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Saturday 13th July
Australia Information - Page 2
Before the English buccaneer, William Dampier, landed in Australia in 1688, the continent had been visited by explorers from various maritime countries including the Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. In 1770 Captain James Cook, and the botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, landed in Australia. Cook named the area he explored New South Wales, claiming it for Britain.

Colonisation began in 1787 when Britain sent out the First Fleet, eleven ships carrying around eight hundred convicts. A penal colony was established in the area later to become Sydney. Transportation of prisoners stopped in 1853. About this time, gold was discovered in Victoria and the Australian Gold Rush began (1851).

In 1901 the states agreed to combine and became the Commonwealth of Australia with Queen Victoria as the Head of State.

Australian soldiers fought in the two World Wars, the Korean War and Vietnamese War (along with the Americans from 1962 for ten years).

After the Second World War the Australian government set out to encourage immigration. Around five and a half million people moved to Australia from Britain and the rest of Europe.

In 1949 Robert Menzies became Prime Minister. The Liberals (Australia's Conservatives) remained in power for twenty-three years. The Labour Party, led by Gough Whitlam, was elected in 1972 but within three years the Liberals, this time led by Malcolm Frazer, were back in power. After seven years of Liberal rule, Labour was again elected with Bob Hawke as the country's leader. Paul Keating took over from Hawke as Prime Minister from 1991-1996; in 1996 a Liberal-National Party coalition came to power led by John Howard.

Australia has a good road and rail infrastructure with public roads and railways running from all the ports. The country has an excellent telecommunications network. The use of information technology is highly valued; people have access to the Internet both at home and at work.

Australia's economy was founded on the production of wheat and wool (sheep were introduced to the country in the early nineteenth century). Agricultural produce is exported; crops include barley, wheat, sugarcane, bananas, citrus fruits, pineapples, grapes, tomatoes and vegetables. Australia is also a world supplier of honey. Much of the world's wool is produced by Australia. Wine is an important export with the Hunter Valley (NSW) and the Barossa Valley (SA) among the world's great wine areas. Cattle, sheep and poultry are farmed for their dairy and meat products.

With such a long coastline Australia benefits from significant catches of fish such as tuna as well as abalone, lobsters and prawns.

The country's forests provide timber and wood pulp. Australia is a producer of coal, gold, silver, copper, bauxite, iron ore, lead, nickel, tin, tungsten, lithium, uranium and zinc. Australia mines large quantities of diamonds; many are industrial quality. Other resources include natural gas and petroleum.

Australia's major industries are steel, industrial and transportation equipment, chemicals and food processing.

Tourism is expanding. Australia provides a variety of experiences for the tourist: cultural, sporting, scenic and environmental.

The Australian economy had grown steadily for 17 years before the global financial crisis. However, a US$50 billion fiscal stimulus package along with continued demand for commodities (particularly from China) saw the economy begin to grow again in less than a year. Australia was one of the first advanced economies to raise interest rates and the country could return to a budget surplus as early as 2015. (2011)

The art of Indigenous Australians was traditionally drawn on trees, rocks and in caves. Some of the oldest Australian rock art, in Kimberley in the northwest, is estimated to date back seventeen thousand years.

Today, Indigenous Australian artists have achieved success around the world.

Australia has many fine artists including Sidney Nolan who has reflected the impressive landscapes of Australia in his paintings.

Indigenous Australian legends and folk lore are preserved in the "corroboree", a combination of music and dance. The best known Indigenous Australian instrument is the didgeridoo.

Today, Australia is well provided with arts and entertainment. The Sydney Opera House is representative of Australian commitment to the arts. Well-known Australian opera singers are Joan Sutherland and Dame Nellie Melba.

The Australian Ballet and the Sydney Dance Company also perform at the Opera House.

In 1973 Patrick White won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other internationally known Australian authors are Peter Carey, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Thomas Kenneally.

The Australian government supports many sporting activities. There are over a hundred national sporting organizations and many thousands of local clubs.

Sport is taken very seriously in Australia, especially cricket and football. Australian Rules Football is now being played outside Australia.

Among other sports played are Rugby Union and Rugby League, tennis, basketball, bowls and Judo.

With the long Australian coastline and good weather, surfing and windsurfing are popular.

In the year 2000 Sydney hosted the Olympic Games.

Details of Australian public holidays can be found online. National holidays include Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, Labour Day and Australia Day.

News from Australia is available from Newslink.

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