strip. They are vegetarians who cannot tolerate heat and therefore often look for roots, leaves and bark at night. The wombat is the only rodent among the marsupials.

The echidna is an egg-laying mammal, is found all over Australia and eats ants and termites.

Opossums are possums that look like large squirrels. Some opossums have a fly skin that allows them to fly from tree to tree. Marsupial squirrels also live in trees and can float through the air.

Tasmanian DevilTasmanian devil AustraliaPhoto: Macropod CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Tasmanian devil is a black predator that lives on the island of Tasmania in small burrows, in rocks and in old tree stumps. It has been wiped out by the dingo on the mainland, and the animal is also threatened with extinction in Tasmania. The Tasmanian tiger is a predator with transverse stripes on its back and was last officially seen in Tasmania in 1930. The animal is believed to be extinct. In May 2002, it was announced that Australian scientists would like to bring the extinct Tasmanian tiger back to life. Professor Mike Archer found a well-preserved embryo of the animal in a museum. Research showed that the DNA was still intact. The professor thinks he can clone the beast.

The numbat is a termite eater and a marsupial without a pouch. The young cling to the mother's fur. The animal is very rare and is only found in the south and west of Australia.

The common brush-tailed possum is a treat for the aborigines. The animal is so widely spread that it is almost a pest. They already live in and around almost all Australian cities and nest in burrows in gardens and even in attics.

Kangaroo Island is located off the coast of South Australia and is home to New Zealand seals and a rare sea lion colony for Australia.

In Shark bay the dugong, a manatee and the world's only herbivorous sea mammal can be found.

The smallest carnivore is the yellow-footed antechinus. This animal weighs only 50 grams and can be found in the "bush", the unexplored nature, near the cities on the east coast. The small animals have a very fast metabolism and are therefore always looking for food: insects, small birds and lizards. The sex act is such an exertion for the animal that it dies a few days later.


Kookaburra AustraliaKookaburra AustraliaPhoto: Dushy CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

The Australian bird world has about 650, often very special species. Endemics include birds of paradise and bowerbirds (both also on New Guinea), the lyrebirds, honey suckers and the ostrich-like emu. The emu is a flightless bird and, after the ostrich, the largest bird (1.5 meters) in the world, found everywhere except on the east coast and Tasmania. The emu is found on the coat of arms of Australia. The cassowary is related to the emu, but much smaller in size. It is mainly found in the rainforests of Queensland and when threatened it jumps up and makes a kicking motion with its legs. The lyrebird is also a flightless bird with beautiful tail feathers and lives in the forests of the southeastern mountain landscape.

Australia is very rich in parrots (55 species; second in the ranking after Brazil), parakeets, cockatoos (rosé cockatoo, black raven cockatoo, yellow-tailed cockatoo), lories, kingfishers and pigeons.

In addition, there are many peculiar species such as the black swan and the giant kingfisher or kookaburra.

Bowerbirds build a "gazebo" with which they try to lure the female and are decorated with preferably blue stones, pieces of glass and other knickknacks. The structure is not used as a nest.

Roofvogels zijn wouwen, haviken, Australische adelaars, zeearenden, visarenden, en valken. In de moerassen komen reigers, de brolgakraan, eksterganzen, lepelaars, ibissen en de lotusvogel voor. Langs de kust leven bekende verschijningen als albatrossen, pelikanen met zwarte vleugels, meeuwen, stormvogels, eenden, zwarte zwanen en sternen. De "Fairy penguin" is de kleinste pinguïnsoort ter wereld en komt voor op Kangeroo Island (South Australia) en Phillip Island (Victoria).

De grote, hoenderachtige thermometervogel legt de eieren onder een hoop zand. De dikte van de zandlaag wordt aangepast aan de temperatuur, waardoor die altijd constant blijft.

In 2006 werd voor het eerst sinds 77 jaar een Solomon-stormvogel waargenomen boven de oceaan ten oosten van Australië.

Reptiles, amphibians, insects

Goanna AustraliaGoanna AustraliaPhoto: Lyle Radford CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Australia has almost 400 species of reptiles, including crocodiles, more than 100 snakes (including, in addition to very poisonous, also large strangling snakes, pythons), more than 200 lizards, including 15 monitor lizards, the largest local concentration of this family of giant lizards and (endemic) freshwater turtles. The giant monitor lizard or goanna can grow up to two meters long. The perention lizard can also be several meters long.

Most snake species are harmless, but brown snake, death viper, taipan and tiger snake are poisonous. Well-known lizards are the grotesque mountain devil or moloch and the frilled lizard. There are two types of crocodiles in Australia, the river mouth crocodile or saltwater crocodile (also called boeaja) and the smaller Johnston or freshwater crocodile. The first species can grow up to seven meters long, the second species grows up to four meters.

Six of the seven sea turtle species are found in Australia, including the green turtle and the fathead turtle.

The amphibians only include frogs and toads. The miniature frog is a stomach breeder, which means that she is raising her young in her stomach. In the arid center of Australia, a toad species lives that sucks with water and then disappears underground to survive the long, dry time. The giant "Queensland cane toad" was introduced to fight a parasite that affected the sugar cane, but has become a pest.

In total there are about 55,000 species of insects, of which almost 20,000 beetles. The other invertebrates are often very peculiar, for example the giant earthworm that can grow up to three meters long.

Ball spiders and funnel spiders are extremely poisonous among the approx. 1500 spider species. Termites are mainly found in the north of Australia, where countless, sometimes three meter high, termite mounds are found. The many flies, mosquitoes and grasshoppers are a real pest for humans, animals and crops.


Box Jellyfish AustraliaBox Jellyfish AustraliaPhoto: Peter Southwood CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The seas around Australia are home to a very rich fauna, of which the Great Barrier Reef (a series of coral islands) enjoys worldwide fame. Numerous sea creatures are limited in their distribution to the seas around Australia. Dangerous are the blue-ringed eight-arm, an octopus species, the "box jellyfish" or cube jellyfish (also called sea wasp), hedgehog fish, stone fish, rays, the Portuguese warship (jellyfish species) and the crown of thorns, a kind of starfish. About 20 species of sharks are found in Australian waters. The most dangerous for humans are the tiger shark and the white shark. The whale shark is the largest fish in the world and lives in the Ningaloo Marine Park of Western Australia, among others.

Marlins are swordfish that can weigh up to 700 pounds. The snapper is the most commonly caught fish in Australia.

Particular in shape and color are the anthias, which are almost luminous, the bright red clownfish, the three-banded clownfish and the Maori wrasse. The curious looking pegasus fish is one of the symbols of the Australian seas.

Freshwater fish are not very rich in species (less than 200 species) and, for example, carp-like fish are completely absent. Its most notable form is the archaic Australian lungfish or barramundi of Queensland, a remnant of a once-widespread group of freshwater fish.


Aborigines first inhabitants, Dutch and English

Terra Australis IngognitaTerra Australis IngognitaPhoto: Mumu X (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

The first groups of people arrived on the Australian continent between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. The current aborigines were the first people to populate the Australian continent. They spread through their nomadic way of life all over Australia and the offshore islands, including Tasmania. By the time the Europeans arrived, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 Aborigines lived on the gigantic continent.

During the 16th century, the first attempts were made to find the "Terrae Australis Incognitae", the "unknown Southland". Because the earth was thought to be flat, there had to be a country in the south that balanced the earth. The Portuguese and Spaniards were the first to search. The Portuguese Mendez was the first to see Australia in 1522, but he did not go ashore.

The Dutch, on the other hand, went much further. Willem Jansz. with his ship "Duyfken" discovered the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, Dirk Hartog sailed along the barren west coast and in 1628 Frans Thijssen accidentally ended up at the Nuyts Archipelago under present-day South Australia. The inhospitable interior meant that people did not investigate further. Abel tasman was commissioned in 1642 by the United East India Company (VOC) to map the Australian coast. On his maiden voyage he mapped the south coast of the island of Tasmania (then: Van Diemenland) and a few years later he sailed from Carpentaria to the Nuyts Archipelago. At that time, the VOC did not have the money or manpower to colonize Australia and therefore they did not go ashore.

The first to set foot ashore was the buccaneer William Dampier with his ship the Roebuck. However, due to his negative stories upon returning home, the British's interest in Australia quickly declined. Only a hundred years later, Captain James Cook was ordered by the Admiralty of England to claim a large portion of the "Great South Country".

On April 29, 1770, Cook sailed with the ship Endeavor into Botany Bay, declaring everything east of the 135th parallel to British territory. The area somewhat similar to Wales was called New South Wales by Cook. The botanist Joseph Banks had gone with Cook and was very enthusiastic about the flora and fauna found and about the interior, which he thought was very suitable for colonization.

Australia becomes a penal colony

James Cook AustraliaJames Cook AustraliaPhoto: Public domain

The British government decided to colonize Australia because of the positive stories and reports from Cook and Banks. Initially, Australia was considered suitable as a penal colony only after America had fallen off after the struggle for independence. Penalties for criminals were often converted into exile to penal colonies by overcrowded British prisons at the time. Australia was of course ideally suited for this due to its remote location.

On May 13, 1787, the first eleven ships departed for Australia with about 600 sailors and soldiers and 568 male criminals, 191 women and 13 children on board. On January 26, 1788, the British flag was raised in what is now called Port Jackson and Captain Arthur Philip became the first governor of the new British colony. In the early years, hostile aborigines and the lack of food were a major problem. Therefore, ex-prisoners were taken to a new penal colony: Norfolk Island. The ex-prisoners were supposed to cultivate the land and that forced laborers would help them, but things turned out differently. Members of the New South Wales Corps were given the task of ensuring that everything ran smoothly. They were the replacement for the military. However, this corps soon engaged only in a lucrative beverage business led by John Macarthur, which however got completely out of hand.

Governor Bligh (known for the mutiny on the Bounty) failed to put an end to this situation and was succeeded by Lachlan Macquarie in 1810. He sent the New South Wales Corps (Macarthur had previously returned to Britain) back to England and attempted to create a New South Wales model colony by attracting more free settlers. Inmates were also offered good jobs and attempts were made to live in peace with the aborigines. This Macquarie, a real folk figure, was later even called "Father of Australia", but was of course not so popular with the wealthy settlers. They tried to put Macquarie in a bad light at the government in London, including through John Macarthur who was back in Australia. Lord Brisbane eventually took over from Macquarie in 1821.

A few years later, the British suspected that the French would lay a claim on Western Australia after Indonesian Java had already fallen into the hands of the French. To prevent this, the British flag was raised in Albany in 1826 and in 1829 Western Australia was declared British territory by Captain Charles Fremantle and placed under military rule. In the wake of explorers like Charles Sturt and Hamilton Hume, more and more free settlers gradually came to Australia. Because everyone could become a landowner without much problems, there was a great shortage of (land) workers and that is why the least dangerous forced laborers were deployed. Later, this problem was solved by increasing the price of the land, so that not everyone could afford the purchase of land.

Australia colony of Great Britain

Australia GoldAustralia GoldPhoto: James St. John CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Of great significance to Australia's rise was the mid-19th century discovery of gold. This attracted many adventurers and thousands of immigrants to Australia every week. In the meantime, people in Britain became convinced that sending more forced laborers to Australia was not a good thing. It was decided to send only petty criminals to Australia.

The colonists lived on sheep and grain farming. Other colonies were established in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory; however, these colonies were founded by private individuals, out of direct interference from the British government. The military administration was first replaced in New South Wales by a civil administration with a people's representation. In 1850, all states were invited to draft a constitution.

In Australia itself, there were also more and more opponents against the prisoner transports and therefore the Australian League for the Abolition of Transporation was founded in 1851, after which in 1853 Great Britain indeed stopped sending forced laborers to Eastern Australia. For Western Australia, the abolition lasted until 1868 due to a major labor shortage. From the end of the 19th century, the aim was to house the individual Australian colonies in a federation to promote the economy. It would also be better to arm themselves against foreign influences and interference. A pan-Australian ministerial conference in 1891 was not yet successful, but a second in 1897 resulted in a draft constitution, which was approved in 1900 by the British parliament, which still accorded the states a great deal of independence.

Commonwealth of Australia

Hughes AustraliaHughes AustraliaPhoto: WikiTownsvillian at en.wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On January 1, 1901, there was sufficient support for the plan to form a federation and the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed. The first Australian Parliament opened in Sydney on 9 May 1901.

At the same time, the Restriction Bill was passed to limit the influx of non-European immigrants. Testing potential Asian and Polynesian immigrants in English made this called the "White Australia" policy. Of course, these people didn't have a chance because they didn't speak English! Aborigines also suffered a lot from this law and did not even get voting rights until 1967. As a result of agreements between Britain and Australia, the Australians were forced to participate in the First World War. Australian and New Zealand soldiers were also deployed at the Battle of Gallipoli. After months of fighting and many casualties, the Allies had to surrender to the Turks, who had sided with Germany.

From 1910 the Labor Party was in power with the striking W.H. Hughes as prime minister. Because he was not allowed to enter conscription in 1917, he separated from his party and founded the National Party together with the liberals. The controversial Hughes made a big impression on the Australians in 1919 by winning the mandate on German New Guinea at the Versailles Peace Conference. Under the successor to Hughes, S.M. Bruce, the new capital Canberra was inaugurated in 1927.

The global economic depression in the 1930s also hit hard in Australia, causing many people to lose their jobs and bitter poverty, but there was also a great need for a national government. Led by J.A. Lyons the United Australian party, the result of a merger between dissatisfied socialists and the National party, won a majority government that stayed on for almost ten years. After a number of years, the economy started to improve again and activity increased again.


MacArthur AustraliaMacArthur AustraliaPhoto: Public domain

It was also realized that Australia was relatively militarily vulnerable due to its isolated location and that is why in the 1930s they started to focus on armaments and arms manufacture. Also at the beginning of World War II, Australia offered to come to the aid of the Allies in Europe, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor they were directly involved in the war.

With the fall of Singapore, the Australian army also suffered heavy losses and the entire British defense system for the southwestern Pacific collapsed. The Japanese landed on New Guinea and quickly advanced to the south coast of this island, after which the fleet base Darwin and other places on the north coast of Australia were constantly bombed. Fearing an invasion of this scarcely populated part of Australia, a close connection was sought with the strategy of the American High Command, which saw Australia as the starting point of a future counter-action. General MacArthur established his headquarters there and American troops landed on Australian soil.

Meanwhile, all Australian troops from the Middle East were recalled, military and civilian conscription was enacted, and various powers of the individual states were transferred to the federal government. Simultaneous action in New Guinea, where Australian and American troops slowly pushed back the enemy, and in the Solomon Islands halted the Japanese advance. Shortly thereafter, the attack could be started, so that Australia could breathe more broadly by the end of 1942. The election results of August 1943 greatly improved the government's position in parliament.

Australia after World War II in calm waters

John Howard Australia John Howard AustraliePhoto: R D Ward in the public domain

In the September 1946 elections, the government remained in power with a somewhat smaller majority. In the December 1949 elections, the opposition of Liberals under Robert Menzies and the Country Party under Fadden won. Menzies would steadily lead Australia in a changing world for the next sixteen years. The right-wing liberal majority remained in power until 1972.

In foreign policy, Australia remained loyal to the Commonwealth, but it was not blind to England's increasing weakening, and Australia's security was increasingly sought after by the United States. In the second half of the 1950s, cooperation was sought with the Netherlands in the development of New Guinea, the east of which was controlled by Australia and the west by the Netherlands. However, in 1962, when a war between the Netherlands and Indonesia over western New Guinea was imminent, Australia withheld the Netherlands' support.

In 1972, the Labor Party led by E. Gough Whitlam won the House of Representatives elections. During this period, a more neutral and foreign policy aimed at the Third World and Asia was pursued.

Australian New Guinea gained independence in September 1975 and became Papua New Guinea.

In November 1975, economic and political problems led to a crisis, which ended with the Governor General sacking Whitlam. Elections were won by the liberals and their party leader Malcolm Fraser became prime minister. His economic policies led to a number of strike actions, including the first general strike in Australian history on July 12, 1976. His foreign policy focused strongly on the West. Fraser ruled until 1983, and elections that same year were won by the Labor party led by Robert Hawke. The Hawke administration was pursuing an economic recovery through income and price policies. However, the economic problems continued and the government's popularity declined rapidly. Hawke was lucky, however, that the united opposition fell apart and he could confidently call early elections, won by the Labor party. However, the economic situation remained poor, which is partly why Prime Minister Hawke was overturned and succeeded by his Deputy Prime Minister Paul Keating. Keating harassed Britain in the early 1990s through some very undiplomatic statements and a disrespectful attitude toward Australia-visiting Queen Elizabeth.

In June 1992, the Aborigines were officially recognized as the first inhabitants of Australia, and in June 1993, the government announced plans regarding Aboriginal rights on certain property.

The March 1996 parliamentary elections ended in heavy defeat for Prime Minister Paul Keating's Labor Party. The largest party now became the Liberal Party of John Howard, who, after thirteen years of Labor rule, formed a coalition cabinet with the National Party. Keating's policy had focused on liberalizing the economy and on a greater rapprochement with Asia. Howard continued that policy, but also strengthened ties with the United States. In the October 2004 elections, the Liberal Party's ruling coalition of Prime Minister Howard and the Nationals of then Deputy Prime Minister Anderson gained an unexpected big win. Although a neck-and-neck race with opposition Labor was expected, the coalition government further increased the number of seats in the House of Representatives. Moreover, the coalition now also obtained an absolute majority in the Senate. It is the first time in 20 years that the government has an absolute majority in both chambers and Prime Minister Howard conquered his fourth consecutive term as head of government. Anderson has since been succeeded as Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader by Mark Vaile. Labor leader Mark Latham resigned after the election defeat and was succeeded by Kim Beazly. In November 2007, Labor won unexpected the election, Kevin Rudd came to power. In December he signs the Kyoto treaty on climate control. In February 2008, the government apologized to the original population, and in July 2008 the Labor government broke off detaining asylum seekers until their case was heard. In September 2008, Quentin Bryce becomes Australia's first woman governor general. In May 2009 Australia modernizes and strengthens its navy and air force.

Julia Gillard AustraliaJulia Gillard AustraliaPhoto: Kate Lundy CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Julia Gillard becomes Prime Minister in June 2010. Parliamentary elections were held in August 2010. The result is unclear. Prime Minister Gillard thinks she has the right to open negotiations with the remaining candidates because her party seems to be getting 50.7 percent of the vote for now, against 49.3 for the opposition. It all depends on the support of a number of independent candidates.

In September 2010, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard can form a government. Thanks to the support pledged by two independent MPs, the Labor Leader can count on 76 seats in parliament. The opposition has 74.

Australia Tony Abbott Australia Tony AbbottPhoto: Public domain

In elections in 2013, the liberal party led by Tony Abbott wins the elections, he is sworn in as the new prime minister in September. In April 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Australia. In the same month, Japan and Australia enter into a trade agreement. In 2014 and 2015, Australia will take anti-terrorism measures, such as making it possible to store telephone data for longer. In September 2015, there is a change of leadership at the Liberal party and communications minister Malcolm Turnbull becomes the new prime minister. Early elections will be held in July 2016 after Senate rejection of government proposals, Turnbull's coalition narrowly wins. In December 2017, parliament approved same-sex marriage. In August 2018 Malcolm Turnbull steps aside after an unsuccessful right-wing challenge to his leadership, allowing the conservative but pragmatic finance minister Scott Morrison to take over as prime minister and Liberal Party leader. Scott Morrison leads the Liberal/National coalition to a majority in parliamentary elections in may 2019. In 2020 unprecedented heatwave causes bushfires that kill at least 25 people and millions of animals, and destroy about 2,000 homes in south-east of country.


Australian fans at ParalympicsAustralian fans at ParalympicsPhoto: Australian paralympic committee CC 3.0 no changes made

The population of Australia, with a population of 23,232.6413 in 2017, is largely of European, mainly British, descent. The Anglo-Saxon group makes up about 70% of the Australian population. The number of aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia, is only 5% of the total number of inhabitants. Most aborigines live in Queensland, followed by New South Wales, Western Australia and Northern Territory. About 1.3% of the population consists of Asians and about 1.2% of the current population is born in the Netherlands. Between 1947 and 1961, approximately 120,000 Dutch people emigrated to Australia. Due to the housing shortage, the population density and poverty, many ventured the great crossing (often by boat). Dutch people from the former colony of Indonesia also settled in Australia. The largest Dutch colonies are found in Sydney and Melbourne.

After the Second World War, the number of inhabitants more than doubled due to immigration. Targeted immigration policies attempted to solve a number of problems: labor shortages, concerns about increasing the population for security reasons, and the need for economic growth and development. The goal of admitting 1% of the population to immigrants every year has never even been achieved. For a long time, only immigrants of European descent were allowed to settle permanently in Australia (white Australia policy). This policy has been somewhat more moderate since the 1960s. Due to the worse socio-economic situation since the early 1970s, immigration policy has become much stricter again. In the 1980s, immigration from Asian countries boomed and far exceeded that from European countries. About 100,000 people emigrate to Australia every year, including for family reunification. Most immigrants come from the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

With a population density of 23.2 inhabitants per km2, Australia is one of the least populated countries in the world. It should be noted here that approximately 89% of the population lives in the ten largest cities and that the population is therefore very unevenly distributed across the country. In particular, the eastern and southeastern coastal areas, where nine out of ten major cities are located, are very densely populated. The other major urban conurbation is Perth, which lies to the west. The country's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, house approximately 40% of the total population.

The largest cities are:

SydneyNew South Wales5.30.700
PerthWestern Australia2.022.000
AdelaideSouthern Australia1.324.000
NewcastleNew South Wales436.000
CanberraAustralian Capital Territory435.000
Gold CoastQueensland650.000
WollongongNew South Wales296.000

Life expectancy at birth in 2017 was more than 84.9 years for women and 79.8 years for men (for Aborigines, these figures are much lower: 64 and 59 years respectively). Infant mortality has fallen dramatically in recent decades, from 19 per 1,000 births in 1965 to 4.3 per 1,000 births in 2017.


Aboriginal AustraliaAboriginal AustraliaPhoto: Steve Evans CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Aborigines are the native inhabitants of the Australian continent and are one of the oldest peoples on Earth. They came to Australia from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years ago via a land bridge created by sea levels dropping during the Ice Age. They spread across the continent and formed between 500 and 600 tribes, all with different languages, religions and cultures. The Pintubi tribe in a desert area on the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia was only discovered in the 1970s. The Aborigines use different names for themselves: in Central Australia, for example, "anungu" or "yapa" and in Sydney and its surroundings, the word "koori" is preferred.

The Aborigines were hunters and gatherers; the men went hunting and the women and children gathered fruits, roots, berries and grains. A tribe was made up of several clans, and a clan was made up of several families. Each tribe had a council of elders who supervised adherence to religious and social rules of conduct, and jurisdictional disputes. The only surviving works of art are cave and rock paintings.

Despite all the differences, the aborigines have one thing in common: the "dreamtime". Aborigines prefer to use their own aboriginal name, for example "tjukurpa" in Central Australia. This is the period for existence on earth, but also the afterlife, where the unborn live and where the dead return. Man shares nature with plants and animals. Sacred places like Ayers Rock are still very important to the Aborigines. They are parts of the landscape that are considered to be incarnations of the ancestors of the dream time. The Aborigines believed that a person's soul did not die at the same time as the body and that ceremonies were needed to ensure that the soul left the body and reincarnated elsewhere in a tree, a rock, an animal, or in another human being. This was important to keep the common world on its cyclical course. This, in turn, meant that every person was at the center of a complex network of relationships, which brought order to the universe and everything that happened there.

One of the unfathomable aboriginal ceremonies is the "walkabout": at random times, men still leave their country today to go for weeks, months, or even years thre way their ancestors went, often for the sole purpose of meeting a stranger. For thousands of years, the "walkabout" was the way in which various ethnic tribes taught each other their different hymns about creation and exchanged goods that were as symbolic as they were useless. The "walkabout" therefore best illustrates the nomadic attitude and way of life of the original Australian people.

The different tribes were also in contact with each other through the "corroboree" ritual music sessions exchanging songs, dances and access to each other's ancestral routes. The boomerang was invented about ten thousand years ago and was only used by certain tribes in the central desert areas to hunt birds and small marsupials.

When the first white English settlers arrived on the east coast in 1788, the continent was believed to be inhabited by approximately 300,000 aborigines. It is not possible to speak in general terms about the aborigines; the cultures of the different peoples differ greatly in terms of culture, utensils, art, music and dance. It is therefore also difficult to get one organization to represent the interests of all aborigines. Almost no one lives entirely according to the old customs and the many aborigines have adapted to Western standards. Only aboriginal villages still speak their own language.

Their numbers have declined sharply over the past 200 years due to eradication and infectious diseases brought by Europeans. Furthermore, the best pieces of land were taken by the white settlers and the Aborigines had to settle for the most inhospitable and barren parts of Australia. After the discovery of uranium and bauxite in these areas in the 1960s, they were even forced to move to even more barren habitats. The compensation the Aborigines received was just a plaster on the wound. Government policy to end the aborigines' disadvantage in many areas (including education, health care and employment) has not yet yielded much positive results.

The first aboriginal senator was elected in 1971, and in 1976 South Australia became the first state to have an aboriginal governor. In 1974, the Australian government recognized in principle the right of aborigines to settle in their own territory. The specially created Ministry for "Aboriginal Affairs" tries, among other things, to improve the education of the children of the Aboriginal people and to promote the traditional indigenous culture. Some areas even teach indigenous languages.

In 1976, the Aborigines acquired rights over part of the Northern Territory, and in 1985 this area was officially transferred to the Aborigines, as well as parts of South Australia. In 1990, the ATSIC Committee was established to enable Aborigines to have a form of self-government and better participation in political decisions that are important to them. In 1995, the Supreme Court ratified the Native Title Act passed in 1993. This law provides for a decent financial compensation for land to which Aborigines can demonstrably claim historical claims.

Despite all these positive developments, there is still a high degree of inequality between the Aborigines and the other population groups. Unemployment among aborigines remains much higher and half of the prisoners in prisons are of aboriginal origin. Health is also generally worse and life expectancy is lower. A major problem is alcohol, which has left many aborigines in a hopeless situation.

The number of aborigines over time: in 1788, the number of aborigines was roughly estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000. The major decline was due to diseases, violence, expulsion and mass killings brought in by Europeans. The fact that the number is now increasing rapidly indicates greater prosperity and better health.

1860 22.000
1901 93.000
1911 80.000
1921 72.000
1933 81.000
1947 76.000
1961 84.500
1971 116.000
1981 160.000
1991 283.560
1996 372.052

In 2014 there are an estimated 500,000 aborigines.


Engelish Language MapEngelish Language MapPhoto: Kobolen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The official language of Australia is, of course, English. The traditional Aboriginal communities speak their own language per group and often also master several other Aboriginal languages. They often speak little English, unlike the aborigines in the cities and rural communities.

Australian English has a very special accent, but also has words that do not occur in English or American. Australian English is called "strine" and can be traced back to the first mainly Irish prisoners in Australia. The nasal Strine is not a dialect but rather a kind of vernacular, laced with bargos and funny expressions. It is a language without grammar, written as it is pronounced. The strine is spoken across the country without many variations, and the idiom hardly differs from region to region. There is a difference between the language used in the city and in the countryside, which often have to do with the social class or the occasion where people meet.

Australia Traffic SignAustralia Traffic SignPhoto: Public domain

The Australian vocabulary also contains many words of Aboriginal origin, as well as neologisms that indicate certain Australian phenomena. There are also many words that have a different meaning in Australia than in English and many words are abbreviated.

Some examples of strine words and expressions:


Australiia church interior MelbourneAustraliia church interior MelbournePhoto: Diliff CC 4.0 International no changes madel

Approx. three-quarters of Australians are Christians, although church attendance is declining sharply. At present, 26% are Roman Catholic, 26.1% belong to the Anglican Church and 10% belong to Methodism and Presbyterianism; 3% were Greek Orthodox, 1.3% Baptists, 1.3% Lutherans. In 1977, congregationalists and methodists united in the Uniting Church.

In particular, the Greek and Slavic Orthodox communities are very much anchored in Australian society. The Jewish religion is the oldest of the non-Christian religions. The first synagogue was built in Sydney in 1844, and today synagogues are mainly found in the capitals of the states. After the Second World War, the number of Jews expanded considerably.

Islam was introduced in the 19th century by Afghan camel drivers. At the moment we find large Muslim communities, especially in the big cities, of Turkish, Lebanese and Indonesian immigrants in particular. Australia now has about 25 mosques. There are also small communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

The constitution guarantees complete religious freedom. More than one million Australians say they do not adhere to any religion.


State Structure

Parliament Canberra Parliament CanberraPhoto: Brenden Ashton (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

Australia is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Head of State is officially the British monarch, represented by a Governor General and the Governors of the six states, but a constitutional amendment in 1986 abolished the British parliament's remaining control of Australian law. The national government is only concerned with matters of national importance. Each individual state has its own prime minister, parliament and constitution.

The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of the six states of Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Since 1 January 1901, these federal states have been administratively structured in the same way as the federation. The internal territorial areas of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, the area around the capital Canberra, are somewhat more dependent on the federal government. The federal government is also responsible for the external territories of Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Heard and McDonalds Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Ashmore and Cartier Islands Territory, Christmas Island and Australian Antarctic Territory.

According to the constitution, the governor-general is head of state and formally entrusted with the executive power. In theory, he can appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister, convene parliament or send him home and is commander of the Australian Army. However, he almost always acts on the advice of the federal ministers, as well as the governors of the federal states, and therefore only fulfills a symbolic function in practice. Great was the confusion and outrage when Governor General John Kerr sent Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his government home in 1975.

Legislative power is vested in the Australian Parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives (the House of Commons) with 148 members and the Senate (the House of Lords) with 76 members. Elections for the House of Representatives take place at least once every three years. There is a general obligation to vote for persons from 18 years of age in federal and state elections.

The number of members that a state may delegate to the House of Representatives depends on the number of residents of a state and are elected for a six-year term. New South Wales is best represented by this system followed by Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. Half of the Senate is re-elected every three years. Each state delegates twelve members to the Senate. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory may each delegate two senators for a three-year term. The House of Lords has been abolished in Queensland.

Australian legislation is designed after the English example. Before a law takes effect, it must be passed by both chambers. Federal laws always take precedence over laws issued by the federal states. Each state has a separate policy on issues such as health, education, agriculture, housing, transportation, and justice.

Opinions are divided among the Australian people about whether Australia should remain as a parliamentary monarchy within the British Commonwealth.

In 1997, a popular convention was set up to prepare a statement as to whether Australia remains a parliamentary monarchy or whether it should become a republic. If one opts for the republic, that statement will need to be ratified by the same statement by the Australians themselves through a referendum.

The administrative center is located in the capital Canberra. There are also approximately 900 local governing bodies in the cities, municipalities and counties.

The current political situation is described in the history chapter.


University AdelaideUniversity AdelaidePhoto: Bram Souffreau (CC BY-SA 2.0) no changes made

The approximately 2.3 million children can attend education for free. The education system consists of three levels: primary education from six to twelve years old, secondary education from twelve to fifteen or sixteen years old, and college and university education. There are also expensive private schools (approx. 2000), including some military schools. Currently, approximately 1 million children attend private schools. There is a compulsory education up to the age of 15, in Tasmania up to the age of 16. Although Australia has a good education system, illiteracy is rare, only 40% of the children continue their studies after secondary education: in a country like Japan it is 95%.

Children who live in the "outback" and are deprived of education are helped by the "Schools of the air". A lesson lasts about half an hour and the homework is sent by post. Every now and then the children go to a big city to be tested. The class teacher visits his students once a year. The range of lessons by radio is 2.2 million km2. Other tools that will undoubtedly be used are email, internet and video.

Australia has 38 universities and many colleges and technical colleges.

Flying doctors

Flying Docters AustraliaFlying Docters AustraliaPhoto: LecomteB CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most unique part of Australian health care is the "Royal Flying Doctor Service", created specifically for people in the "outback" who lack regular health care.

This organization provides medical assistance with a fleet of approximately 40 aircraft. Doctors are in contact with their patients by radio. Today, twelve bases are active in the outback and they help more than 100,000 patients annually, often aborigines in the most remote areas. Innocent conditions are remedied by radio. All patients have a card with the human body on it. This map contains numbers so that one can see exactly where the pain is. All patients also have a standard first aid kit. All medicines contained therein have numbers so that the doctor can tell exactly which medicines to take.

National Anthem

The official national anthem of Australia is the "Advance Australia Fair", a nineteenth century nationalist song that replaced the British "God Save The Queen" in 1984.

For a while there was talk of the very popular ballad "Waltzing Mathilda" by Banjo Patterson becoming the national anthem, but in the end "Advance" won the battle.

Waltzing Mathilda made late 19th century wanderers and prospectors of outback heroes. These figures traveled through Australia with their entire possessions and hewn on their backs. Waltzing Mathilda then refers to the cloth with content that swings back and forth when walking. The "swagman" often gave this bundle a name, just like in this ballad.



As a modern Western country, Australia has a free-market economy with minimal government interference. Australia is a very prosperous country with a GDP per capita of $ 49,900 per year (2017). Characteristic for the development of the Australian economy is the rapid and profound change from a predominantly agricultural country to a modern industrial state. Mining has developed particularly well due to the discovery of a number of minerals (including bauxite, uranium, iron ore). Mining products now account for 40% of the total export value.

It should come as no surprise that the agricultural share in exports fell very sharply.

Foreign investment is an important contribution to Australia's economic development. Only projects of national interest should have an equal contribution of Australian and foreign capital.

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Australia Sheep and SheepdogAustralia Sheep and SheepdogPhoto: Martin Pot CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The agricultural sector, which is strongly export-oriented, remains the most important pillar of the Australian economy after mining. For example, about 95% of the wool is exported and 40% of the other agricultural products. In 1986, agricultural products accounted for 39% of the total export value. Due to climate and soil conditions, only 1% of the total area is used for growing food crops. Irrigation projects try to increase this area.

Wheat is grown in all states and is an important product for both the domestic market and exports. Barley and oats are much less important. In the tropical regions of Queensland and New South Wales, sorghum and maize are grown, and mechanized rice cultivation is becoming increasingly important.

Australia is a very important sugar exporter and Queensland is the area of choice for sugar cane. Tropical and subtropical fruits (pineapple, papayas) often come from Queensland. In Victoria, wine grapes are grown, which are largely processed into raisins. Irrigation has ensured that the area between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee in the southeast is partly suitable for the cultivation of, among other things, peaches and citrus fruits. Apples, especially in Tasmania, and pears are grown in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Bananas are grown in the west of the country and along the east coast of Queensland and New South Wales. Tobacco cultivation, traditionally in Queensland, has expanded greatly in New South Wales and Western Australia. Irrigation also played an important role here.

Livestock farming is even more important to Australia than agriculture and horticulture. Sheep farming is particularly important for the Australian economy. Australia is the world's largest sheep herd with 150 million sheep and Australia is the largest wool producer in the world (9% of total exports). The main buyers of the Australian wool are Japan, Germany and France.

Sheep farming takes place mainly in the steppe areas of Eastern and Western Australia. Sheep farming in these arid regions has been made possible by the drilling of many wells. Sheep are also kept in arable areas. The greatest threat to sheep farming is the occasional extreme drought. The rabbit plague was also a serious threat but is now under control. The wool, especially that of the merino sheep, is of very good quality and the wool production of about 5 kilograms per sheep is very high. The strictly closed profession of the sheep shearers serves the stations by car and plane. Tourism also perks up and benefits; sheep shearing competitions are very popular with both locals and tourists.

Cattle breeding is less important and mainly takes place in Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia. Northern Australia is the area for slaughtering and in areas with more rainfall, such as Victoria, dairy farming predominates, combined with a large production of butter and cheese. Lamb meat production is also important in Victoria and New South Wales.

Australia is one of Argentina's main meat exporters and the main buyers are the United States, Great Britain, Japan and Canada.

Approx. 5% of Australia's surface is forest. Tropical jungle is found along the coasts of Queensland and Northern Australia. Valuable woods such as cedar, walnut and mahogany are exploited here. Non-tropical forest areas are mainly located in the humid coastal areas in the east and southeast, in the extreme southwest and Tasmania. Inland there are large drought forest areas, and here the eucalyptus is the economically most important tree species. Due to the strong deforestation, sand drifts, soil erosion and disturbance of the water balance were negative consequences. To improve the situation, State Forestry and a number of private commercial organizations plant approximately 30,000 hectares of forest annually.

The fishing is small. More than half of the domestic need has to be imported. Oysters are grown in New South Wales and Queensland.


Super Pit Goldmine Australia Super Pit Goldmine AustraliaiPhoto: Brian Voon Yee Yap CC 3.0 no changes

Australia is exceptionally rich in minerals, the exploitation of which is currently the main economic activity. With full exploration of the currently known strata, Australia would be virtually independent of mineral imports, with the exception of some minerals. Foreign companies and investment companies dominated the mining sector in the early years (65%).

Australia has large reserves of uranium ore found in the Northern Territory near Mary Kathleen (Queensland) and at Radium Hill in New South Wales. Huge high-quality iron ore reserves have been found in Western Australia. The discovery of an important oil field in Bass Strait enabled Australia to meet 70% of its own petroleum needs. Natural gas is also extracted in this area, as well as in new fields in South and Western Australia and in the Northwest Shelf of Western Australia.

Australia is the main producer of zircon, rutile and bauxite. Bauxite and the aluminum extracted from it is also an important export product. The largest sites are located at Weipa (Cape York Peninsula), Northern Territory and Queensland. Australia is also one of the main producers and exporters for lead and zinc. The Australian soil also contains important amounts of nickel, brown coal, coal, tin, asbestos and opal. Gold is an important export item.

Energy supply

Snowy Mountains Power Station Australia

Snowy Mountains Power Station AustraliaPhoto: Ear1grey at the English language Wikipedia CC3.0no changes made

Coal, in particular, but also oil and natural gas are important primary energy sources used in thermal power plants, supplying approximately 90% of the total energy production.

Approx. 8.4% of energy production comes from hydroelectric installations. Until 1975 Tasmania was the only state where there were sufficient options for hydropower plants, but the possibilities are also seriously investigated in the other federal states. Most important at the moment is the Snowy Mountains project in southeastern New South Wales. Completed in 1974, this project is one of the largest combined irrigation and energy projects in the world. The entire area covers more than 5200 km2, which includes seven power stations with a combined capacity of almost 4000 megawatts.

Victoria also has large brown coal power stations and in addition, the burning of waste also generates electricity. In total, these alternatives provide approximately 1.6 of energy production.


Australia Industry Australia IndustryPhoto: Gnangarra CC 2.5 Australia no changes made

Australian industry only started to develop strongly after 1950. The major problems in industrial development include high labor costs, the constraint of the domestic market, high transport costs due to the size of the country, and the dependence on foreign knowledge. Important sectors such as the automotive, electronics, textile and shoe industries are faced with increasing sales difficulties due to their poor competitive position. Despite the support of the federal government, the shipbuilding industry and the metal processing industry cannot compete with foreign competition.

Major industrial activities also take place in the food, drink and tobacco sector (which employs almost 10% of the working population), electronics and the textile and clothing sector. Almost half of the gross industrial production comes from the metal and chemical industry and mechanical engineering. Telecommunications are becoming increasingly important.


Australia Export Australia ExportPhoto: CC 3.0 no changes made

The Australian trade balance is generally in surplus. The main export products are coal, gold, meat, wool, iron ore, wheat and machinery. The main export partners are Japan, the European Union, ASEAN countries, the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

Imports mainly consist of machines, means of transport, computers, office machines, telecommunication products, crude oil and petroleum products. The main import partners are the European Union, the United States, Japan and the ASEAN countries.


Qantas Australie Qantas AustraliaPhoto: Adrian Pingstone in the public domain

The first train connection dates from 1854 and ran between Melbourne and Port-Melbourne. The integration of Australian railways is complicated by the different track gauges in the individual states. Standardization alone cost the central government $ A 250 million as early as 1955 to 1975. The most important result was the completion of the 3,000-kilometer Brisbane-Sydney-Broken Hill-Perth-Fremantle railway line, which was completed in 1970 and which will allow passengers to transfer from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean for the first time in 65 hours without a transfer. An ongoing north-south connection is still missing. Private rail is mainly used for the transport of ore and sugar.

The road network comprises approximately 913,000 kilometers of paved and unpaved roads. Road transport in the remote areas is mainly provided by the so-called "Road trains", tractors with 2 or 3 trailers. The so-called "stock routes" are a special road type: these are roads with grass strips on both sides, along which cattle are driven to new pasturage or to slaughter centers. Australia is one of the most motorized countries in the world with more than 550 motor vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants. The main transport problem is the lack of adequate motorways between the capitals of the Länder.

Shipping (maritime shipping only) has 52 large and well-equipped ports, including Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, Newcastle, Port Hedland, Geelong, Port Kembla, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart. The ports are important not only for overseas international freight transport, but also for national freight transport between the individual states of Australia. This transport takes place to a large extent by sea. Despite the major role that shipping plays in economic life, Australia has a relatively small trading fleet.

Air traffic plays a very important role in opening up the many remote places and traffic by private plane is highly developed in Australia. All major cities have airports, many smaller ones have at least one airport and in total there are 441 airports with regular services. The flag carrier is Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. The majority of domestic air transportation is provided by Australian Airlines and the Ansett Airlines of Australia and eight other airlines.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Sydney Operahouse Sydney OperahousePhoto: Bjarte Sorensen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourism to Australia has developed explosively since the 1970s and is an increasingly important part of the Australian economy.

Most of the tourist attractions are in the east of Australia, in Queensland and New South Wales. Sydney is mainly visited for its wide, miles-long beaches located within the city limits, and for the nearby Kuringgai Chase National Park, a renowned wildlife sanctuary. Australia's most famous mammal, the platypus, can be seen in the Healesville Game Reserve, 65 km from Melbourne. South of Canberra are the Snowy Mountains, where the ski season begins in June, Thredbo and Perisher are the main winter sports centers.

Australia's biggest tourist attraction is the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast. Great Keppel Island in the south is famous for its white beaches. The Gold Coast is the Australians' favorite holiday destination, 80 km south of Brisbane.

Ayers Rock Australia

Ayers Rock AustraliaPhoto: Weyf CC 1.0 no changes made

In the middle of the Australian "outback" lies the old settler town of Alice Springs, the only city in a radius of hundreds of kilometers. More than 350 km west of this city are Ayers Rock (with prehistoric drawings) and the brightly colored rocks of Mount Olga.

The landscape of green and fertile Tasmania offers a completely different view than anywhere else on the continent. Cradle Mountain in Lake St. Claire National Park is the largest nature reserve here and very popular with trout fishermen. In Port Arthur, 100 km southeast of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, there are still the ruins of prisons and guard houses from the time when Australia was a penal colony.

Tourists need a visa for Australia. The best times to visit vary by region, for South Australia from September to December, for Queensland from June to September, for New South Wales from September to May, for Western Australia from August to November.

PerthPerth AustraliaPhoto: Public domain

Perth, all the way to the west of Australia, is the favorite city of most Australians due to its beautiful location on the Swan River, the beautiful beaches and hills of the Darling Ranges.

About 25% of all tourists visiting Australia come from New Zealand, Europe and Asia. Most tourists go to Australia for the east and a slightly smaller part for the west of Australia.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information



Blutstein, H. / Insider's guide Australië
Kümmerley & Frey

Dolce, L. / Australia
Chelsea House Publishers

Elder, B. / Australië
Van Reemst

Ivory, M. / Australië
Van Reemst

Jansen van Galen, B. / Reishandboek Australië

Viedebantt, K. / Australië
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb