Ep 1: Overview of Australia
Hi this is Hope from Study in Australia TV.
Coming to study in Australia is an exciting and rewarding experience for many international students.
To make sure you have a smooth introduction to your new life in Australia it’s important to be well prepared.
Australia is a fantastic country with a relaxed, safe, and multicultural society.
Having a better understanding of Australia will help you deal with its culture, laws, and people during your studies here.
In this Study in Australia TV episode I will cover:
Some of Australia’s history and origins that has shaped Australia’s society
Australia’s population and culture
Australian climate and environment
Australian Government structure
So let’s make a start with a bit of Australian HISTORY!
Australia’s indigenous or native population, known as Aboriginals, date back 60,000 years and are believed to have migrated to Australia via Papua New Guinea, to the north of Australia, by a land bridge that was exposed during the last Ice Age.
Aboriginals established themselves in all parts of Australia and are possibly the oldest continuous culture in human history. How amazing is that!
Before European occupation, it’s estimated the Aboriginal population was anywhere between 300,000 to one million. Their population consisted of 500 different cultural groups that spoke 250 different languages or dialects.
The Aborigines were hunters and gatherers, they moved within a broad territorial zone and took with them the few possessions necessary for hunting and preparation of food. In areas of plentiful food sources they remained in a relatively small area but in dry regions, where food and water was scarce, they travelled greater distances to hunt.
Traditional Aboriginal society is a complex network of kinship relationships, all members of the family unit have their own role and responsibilities. No formal government or authority exists, but social control is through the elders and their beliefs called the Dreaming. These beliefs are expressed in their stories, music, art, and dance. The Dreamtime stories are preserved and passed down the generations.
Some European explorers landed on the northern and western coasts of Australia, as well as Tasmania to the south, in the 1600s. But it wasn’t until 1770 British explorer James Cook first discovered and mapped the eastern coast of Australia for Great Britain, naming it ‘New South Wales’.
This British settlement was established in 1788 as a colony at Botany Bay which later became the city of Sydney. From this starting point, the colonisation of Australia grew rapidly and expanded across the entire continent.
Within the next hundred years, additional colonies were established near present day Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, and Melbourne. Great Britain sent over 160,000 convicts to Australia over the following 80 years and more settlers from Great Britain and Ireland arrived in the mid-1800s.
During this time the wool industry was established and gold was discovered. Between 1852 and 1889 about 40,000 Chinese immigrants came to Australia in search of gold.
Governing the colonies from Britain was difficult, so in 1850 the British Government gave the colonies the power to make their own laws.
By the end of the 19th century Australia consisted of six self-governing colonies: New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Each colony had it’s own distinct political power with its own parliament, governor, laws and regulations.
In 1901 it was agreed that the colonies should join together, so a national government was created on January 1 1901, known as Federation. That is how Australia was formed as a united country.
In 1915 Australia entered World War I to support Britain and joined with New Zealand to form the ANZACs that fought at Gallipoli. Australia remembers the 26,000 lives lost on the 25th April each year. We call this day ANZAC Day and celebrate the brave soldiers through a national public holiday.
Almost a million Australians also fought in World War II. The Australian mainland came under Japanese attack with the bombing of Darwin and submarines in Sydney Harbour. Luckily the attack was unsuccessful from the history books.
Since WW II about 7 million new settlers have migrated to Australia and have greatly influenced all aspects of Australian society. Today, nearly one in four Australians were born overseas, so a truly muliticultural society.
This brings me to tell you about Australia’s Population and Culture
Australia’s population is nearly 26 million, which in comparison to some other countries isn’t that big.
Due to its large area of approximately 7.7 million square kilometres, Australia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
And because the centre of Australia is so dry and hot most of the population live close to the coast. Consequently Australians are among the most urbanised people in the world, with just over 60% living in the capital cities.
Australians pride themselves on their friendliness and cultural diversity. Australian society is largely considered safe, friendly, sophisticated, multicultural and harmonious.
Many ethnic groups are represented in Australia, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
Australia’s multicultural mix is made up of 25% of Australians being born in another country and 25% of Australians have at least one parent who was born overseas and 2% of Australians are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.
The mix of Australia’s migrant communities are from more than 140 countries around the world. Quite amazing!
English is still the official language in Australia, but there are more than 200 additional languages spoken in Australian households. More than 3.1 million Australians speak another language other than English at home.
Although the Australian accent is different to other English speaking countries, it’s generally easy to understand. There are some minor differences in accent between city and country areas as well as between states and territories. What some visitors find more difficult is the Australian slang. Australian’s love to shorten words, we call this Australian slang. For example some Australians might say ‘Arvo’ instead of ‘Afternoon’ or ‘Barbie’ instead of ‘Barbeque’ or ‘Roo’ instead of ‘Kangaroo’. This can be funny and sometimes difficult for visitors to understand!
On the topic of Religion, Australia is predominantly a Christian country. However, all religions are represented in Australian society. Australians respect the freedom of people to practise their choice of religion. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in major cities. These represent the diverse mix of cultures and help to connect visitors with similar communities.
So now, I’m sure you’re keen to find out what Australia’s Climate and Environment is like?
Australia has a relatively warm climate but given Australia is a large continent the climate can vary from the southern more Mediterranean climate of 4 seasons to the northern tropical climate of dry and wet seasons.
Overall Australian cities tend to have mild climates and many days of beautiful sunshine. The southern parts of Australia are temperate, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. In the southern regions you can experience snow but only in the mountain areas.
The northern states are more tropical, so for instance Brisbane and Darwin have tropical weather patterns with high humidity in the wet season. Sydney’s weather is more subtropical with warm summers with moderate humidity and cool winters.
Importantly Australia is known for it’s clean environment and low pollution levels.
Australia has a wide variety of unique flora and fauna. The major reason for this is due to its geological history and isolation as a continent.
Australia has some of the cutest animals in the world, visitors love to cuddle a koala at some of the native wildlife zoos. It’s one of the few places on Earth to have such a large number of marsupials. Marsupial mammals give birth to their young and carry them in a pouch until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. Kangaroos, Koalas and Wombats are marsupials. Australia also has Monotreme mammals with lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young, these are the Platypus and the Echidna.
Australia’s biodiversity has changed in the last 200 years, many plants and animals have been introduced from around the world with unfortunately a negative impact on the native species. But there are many programs funded by the Australian Government and private organisations to try to combat this.
Australia is an island continent with a landscape consisting of low plateaus and long rugged mountain ranges. For example, the Great Dividing Range starts in central Victoria and ends in Northern Queensland and is several thousand kilometres in length.
The landscape in the tropical north consists of rainforest that leads into large areas of grasslands. These merge into the central deserts, which are the largest in the world outside of the Sahara. This part of Australia is called the Red Centre, because of the unusual red colour of its sand.
Australia has three unique natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef; Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and the Tasmanian Wilderness.
The Great Barrier Reef, located in Queensland, stretches over 2000 km on the northeast continental shelf of Australia and covers an area of almost 35 million hectares. It runs from north of Fraser Island to the tip of Cape York and has some amazing marine life.
The Reef is a scuba divers paradise with 2,900 individual reefs, 71 coral islands, 350 different species of coral and over 1,500 species of fish. It’s also a breeding ground for humpback whales and a feeding ground for endangered species such as dugongs and turtles.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park located in The Northern Territory covers 132,566 hectares close to the centre of Australia and is home to the Anangu Aboriginal people. It contains a range of remarkable landform features including the spectacular monoliths of Uluru (or Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas).
The park is co-managed by Parks Australia and the Anangu people. Uluru has been the focus of religious, cultural and territorial significance among the Aboriginal peoples of the Western Desert for thousands of years. It is 340 metres high and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres, and is bright red. You can see it kilometres away!
The island state of Tasmania, to the south, is separated from mainland Australia. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia. It covers about 1.38 million hectares or 20% of the Tasmanian island and is one of only three temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern
This area contains rocks of every geological period and is a major centre for plant diversity. The Huon pine trees located there can be up to 2000 years old and are some of the oldest trees in the world.
Time to find out more about Australia’s major cities and it’s seven States and Territories …
Canberra is Australia’s federal capital, located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and is Australia’s largest inland city. Set in a broad valley in the southern
Tablelands of New South Wales, Canberra is a well-planned lakeside city of parklands, impressive restaurants, beautiful bushland, leafy suburbs and is where the Australian Government resides.
Canberra is a three-hour drive or a 45-minute flight south-west of Sydney. It has many national attractions, embassies and public buildings like Parliament House; The Australian War Memorial; The National Gallery of Australia and The National Museum of Australia.
Sydney is located in the state of New South Wales, Australia’s oldest State. A narrow coastal plain runs the length of its east coast, and to the west is the Great Dividing Range. Sydney is a beautiful city set on the coast with stunning water ways and beaches.
NSW is the most populous State in Australia and the majority of its population live along the coast. It has dense forests, alpine country, deserts inland, and golden sandy beaches and bays on its North Coast. Australia’s longest river system, the Murray-Darling, is situated in NSW.
NSW is famous for The Sydney Opera House; The Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Blue Mountains - a national park about 1 hour west of Sydney.
With a population of 5 million Sydney is a popular tourist destination and regularly ranks in the top ten most liveable cities in the world.
Darwin is located in The Northern Territory. The inland is known for its central desert called the ‘Red’ Centre. The main features are rugged mountain ranges and huge rocks rising from the desert plains. Uluru (or Ayres Rock) is the most famous geological feature in this region.
Darwin was originally established as a port and centre for the cattle industry. Mineral wealth and tourism has become more important since then and Darwin has recently reinvented itself as a gateway to Asia.
The Northern Territory is famous for Kakadu National Park - east of Darwin; Alice Springs - a town in the centre of the Northern Territory and Katherine Gorge National Park or Nitmiluk - south-east of Darwin.
Brisbane is located in the state of Queensland which takes up about one-fifth of the area of Australia. Along its eastern coastline are fertile plains and river valleys, which can extend up to 200 km inland. The Great Dividing Range borders these
lowlands, stretching south from Cape York int eh north to the New South Wales border. The major agricultural products are tropical fruits, beef and wool.
Brisbane is known for its sunny days and tropical weather and is now the fastest
growing city in Australia. Just north of Brisbane are the beaches and coastal lakes of the beautiful Sunshine Coast, and to the south is the popular tourist destination of the Gold Coast. Well known for it’s theme parks and surf beaches.
Queensland is famous for The rainforests of Far North Queensland; The Great Barrier Reef - more than 2000 km of coral reef north-east of the mainland; Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world, 3 hours north of Brisbane and The Gold Coast - a major holiday destination for national and international tourists.
Adelaide located in the state of South Australia which is the driest state in Australia. Over 60% of South Australia is desert and 80% receives less that 250mm of rain per year. However, the south-east corner of the state where Adelaide is located has dry warm summers and cool wet winters. Along with rich fertile soil, this climate makes it ideal for growing wine and the many wine regions are famous for producing world quality wine.
Adelaide, located on the coast is a beautiful gracious city surrounded by parklands and is home to 73% of South Australians.
South Australia is famous for The Barossa Valley - a major wine producing area north-east of Adelaide; Coober Pedy - an opal mining town in the north that is situated mostly underground due to the heat and The Adelaide Festival of Arts a world class festival on the calendar each year.
Hobart, is located in Tasmania which was cut off from mainland Australia at the end of the last Ice Age. Tasmania is known for its unique wildlife, wilderness and unspoiled beauty. The National Parks offer one of the last great wilderness areas in the world. Tasmania has substantial farming, forestry, hydro-electric, mining and fishery industries. Hobart is a beautiful city located at the southern point of Tasmania and is a known for it’s quality food and amazing oysters!
Tasmania is famous for the Port Arthur Historic site - this once was a prison for convicts; The Sydney to Hobart yacht race - starts every year on Dec 26th and it’s natural beauty and bushwalking - many wilderness areas are only accessible on foot.
Melbourne is located in the state of Victoria, the smallest state on Australia’s mainland.
Melbourne offers colonial and contemporary architecture, beautiful botanical gardens, excellent restaurants, fashion, its coffee and a vibrant artistic community. Melbourne is also considered Australia’s sporting capital and holds the Melbourne Cup horse race; The Australian Tennis Open and the Melbourne Grand Prix car race each year.
Victoria’s High Country offers some of the best mountain climbing and enjoyable skiing in Australia. Victoria is famous for The goldfields of central Victoria; Sporting events and The Great Ocean Road – a spectacular coastal sceanic drive west of Melbourne.
Perth is located in Western Australia, the largest state in Australia. Perth is situated on the Swan River and has all the modern conveniences, while maintaining a friendly and relaxed lifestyle. White sandy beaches are only minutes from the city and there’s fantastic surf breaks south of the city.
Rich farmland lies inland as well as some of the world’s most productive goldfields. The state’s wealth also includes iron, nickel, wheat and wool, which are mostly exported from the port of Fremantle to Perth’s south.
The north of the state boasts a wide variety of attractions including gorges and national parks, the stunning beaches of Broome, and the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia.
Western Australia is famous for Kalgoorlie - a gold mining town located in the Western Desert; Ningaloo Marine Park - 1,200 km north of Perth; The Kimberleys National Park to the northeast and the city of Fremantle (20mins south-west of Perth).
Last of all I’m going to tell you about Australia’s Government system..this is important so stay with me…
Australia has 3 levels of government: Federal, State and Local Government
Australia’s Federal Government is a liberal parliamentary democracy and is based on freedom of speech and religious tolerance.
Australia’s constitution outlines all federal government activities and responsibilities including foreign relations and trade, defence and immigration. Other aspects of governance are shared between the States and the Federal Government. For example, Federal and State governments cooperate in administering the laws that govern education in Australia.
The Australian government is based on a popularly elected Parliament with two chambers, the House of Representatives or Lower House and the Senate or Upper House. The representatives are elected by the people over 18 years of age and represent a specific area the people that reside there known as their electorate.
There are two major parties and a number of minor parties. The party that holds the majority of elected representatives known as ‘seats’ in the House of Representatives forms the government. Minority parties often hold the balance of power in the Senate, which serves to review the decisions or legislation of the government.
The Federal Government’s leader is called the Prime Minister. Government Ministers are selected and appointed by the Prime Minister from the Lower House and Upper House party in power to form the Cabinet. Policy decisions are made in Cabinet meetings.
Voting in Australia is compulsory and Elections occur every 3 years.
Although Australia is an independent nation, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is still formally Queen of Australia and is the constitutional monarch. The Queen accepts the advice of the elected Australian Government to appoint a Governor-General, who represents her. The Governor-General has wide powers, but by convention acts only on the advice of the Prime Minister. In the States, the Queen is represented by State Governors.
Each State and Territory has its own democratically elected government and leader; the State Government leader is called the Premier; the Territory leader is called the Chief Minister.
State parliaments are subject to the national Constitution as well as their State constitutions. In practice, the federal and state governments cooperate in many areas such as education, transport, health, and law enforcement.
Local government councils control the urban and rural areas, taking care of issues such as local transport, rubbish collection and town planning. Local councils are active in providing services such as libraries, schools, childcare services as well as activities and events. The leader of a council is called the Mayor.
So that’s the end of Study in Australia TV Episode 1.
I hope you learnt a lot about Australia’s history, culture, climate, environment and how Australia is governed.
Please let us know if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you!
Bye for now!