Australia is the smallest continent but the biggest island. It is the sixth largest country in the world.
However, less than 22 million people live there. Australia is the smallest, flattest, driest and most sparsely populated continent on earth after Antartica. Situated below Asia and bordered by the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans, it is a land of big contrast. Two thirds of Australia is desert, it has one of the richest and most varied ecosystem to be found anywhere.
Australia’s climate is quite different from the rest of the world. It is the the driest inhabited continent on earth, and the centre of the country has one of the lowest rainfall rates in the world.
The Australian flag consists of a small Union Jack (the flag of the UK) in the top left corner on a blue background and the Southern Cross constellation. There is a seven-pointed star, the Commonwealth star represents the six states and one point is for the territories (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory).Tasmania is an island south of Australia. It is named after the explorer Abel Tasman. It is a home to a rare animal – Tasmanian devil – a carnivorous marsupial that cannot be found anywhere else.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy and a federal political system. The country is divided into six states and two territories. Each state has its own parliament, so there are two levels of government, the state and the federal, and people must vote in both elections. The head of government at the federal level is called the prime minister. The head of the government in each state is called the premier.
The first people in Australia were the Aborigines, but today they are only 1,5 % of all Australians. Most of the people are descendants of British settlers. In recent years a lot of people have come from other European countries and from Asia. About 70 % of the population lives in the large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. English is the common language, however more than 200 language are spoken throughout the country. Australian English uses a lot of shortenings, e.g. Oz for Australia, Poms for Englismen, roo for a kangaroo.
The climate in Australia is usually very warm, so Australians love sport and other outdoor activities. Swimming, scuba-diving, surfing, rugby and cricket are all very popular.
A lot of Australia’s animals, like the kangaroo, the koala and the platypus are unique. Along the north-east coast is the Great Barrier Reef. This is the largest coral reef in the world.
The largest and the oldest city is Sydney with its famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House that looks like sailing boats. The 2000 Olympics were held in Sydney. The second largest city is Melbourne. The capital city is Canberra.About 367 000 people live there. It is not a part of any state. Other cities include Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
Australia is a rich country. Its farms produce meat, fruit, vegetables, wool, cereals and wine. There are a lot of mines, too. They produce gold, silver, iron, diamonds, copper and many more things. There are some huge farms here with millions of sheep and cattle.