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There is nothing like Australia
There is nothing like Australia!
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world - more or less the same size as mainland USA. This vast land however also has the lowest population density in the world, with only two people per square kilometre.
Australia is politically divided into six states and two territories, each one offering a different experience for the traveller. There is the drama of the remote 'Outback', the colourful spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef and its coral islands, the excitement of the cosmopolitan cities, the sun and surf at some of the best beaches in the world, and the tropical rainforests of Western Australia. The list is endless in this diverse land of adventure, which boasts 2,000 national parks and 14 World Heritage-listed areas, along with more than 7,000 beaches.
Australia is a land of character too, with its melting pot of cultures. For more than 50,000 years the Aboriginal people lived and thrived in the continent's unique environment. It is believed the Aboriginals are the world's oldest civilisation, and in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in keeping the Aboriginal culture alive and flourishing.
The vast continent at the bottom of the world was the last landmass to be discovered by European explorers. Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770 and sparked off generations of emigration to Australia, which for some time served as a penal colony. It was not until 1860 that two explorers - Robert Burke and William Wills - became the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. The country remains a magnet for modern explorers and adventurers and has a great deal to offer tourists and holidaymakers.
Australia teems with native animals, many which are found only here.
A wide, brown land
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. It's about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the USA and 50 per cent larger than Europe, but has the lowest population density in the world - only two people per square kilometre.
Australia’s coastline stretches almost 50,000 kilometres and is linked by over 10,000 beaches, more than any other country in the world. More than 85 per cent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coast, making it an integral part of our laid-back lifestyle.
Our island home
Australia is the only nation to govern an entire continent and its outlying islands. The mainland is the largest island and the world’s smallest, flattest continent.
Opals in our eyes
Australia produces 95 per cent of the world's precious opals and 99 per cent of its black opals. The world’s opal capital is the quirky underground town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. The world’s largest opal, weighing 5.27 kilograms, was found here in 1990.
Kalgoorlie in Western Australia is Australia's largest producer of gold. It also embraces the world's largest political electorate, covering a mammoth 2.2 million square kilometres.
Merinos and cattle calls
Australia's 85.7 million sheep (mostly merinos) produce most of the world's wool. With 25.4 million head of cattle, Australia is also the world's largest exporter of beef.
Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef is home to the world’s largest oyster, weighing up to 3 kilograms, while the world’s longest earthworm, stretching up to 4 metres, is found in Gippsland in Victoria. The heaviest crab, weighing up to 14 kilograms, is found in Bass Strait near Tasmania. Australia’s tallest mountain is Mt Kosciuszko, which is 2,228 metres above sea level.
Longest road, rail and fence
The world’s longest piece of straight railway track stretches 478 kilometres across South Australia’s vast, treeless Nullarbor Plain. Australia’s longest stretch of straight road - 148 kilometres – is on the Eyre Highway in Western Australia. It’s just a tiny portion of the 2,700 kilometre sealed road that takes travelers from Perth to Adelaide. The world's longest continuous fence – the dingo fence – was built to keep sheep safe from Australia's native dog and runs for 5,531 kilometres through central Queensland and South Australia.
Our Flora and Fauna
A hopping icon
The iconic kangaroo is unique to Australia and one of our most easily recognised mammals. There are an estimated 40 million kangaroos in Australia, more than when Australia was first settled.
Australia developed a unique fauna when it broke away from the super-continent Gondwana more than 50 million years ago. Today Australia is home to a wealth of wildlife not found anywhere else in the world. We have around 800 species of birds, half of which are unique to this country. Our marine environments contain more than 4,000 fish varieties and tens of thousands of species of invertebrates, plants and micro-organisms. About 80 per cent of Australia's southern marine species are found nowhere else in the world.
Australia also supports at least 25,000 species of plants, compared to 17,500 in Europe. That includes living fossils like the Wollemi pine and the grass tree, and brilliant wildflowers. There are over 12,000 species in Western Australia alone!
Our People and Culture
An ethnic melting pot
Since 1945 more than six million people from across the world have come to Australia to live. Today, more than 20 per cent of Australians are foreign born and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. In our homes we speak 226 languages - after English, the most popular are Italian, Greek, Cantonese and Arabic.
Big country, big ideas
Australians invented notepads (1902), the surf lifesaving reel (1906), aspirin (1915), the pacemaker (1926), penicillin (1940) the Hills Hoist clothesline (1946), the plastic disposable syringe (1949), the wine cask (1965), the bionic ear (1978), dual-flush toilet flush (1980) anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes (1992) and long-wearing contact lenses (1999).
Believed to be the world’s oldest civilization, Aboriginal people have lived and thrived on this continent for more than 50,000 years. Aboriginal societies made many unique advances long before the Europeans arrived. They invented the aerodynamic boomerang and a type of spear thrower called the woomera. They were also the first society to ground edges on stone cutting tools and the first to use stone tools to grind seeds, everyday tools developed only much later by other societies.
Australia is divided into three time zones. Eastern is GMT +10, Central is GMT +9.5, and Western is GMT +8. Other than the Northern Territory and Queensland, all states observe daylight saving time in summer.
Electrical current is 240/250 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin flat blade plugs are used but are different to those in most other countries, so an adapter is normally required.
English is the official language of Australia.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by travellers over one year of age arriving within six days of having stayed overnight or longer in an infected country. No other special immunizations or medications are required for most trips to Australia, however insect repellents are strongly advised because of the risk of Murray Valley encephalitis, Ross River virus infections, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Another health risk is sunburn, and visitors are advised to take precautions. Medical services are excellent, but can be expensive so travellers should ensure that they have adequate insurance. Australia has a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom providing for free hospital emergency medical treatment; proof of UK residence is required.
There are no mandatory gratuities in restaurant service charges of any kind in Australia, and tips are not expected anywhere, although it is becoming more common in expensive restaurants in the bigger cities to leave some money for good service.
The crime rate in Australia is low, however travellers should be aware that tourists could be targeted by petty criminals. Be vigilant about personal possessions and travel documents, particularly in popular tourist destinations such as along the Gold Coast. There has been an increase in incidents of spiked drinks and women in particular should be cautious in nightspots; many victims were also sexually assaulted. Tropical cyclones normally occur between November and April in some parts of Australia, usually in Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory. There is a serious risk of bush fires in summer, especially in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and ACT. During the summer months, usually between October and May, the shallow coastal waters of northern Australia and Queensland become infested with marine stingers, commonly known as box jellyfish, whose sting is highly dangerous and can be deadly. Visitors should pay attention to signs on beaches and follow the instructions of local lifeguards.
Generally an informal attitude, in dress and behaviour, prevails in most social and business situations. Sport, particularly rugby and cricket, is almost a religion.
Australian business culture is generally relaxed and informal, although punctuality for meetings is imperative, and business dress is conservative: a dark suit and tie for men and a skirt suit for women. Women expect to be treated the same as their male counterparts, and firm handshakes between both men and women are standard at the beginning and end of every meeting. Business cards can be exchanged, but there are no formalities regarding this practice. In business dealings, brevity is appreciated and 'plain talking' is respected; however do not try to rush decision-making, as input from all sectors is customarily considered before reaching a conclusion. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Australia is +61. The outgoing code is 0011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001144 for the United Kingdom). The area code for both Canberra and Sydney is (0)2. Local calls from public payphones are unlimited and cost a standard rate, while international and long distance calls are charged according to the time spent on the phone. Mobile phone operators use GSM and CDMA networks (area code (0)4); mobile phones are available for rent. Internet cafes are widely available.
Travellers to Australia over 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 2.25 litres of alcohol; 250 cigarettes or 250g cigars or other tobacco products. Gifts are included in the A$900 duty-free allowance. Fresh produce and animal/plant products are prohibited.
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