Facts about Australia
Geographical Facts

- Australia's landmass is 7,617,930 square kilometres - just 0.74% smaller than the United States.

- Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and the largest 'borderless' country.

- At 5% of the world's land mass it is considered the largest island on the planet.

- Australia is the smallest and lowest lying continent.

- It is about 3,700km long (north to south) and 4000km wide (east to west).

- Mount Kosciusko, at 2,229 metres is the highest peak.

- One third of the continent is desert, often considered 'The Outback'.

- The Great Victoria Desert, at nearly 350,000 square kilometres is 50% bigger than the United Kingdom.

- Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.

- The state of Western Australia is about the same size as Western Europe.

- Tasmania was once joined to Australia, as was Antarctica and Papua New Guinea. 20,000 years ago rising seawaters separated Tasmania from the mainland.

Facts about Aboriginal Settlement

- An 'Anatomically Modern Human' was found at Lake Mungo in south-east Australia. It has been dated between 40,000 and 62,000 years old.

- Mungo Man LM3 is considered to have a different genetic make-up than ancient and modern Aboriginals suggesting that this unrelated species of man may have been the true 'original'.

- The Australian Aborigine is a distinct racial group and similarities in DNA exist between Asian, European as well as African racial groups.

- It is uncertain exactly when Aborigines first came to Australia - the accepted date is between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.

- Only Africa has older physical evidence of human> inhabitance.

- It is believed that Aborigines arrived in Australia on foot - crossing between 'land bridges' over what was the 'Sahul' continent.

- Scientific dating techniques seem to agree with Aboriginal oral history that Aborigines existing at the same time as Megafauna (large animal species over 30kg)

- The Aborigine population is estimated to have been between 750,000 and one million people at the time of European settlement.

- By the 1920's the population was estimated to be between 50,000 and 90,000.

- Aborigines may have contributed to the demise of the megafauna by the use of fire to control habitat.

- Smallpox is considered to have killed 50% of the population.

- Influenza and tuberculosis also contributed heavily in the decline of the Aboriginal population, as did the colonists, who appropriated new lands and protected them aggressively.

- Incidents of slaughter and violence between Aboriginals, Europeans and pacific fishermen were still occurring in remote parts of Australia at the onset of World War 2.

- The Gibson Desert in Western Australia is the home of the Pintubi, the last Aboriginal tribe to make contact with Europeans - in 1984.

- Australian Aboriginals have a life expectancy of around 20 years less than other Australians.

Facts about European Settlement

- The Dutch Navigator, Willem Janszoon, made the first recorded European landing on 26 february 1606 but made no claim for settlement.

- In 1688 the English explorer William Dampier had landed on the opposite side of the continent (Western Australia) but Dampier was a privateer and again no claim for the land was made.

- It was not until 1770 that Captain James Cook finally mapped the east coast (New South Wales) and claimed the southern land for Great Britain.

- In 1828 that England made a formal claim for the western side of Australia, uniting the land mass under one flag.

- 'The First Fleet' landed on 26 January 1788, 11 ships carrying about 1500 people, more than half of which were convicts.

- From 1836, over a period of 15 years, the states of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland were created by dividing New South Wales.

- The Dutch had called the land 'New Holland' but it was officially named 'Terra Australis Incognita' - latin for an unknown land of the south.

- Different explorer nations had variations on the name Australia - the Spanish Austrialia del Espíritu Santo and the Dutch also used the word Australische for Australian

- The explorer Matthew Flinders petitioned for the popular term Australia to become formally recognised and by 1824 the British Admiralty decreed that the lands be called Australia.

Industrial Facts

- South Australia's Anna Creek Station (cattle farm/ranch) is the largest in the world and equivalent in size to Belgium.

- South Australia also claims the town of Coober Pedy as home of the worlds largest opal at 5.27kg.

- Australia is also the largest producer of opal, digging up 95% of the world total.

- 10% of the world's gold is derived from the country's gold mines.

- Australia is also the largest exporter of iron ore and BHP Port Hedland holds the world record for the longest ore train at 7.3km

- More bauxite and alumina is produced here than anywhere else in the world.

- Zircon, zinc, silver and extractable uranium are present in greater volumes than anywhere else.

- Australia produces 25% of the global wool clip followed by China with 18%

Animal Facts

- Australia has 140 species of marsupial animals - more than anywhere else in the world.

- Marsupials have a short gestation and give birth to very undeveloped young who must crawl up their mothers fur to reach the pouch and suckle.

- Marsupials tend to develop strong front limbs as a result of this crawling action.

- It's believed Australia's isolation helped marsupials thrive while in other countries the stronger 'placental' species dominated.

- All infant marsupials are called 'joeys'.

- Female marsupials have 2 vaginas and males generally have a 2 pronged penis.

- Koalas are marsupials - not bears.

- Platypus and Echidna are 'montromes' - mammals who lay eggs. Only one other species of montrome exist - an Echidna in Papua New Guinea.

- The male platypus has a spur on each hind leg containing venom strong enough to kill a dog.

- The red Kangaroo can grow to 2.7 metres and 90kg.

- Red Kangaroos communicate danger by 'thumping' the ground with their powerful hind legs.

- Dingoes are not truly native animals arriving some 3,500 years ago.

- Emus can reach speeds of 40kph.

- Gliding Possums can 'fly' for up to 100 metres.

- The Lyrebird can mimic almost any sound including, horns, trains and chainsaws.

- Australia has around 140 species of snake with 100 of these being venomous. Between 12 - 20 of these species are lethal.

- The wombat can weigh 36kg and lives in burrows up to 30 metres long.

- There are 45 species of Wallaby and Kangaroo.

- Kangaroos and Emus rarely move backwards. An old story suggests they were used on Australia's coat of arms to represent progress.

People Facts

- Australia's population is nearing 23 million.

- 80% of the population live on the eastern coast or along the coastal fringes.

- The population roughly consists of 92% Caucasian, 7% Asian and 1% Aboriginal.

- More than 6 million of these people emigrated here.

- 24% of Australians are born overseas and 40% can claim mixed cultural origins.

- 1.1 million of these people originate from Great Britain followed by nearly half a million from New Zealand.

- As of 2007, Australians who can claim convict ancestry - 22%.

- There is a birth every 1 minute 45 seconds.

- Out of 241 countries, Australia ranks at 235 in population density with 3 people per square kilometre.

- A death occurs every 3 minutes 40 seconds.

- And a new international migrant arrives every 1 minute 11 seconds.

- 95% of Australians live in urban areas, one of the highest rates in the world.

- Average life expectancy is nearly 82 years.

- 0.2% of the population have HIV/AIDS

- Christianity is the predominate Australian religion of which 28% are Roman Catholic.

- The average age is 37 years.

- Australia has no official language and English is considered the de-facto standard.

- The written standard in Australia is based on British English which may explain some spelling and grammatical anomalies within this website. (other than pure error)

Dangerous Australian Animals contains information about Australian fauna to be avoided.

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