Australia is an immense island- continent in the south Pacific.
Most of interior, called the "outback", is hot, dry, semi- desert.
There are also large areas of open grassland and, in the north- east, tropical forests.
The population (and all big cities) is concentrated along the coast, especially in the
south- east where climate is more temperate.
Australia is important for its agricultural products and it is also rich in minerals, including diamonds, uranium, iron, coal and aluminium.
POPULATION 18 080 000 (mostly of British and southern European origin; also immigrants from south- east Asia; 230 000 Australian Aboriginals)
MAIN CITIES Canberra (capital, 325 000)
Sydney (3.3 million)
Melbourne (2.9 million)
MAIN PRODUCTS wool, meat, minerals, diamonds
Sydney is the oldest and the biggest city in Australia.
It has a beautiful location on Sydney Harbour. The city was founded by the British in 1788 as a prison colony.
The first inhabitants were about 1 000 convicts. Now it is an important industrial, commercial and tourist centre, with a world- famous Opera House.
The central part of Australia is mostly flat desert. A great mass of rock, called Ayers Rock, rises up in the middle of the desert. It is the biggest single mass of rock in the world and has become a major tourist attraction. It is usually pink but takes on other colours as the light changes. Ayers Rock is a sacred place for Australian Aborigines, who have decorated its caves with wall paintings.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
The Great Barrier Reef, nearly 2 000 km long, is the world's largest living structure.
It is made from the skeletons of millions of tiny creatures called corals. It from a kind of wall built in the sea at distance of 15-45 km from the coast.
The reef is rich in rare marine life and is a paradise for under water swimmers.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of wood. In the grasslands of the interior there are enormous ranches for sheep and cattle, called "stations", covering hundreds of square km.
Some ranches are so isolated that children do not go to school; they have a lesson at home, communicating with the teacher over the radio.
Australia has many usual animals. The Kangaroo moves in great jumps using its powerful back legs. It can run at speed of 70 km/h. the mother kangaroo caries her baby in a pouch, a kind of pocket. Another Australian creature, the platypus, is one of the strangest in the world.
It is a mixture of bird, mammal and reptile. It has a mouth and feet like a duck and it lays eggs. But it is covered in hair and the mother platypus gives milk to her young.
Sport plays is a very important part in Australia life. There is a warm, sunny climate and people tend to live outdoors. Although its population is not large, Australia has produced many champions in sports such as swimming, sailing, surfing, tennis, athletics, cricket and rugby.
40 000 BC First Aborigines arrive in Australia
Dutch sailor Willem de Jansz sees the north coast of Australia
Captain James Cook claims New south Wales of Britain
First British colony at Botany Bay in Sydney
1800- 60 Explorers penetrate the vast interior of Australia. Colonies are also established in the west, the south and the north
Australia becomes an independent dominion with its own government
Australia becomes a member of ASEAN; it establishes closer links with other Pacific countries. Asian immigrants begin to arrive.
THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES
For 40 000 years before the arrival of the Europeans, Australia belonged exclusively to its native Aboriginal people.
These people originally came from south- east Asia. They lived a nomadic existence in small family groups, travelling constantly across the continent.
They hundred animals with spears and boomerangs and also ate plants and insects.
Today, some Aborigines continue to follow their traditional way of life but most of them now live in cities and towns. There has been a history of discrimination against them and many are uneducated, unemployed and very poor.
However, in recent years, Aborigines have begun to take a new interest in their traditions.
The Australian government has agreed to return some tribal lands to them and to protect their culture.
About 12% of Australia now belongs to the Aborigines. The Aborigines have very close relationship with the land. They believe that their ancestors created the land and everything in it- including rivers, mountains, beaches, even individual rocks.
And so all of there places are sacred to them. The period of creation is called "Dreamtime".
Aboriginal art, in the form of pictures, music, songs and dances, is a celebration of Dreamtime and a way of teaching the traditional beliefs to young people.
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