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Australia Essay, Research Paper

Australia

Australia is the world’s smallest continent and sixth-largest country. With

proportionately more desert land than any other continent, Australia has a low

population density. Lying completely in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is

bounded by the Indian Ocean on the west and south and by the Pacific Ocean on

the east. These oceans merge on the north in the Arafura Sea between Australia

and Indonesia and New Guinea, and on the south in the Bass Strait. The

coastline length, estimated at 19,200 km (12,000 mi), is remarkably short for so

large an area, a result of the relative lack of indentation. Major inlets other

than the Gulf of CARPENTARIA and the GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIGHT are few.

A self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia celebrated its

bicentennial in 1988z. It is a federation of five mainland states (NEW SOUTH

WALES, QUEENSLAND, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, VICTORIA, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) and one island

state (TASMANIA), as well as two territories (AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY,

NORTHERN TERRITORY). The country’s name derives from the Latin terra australis

incognita, meaning “unknown southern land,” which resulted from a confusion

between Australia and Antarctica on early world maps.

In many ways Australia is unusual among continents. It lacks major relief

features and has a high proportion of dry land. The continent’s isolation from

other landmasses accounts for its unique varieties of vegetation and animal life,

and for the existence of a Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) culture among the

Aborigines. Except for Antarctica, Australia was probably the last continent to

be inhabited by humans and the last to be explored and settled by Europeans. It

is the only continent comprising a single nation-state.

Dutch explorers first sighted Australia in the early 17th century. Capt. James

COOK explored the east coast in 1770 and claimed the land for Great Britain. In

1778 the first settlement (SYDNEY) was founded at an excellent harbor on the

southeast coast. British convicts played an important role in the territory’s

early history. The discovery of gold and other ores attracted immigrants, but

Australia remained a primarily agricultural country until World War II.

Subsequent industrialization has been rapid, and today Australia ranks as one of

the world’s most economically developed countries, although vast areas of the

interior, known as the Outback, remain all but uninhabited.


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