Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country located in the southern Hemisphere. The history of modern Australia started 223 years ago in 1788, when the first European settlers arrived on the continent, previously inhabited by Aboriginals for thousands of years. Originally intended as a colony for convicts in the late 18th century, the continent attracted more and more settlers from Europe as it developed, especially during the gold rush of the 1850s.
In 2010, Australia had a total population
of 21.47 million people. The majority of Australia’s population is white with European descent. The indigenous Aboriginal population is largely marginalized and only makes up one percent of the total population. According to World Bank statistics, Australia is among the top ten immigration countries
in the world with 5.5 million immigrants living in the country in 2010.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a federal system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State, although she resides in Great Britain, and is represented in Australia by appointed Governors at both state and federal level. Australia’s six states and two mainland territories have their own parliaments and governing bodies. Their primary responsibilities include schools, roads, public transportation and state-level police.
Australia’s economy is highly developed and is currently ranked 13th in a GDP-based ranking of the world’s largest economies
. The International Monetary Fund estimates Australia’s 2010 GDP
at 1.22 trillion U.S. dollars. Australia’s economy has been growing steadily at around three percent per annum for the last two decades. Even during the global financial crisis, when most of the world’s largest economies stumbled into recession, Australia managed to maintain a positive GDP growth rate
. Australia’s unemployment rate
slightly increased during the crisis but was still at a moderate 5.2 percent in 2010 compared to 9.6 percent in the United States
Australia has had a negative balance of trade for many years, but rising commodity prices and the soaring demand from emerging markets in Asia have worked to the country’s advantage. Amongst Australia’s most important trading partners, you will find China
and Japan, who accounted for more than 40 percent of Australia’s exports in 2009.
The standard of living in Australia is very high. In 2010, the country was ranked second in the United Nations’ country ranking according to the Human Development Index
, which is based on life expectancy, education and income per capita.
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