Australia in Brief
Australia is the largest island and the smallest continent in the world. It lies between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It is about 11,000 kilometers southwest of North America and 3,200 kilometers southeast of mainland Asia.
Australia boasts a fantastic temperate climate. It is a land of bright sunshine, surf beaches, tropical rivers, rainforests, mountain ranges, red deserts and rich green coastal plains. The flora and fauna are interesting and unique, with kangaroos, koalas and wombats included in the array of wildlife.
The population of Australia is almost nineteen million. More than four-fifths of the people live in cities and towns that are generally in coastal areas near the mouth of a river and as close as possible to a good ocean harbour. The main cities are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra and are all State Capital cities.
Most Australians enjoy an excellent standard of living, good educational opportunities and a relaxed lifestyle made possible by the outstanding natural and economic features of the country.
There are a range of climate types with the north being tropical, the centre being desert and the southern coastal areas being temperate. The seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. January/February is generally the hottest time of year and the months around July are usually the coldest. In the tropical north it is warm to hot all year around, with the seasons being simply referred to as 'wet' or 'dry'. The majority of the population live around Australia's coastal edges, due to the harsh environmental conditions of the centre.
Despite the great age of the Australian continent, its recorded history is only very recent. It is usually held that the earliest human population arrived over 50,000 years ago when Australia's indigenous tribes migrated from an unknown region of Asia.
European exploration of Australia began in 1606 when a Spanish navigator sailed through the Torres Strait, which separates Australia from Papua New Guinea. He was soon followed by Dutch, French and English explorers who began to chart the continent.
The settlement of Australia began in 1788 when a British penal colony was established at Botany Bay, in what was to become the city of Sydney in New South Wales. The colony grew rapidly as free settlers, hoping to make a better life for themselves, followed convicts, and soon Australia started making its mark in the world.
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