Parliament House, Australia

Parliament House at Dusk, Canberra, ACT
© Thennicke

Country Profile

  • Capital City: Canberra

  • Area: 7,682,300sq km / 2,966,200sq mi

  • Population: On 28 October 2008 at 05:08:37 AM (Canberra time), the resident population of Australia is projected to be: 21,469,953. This projection is based on the estimated resident population at 31 March 2008 and assumes growth since then of:

    • one birth every 1 minute and 51 seconds,

    • one death every 3 minutes and 48 seconds,

    • a net gain of one international migrant every 2 minutes and 55 seconds leading to

    • an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 37 seconds.

  • More than one in five people living in Australia were born overseas. With their Australian-born children, they account for about 40% of the population.

  • GDP: Gross domestic product GDP $1,037,027,000,000 (2007-08).

  • Form of Government: Federal parliamentary state

  • Official Language: English

  • Monetary unit: 1 Australian dollar ($A), consisting of 100 cents

  • Religions: Anglican 26%; Roman Catholic 26%; Other Christian 24%; Other or nonreligious 24%

  • Major Cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Canberra, Gold Coast, Wollongong, Hobart

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

  • Agriculture: World’s largest exporter of beef and wool, second largest for mutton, and among top wheat exporters; major crops—wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruit; livestock—cattle, sheep, poultry

  • Natural Resources: Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, gold, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum

  • Geography: Australia is the world's smallest continent and the sixth largest country. Its area is equal to the United States without Alaska, or double the size of Europe, excluding Russia.

    • More than one-fifth of its land area is desert. More than two-thirds of the country is classified as arid or semi-arid.

    • The length of mainland Australia's coastline is about 33.535km. If it was possible to drive non-stop along the entire coast at 60km/h it would take 23 days to reach your starting point.

    • The tip of Queensland's Cape York is the continent's northernmost point (latitude 10°41'S), while Australia's most northerly town is Thursday Island.

    • Queensland and Western Australia account for more than half Australia's land area. WA alone spreads over more than one-third of its surface.

    • The hottest temperature recorded in Australia was 53.1°C (128°F) at Cloncurry in Queensland in January 1889.

  • Australia is the lowest and flattest of all the continents because it lies near the centre of a tectonic plate.

  • Australia is the only continent without current volcanic activity. The last eruption took place more than 1400 years ago at Mount Gambier.

  • Since European settlement, Australia has lost about 75% of its rainforests and about 40% of its total forest area. Almost 70% of native vegetation has been removed or modified for agriculture, urban development and forestry since 1788. Land clearing continues at a rate of more than 600,000ha each year, with most occurring in New South Wales and Queensland.

  • We have more species of venomous snakes than any other continent. Our spiders are also among the world's most poisonous.

  • More than 500 shark attacks have been recorded off the Australian coastline since 1791. Fewer than half were fatal.

  • The first recorded landing by Europeans on Australian soil was made in 1606 by Dutch explorers.

  • Between 200,000 and 750,000 Aborigines are thought to have lived in Australia when white settlement began. By 1930 this number had been reduced by about two-thirds through a combination of disease and violence.