The name of Australia derives from the Latin adjective "australis" which means southern. The Australian nation is nowadays the main industrialised countries of the Southern hemisphere of the world, and has a leading role in the economy of south-eastern Asia and the Pacific.
The land is so remote from all other continents that it was discovered very late by the European explorers, and still today has a very low population density, being the largest part of its territory uninhabited, with the majority of the population concentrated in the coastal areas of the east, south-east and west.

In short

Area: 7,741,220 km² -- Population: 21 million inhabitants -- Density': 2.6 per sq km -- Government: federal constitutional monarchy -- Capital: Canberra -- Language: English -- Religion: Anglican, Catholic and other Christian denominations, minorities of Muslims and other religions. -- Currency: Australian Dollar -- Phone Area Code: +61 -- Car Plate: AUS -- Internet suffix: .au -- Member of: UNO since 1945, British Commonwealth -- Official website of the Australian Government


Administrative division

The Commonwealth of Australia (the official name of the country) is a federation comprising:
  • six states: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia;
  • two mainland territories: the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory;
  • inhabited external territories: Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands,
  • other largely uninhabited external territories: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The Territory

The largest part of mainland Australia is occupied by a flat plateau with large deserts in the central and western areas. The mainland can be divided geographically into three main areas: the western Plateau, the Great Interior Basin and the Eastern Highlands. Situated between the Indian Ocean to the west and the Pacific to the East, because of its isolated position Australia is characterised by a unique wildlife, with typical species as the kangaroo and koala and a great variety of parrots.

The climate

The seasons of the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the Northern, therefore summer goes from December to March (when also school holidays are concentrated), while winter is from June to September. The favourite periods for visiting Australia are the months of April-May and September-October. Along the Northern coast (Darwin) nearer to the tropic the climate is hot throughout the year, with frequent, abundant rains from November to April, a period usually characterised by monsoons in Southern Asia.

To the south (Sydney, Melbourne), as well as in the heart of mainland Australia (Alice Springs), temperatures are varied: from November to March hot by day and cool by night, while from May to September nights are quite cold. Sea waters north of Brisbane (Coral Reef) are very warm (on the average 25 degrees centigrade). The western coast north of Perth is an exception since the best climate is from October to May.


The earliest inhabitants of Australia were hunters, using weapons as spears and the typical boomerang. The first European explorers to reach this land were Dutchman Abel Janzoon Tasman who reached Tasmania in 1642 and British captain James Cook who in 1770 landed on the Australian mainland. Many of the earliest European settlers did not come of their own will, since the English government used to send here convicts.

In the second decade of the 19th century the discovery of gold brought about a Gold Rush and a first wave of immigration from Europe, which remained steady especially from Great Britain and Ireland, followed by a second large wave in the aftermath of the Second World War, especially from Italy, and more recently from Southeast Asia. The growth of air transport in the last decades has made Australia within easy reach from all parts of the world.

Cities and places of interest

  • Sydney, the major city
  • Canberra, the administrative capital;
  • Adelaide, the capital of food and wine, thanks to its over 700 restaurants, which feature not only local speciality as kangaroo steak or shark meat, but cuisine from all over the world. In the surroundings of the town there is a wine-producing area and along the coast a great many seafood locals.
  • Melbourne, the modern capital town of the state of Victoria, and the centre of entertainment, dance (here is the seat of the Australian Ballet), fashion and modern Australian cuisine. Rich of natural parks, its downtown features interesting futurist architecture.
  • Not far from Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road, a picturesque itinerary over 100 km long from Torquay (south of Melbourne) as far as Warrnambool, with splendid panoramas, among them the “Twelve Apostles” (only eight extant today), majestic geological concretions, over 20 million years old, in the form of columns created by the erosion of the sea on the coast.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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  • Cultural Sites: Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Sydney Opera House
  • Natural Sites: Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe Island Group, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Shark Bay in Western Australia, Fraser Island, Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte), Heard and McDonald Islands, Macquarie Island, Greater Blue Mountains Area, Purnululu National Park;
  • Mixed natural/cultural Sites: Kakadu National Park, Willandra Lakes Region, Tasmanian Wilderness, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.