Today's Olympics Country Profile: Australia

As London prepares for the 2012 Olympics, Team looks at some of the cities that previously hosted the Olympics. Twelve years ago, the Olympic Games, also known as the Millennium Games, were held in Sydney, Australia. A record of 199 nations entered the stadium, with a record 80 of them winning at least one medal.
Would you like to work, live or move to Australia? Or maybe just find out about life in Australia? Here is some information on the land of diversity and contrasts.
General conditions
The world's smallest continent, but the world's sixth largest country, Australia is a unique land of great physical beauty, unusual fauna and flora, mild climate, and optimistic people. Australia has a population of over 20 million people, with roughly 20 percent being immigrants.

Canberra (pronounced "CAN-bruh"), the national capital, is in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which is in the southern part of New South Wales, between Melbourne and Sydney. The name "Canberra" comes from an indigenous Australian word roughly translated as "meeting place."

With houses nestled in the hills overlooking the bays and coves, Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, graced by its famous bridge and world-renowned opera house. It is Australia's largest city with over 4.2 million inhabitants.

The capital of New South Wales, Sydney has a pleasant climate year-round, and its citizens enjoy a casual outdoor life, enhanced by the many waterfront restaurants and cafés. It is a cosmopolitan center, with theatre, opera, and music, as well as trendy neighborhoods and a lively nightlife.
With its great expanse of land, Australia naturally has a wide range of climate. For example, it is temperate in the island-state of Tasmania and tropical or monsoonal in the far north of the states of Western Australia and Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Forty percent of Australia lies north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and the rainfall in some parts can exceed 2,500 mm/200 in per year. Australia is, however, the world's driest continent. Much of the interior is arid or semi-arid. Temperatures can range from 120 degrees F. in the desert to below 0 degrees F. in the mountains.  The southern part of the country has a temperate, Mediterranean climate. Winters are cool, summers are hot, and spring and fall are very pleasant. 
Australians love the beach and the outdoors, and the country is blessed with wonderful beaches, surf, coral reefs, and areas to enjoy. But Australia also has the highest skin-cancer rate in the world. The sun is intense, particularly in summer.
Learning the language
English is the official language of Australia. More than 95 percent of the population speaks English, but there are some class and especially regional variations of speech from state to state, between city and countryside, and between the coast and outback.
Some of the newer immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia speak their national language, and English is the second language for them; the government encourages all persons to become proficient in English.
Understanding the people
Caucasians make up roughly 92 percent of Australia's population. Asians make up seven percent. Indigenous Australians and other races make up 1 percent.  For most of Australia's modern history, the majority of its residents were of British or Irish ancestry. However, the overall population of Australia has quadrupled since World War II, as the result of immigration initiatives.
Indigenous Australians, often referred to as Aborigines, have been on the continent for at least 40,000 years and perhaps as much as 100,000 years. They live a nomadic existence, organized in tribes. Their relationship with the land, and their social organisation, has always been extraordinarily complex.
Most Australians live comfortable lives. Many own a home and car, and enjoy sport and socializing with "barbies" (barbecues). Indigenous Australians, however, live with considerably fewer luxuries.
Greetings, titles and names
"Good morning" or "good afternoon" is the standard business greeting. You may want to repeat whatever greeting is used. The informal "g'day" is less appropriate for business situations.
When addressing a new colleague, use Mr. or Ms., followed by last name. Managerial or similar titles are generally not used when addressing others. Business dealings will probably proceed fairly rapidly to a first-name basis, but it is best to wait until your Australian counterpart does so.
Australians greet others with a smile and a handshake. Shake hands firmly but briefly.
The expatriate community
The expatriate community is not clearly defined in most major Australian cities, because it is integrated within the local community. Many groups are represented, with large numbers of expatriate Asians, Europeans, Americans, South Africans, and Pacific Islanders.
There are many opportunities for networking and socialising in Australia. In addition to meeting other foreigners, most expatriates find that making Australian contacts is an easy way to feel at home. Australians are gregarious and welcoming, courteous and direct, and loyal to their mates (friends). They can also be impatient with pretense or arrogance.
Government schools operate throughout Australia as well as private schools. Some private schools are independent, but the majority has a religious affiliation. Children of expatriates in Australia attend the same schools as Australian children, with the exception of a few schools catering for specific nationalities (e.g. Japanese, German, French). A few schools describe themselves as an "international school," however, these follow an Australian curriculum with an international flavor and maintain the Australian school terms. An increasing number of schools now offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney.

Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The country is organised as a federation of six states and two territories and is governed on the federal level by a prime minister as the chief executive, and a bicameral parliament made up of a House of Representatives and a Senate. Members of the House are elected for three years and members of the Senate for six-year terms
Time zones
Australia has three time zones:

Perth: GMT plus 8 hrs
N. Territory, S. Australia: GMT+9.5 hrs
Sydney, Melbourne: GMT plus 10 hrs

Several of the states observe daylight savings time in the summer months. The dates of daylight savings time vary from state to state, but are generally from the end of October to the end of March.

Holidays and festivals
Many holidays in Australia are determined by individual states or regions. Other than Christian holidays, the major nationwide holidays are Australia Day on January 26, and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day on April 25. While Australia Day is celebrated with fireworks and vacationing, ANZAC Day is more solemn, with dawn ceremonies at military memorials.

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