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AUSTRALIA Official name – the Commonwealth of Australia Capital city – Canberra Largest cities – Sidney, Melbourn, Adelaide, Perth Total area – 7,690,000 sq, km Population – 20,434,000 people Consists of 6 states (New South Wales,Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia) and 2 territories (Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory) Form of government – federal parliamentary democracy
Australia – a continent and a country The Commonwealth of Australia is formed of Australia, Tasmania and several smaller islands. Australia is the world’s biggest island and the smallest continent at the same time. It is almost 25 times larger than the British Isles. It is nearly as large as the territory of the USA without Alaska and Hawaii. Australia is the oldest continent because some rocks are more than 3 million years old. Australia is the flattest continent of all, but still it has mountains. Australia is the driest continent: most of it is a semi-desert. South – east is not so dry compared to the rest of the land, so it is good for living.
The Flag of Australia The flag of Australia was chosen in 1901, and in 1954 it became the Australian National Flag. It consists of many elements: in the left upper corner there is the Union Flag. Under it there is a large seven – pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star. To the right of them there are 5 white stars - 1 small and 4 big – they symbolize the Southern Cross. The small Union Jack represents the historical link with Britain, the large seven – pointed star represents States and territories of Australia.
Australia’s coat of arms The Commonwealth coat of arms is the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia. Symbol of Australia’s six states are together on its shield. Australian endemic animal and plant symbols are present on the coat of arms. The national floral emblem is the golden wattle(acacia). It frames the coat of arms. The kangaroo and the emu are Australian native animals that hold the shield on it. The platypus and the kookaburra are the symbols of New South Wales, the koala is Queensland’s symbol and the symbol of Western Australia is the black swan.
Population of Australia Australian continent has the least population in the world. There are a little more than 20 million people on this continent. Australian population is made up of 3 groups: - original Australians (or Aborigines); - old Australians (or Aussie); - new Australians. The continent has been inhabited by indigenous people or original Australians. They were dark-skinned Aborigines who came to the Australian continent from south – east Asia at least 40, 000 years ago. The aborigines suffered a lot from the early European settlers. White people who came to Australia destroyed their life. Many of the Aborigines were killed. Others had to leave their land. Now they live mainly in the reservations in the tropical and desert areas. Old Australians or Aussies are people of Anglo – Saxon or Irish origin. They were actually born in Australia and speak English as their mother tongue. New Australians are immigrants who came to the country after World War II. So Australia can be called “the land of immigrants” though the majority of the inhabitants of the country are of the British origin. Australia is a multicultural society. People came here from all over the world, you can meet people of about 200 different nations here.
The Discovery of Australia It is hard to say who were the first discoverers of Australia, but people knew about this continent to the South of the equator long time ago. Many navigators from different countries wanted to find out if there was such a land. This continent appeared on the European maps from the 15-th to the 18-th century. The first Europeans visited the shores of Australia in 1606. Spanish sea captain, Luiz Vaez de Torres, sailed through the strait which was named after him Torres Strait. In the 17-th century the lands of Australia and New Zealand were discovered by Dutch explorers Dirk Hartog in 1616 and Abel Tasman in 1642. Later the island Tasmania got his name.
Britain and Australia English scientists were also interested in the existence of Australia and sent expeditions to the southern seas to look for it. The first Englishman to visit the continent was a buccaneer William Dampiar who landed there in 1699. Captain James Cook visited Australia in1770. He landed in a bay on the north-east coast which is today a part of Sydney in New South Wales. The Englishmen saw unusual plants and animals and called this place “Botany Bay”. Cook’s discovery was forgotten but not for a long time. At that time England was in a difficult situation. The USA became independent from the British Empire after the revolution, and American colonies were lost. People who had to leave the USA asked the British government to give them new colonies to live in. More than that, the British convicts could not be transported to the American prisons and British prisons were overcrowded. So, they remembered about Cook’s discovery of Australia. It was very convenient to send these prisoners to the far away colonies: they could work there and earn their freedom. In 1788 six ships started to Australia. Captain Arthur Phillip commanded this fleet. About 750 out of 1,000 people on the ships were convicts. Gradually, more and more people arrived and some settlements were founded. This transportation ended only in the 19-th century. In 1901 six separate colonies in Australia united and became the states of the Commonwealth of Australia. It became a part of the British Empire under Queen Victoria’s rule. The new Australian constitution was introduced on January 1-st, 1901 when Australians celebrated the birth of a new nation. But still Great Britain made decisions about Australia’s foreign policy. In 1931 Australia got its independence from Great Britain .
Big cities of Australia Most of Australian population lives in the cities. Less than 1/3 of inhabitants lives outside city areas, and still more people are moving away from rural areas. There are 5 big cities in Australia, which are capitals of the states. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria State. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales. It is the largest and the most well – known cities in Australia. It is often called “Paris of the Pacific”. Adelaide is the capital of South Australia. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland. Perth is the capital of Western Australia. Sydney and Melbourne are the 4-th and the 5-th largest cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Both of them have more than 3 million inhabitants and are modern seaports. Canberra is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is an administrative and cultural centre of the country. Previous capital was Melbourne. The government moved to Canberra in 1927.
Climate of Australia Australia is on the other side of the world. For us it is an upside –down country : the seasons here are the other way round – summer is from December to February, autumn is from March to May, winter – from June to August and spring – from September to November. The climate of Australia ranges from tropical in the North to cool temperate in the south – east. There are such weather hardships as droughts, floods and cyclones along its coasts. Australia is very dry. There are 3 deserts in the center of the continent. The continent suffers from the lack of water. There is little rain in many parts of the country.
The Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres . The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.CNN called it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The reef is a very popular destination for tourists.
Australia’s most famous landmark No visit to Central Australia is complete without seeing Australia’s most famous landmark – Uluru (previously called Ayers Rock). The world’s largest rock mass, Uluru, rises out in the middle of the country and is spectacular at any time of the day. Uluru is always impressive, but never more so than during sunset. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen of it, nothing prepares you for the experience of being there.
A Strange World of Australian Animals The isolated geographical position of Australia had great influence on its fauna and flora. That is why many animals and plants developed differently from those on other continents. Australia is a land of birds and animals which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Among Australia’s endemic animals and birds are the kangaroo, the koala, the wombat, the echidna, the platypus, the dingo, the emu and the kookaburra. The most peculiar feature of Australian animals is the pouch. The best known of them are the kangaroo and the koala bear. The kangaroo is a marsupial animal, i.e. an animal that carries babies in the pouch for 8 months. It is the largest marsupial in the world: it can weigh 85 kilogrammes.
A Bear – Like Animal The koala is a small bear-like animal which lives in the eucalyptus trees. The koala spends in these trees sleeping for about 18 hours day. However, they like to eat only some kinds of eucalyptus trees that grow in Australia. There are over 600 types of eucalyptus on the continent, and koalas eat only 40-50 varieties with only 10 being preferred. Besides, these animals eat only fresh young leaves, about 200-500 grams per day. Normally the animals do not drink water: they receive it from the leaves. They move very slowly so as to save the energy. Many people think that koala is a bear but it is not even related to bears. Their close relations are kangaroos and wombats. Koala has a black nose and thick furry coat. Though it looks very much like a teddy-bear, it has very sharp teeth and claws. It can weigh 10 kilogrammes. A female koala gives birth to only 1 baby in one or two years. It’s hairless, blind and very little – only 2 cms long! It gets into a pouch – a special pocket of skin on the stomach and stays there for 6 – 7 months. Then it gets out, but stays with the mother until it’s about 1 year old. The animals were in danger of extinction at the beginning of the 20-th century when the koala was hunted for its fur. Fortunately, the population has been restored, and today the Australian government doesn’t consider the koala as endangered.
Birds of Australia There are 800 kinds of birds in Australia. Among them are emus, eagles, hawkes, parrots, cockatoos, lyrebirds, bower-birds, kookaburras and black swans. The emu is a large bird which runs well but cannot fly. The emu and the kangaroo are represented at the emblem of Australia. The kookaburra is a popular Australian bird that sounds like a human laughing.
Australia’s flora The climate in Australia is very dry. There are lots of places like deserts where very little or almost nothing grows. In the north there are tropical forests, in the north-east there are savannahs and grassland, in the south-east there are forests of eucalyptus or ever-green trees which never lose their leaves, even in winter. Some plants cannot be found in other parts of the world either. They are endemic. Its main native plants are wattle (or acacia), eucalyptus, mulga(mimosa), palm, fern and cedar.
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