Australia

Introduction to Australia

Australia is a country in Oceania bordering the Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific Ocean. Australia is comprised of mainland Australia, the island of Tasmania and several small islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The terrain is mostly low plateau with deserts. The government system is a federal parliamentary democracy and a commonwealth realm. The chief of state is the queen and the head of government is the prime minister. Australia has a mixed economic system in which the economy includes a variety of private freedom, combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation. Australia is a member of Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Education System

The Australian education system provides primary, secondary and tertiary education.

School education (Primary and Secondary)

School education is similar across all of Australia with only minor variations between states and territories. School education (primary and secondary) is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen (Year 1 to Year 9 or 10). School education is 13 years and divided into:

  • Primary school-Runs for seven or eight years, starting at Kindergarten/Preparatory through to Year 6 or 7.
  • Secondary school-Runs for three or four years, from Years 7 to 10 or 8 to 10
  • Senior secondary school-Runs for two years, Years 11 and 12.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education includes both higher education (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).

Language of instruction

English is the official language of Australia and the main language of instruction in the education system. Many schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages.

Australian Qualifications Framework

The Australian education system is distinguished from many other countries by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). (opens in a new window) The AQF was established in 1995 and is a national policy that covers qualifications from the tertiary education sector (higher education and vocational education and training) in addition to the school-leaving certificate; the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.

The AQF has 10 levels and links school, vocational and university education qualifications into one national system. This allows you to move easily from one level of study to the next, and from one institution to another, as long as you satisfy student visa requirements. It allows for choice and flexibility in career planning. All qualifications in the AQF help prepare you for both further study and your working life.

If you are studying an AQF qualification, you can be sure that your institution is Government-authorised and nationally accredited, and that your degree or other AQF qualification will be genuine.

Population

On the 4th September 2014, the resident population of Australia was estimated to be 23,587,000. Australia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. This is due to its small population and its large area of approximately 7.7 million square kilometers. Australians are among the most urbanized people in the world. For example, just over 60% of them live in the capital cities and about 20% live in Sydney. Also, around 80% of the inhabitants of each state and territory live within 100 km of their capital cities.

Multiculturalism

Australians pride themselves on their friendliness and cultural diversity. The population lives in a generally safe, friendly, sophisticated and harmonious society. Many ethnic groups are represented in Australia, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.

Australia’s diversity is described here:

  • 25% of Australians were born in another country;
  • 25% of Australians have at least one parent who was born overseas;
  • Australian migrants are from more than 140 countries;
  • 2% of Australians are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.

Languages

Although English is the official language in Australia, there are more than 200 languages are spoken in Australian households.

Some interesting figures from the ABS website:

More than 3.1 million Australia’s speak a language other than English at home, this is a 10% increase compared with data from 2001;More than 55,000 Australia’s speak an Indigenous language at home in 2006; About 7% of the total population speaks one of the six most commonly spoken languages (other than English) at their home. The Australian accent is easy to understand. While there are some minor differences in accent between city and country areas, the difference is much
less than you would find in the USA, Britain or Canada.

Religion

Australia is predominantly a Christian country; however, all religions are represented in Australian society. Australia’s respect the freedom of people to practice their choice of religion. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities.

Temperature

Australia has a relatively warm climate. However, extreme temperatures have been recorded such as:
53°C at Cloncurry (Queensland) in 1889,
-23°C at Charlotte Pass (NSW) in 1994.
Overall Australian cities tend to have mild climates in comparison to other cities in English-speaking countries.

Biodiversity

Australia has a wide variety of unique distinctive flora and fauna. The major reason for this is related to its geological history. Initially, Australia was part of a larger continent but about 40 million years ago it separated fully and became an isolated continent.
After this separation, marsupial mammals best adapted to the Australian environment and eventually dominated it. Australia is one of the few places on Earth to have such a large number of marsupials, and to have the only two monotreme mammals. These two types of fauna can be explained as follows:
. Marsupial mammals give birth to their young and carry them in a pouch.
Examples – Kangaroo, Koala, Wombat.
. Monotreme mammals lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Examples – Platypus, Echidna.
Despite its long history, Australia’s biodiversity has changed dramatically in the last 200 years. Since European settlement many ecosystems have been radically
simplified and fragmented. Also, many plants and animals have been introduced from around the world, and they have had serious environmental consequences.

Natural Wonders

Australia is an island continent and its landscape consists mainly of low plateaus, which are sectioned off by several rugged mountain ranges. The Great Dividing Range is the longest mountain range that starts in central Victoria and ends in Northern Queensland and is several thousand kilometers in length.

The landscape in the tropical north consists of rainforest that leads into large areas of grasslands. These eventually 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.

Three unique natural wonders are here:

1. Great Barrier Reef
2. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
3. Tasmanian Wilderness

Geography

Australia is divided politically into six States and two Territories.

The States and Territories and their capital cities are briefly introduced below:
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – Canberra

Canberra is Australia’s federal capital and the 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 and leafy suburbs.Canberra is only a three-hour drive or a 45-minute flight south-west of Sydney. It also has many national attractions, embassies and public buildings.

Canberra is famous for:

Parliament House.
The Australian War Memorial.
The National Gallery of Australia.
The National Museum of Australia.

New South Wales (NSW) – Sydney

New South Wales was founded in 1788 and is Australia’s oldest State. A narrow coastal plain runs the length of its east coast, and to the west is the Great Dividing Range. Beyond these mountains, a tableland gradually slopes down to the plains, which cover most of the State.
NSW is the most populous State in Australia and the majority of its inhabitants live along the coast. It has dense forests, alpine country, deserts, and golden-sand beaches and bays on its North Coast. Australia’s longest river system, the Murray-Darling, is situated in this State. Agriculturally, it is renowned for its sheep and beef industry.

NSW is famous for:

The Sydney Opera House.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Blue Mountains – a national park about 1 hour west of Sydney.

Northern Territory (NT) – Darwin

The Northern Territory is known for its central desert called the ‘Red’ Centre. Here the main features are rugged mountain ranges and huge rocks rising from the desert plains. Uluru is the most famous geological feature in this region. Its capital, Darwin, was established in 1869 as a port and center for the cattle industry. Mineral wealth and tourism has become more important, and Darwin has recently reinvented itself as a gateway to Asia.

NT is famous for:

Kakadu National Park – east of Darwin.
Alice Springs – a town in the centre of the Northern Territory.
Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park – south-east of Darwin.

Queensland (Qld) – Brisbane

Queensland takes up about one-fifth of the area of Australia. Along its eastern coastline are fertile plains and river valleys, which sometimes extend up to 200 km inland. The Great Dividing Range borders these lowlands, stretching south from Cape York to the New South Wales border. The major agricultural products are tropical fruits, beef and wool.
Brisbane was settled by convicts in 1825 and with its sunny days and tropical weather, is now the fastest growing city. Just north of Brisbane are the beaches and coastal lakes of the Sunshine Coast, and to the south is the popular tourist destination of the Gold Coast.

Queensland is famous for:

The rainforests of Far North Queensland.
The Great Barrier Reef – a more than 2000 km long coral reef north-east of the mainland.
Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world, which is 3 hours north of Brisbane.
The Gold Coast – a major holiday destination for national and international tourists.

South Australia (SA) – Adelaide

South Australia is the driest state in Australia. Over 60% of it is desert and 80% receives less that 250 mm of rain per year. However, the south-east corner has dry warm summers and cool wet winters. Along with rich fertile soil, this climate makes it ideal for growing wine. Adelaide contains some of Australia’s best-preserved Victorian architecture. This gracious city is surrounded by parkland and is home to 73% of South Australians

SA is famous for:

The Barossa Valley – a major wine producing area north-east of Adelaide.
Coober Pedy – a opal mining town that is underground.
The Adelaide Festival of Arts – held every 2 years.

Tasmania (Tas) – Hobart

Tasmania was cut off from mainland Australia at the end of the last Ice Age, and it 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’s capital Hobart, was settled in 1803 when the British government in Sydney sent soldiers and convicts there to protect their sealing and whaling interests.Tasmania has substantial farming, forestry, hydro-electric, mining and fishery industries.

Tasmania is famous for:

Port Arthur Historic site – this once was a prison for convicts.
The Sydney to Hobart yacht race – starts every year on Dec 26th.
Its bushwalking – many wilderness areas are only accessible on foot.

Victoria (Vic) – Melbourne

Victoria is the smallest state on Australia’s mainland. It was settled in 1834 and separated from New South Wales in 1851 at the time when gold was discovered at Ballarat and Bendigo. Its capital, Melbourne offers colonial and contemporary architecture, beautiful botanical gardens, excellent restaurants and a vibrant artistic community. Melbourne is also considered Australia’s sporting capital and holds the most famous horse race in Australia each November: the Melbourne Cup. Victoria’s High Country offers some of the best mountain climbing on the continent.

Victoria is famous for:

The goldfields of central Victoria.
Sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup horse race.
The Great Ocean Road – spectacular coastal scenery west of Melbourne.
Western Australia (WA) – Perth
Western Australia is the largest state in Australia. The capital, Perth is situated on the Swan River and has all the modern conveniences, while maintaining a friendly and relaxed feeling. White sandy beaches are only minutes from 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 is mostly exported from the port of Fremantle.
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 of Monkey Mia.

WA is famous for:

Kalgoorlie – a gold mining town located in the Western Desert.
Ningaloo Marine Park – 1,200 km north of Perth.
Fremantle (20mins south-west of Perth).