(pronounced "JON HOW-ard")
"There is something special about being an Australian…That Australian spirit, that capacity, that mateship that allows us to pull together in times of challenge and times of adversity…the things that unite us are infinitely greater and more enduring than the things that divide us."
The Commonwealth of Australia is situated in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, southeast of Asia. To the north are Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and to the east is New Zealand. Including the island of Tasmania, which lies to the southeast, the country has a total area of 7,682,300 sq km (2,966,151 sq mi), a land mass about equal to the continental United States. Australia also claims vast territories in Antarctica. It is the sixth-largest country in the world and the smallest continent. Australia is, for the most part, a vast plateau, in which 75% of the continent has an elevation between 152 and 457 meters (500 and 1,500 feet). It includes many deserts and most of its lakes and streams contain water for only part of the year. Only 6% of the land is suitable for farming. Unlike all other continents, it has no mountains of truly alpine structure and elevation. Many of the plants and animals found in Australia are unique to the country, including the kangaroo, koala bear, wombat, barking lizard, and platypus.
English is the principal language, reflecting the country's colonial heritage. A variety of aboriginal languages are also spoken. Australia has an estimated 19.5 million people (July 2002 estimate), almost wholly Caucasian. Only 1–2% of the people are aborigine and Asian. The majority of Australians live in the principal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra. The largest city is Sydney, home to 3.7 million people. Major religious affiliations are Anglican (26%), Roman Catholic (26%), and other Protestant denominations (24%). Many other faiths are practiced as well, including Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.
With an estimated 2001 per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US $24,000, Australia is one of the world's most advanced industrial countries. Only 5% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, 22% in industry, and 73% in service industries. The main products are wool (of which Australia is the world's largest exporter), beef, steel, copper, coal, uranium, machinery, and transport equipment. Australia imports petroleum, computers, manufactured goods, and industrial raw materials. Its major trading partners are the United States, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Malaysia. The unit of currency is the Australian dollar.
Office of the Prime Minister
Canberra, ACT 2600
Australia Web site: http://www.pm.gov.au