Australia is the world’s smallest continent and the worlds biggest island. The land area is 7,682,300 sq. km. With a population of just under 20 Million people, 90% are of European descent, 1.5% aboriginal and the rest from Asia and the Pacific countries. It’s mainly a Christian country, with acceptance of all faiths. English is the main language, but immigrants have brought in many diverse cultures and languages, such as Greek, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish. You will find that Sydney and Melbourne are very cosmopolitan cities, with the cost of tuition fees cheaper than the other cities (more colleges, more competition), but the cost of living is slightly higher.
Geography and Climate
When the Continental Drift happened some 50 million years ago, Australia became both the world’s smallest continent and its largest island.
It is the only single country to occupy an entire continent and after Russia, Canada, China, USA and Brazil, is the sixth largest country in the world.
Nearly one third of Australia lies in the tropics, though apart from the lush and fertile coastal fringes, much of the interior is desert. Some 85% of Australia’s 20 million inhabitants live within 80kms of the coast. Australia is blessed with a gorgeous climate, being comfortably warm most of the year.
There are occasional extremes of heat in Summer, but the south-eastern corner is the only region to experience snowfall in Winter, and then only at high altitudes.
The seasons are of course the reverse to the northern hemisphere; January is usually the hottest month and July the coldest time of year.
In the tropical Far North it is warm to hot all year round, the seasons being simply referred to as “Wet”or “Dry”.
Culture and Society
For the past 200 years migrants have steadily arrived in Australia, mostly from Britain and southern Europe, and many Australians still identify culturally with their European heritage.
More recently there has been a considerable increase in Asian Migration with the result Australia is now home to one of the most culturally diverse communities on earth. There is complete freedom of religious observance and Australians generally are very tolerant people.
Alternative lifestyles exits in harmony with the mainstream population and a relaxed attitude to almost everything is typical of the Australian character. People from all over the world now make up Australian society, bringing with them their art, their cooking, their traditions.
Although English is the official language and universally used in all aspects of Australian life, it is not unusual to hear a number of foreign languages, especially within community groups in the larger cities.
The Commonwealth of Australia consists of six states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and two territories: The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
A three-tier governmental system operates: Federal, State, and Local government.
The Federal government is headed by a Prime Minister. The Federal government is responsible for matter affecting Australia as a whole such as foreign affairs, defence, telecommunications etc.
State governments headed by a Premier, control school education, law enforcement, transport etc. and local governments are concerned with such things as town planning, roads, parks, building approval and the like.
Banking services in Australia are extremely competitive with over 20 local banking groups plus numerous international ones.
The four major banks are the ANZ bank, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac.
Normal trading hours are 9:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. In some states selected banking facilities are also available on Saturday morning.