Today's Olympics Country Profile: Australia
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
Feeding The Kangaroo - Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Koala Crossing - Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net