Facts About Australia

Facts and figures about Australia

Australia became a commonwealth of the British Empire in 1901. It was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Back in 1999 there was a referendum to change Australia’s status as a commonwealth headed by the British Monarch to an independent republic but this was defeated.


Location: Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean

Geographic coordinates: 27 00 S, 133 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 7,686,850 sq km
land: 7,617,930 sq km
water: 68,920 sq km
note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island

Area – comparative: slightly smaller than the US

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 25,760 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north

Terrain: mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m

Natural resources: bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum

Land use:
arable land: 6.88%
permanent crops: 0.03%
other: 93.09% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land: 24,000 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards: cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires

Environment – current issues: soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; limited natural fresh water resources

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification

Geography – note: world’s smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as “the Doctor” occurs along the west coast in the summer


Total population:
(July, 2008)

noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian

Ethnic groups: Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%

Religions: Anglican 26.1%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%

Languages: English, native languages


Economy – overview: Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP at the level of the four dominant West European economies. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. Commodities account for 57% of the value of total exports, so that a downturn in world commodity prices can have a big impact on the economy. The government is pushing for increased exports of manufactured goods, but competition in international markets continues to be severe. While Australia has suffered from the low growth and high unemployment characterizing the OECD countries in the early 1990s and during the recent financial problems in East Asia, the economy has expanded at a solid 4% annual growth pace in the last five years. Canberra’s emphasis on reforms is a key factor behind the economy’s resilience to the regional crisis and its stronger than expected growth rate. Growth in 2000 will depend on key international commodity prices, the extent of recovery in nearby Asian economies, and the strength of US and European markets.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $528 billion (2002 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 3.6% (2002 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $22,000 (2002 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 26%
services: 71% (1998 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 24.8% (2001)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.1% (2006)

Labor force: 9.2 million (December 2001)
Labor force – by occupation: services 73%, industry 22%, agriculture 5% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate: 5.2% (2006)
Average weekly earnings: $810 (2005)

revenues: $86.8 billion
expenditures: $84.10 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY00/01 est.)

Industries: mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel
Industrial production growth rate: 4.3% (2002 est.)

Agriculture – products: wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits, cattle, sheep, poultry
Exports: $66.3 billion (f.o.b., 2002 est.)
Exports – commodities: coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
Exports – partners:Developing Countries 45.6%, Japan 19.7%, ASEAN 13.3%,EU 11.7%, US 9.7% (2001)

Imports: $68 billion (2002 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
Imports – partners: Developing Countries 31.7%, EU 21.6%,US 18.9%, ASEAN 14.8%, Japan 13% (2001)

Debt – external: $176.8 billion (2001)
Economic aid – donor: ODA, $894 million (FY99/00)
Currency: 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1 – 1.8406 (2002), 1.52068 (2000), 1.5497 (1999), 1.5888 (1998), 1.3439 (1997), 1.2773 (1996), 1.3486 (1995)
Fiscal year: 1 July – 30 June


Military branches: Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force

Military manpower – military age: 17 years of age

Military manpower – availability:
males age 15-49: 4,963,948 (2000 est.)

Military manpower – fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,282,821 (2000 est.)

Military manpower – reaching military age annually:
males: 135,434 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures – dollar figure: $6.9 billion (FY98/99)
Military expenditures – percent of GDP: 1.9% (FY98/99)


Telephones – main lines in use: 92 million (1995)

Telephones – mobile cellular: 5.29 million (1998)

Telephone system:excellent domestic and international service
domestic: domestic satellite system
international: submarine cables to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia; satellite earth stations – 10 Intelsat (4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean), 2 Inmarsat (Indian and Pacific Ocean regions)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 262, FM 345, shortwave 1 (1998)

Radios: 25.5 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 104 (1997)

Televisions: 10.15 million (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 709 (1999)

Weights and Measures

Australia uses the metric system, though in country areas you may still hear people talking in imperial units – check when asking directions.

Length & Distance
(1 kilometre = 1000 metres, 1 metre = 100 centimetres)
1cm = 0.39 inches (1 inch = 2.54cm)
1m = 3.3ft (1 ft = 0.3m)
1km = 0.62 miles (1 mile = 1.6km)

(1 kilogram = 1000 grams, 100 grams = 3fi oz)
1kg = 2.2lb (1lb = 0.45kg)
1g = 0.04oz (1oz = 28g)

1 litre = 0.26 US gallons (1 US gallon = 3.8 litres)
1 litre = 0.22 imperial gallons (1 imperial gallon = 4.55 litres)

-10 degrees C = 5 degrees F
0 degrees C = 32 degrees F
10 degrees C = 50 degrees F
20 degrees C = 68 degrees F
30 degrees C = 86 degrees F

1 hectare (ha) = 2.471 acres
1 hectare = 10 000 sq metres
1 acre = 0.4 hectares

Radio & TV


ABC Radio National (576 AM); news and views

2BL (702 AM); news and current affairs

ABC Fine Music (92.9 FM); classical music

Triple J (96.1 FM); youth-oriented music and news

2EA (1386 AM); SBS’s multilingual station


Australia has 5 free to air channels – ABC (the national broadcaster), 7, 9, 10 and SBS. However, there are also a number of subscription providers including Austar and Foxtel.

Country name:

Conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
Conventional short form: Australia

Data code: AS

Government type: democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign

Capital: Canberra

Administrative divisions: 6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia
Dependent areas: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island

Independence: 1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)

Constitution: 9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901

Legal system: based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch: Chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by the Governor General.
Head of government: Prime Minister John Winston HOWARD (since 11 March 1996); Deputy Prime Minister Mark VAILE (since July 2005)
Cabinet: Cabinet selected from among the members of Federal Parliament by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general for a three-year term
note: government coalition – Liberal Party and National Party

Legislative branch: Bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats – 12 from each of the six states and two from each of the two territories; one-half of the members elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives (148 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve three-year terms; no state can have fewer than five representatives)

Judicial branch: High Court, the Chief Justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general

Political parties: Australian Democratic Party; Australian Labor Party; Green Party; Liberal Party; National Party; One Nation Party.

Leave a Reply