Nation at a Glance - Australia

History

Prehistoric settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia at least 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 of the east coast in the name of Great Britain (all of Australia was claimed as British territory in 1829 with the creation of the colony of Western Australia). 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 agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the Allied effort in World Wars I and II.In recent decades, Australia has become an internationally competitive, advanced market economy due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s and its location in one of the fastest growing regions of the world economy. Long-term concerns include an aging population, pressure on infrastructure, and environmental issues such as floods, droughts, and bushfires. Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, making it particularly vulnerable to the challenges of climate change. Australia is home to 10 per cent of the world's biodiversity, and a great number of its flora and fauna exist nowhere else in the world.

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

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 7,741,220 sq km Land: 7,682,300 sq km Water: 58,920 sq km

Climate: Generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north

Terrain: Mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast

Natural resources: Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, rare earth elements, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum

Land use: Agricultural land: 53.4% arable land 6.2%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 47.1% Forest: 19.3% Other: 27.3% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: English 25.9%, Australian 25.4%, Irish 7.5%, Scottish 6.4%, Italian 3.3%, German 3.2%, Chinese 3.1%, Indian 1.4%, Greek 1.4%, Dutch 1.2%, Other 15.8% (includes Australian aboriginal .5%), Unspecified 5.4%

Languages: English 76.8%, Mandarin 1.6%, Italian 1.4%, Arabic 1.3%, Greek 1.2%, Cantonese 1.2%, Vietnamese 1.1%, Other 10.4%, Unspecified 5% (2011 est.)

Religions: Protestant 30.1% (Anglican 17.1%, Uniting Church 5.0%, Presbyterian and Reformed 2.8%, Baptist, 1.6%, Lutheran 1.2%, Pentecostal 1.1%, other Protestant 1.3%), Catholic 25.3% (Roman Catholic 25.1%, other Catholic 0.2%), other Christian 2.9%, Orthodox 2.8%, Buddhist 2.5%, Muslim 2.2%, Hindu 1.3%, Other 1.3%, None 22.3%, Unspecified 9.3% (2011 est.)

Population: 22,992,654 (July 2016 est.)

Administrative divisions: 6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Economy: Following two decades of continuous growth, low unemployment, contained inflation, very low public debt, and a strong and stable financial system, Australia enters 2018 facing a range of growth constraints, principally driven by the sharp fall in global prices of key export commodities. Demand for resources and energy from Asia and especially China is growing at a slower pace and sharp drops in export prices have impacted growth. The services sector is the largest part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 70% of GDP and 75% of jobs. Australia was comparatively unaffected by the global financial crisis as the banking system has remained strong and inflation is under control. Australia benefited from a dramatic surge in its terms of trade in recent years, although this trend has reversed due to falling global commodity prices. Australia is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food. Australia's abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive reserves of coal, iron, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. A series of major investments, such as the US$40 billion Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas Project, will significantly expand the resources sector. Australia is an open market with minimal restrictions on imports of goods and services. The process of opening up has increased productivity, stimulated growth, and made the economy more flexible and dynamic. Australia plays an active role in the WTO, APEC, the G20, and other trade forums. Australia’s free trade agreement (FTA) with China entered into force in 2015, adding to existing FTAs with the Republic of Korea, Japan, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and the US, and a regional FTA with ASEAN and New Zealand. Australia continues to negotiate bilateral agreements with Indonesia, as well as larger agreements with its Pacific neighbors and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and an Asia-wide Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that includes the 10 ASEAN countries and China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and India.

Agriculture - products: Wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry

Industries: Mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel

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