National languageEnglish (de facto)
AreaTotal 7,686,850 km2
Population2009 estimate 21,714,000
Country Profile: Australia
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania, and numerous other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.
For around 40,000 years before European settlement commenced in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 individual nations of indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years,the continent was explored, and during the 19th century another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.
Ecology and Climate
Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the continent's great age, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 64 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 13th in the world on the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index.
Because of the threats of global warming and climate change to Australia's treasured natural wealth, they can taken the initiative to conduct research and studies on climate change and global warming in an attempt to better understand and control the situation.
The Australian dollar is the currency of the Commonwealth of Australia, including Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu. The Australian Securities Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange are the largest stock exchanges in Australia. Australia is one of the most laissez-faire capitalist economies, according to indices of economic freedom. Australia's per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the UK, Germany, and France in terms of purchasing power parity. The country was ranked third in the United Nations 2007 Human Development Index, first in Legatum's 2008 Prosperity Index, and sixth in The Economist worldwide Quality-of-Life Index for 2005. All of Australia's major cities fare well in global comparative liveability surveys, Melbourne reached 2nd place on The Economist's 2008 World's Most Livable Cities list, followed by Perth at 4th, Adelaide at 7th, and Sydney at 9th. Australia has a booming tourism industry as well as a strong exporting industry based upon exporting commodities rather then manufactored goods.
Since 1788, the primary basis of Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic, although distinctive Australian features soon arose from the country's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian culture has been influenced by American popular culture (particularly television and cinema), by Australia's Asian neighbours, and by large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking countries.
The Australian economy will look to continue to grow, this will be partly based on its wealth of natural resources and tourism industry, as well as its strength as a commodity exporter. Also Australia will continue to be a leader in global warming and climate change research and analysis, as they know far too well how dangerous these changes could be to their wealth of natural resources and beauty.
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