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Culture and society
Australia’s vibrant multiculturalism stems
from a combination of Indigenous cultures,
early European settlement and mass
Australia is proud of the diversity of its
people and enjoys the variety of different
cultures and foods that this provides.
Australia is also a secular country, meaning
that there is no official religion. Each
capital city has places of worship for
religions from around the world. Australians
value freedom, diversity, equality and
The earliest human population arrived
on the Australian continent more than
40,000 years ago when Indigenous tribes
migrated from an unknown region of Asia.
Australia’s Indigenous people have the
oldest living cultural history in the world.
Indigenous communities keep their cultural
heritage alive by passing their knowledge,
arts, rituals and performances from one
generation to another; speaking and
teaching languages; protecting cultural
materials; and looking after sacred and
significant sites such as Uluru in the
European exploration of Australia began
in 1606 when a Spanish navigator sailed
through the Torres Strait, which separates
Australia from Papua New Guinea. Dutch,
Portuguese and British explorers followed
and began to map the continent. The
European settlement of Australia began in
1788 when the British established a penal
colony at Botany Bay — now Sydney, the
largest city in Australia. The colony grew
as free settlers and migrants arrived in
Australia hoping to make a better life.
Australia’s climate varies greatly across the
country. About 40 per cent of the northern
part of the country lies in the tropics,
which experiences a distinct wet season
(from December to March) and dry season
(from May to October). The climate in the
southern part of the country is temperate,
with cool winters, hot summers and four
distinct seasons. Australia is in the Southern
Hemisphere, so the summer months are
December, January and February, and the
winter months are June, July and August.
Nearly 90 per cent of Australians live
around the country’s coastal edges, where
ocean breezes bring the temperature down.
Australia is so large that it enjoys a range
of climatic conditions and geographical
regions — from dry deserts to snowy alpine
areas and rainforests.
Australia is a democracy, and vigorous
debate is a strong part of the political
process. All Australians aged over 18 are
required to vote in local, state and federal
elections. The Commonwealth of Australia
is a constitutional monarchy under a
parliamentary democracy, and the formal
head of state is the United Kingdom’s
Queen Elizabeth II. The leader of the
government is known as the Prime Minister.
The Commonwealth Government governs
the whole of Australia, and the Australian
Constitution defines its responsibilities.
Responsibilities include matters of
quarantine, defence, telecommunications,
Australia is truly unique — it is the largest island on Earth and also the world’s sixth largest
country. Australia’s population currently stands at approximately 23.5 million people, with
about a quarter of the population born overseas.
taxes and welfare. You can find more
information about the Australian
http://australia.gov.au. Each state and
territory government works in cooperation
with the Australian Government and is
responsible for matters such as police,
education, roads and transport. Local
governments are responsible for local
matters such as garbage collection,
recreation facilities and building regulations.
The Australian flag
The official Australian flag was designed in
1901, when Australia’s six colonies became
a federation. The Union Jack represents
Australia’s links to England. The large
seven-pointed star represents the states
and territories. The five stars on the right
represent the Southern Cross constellation,
which you can see in the Australian night
sky. The Indigenous Australian flag and the
Torres Strait Islander flag are also officially
recognised as flags of Australia.
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