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Australia - Country facts

Map

Small map of Australia
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Flag

Country flag: Australia

Capital

Canberra

Currency

Australian dollar (AUD)

Internet Code

.au

Location

Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean

Background

Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990's, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980's. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Climate

generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north

Terrain

mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast

Population

20,090,437 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic Groups

Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%

Religions

Anglican 26.1%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%, other 12.6%

Languages

English, native languages

Map of Australia

Large map of Australia
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