is the only country that has a whole continent to itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces (beaches, deserts and "the bush" or "the Outback"), Australia is ironically one of the world's most highly urbanised countries and is well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its globally significant cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and the Australian capital city Canberra. Australia is also a major tourist destination, and is one of the world's wealthiest countries. The country is renowned worldwide for its vast, untouched landscape and its unique culture. Regions
The Australian mainland comprises six states and two territories. Ranked in order of population:
(common abbreviations follow in parentheses)New South Wales (NSW)Victoria (VIC)Queensland (QLD)Western Australia (WA)South Australia (SA)Tasmania (TAS) - a small triangular island state located off the south coast of the Australian mainlandthe Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - the seat of federal government, focused on Canberra, Australia's largest inland cityNorthern Territory (NT) - ranging between the "Red Centre" and the tropical Far North.
Australia also possesses a number of island territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans:Ashmore and Cartier IslandsChristmas IslandCocos IslandsCoral Sea IslandsHeard and McDonald IslandsLord Howe IslandNorfolk IslandMacquarie Island
In addition to this, Australia also maintains some bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory.Cities
The major cities of Australia also serve as the state capitals:Sydney - Australia's first and largest city, the capital of New South WalesMelbourne - Australia's second largest city and the nation's first capital city. Melbourne is arguably the culinary, sporting and cultural capitalBrisbane - sun-drenched capital of Queensland, and known for its party atmosphere.Canberra - the purpose-built, planned national capital of AustraliaAdelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern citiesPerth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western AustraliaHobart - small but fascinating capital of TasmaniaDarwin - Australia's smallest and northern-most capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
Other cities can be found under their respective state articles.Other destinations
Ararat, the Gateway to the Grampians, in VictoriaBroome, in North Western Australia.Queensland's Sunshine Coast, including Caloundra, Noosa, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts.Outback: Australia's red centreUluru, aka Ayers Rock, located roughly in the middle, a gigantic wind-swept rock.Kalgoorlie-Boulder Western Australia's gold mining capitalBallarat Victoria's Gateway to the GoldfieldsTownsville The unoffical capital of North Queensland.Thuringowa City of 63'000 people next to TownsvilleUnderstand
Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbors, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia is mostly arid
: the center is desert and much agricultural land is poor quality by the standards of continents with richer soil. The south east is temperate and the north tropical. Australia was massively deforested for agricultural purposes: forest areas survive in extensive national parks and some other areas.
Australia is prone to severe drought and water restrictions are currently in place in some areas, however these shouldn't affect travellers as they mostly relate to watering gardens and washing cars.
A common perception of Australia is that it is always hot and sunny: wrong! Both Sydney and Melbourne can experience days or even weeks of almost continual rainfall, while Western Tasmania has a climate that closely resembles that of England, although Tasmania's capital, Hobart, is the second driest Australian capital.History
The continent of Australia was apparently first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close (spiritual) relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian aborigines maintained a hunter/gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aborigines is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of aborigines amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.
Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600's, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.
In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under command of James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on April 29, 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on August 22, 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by more than 160 years.
Following the exploration period, the first wave of British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigenous populations drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society.
While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were along the east coast, Adelaide and Perth being settled by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.
The system of separate colonies federated to form an independent country in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a proportionally huge contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit.
Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. Government in Australia is based on a federal system (with States and a National Governments) similar to the USA, but these Governments follow a British model, with two elected houses (similar to the US House and Senate) with an unelected representative of the Queen of The United Kingdom in the (notionally powerless) executive position 'above' the parliament. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999, largely due to a split between those seeking a directly elected President (the majority) and those who believed the President should be elected by the Government. Demand for another vote has been discouraged by the current conservative Government, but it is likely to resurface.
Most of the population is concentrated in the south-east of the country, to the east of the Great Dividing Range. This is because the inland and western areas of the country are at best semi-habitable desert, known as the Outback
. The most-inhabited states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.Culture
Modern culture of Australia largely reflects its British origins, Anglo Australians are very protective of their culture and country. Australia has a small multicultural minority, its citizens' families originating in seemingly all over the world, and practising almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-fifth of Australians were born to immigrant parents, and there are approximately half a million Australians of Aboriginal descent.
The most multicultural city is the largest: Sydney, closely followed by Melbourne. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially has been at pains to promote itself as a centre for the arts world-wide. That said, whilst smaller "Outback" and rural settlements might still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s. The changes that might involve can be appreciated by the fact that, in the half century after the war, Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.Holidays
The national holidays in Australia are:January 1: New Years' DayJanuary 26: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.April 25: ANZAC Day, honouring military veteransSecond Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (not celebrated in Western Australia, which observes Foundation Day a week earlier)First Tuesday in November: Melbourne Cup DayDecember 25: Christmas DayDecember 26: Boxing Day
Many states observe Labour Day
, but on completely separate days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays.
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday (Easter excepted), the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the major retail shutdowns will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed on public holidays. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day.
Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave every year. There is no fixed time to take it, but many take the three working days between Christmas and New Year and the following week. Domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.Economy
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy has been offsetting the global slump, and business and consumer confidence remains robust. The Federal government's emphasis on reform is another factor behind the economy's strength. The recent upturn in global commodity prices has helped Australia's economy grow since 2000.
While income disparities grew throughout the 80s, especially in outer suburban areas, strong employment growth and mandated minimum conditions for workers ensured that overall living standards kept growing until the 1990s.Time zones
Mainland Australia has three time zones, on account of its large geographical range:Eastern Standard Time (EST) - operates in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland, 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)Central Standard Time (CST) - operates in South Australia and the Northern Territory (half an hour behind EST, 9.5 hours ahead of GMT)Western Standard Time (WST) - operates in Western Australia (two hours behind EST, 8 hours ahead of GMT).
Several Australian states observe daylight saving time during the summer season. In NSW, ACT, VIC, SA and WA, daylight savings time applies from the end of October to the end of March and in Tasmania from the beginning of October to the end of March. (In 2006 only, daylight saving begins on December 3 in WA). Queensland and the Northern Territory do not
use daylight savings time. Due to the half hour difference between CST and EST, this means that during summer there are five different time zones operating in Australia: GMT+9 (WA), GMT+9.5 (NT), GMT+10 (Qld), GMT+10.5 (SA) and GMT+11 (NSW, ACT, Vic, Tas).Note 2 - The city of Broken Hill (NSW) operates on CST and the few roadhouses along the Eyre Highway in southeastern WA operate on an unofficial intermediate timezone between CST and WST (three quarters of an hour behind CST and three quarters of an hour ahead of WST).Electricity
240V 50Hz. On paper, 230V with the introduction of AS60038-2000 in line with European countries. Outlets are of the Australian AS-3112 standard, which features two angled flat blades and a third vertical flat blade for grounding. The configuration of the electrical contacts is similar to that found in Argentina and mainland China. Lamp sockets are predominantly bayonet (B22d), though Edison screw (E27)is used for some specialised or imported fittings.
European and other travellers with 230V 50Hz appliances need only a plug adapter. U.S., Canadian and travellers from other 60Hz countries need to check whether their power adapters can handle both 230V/50Hz and 110V/60Hz. If so, they only need a plug adapter. If not then step down transformer is required. Many laptops, shavers and iPod-type chargers can handle both voltages and frequencies.Get in
Australia is completely surrounded by ocean: there is no way to travel overland to Australia. Hence, all international visitors arrive by plane or by boat. Almost all travellers will first travel to one of the state capitals, as these have all the major airports and many of the major ports.By plane
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, via Kingsford-Smith International Airport. Assuming direct flights to Sydney from various parts of the globe, travellers can expect a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from countries in Asia, a 15 hour flight from the west of the United States of America, an 18 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, a 13-16 hours flight from South America, and up to a 24+ hour flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, many travellers opt to book a stop-over in their flight in order to minimise the impact of jet lag and flight discomfort, commonly Singapore, Dubai, Thailand or Malaysia.
After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive first in Australia in Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport), Brisbane and Perth. Much smaller numbers arrive at international airports in Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast (Coolangatta), Norfolk Island, Newcastle and Broome.Customs and quarantine
Australia has a very strict customs requirement when it comes to animal and vegetable imports including wood, and other prohibited goods. This is because Australia is a large and isolated island, and thus far free of many diseases and insect pests found in other countries. All incoming visitors must pass a customs check for these items. No fruits, vegetables, meat or other food products are allowed in unless they are factory-made and on the approved list of imports (for example, chocolate is acceptable).
There is no penalty for declaring most goods that are prohibited from import - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed or held in quarantine - but if you attempt to bring them in without
declaring them, there are extremely heavy penalties including fines (in the order of thousands of dollars) and a possible jail term. It is far safer to declare any items that only might be prohibited, if they are not then you will suffer no consequence.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website has more details.Visas and documentation
All foreigners except New Zealanders require visas
for all visits to Australia. The citizens of some countries, however, can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority
(ETA), which is a tourist or business visa valid for up to three month stays, at one time, up to one year in duration, online . These are often also available through travel agents at the time of booking your flight to Australia: apply for the ETA through your agent if possible, as the fee for applying directly is usually waived.Get around
Public transport lines in AustraliaBy carMain article:
Driving in Australia
Australia drives 'on the left'. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the 'right' should exercise great caution until they get used to this. Car hire companies and local (generally friendly) police will give advice on whether your car licence is valid in Australia. Distances and speeds are specified in kilometres and fuel is sold by the litre.
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways. In Australia, as in many large countries, "the car is king". The vast majority of Australian adults own cars and would not seriously contemplate being without one. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. Some parts are dual carriageway but many sections are one lane each way. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Note that Australia's low population density makes for long driving times, often with 'nothing much' in between--here are some indicative travel times:Melbourne to Sydney: 9-10 hours (approximately 900 kilometres / 560 miles)Brisbane to Sydney: 12-13 hours (approximately 1000 kilometres / 620 miles)Perth to Sydney: 50 hours (approximately 4100 kilometers / 2550 miles)Sydney to Canberra: 2.5-3 hours (approximately 300 kilometres / 185 miles)Adelaide to Melbourne: 8-10 hours (approximately 750 kilometres / 465 miles)Brisbane to Melbourne: 19-20 hours (approximately 1700 kilometres / 1056 miles)Melbourne to Perth: 40 hours (approximately 3500 kilometres / 2175 miles)Perth to Adelaide: 32 hours (approximately 2700 kilometres / 1677 miles)
While major sealed highways
are well serviced, anyone leaving
sealed roads anywhere in inland Australia is advised to take advice from locals, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tires, matches, food and water (minimum 4 gallons per person per day). Some of these roads might see one car per month (or less). It is common to hire a satellite phone in case of emergency. Local police stations would prefer that you call in and say hello and give them your itinerary. It is also a good idea to advise a friend or relative of your itinerary and let them know to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. It is not unusual for people stranded in remote areas to wait for a week or more before being rescued (if they are lucky enough that anyone notices they are missing). Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you rapidly. If stranded, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Do not take this advice lightly, even Australians die out there.By plane
Due to the extremely large distances involved, flying is a well-patronised form of travel in Australia. Fares are generally low, due to the amount of competition, and flights depart regularly. Services along the main business travel corridor ( Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane ) are run almost like a bus service, with flights leaving every 15 minutes during the day. The major domestic airlines in Australia are:Qantas , the only nation-wide full service airline, flying to major cities and some larger regional towns;Virgin Blue , a nation-wide budget airline with limited service, flying to major cities and a few larger regional towns;Jetstar , Qantas's budget arm with limited service and assigned seating (previously seating were unassigned), currently serving major cities in the eastern states; Regional Express , covering larger towns in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Regional areas are served by several small state-based airlines. These include:Skywest , covering regional Western Australia;Airnorth , covering the Northern Territory;MacAir Airlines , covering regional Queensland.O'Connor Airlines , covering South Australia and parts of Victoria.
A website that compares flight prices in Australia (and New Zealand): WebJet.com.au
(tip: search for individual flights rather than the multi-city option, which will give you the cheapest same-airline result - taking the cheapest on each trip might be cheaper).By train
Visitors from countries with well-developed long distance rail systems such as Europe and Japan may be surprised by the lack of high-speed, inter-city rail services in Australia. A historical lack of cooperation between the states, combined with sheer distances and a relatively small population to service, have left Australia with a national rail network that is relatively slow and used mainly for freight. As a result, travel between major cities will not only be faster by air, but often cheaper as well.
The long-distance rail services that do exist are mainly used to link regional townships with the state capital, such as Bendigo to Melbourne, or Cairns to Brisbane. In Queensland, a high speed train operates between Brisbane to Rockhampton and Brisbane to Cairns. Queensland also has passenger services to inland centres including Longreach (The Spirit of the Outback
), Mount Isa (The Inlander
), Charleville (The Westlander
) and Forsayth (The Savannahlander
). There are also inter-city train services operated by Great Southern Railways on the routes Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland
), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific
), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan
) however as noted above, these are not "high speed" services, so if you do not enjoy train travel as part of your holiday in its own right then this is probably not for you.
Within the capital cities, mass transit is by train or bus, and Melbourne also has a comprehensive tram network serving the inner suburbs. Sydney has an extensive rail system which includes stations within the metropolitan area. Some states also have an inter-urban train service, although it tends to be devoted to carrying people into and out of the state's capital.
Not all states have a public rail network. Tasmania, for example, discontinued passenger services more than 20 years ago and the ACT has never had one. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, apart from several minor freight lines.Great Southern Railways - The Ghan, The Overland and Indian PacificCountryLink - Trains to and from regional New South Wales.CityRail - Trains within the Sydney metropolitan area, and between Sydney and some areas on the NSW coast.V/Line Passenger - Train & coach services in Victoria, including combined Train + Bus services between Melbourne & Adelaide, Melbourne & Canberra and to places not served by railway linesMelbourne Public Transport - Train, Tram and Bus information and timetables in the Melbourne metropolitan area.TransWA - Train and coach services in Western AustraliaTransPerth - Train, bus and ferry services in the Perth metropolitan areaQueensland Rail - Traveltrain - Long distance passenger train services in QueenslandThe Savannahlander - A unique train service that links Cairns with the outback town of Forsayth.By bus
A nation-wide (except Tasmania) interstate bus service is provided by Greyhound Australia
. There are a number of other interstate and state-wide bus services as well.By boat
While Sydney has a fleet of extremely fun ferries
that serve the population living around the harbour and boat sports are popular in many regional locations, there are very few inter-city boat services other than cruise ships. Some exceptions are the ferries between Palm Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches and the New South Wales Central Coast; and the more famous car ferry services to Devonport in Tasmania departing from Melbourne.By tour operators
Organised tours by bus are popular, especially for young people. You can visit the famous tourist spots (e.g. Ayers Rock, Kakadu NP) without the hassle of organising the trip. A variety of accommodation from camping to 5 star hotels is available. Competition among operators is strong, so check for discounts or special offers.
# AAT Kings Coach tours in style
# Adventure Tours Mini bus and 4WD tours all over Australia
# Wayward Bus Mini bus tours in in SA, NT and Vic, "Let the others rush"
# Groovy Grape Mini bus tours in SA, NT and Vic
# Contiki Tours
# Down Under Tours
# Down Under Coach Tours By thumb
Many people think hitchhiking is illegal in Australia, but it's not: it is, however, an offence to obstruct traffic
by "soliciting ... a ride ... from within the roadway
". If you stay on the footpath, you're legally in the clear.
The great distances between towns in the Outback (or inner desert regions) can make hitchhiking difficult, but many travelers have made the coast-to-coast trek. Hitchhiking is more popular along the coastal regions (between Melbourne and Sydney, for example). During the 1990s several travellers went missing after hitchhiking along this route and were found to have been murdered by a serial killer. The perpetrator of these crimes has now been imprisoned; however, if you choose to hitchhike, you should use great caution.
The very lightly populated outback regions in Australia can provide the unique opportunity of a ride in a road train. Waits can be long and the climate harsh but the local people very warm and inviting and supportive of any venture to move around by hitchhiking (public transport is often non-existent). It is highly advisable if venturing into these regions without your own transport to carry enough food and water with you for at least a day and carry a good sun hat and warm clothes â€” people do die in these areas from lack of preparation.
In most Australian Cities and Towns Hitchhiking is often frowned upon, which can make getting a ride extremely difficult as many Australians are not generally comfortable with the idea of allowing a complete stranger to enter their car. So this option of Traveling from place to place should be spared as an extreme last resort due to you quite possibly not receiving a lift even if you have waited a whole day for one.See
Owing to its unique geographical character, there is much to see in Australia that you can't see (easily / in its natural setting) anywhere else:Australian flora and fauna is essentially unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs!) Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia wouldn't be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment...Do
GolfScuba DivingHot ballooningSnorkelingSurfingSun BakingTalk
English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians. It is the only language used in the school curriculum, and generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults. Expect everyone in the tourist industries, hotels and retail industries, and almost every other Australian, to speak English.
Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding Australians, but if both you and they speak clearly you will have no lasting difficulties. Beware: "Aussies" have an unconscious habit of speaking very quickly and "slurring" words together.... Don't be afraid to ask them to repeat their words more slowly. Australian slang is a language unto itself, but it only really becomes a problem for tourists who really want to get off the beaten track and into the Outback.
As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including (but not limited to) Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian and Greek. However, since it is expensive to travel from Australia and there is no single commonly used second language, Australians commonly do not have a fluent second language unless they are part of a family who immigrated recently. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find travelling in Australia difficult as they will be unable to book tickets and the like easily. There are some tour companies who specialise in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages, and non-English speaking travellers might find this easier.Buy
Australian currency is known as the dollar
, and the currency symbol is $. The dollar (called "the Australian dollar" and written AU$ or AUD when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries which call their currency the dollar
too) is worth between 75 and 85 US cents. Its buying power in Australia is a little less than that of the US dollar in the US. No currency other than the dollar is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia; except for businesses in international terminals of airports, which may accept some of the major world currencies, i.e. US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars.
Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. There is no real black market in currency, and no need to even seek one out in any case.
The smallest unit of currency that prices will be quoted in is the cent
, which is worth $0.01. However Australia no longer has physical units of currency that allow for bills to be paid to the nearest cent. If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents you pay to the nearest five cents unless you are paying by credit or debit card, in which case you will pay the exact total. Yes that does mean that when buying small quantities of very cheap items, it is possible to buy them for free, or get an extra 50ml of fuel in a tank. This tends to even out though, as half the time your total will be rounded up rather than down.
The coin denominations are: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper, and all notes can be used anywhere at any time with no restriction. The coins are rather large so you better bring a wallet with a lot of room for coins
Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. You are likely to pay a surcharge for international cash withdrawals, and holders of Australian debit cards will also pay a surcharge if they use an ATM that is not operated by their own bank. Most ATMs only dispense $20 and $50 notes.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos. Cards bearing the VISA or Mastercard logos are the most commonly accepted, though many other cards are as well. Travellers using cards other than VISA or Mastercard may find they are not accepted by smaller merchants.Exchange rates
As of 15 April 2007:Trading hours
Australia's base trading hours are 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday. Australia's weekend
is on Saturdays and Sundays of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. The city of Perth and some rural towns still severely restrict Sunday trading even of essentials.
Australian banks are open weekdays 9am - 4pm only, often closing at 5pm on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.Tax
Australia has a more or less universal sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax
. Only basic supplies such as unprocessed foods, medical services and certain input taxed supplies by financial institutions such as banks and insurers are exempt. GST is included
in the price of any item you purchase rather than added at the time of payment.
Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies. Tourist Refund Scheme
If you are planning to buy items over $300, you might be interested in the Tourist Refund Scheme
, which allows you to obtain a refund of the GST paid (effectively a 9.1 % discount). Note that you must buy the goods less than 30 days before departure and take them with you when you leave Australia. You need to show the item(s) plus the receipt at the TRS desk in the departure lounge, so you should carry the items with you and also allow an extra 30 min before departure. The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card.GST reclaim by non-resident enterprises
An 'enterprise' is a business, government department, not for profit or an academic institution.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) permits non-resident enterprises to reclaim the GST incurred on the consumption of services within Australia. Typically this includes accommodation, communications, meals, transport, professional fees.
The non-resident may reclaim its GST by registering with the ATO and filing claims on a quarterly or monthly basis. It is normal for the non-resident to appoint a local fiscal representative to act on their behalf in Australia.
It is rarely understood that non-resident enterprises (refer definition above) may claim GST input tax credits without making taxable supplies 'connected with Australia'. For an obligation free consultation on GST refunds visit http://www.GSTreclaim.com.The difference between TRS and GST reclaim
The TRS is for goods taken as personal hand luggage at the time of departure. GST reclaim is for services consumed in Australia by non-resident enterprises.Purchasing customsBargaining
is uncommon in Australian stores, though they are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-margin goods or purchases involving several items. Note that often the person with whom you are dealing will not have the authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.Tipping
is not compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. Most people think it is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Aussies do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment, rather than a fixed percentage. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip. You may feel free to tip for good service, in which case it will typically be appreciated.Eat
Australian cuisine reflects the culture and region of Australia.
First, it should be recognised that Australian chefs are regarded around the world for their creativity and skillful mixing of Asian, Western and local dishes. One could argue that 'Asian Fusion' originated in Australia. Melbourne is a 'foodies' paradise and Sydney has many wonderful restaurants for locals and visitors alike.
There are four aspects to Australian cuisine for a visitor to look out for:
# First, BYO
. That means Bring your own/buy your own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find very small restaurants where the menu and food is of the highest quality for an affordable price. And you can save money by picking up a nice bottle of local wine from a bottle shop around the corner. This includes beer as well. Expect to pay a small corkage fee.
# Asian Fusion
. From the Rockpool in Sydney, to many other restaurants around the country, Australia's geographical and cultural relationship with South East Asia has resulted in some of the best Asian-inspired dishes in the world.
# Counter lunch
. If you were raised in a British household, you will know what it is to have a roast beef or lamb, potatoes and peas. Most traditional pubs in Australia offer what is called a counter lunch. For around five dollars, you can sit at the bar at lunch time and have a very hearty British meal of meat, potatoes, gravy and veggies. With a nice cold beer of course. This British influence is prevalent in a whole range of grocery store items like pasties and sausage rolls.
# The BBQ
(barbecue). Some restaurants and pubs have sort of buffets of raw steaks and sausages, lamb chops and kangaroo that you select, pay for, and then head over to a large communal grill and cook to your own perfection. BBQs are also a staple of Australian social culture. Due to the climate, many locals have a 'barbie' at least once a week. These social affairs are for families and friends to sit around in a garden, grilling everything from sausages ("Snags") to steaks and anything else that will fit on the grill. Contrary to the stereotypical belief of foreigners, Australians rarely "Throw a shrimp on the barbie" (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn).Eating vegetarian
Eating vegetarian is quite common in Australia - usually for health, lifestyle and ethical reasons - and you will find that many restaurants will offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes, or will have an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes. Vegans may have a more difficult time finding food that is compatible with their diet, but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu will probably be able to sensibly discuss the ingredients of various dishes. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. When travelling through the country towns and regional areas, be prepared to shop in supermarkets or to carry extra food with you, as vegetarianism is often poorly catered in such areas. Most towns, however, will have a Chinese restaurant that can provide steamed rice and vegetables.Religious diets
People observing kosher or halal will be able to find specialist butchers in the capital cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capital cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in the correct way.Beyond cuisine
There are a few peculiarly Aussie 'delicacies' - some of which have become infamous among travellers game enough to sample them! A classic example is Vegemite: a yeast-based spread made from the remains of beer brewing plus salt (lots
of salt!). Many believe that, unless sampled before the age of four, it's unlikely that anybody could develop a taste for the nearly black goo. The locals, however, tend to regard taking a jar of Vegemite as essential when packing the bags for travel. A word of advice for keen experimenters - try a very thin spread of Vegemite on hot buttered toast.
Aussies sometimes refer to biscuits (what Americans call cookies) as "bikkies". One of the most famous of the local bikkies, one that has had export success, is the Tim Tam. A chocolate fudge-filled sandwich of two chocolate biscuits, all wrapped in chocolate, this decadent bikkie gave rise to the "Tim Tam Slam". This decidedly messy maneuver requires nibbling the chocolate off both ends of a Tim Tam, then using the biscuit as a straw to suck up your favourite hot beverage, more typically coffee. The hot drink melts the fudge centre and creates an experience hard to describe, but finesse is needed to suck the whole biscuit into your mouth in the micro
seconds between being fully saturated & dissolving into your cuppa.
Other Australian sweets include the lamington
, a small sponge cake covered in a thin layer of chocolate icing (frosting) and then dipped in desiccated coconut; the pavlova
, a meringue cake with a cream topping usually covered with fresh fruit - a popular alternative to traditional Christmas pudding during the holiday season and ANZAC biscuits
a mix of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and Golden Syrup widely believed to have originated when anxious First World War wives and mothers baked and sent them to soldiers fighting overseas.
"Damper" is a traditional type of bread that was baked by stockmen during Colonial times whilst in the Outback. It is made with the most basic of ingredients and usually cooked over a woodfire. Do not expect to find this bread in urban bakeries - it is only commonly served to tourists on camping trips in the Outback.Supermarkets
The main supermarkets are:Woolworths/SafewayColesIGAFranklinsBi-LoAldi
There are also many local supermarkets around depending on the town or city you are in, local Fruit shops and deli's are very prominent in these areas.Drink
The Australian staple drink is beer
. Australia also has a very active wine
industry and local consumption of wine is increasing. Drinking imported wine is a novelty; you will find that most wines for sale both in bottle shops and restaurants will be Australian wines. Young Australians are increasingly fond of mixed drinks
, particularly vodka, bourbon and whiskey mixers, which are often sold pre-mixed in bottles and cans. Spirits
are served in pubs, but not in all restaurants.
See also: Grape grazing in AustraliaLegal and cultural aspects
The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years
. It is illegal both to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The seller will get in the most trouble for doing this and therefore many alcohol vendors will require proof of age
if you appear to be under 25 (sometimes under 30) in their judgement. Acceptable proof is generally government issued photo ID with both your name and date of birth on it: in particular, a drivers licence issued by any Australian state, a photographic identity card issued by any Australian state or a passport are generally accepted. Many licenced venues do not even allow under-age people on their premises. Those that do will require that the under-age person is accompanied by someone over 18.
Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licenced venues
: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can also purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops
, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. You typically cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets or other retail outlets, but bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity. Some major chain supermarkets do however offer a small selection of wines and beers that can be purchased in the store.
Alcohol consumption is banned in many other public places, particularly parks and footpaths. This is under the control of local council authorities. Otherwise, public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at nighttime, much less during the day. Being drunk with a group of friends is far more acceptable than wandering around drunk and alone. Note that public drunkenness is a criminal offence and if picked up by the police you may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.Driving while affected by alcohol
is both stigmatized and heavily policed (by random breath testing police patrols) in Australia, as well as being inherently dangerous. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. This alcohol level is reached by approximately
one standard drink per hour of consumption (the term 'standard' is a misnomer: most drinks sold in pubs and restaurants are substantially larger than a standard drink). In Australia every single police car can operate as a breath test station. There are also "booze buses" which are large vans set up typically on busy routes to test large numbers of drivers. Booze buses are usually deployed more heavily on long weekends, i.e. Australia day , Easter and Christmas. a summary of Australia's attitude to driving under the influence is the massively popular government slogan "if you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot".
In Victoria and South Australia, police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs is also a serious offence.Learn
Generally speaking, if you are intending to study in Australia, you will need to be on a visa class that allows this, rather than a tourist visa. Students and academics invited to visit Australian universities will generally also need an appropriate visa, even if their visit is of a short enough period to be covered by a tourist electronic visa. For extremely short term or part time courses, check with your Australian consulate or embassy.
Australian students attend a high school
program of approximately six years, and enter university
(also called "uni") at seventeen or eighteen years of age. (In Australia, neither "school" nor "college" are used to refer to tertiary institutions, they are referred to only as "universities".) Australian undergraduate programs are usually three years
in length. A fourth year (or sometimes even fifth year) is compulsory in some professional undergraduate programs such as engineering, law, medicine and dentistry. Other students take an optional fourth year known as honours
if they want to proceed into a postgraduate research program.
Australia does not have universities whose prestige competes with Harvard or MIT in the US or Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. Its most prestigious research universities are equivalent to the next tier of universities. However, these universities are very competitive on tuition compared to other Western universities.
All tuition at university level is in English
, save for courses that specifically focus on other languages. Students who have not previously earned a qualification in an English speaking program will have to take one of a number of English competency tests before being allowed to enroll. Postgraduate
studies in Australia fall into two classes: coursework and research. Coursework degrees are generally at the Masters level and are terminal: they do not proceed into a research degree. Research degrees are at the Masters and Doctoral level. No Masters degree is required to enroll in an Australian PhD program: you can enter directly after your fourth year of undergraduate and finish a PhD in 3 years. Admission
Undergraduate admission to university is centralized
at the state level. You make a single application for admission to the state admissions body stating your course preferences. The universities select students from this common applicant pool based upon their ranking and preferences. Unless you are applying for a creative arts degree, your ranking will be based solely on previous academic performance
at both high school and previous university studies.
Postgraduate admission is managed by individual universities and you will need to apply separately to each institution you are considering. Tuition fees
All Australian universities save for Bond University
are public: they are funded by the government. The full fees are very competitive compared to many Western universities, and some classes of student have substantially reduced fees: Australian citizens
, Australian permanent residents
and citizens of New Zealand
can often study in Australia for about one-third of the notional tuition cost. Australian citizens also have the option of deferring payment and having the money taken from their income tax after graduation. Other students
will generally be required to pay full tuition on enrolment each semester.Scholarships
are rarely awarded for undergraduate or postgraduate coursework degrees. A comparatively large number of scholarships are available for postgraduate research usually covering both tuition where required and living costs. These are awarded by individual universities.Sleep
Hostel, motel and hotel accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and tourist destinations. Smaller towns usually have a selection of motel rooms available at a number of venues. Accommodation rates are broadly comparable, if perhaps slightly less expensive than their equivalents in Europe or North America. often Pubs in small towns will offer an amount of rooms availableHostels
Budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often with dormitories is approximately $20-$30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and food storage areas which allow travellers to stay healthy and save money by cooking their own meals. All hostels also have living room areas equipped with couches, dining tables, and televisions to provide travelers with a cozy and relaxing environment. About 150 hostels are part of YHA Australia
, a member of Hostelling International.Hotels
All state capitals would have at least one major hotel up to 5 stars that is comparable to many other high profile hotels around the world. The majority of Australia's hotels are located in the Central Business Districts (CBD) of the capital city. Hotel services and hospitality are often excellent such as room cleaning services, free morning newspapers, meals to your door and a high-speed internet connection up to 24mb/s (but often with a premium fee twice the cost of the local internet).
All hotels would have a restaurant (or bistro, depending on the type of hotel you are staying in) on the ground floor next to the check in desk. The restaurant or bistro would often serve food that comparable to many other up-market restaurants outside the hotel. Also on the ground floor would normally be a fully equipped bar.
Tourists choosing accommodation in Australia normally consider the itinerary before booking for a hotel in a particular area. It is best to carve out the trip before considering the hotel of choice. There are many helpful travel portals that enable people to choose the right kind of hotel based on their travel plans. One of these is Best Australian Hotels.comMotels
Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost $50 per person per night at the very least.
Typically, motel-style accommodation will have a private room with a bed or number of beds, and a separate, private, shower and toilet. Breakfast is commonly included in the price of the room.
A number of local and international chains offer motel-style accommodation:Budget Motels - over 460 venues in Australia and New Zealand; not plush, but clean and basically comfortableBest Western Pubs
In very small inland towns (population 5,000 or less) there may not be either hotels or motels; instead, local pubs usually offer accommodation to travellers. Pub accommodation tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms.Serviced apartments
Serviced apartments are widely available, for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms.Camping and caravanning
Virtually every town, no matter how small, will have a caravan park where you can pitch a tent (or usually rent a cabin room).Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia
The camper trailer
has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camping lifestyle, whether it be weekends away or an extended trip into the great outdoors where no facilities exist. You will need to be self-sufficient and carry suitable spares and a good tool kit.The Australian Campertrailer GroupWork
Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia can work in Australia without any further permits, but others will require a work visa of some kind. All visitors who do not hold Australian permanent residency or citizenship (including New Zealand citizens who aren't also Australian permanent residents or citizens) are not allowed to access Australian social security arrangements for the unemployed, and will have limited, or more usually, no access to the Australian government's healthcare payment arrangements.Payment and taxes
Most Australian employers pay via direct deposit to Australian bank accounts. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Your passport will not be enough ID to open a bank account. You will need to show the bank teller 100 points of ID
As soon as you have an address it is wise to apply for a tax file number. You can apply for it online (though, only in Australia) for free at the Australian Tax Office website
, though you can generally get it quicker if you just go to their offices. The Australian financial year runs from July 1 to June 30, and tax returns for each financial year are due on October 30, four months after the accounting period concludes. Check with Australian tax agents about Australian tax liability and filing an Australian tax return.Working holidaymaker scheme
Australia has a working holidaymaker program for citizens of certain countries between 18 and 30 years of age. It allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter. You may work during that time, but only for 6 months at any one employer (was 3 months until July 2006). The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidised by casual or short-term jobs. If you're interested in a working holiday, some useful skills and experience might be: office skills to be used for temp work; or hospitality skills to be used for bar or restaurant work. An alternative is seasonal work like fruit-picking, although much seasonal work will require that you work outside the major cities. From 2006, working for 3 months in seasonal work will allow you to apply for a second 12 month visa.
You can apply online for a Working holiday visa
, but you must not be in Australia at the time. It takes just a few hours to process usually and it costs about 170AUD. On arriving in Australia ask for the working holiday visa to be "evidenced", so you can show your future employer. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs and it is almost a waste of time to apply for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship. Contract jobs generally mean employers are looking for solid experience, so make your resume reflect that. Search for jobs on Seek
or for IT related roles Jobnet
. It is wise to try arrange a few Interviews and prospects before you arrive in Australia in order to be in the better paid jobs.Sponsored work visas
The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. However, this just 'easier', not 'easy' as such. Your employer will need to demonstrate that they cannot hire your skills in Australia, and the approval will take several months. If applying in search of sponsorship, be prepared for a long wait for success. Note that getting the visa might take a couple of months from the beginning of the application process, and that you will need a medical examination by a doctor approved by the immigration officials before it can be granted (among other things, you will need a chest x-ray to show that you do not have tuberculosis). Check with your local Australian High Commission, Consulate or Embassy.
For details of work visas see The Immigration Department's website
You can apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer than receiving a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residency as the holder of a work or study visa, but your application will not be automatically accepted. After three years of permanent residency you are eligible for Australian citizenship.Stay safe
The number 000
(called 'triple zero' or 'triple oh') can be dialled from any telephone in Australia, home or payphone, free of charge. This number will connect you with emergency operators for the police, fire brigade, and ambulance service. The first question that the operator will ask is which service you need.
If you want to contact these services but the situation is not an emergency, don't call 000 -- call your local police, fire brigade, or ambulance station.
While you can dial 000 from an increasing number of mobile phones sold in Australia, the universal emergency number on these is actually 112
. All carriers provide a 112 service to all phones within their coverage area, so you may be able to call 112 from your phone even if you do not have normal phone coverage from your own provider. You can also call it from phones whose SIM cards have been removed.
The teletext (TTY) emergency service number for hearing or speech impaired people with appropriate equipment is 106
Calls from fixed line/landline phones may be traced in order to assist the emergency services to reach you. The Australian emergency services cannot trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, so be sure to calmly and clearly provide details of your location. Because of an increasing number of calls made accidentally from cellular phones left in bags or pockets, the emergency operators will disconnect your call after 30 seconds if they do not think there is anyone at the other end of the line.
Emergency numbers f
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 a number of other islands in the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The neighbouring countries are Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the French dependency of New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.
The Australian mainland has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the north and by European explorers and merchants starting in the 17th century, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation as part of the colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established during the 19th century.
On 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth Realm. The capital city is Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory. The population is 20.8 million, and is concentrated in the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.Etymology
The name "Australia" is derived from the Latin Australis
, meaning "of the South". Legends of an "unknown land of the south" (terra australis incognita
) dating back to Roman times were commonplace in mediÃ¦val geography, but were based on no actual knowledge of the continent. The first use of the word "Australia" in English was in 1625 â€” the words "A note of Australia del Espiritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt", published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumus
. The Dutch adjectival form Australische
was used by Dutch officials in Batavia to refer to the newly discovered land to the south in 1638. "Australia" was used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur dans la DÃ©couverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe
, a 1692 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny under the pen name Jacques Sadeur. Alexander Dalrymple then used it in An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean
(1771), to refer to the entire South Pacific region. In 1793, George Shaw and Sir James Smith published Zoology and Botany of New Holland
, in which they wrote of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia or New Holland."
The name "Australia" was popularised by the 1814 work A Voyage to Terra Australis
by the navigator Matthew Flinders, the first recorded person to circumnavigate Australia. Despite its title, which reflected the view of the British Admiralty, Flinders used the word "Australia" in the book, which was widely read and gave the term general currency. Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales subsequently used the word in his dispatches to England, and in 1817 recommended that it be officially adopted. In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as "Australia".
The word "Australia" in Australian English is pronounced .History
The first human habitation of Australia is estimated to have occurred between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago. These first Australians were the ancestors of the current Indigenous Australians; they arrived via land bridges and short sea-crossings from present-day South-East Asia. Most of these people were hunter-gatherers, with a complex oral culture and spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, inhabited the Torres Strait Islands and parts of far-north Queensland; their cultural practices were and remain distinct from those of the Aborigines.
The first undisputed recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland was made by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, who sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606. During the 17th century, the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of what they called New Holland, but made no attempt at settlement. In 1770, James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Britain. The expedition's discoveries provided impetus for the establishment of a penal colony there.
The British Crown Colony of New South Wales started with the establishment of a settlement at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date was later to become Australia's national day, Australia Day. Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803 and became a separate colony in 1825. The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Australia in 1829. Separate colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from the Province of South Australia. South Australia was founded as a "free province" â€” that is, it was never a penal colony. Victoria and Western Australia were also founded "free", but later accepted transported convicts. The transportation of convicts to the colony of New South Wales ceased in 1848 after a campaign by the settlers.
The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at 350,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly because of infectious disease combined with forced re-settlement and cultural disintegration. The removal of children from their families, which some historians and Indigenous Australians have argued could be considered to constitute genocide by some definitions, may have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population. Such interpretations of Aboriginal history are disputed by some as being exaggerated or fabricated for political or ideological reasons. This debate is known within Australia as the History Wars. Following the 1967 referendum, the Federal government gained the power to implement policies and make laws with respect to Aborigines. Traditional ownership of land â€” native title â€” was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2)
overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius
("empty land") at the time of European occupation.
A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, and the Eureka Stockade rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience. Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire. The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence and international shipping. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation and voting, and the Commonwealth of Australia was born as a Dominion of the British Empire. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was formed from a part of New South Wales in 1911 to provide a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra (Melbourne was the capital from 1901 to 1927). The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the Commonwealth in 1911. Australia willingly participated in World War I. Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation â€” its first major military action. The Kokoda Track Campaign is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II.
The Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the United Kingdom when Australia adopted it in 1942. The shock of the United Kingdom's defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has been a formal military ally of the US under the auspices of the ANZUS treaty. After World War II, Australia encouraged mass immigration from Europe; since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia policy, immigration from Asia and other non-European parts of the world was also encouraged. As a result, Australia's demography, culture and self-image have been radically transformed. The final constitutional ties between Australia and the UK were severed in 1986 with the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any British role in the government of the Australian States, and ending judicial appeals to the UK Privy Council In 1999, Australian voters rejected by a 55% majority a move to become a republic with a president appointed by Parliament. Since the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972, there has been an increasing focus on the nation's future as a part of the Asiaâ€“Pacific region.Politics
The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth Realms. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General at Federal level and by the Governors at State level. Although the Constitution gives extensive executive powers to the Governor-General, these are normally exercised only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General's reserve powers outside the Prime Minister's direction was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.
There are three branches of government:The legislature: the Commonwealth Parliament, comprising the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Representatives; the Queen is represented by the Governor-General, whose powers are limited to assenting to laws.The executive: the Federal Executive Council (the Governor-General as advised by the Executive Councillors); in practice, the councillors are the Prime Minister and Ministers of State.The judiciary: the High Court of Australia and other federal courts. The State courts became formally independent from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council when the Australia Act was passed in 1986.
The bicameral Commonwealth Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate (the upper house) of 76 senators, and a House of Representatives (the lower house) of 150 members. Members of the lower house are elected from single-member constituencies, commonly known as 'electorates' or 'seats'. Seats in the House of Representatives are allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. In the Senate, each state is represented by 12 senators, and the territories (the ACT and the NT) by two. Elections for both chambers are held every three years; Senators have overlapping six-year terms, and only half of the seats are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution. The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms government, and its leader becomes Prime Minister.
There are three major political parties: the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party. Independent members and several minor parties â€” including the Greens and the Australian Democrats â€” have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses. Since the 1996 election, the Liberal/National Coalition led by the Prime Minister, John Howard, has been in power in Canberra. In the 2004 election, the Coalition won control of the Senate - the first time in more than 20 years that a party (or coalition) has done so while in government. The Labor Party is in power in every state and territory. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over in each state and territory and at the federal level; such enrolment is compulsory in all jurisdictions but South Australia.States and territories
}About Australia from the Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeGovernments of Australia Entry Point (Federal, State & Territory)Australian Government Entry PortalAustralian Bureau of StatisticsCommunity organisations portalCultural InstitutionsTourism AustraliaSatellite image of Australia (Google Maps)