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General Information and History Demographics

Official Name:  Commonwealth of Australia

Capital:  Canberra

Flag:  The Southern Cross constellation has long been a symbol of Australia, and the ensign reflects the countrys British heritage. The seven points of the largest star represent the six Australian states and the territories.

Anthem:  Advance Australia Fair

Important Dates in History:

50,000 BC
The first Aborigines probably began arriving in Australia from Southeast Asia around this time.

AD 1606
Willem Jansz, a Dutch captain, became the first European to explore the Australian coast.

Captain James Cook, an English explorer, claimed eastern Australia for Great Britain.

The First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay and established a penal colony near modern-day Sydney.

The colony of Western Australia was founded at Perth, giving Great Britain control of the entire Australian continent.

Transportation of British convicts to Sydney was abolished. However, it continued to Hobart, on the island of Tasmania, and to Western Australia for several years, allowing those colonies to grow quickly.

Gold was discovered in New South Wales and Victoria, and a new wave of immigrants soon moved to Australia. Melbourne and other cities prospered in the following decades.

The Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed. The same year, the White Australia Policy was implemented.

Many Australians enlisted for service in World War I. However, enthusiasm for the war waned as the Australian economy suffered.

The Great Depression was made worse in much of Australia by deflationary government policies.

Darwin was bombed repeatedly until Australian forces helped stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific during World War II.

Australia signed the ANZUS defense treaty with New Zealand and the United States.

Melbourne hosted the first Olympic Games held in the southern hemisphere.

The military draft was introduced in Australia for the first time. Australian troops were sent to Vietnam the next year.

The Australian government granted Aborigines the right to vote.

The Labor Party took power for the first time since 1949. It soon abolished the draft and withdrew Australian forces from Vietnam.

Sydney was chosen as the site of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.

A coalition of Liberal Party and National Party candidates gained a majority in both houses of parliament, ending 13 years of consecutive Labor rule.


Land Area:  7,682,300 sq km (2,966,200 sq mi)

Highest Point:  Mount Kosciusko 2,228 m (7,310 ft) above sea level

Lowest Point:  Lake Eyre 16 m (52 ft) below sea level

Average Temperature:

Canberra: January - 21 C     69 F
July - 61C     43F
Perth: January - 23C     74F
July - 13C     55F

Annual Average Precipitation:
Canberra:  590 mm (23 in)
Perth:  880 mm (35in)

Population:  23,028,000 (2013 estimate)

Population Density:  2 persons per sq km ( 6 persons per sq mi)

Distribution:  85% Urban 15% Rural

Largest Cities:

Sydney 4,667,283
Melbourne 4,246,345
Brisbane 2,189,878
Perth 1,897,548
Adelaide 1,277,174
(2012 estimates)

Ethnic Groups:
90% European
7% Asian
3% Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders

English (official)
Indigenous languages

25.3% Roman Catholicism
17.1% Anglicanism
18.8% Other Christian Denominations
29.5% Other
including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or none

Gross Domestic Product - $998.3 billion (2013)

Chief Economic Products:

Wheat and other grains, wool, beef, vegetables, fruits, cotton, sugarcane


Eucalyptus, maple, walnut, rosewood, Monterey pine


Shellfish, including scallops, shrimp, spring and green rock lobsters, oysters, and abalone; marine fishes, including orange roughy, sharks and rays, skipjack tuna, mullet, southern bluefin tuna, and royal escolar


Coal, bauxite, alumina, iron ore, gold, silver, diamonds, petroleum, natural gas, zinc, copper, manganese, titanium, nickel, tin, lead, uranium, zircon, tungsten


Metals and metal products, food products, transportation equipment, machinery, chemicals and chemical products, textiles and clothing, wood and paper products, printed materials

Employee Breakdown:
75% Service
21.1% Industry 
3.6% Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

Major Exports:  Metal ores, coal, gold, nonferrous metals, meat and meat products, textile fibers, petroleum and petroleum products, cereals

Major Imports:  Road vehicles and other transportation equipment, machinery, office equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles

Major Trading Partners:  
Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, United States, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia

Imports: United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, China, New Zealand

Currency:  Australian Dollar

Exchange Rate:  1 U.S. Dollar = 1.28 Australian Dollars
(Feb. 2015)