Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is actually made up of the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. So throw another shrimp on the barbie and enjoy these 44 Facts about Australia.
42. A Long History
Australia as a modern nation was established in 1787 when a ship containing 775 convicts, 247 marines, plus their wives and families, were dispatched to the continent that became Australia. These immigrants cannot, however, get credit for “discovering” or “founding” Australia—Indigenous peoples had been living on the land for over 50,000 years.
Before European settlers arrived in Australia in the 18th century, Chinese explorers traveled to Australia to fish for sea cucumbers and trade with Indigenous peoples. A 15th century Ming statuette was found to substantiate this.
40. Bouncy and Delicious
Although the kangaroo is Australia's national emblem, many consider kangaroo meat a delicacy. It can be bought from specialty markets and even at restaurants. With only 1-2 percent fat, it’s considered a leaner choice than beef or lamb.
39. Scaly Citizens
Australia is home to over 860 different reptile species, more than any other country in the world! This includes lizards, crocodilians, turtles, and snakes. By comparison, North America has only 280 species of reptile.
The name ‘Australia’ comes from the Latin word ‘australis’, meaning southern.
37. Reef Madness
The Great Barrier Reef, found off the coast of North-Eastern Australia, is the world’s largest reef system. It’s made up of 2,900 smaller reefs and 900 islands, and is home to a great many species found nowhere else on Earth.
36. Twin Peaks
The highest point on mainland Australia is Mount Kosciuszko, part of the Australian Alps in New South Wales, with a height of 2,228 metres above sea level.
35. A Large Continent
Australia is the 6th largest country in the world by area, at 7.692 million kilometres squared.
34. A Lot of Australians
Australia has an estimated population of 24.5 million people. While size-wise Australia ranks 6th in the world, it is only the 53rd most populous nation.
33. Personal Space
On average, the population density of Australia is only 2.66 persons per square kilometre. To compare, the UK has 248.25 persons per square kilometre; the USA has 33 persons square km, and the world average is 56 persons per square km.
Australia's human population may be low, but the continent is far from empty. It’s home to over 75.5 million sheep—that’s 3.08 sheep per person!
31. My Humps
In 2013, Australia was home to over one million feral camels, which cost the government $19 million to control via the Feral Camel Management Program.
30. Taking Up Space
Before the arrival of humans, Australia was home to giant prehistoric megafauna, or animals that are much larger than their modern counterparts. Fossils have been found of three-metre-tall kangaroos, giant birds (one of which is referred to as the demon-duck of doom), and even a marsupial great cats.
29. Who Are The Real Prisoners?
Australians have a strong sense of their own liberty: in Australia, an English person is referred to as “Pome”which is an acronym for “Prisoners of Mother England.”
28. Surf's Up!
Australia is home to some of the world’s best surfing—and no wonder, the continent has over 47,000 km of coastline and 10,685 beaches. That means if you visited a new beach every day, it would take you over 27 years to see them all!
27. Beach Lifestyle
With so many beaches, it’s no wonder that Australia is one of the most urbanized coastal-dwelling populations in the world. More than 80% of Australians live within 100 km—that’s about an hour drive—of the coast.
26. Large Tract of Land
The largest single-piece property in Australia is Anna Creek Station, at over 6,000,000 acres. As of 2012 the ranch was home to 17,000 cattle and only 17 staff.
25. Gaming Nation
Australia is crazy for gambling: 20% of the world’s poker machines, or “pokies,” are in Australia. Half of these are located in New South Wales. It’s estimated that in 2003/2004, gamblers in Australia lost $9.1 billion on pokies.
24. Capital Conundrum
The capital city of Australia is Canberra, which was established specifically as capital city in 1908. According to Australian lore, the decision was made to settle a dispute between Sydney and Melbourne over which city should become the capital.
23. Forward Thinking
Kangaroos and emus are both depicted on the Australian coat of arms because they cannot walk backwards. This fits with the state motto, which is “Advance Australia.”
Australia's homicide rate is very low: only 1.2 murders per 100,000 population. Comparatively, the United States murder rate hovers around 6.3 per 100,000.
21. Fire Down Below
New South Wales is home to Burning Mountain Nature Reserve, the site of a natural underground coal fire that has been burning for over 6,000 years.
20. No Fire Above
Australia is the only continent on Earth without an active volcano!
19. Claws & Paws
Australia is home to a great many interesting and unusual animals that are indigenous to the continent. One thing Australia doesn't have? Any native animals with hooves!
18. Green Paradise
Nearly seven million square kilometres of Australia’s land—over 91% of the country—is covered in natural vegetation!
17. Marking Territory
Wombats are one of the unique and curious marsupials native to Australia. Defecation is one of the ways wombats mark their territory — and their poop is cube-shaped! The oddly-shaped dung is thought to be strategic, as the flat sides keep it from rolling away from said territory.
16. Enfranchised Women
Australian Women were given the vote in 1903, making Australia the second country in the world to allow women to vote. The first? Nearby New Zealand!
15. Hedging Your Bets
In 1992, after syndicate gambling was outlawed in Australia, an Australian group bought almost all the number combinations in the state lottery, and won! They turned a $5 million investment into $27 million in profit! Only a lack of time to physically print the tickets prevented them from buying all 7 million numbers at $1 per ticket.
14. National Priorities
In 2010, a debate between political rivals Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott was rescheduled so as not to interfere with the finale broadcast of Masterchef, a reality cooking show.
13. Lasting Legacy
Bob Hawke served as Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991, during which time he achieved a lasting political legacy. He’s also for beer drinking: he was a past world record holder for chugging a yard of beer. He downed the yard in just 11 seconds!
12. Yo, Ho, Ho
Sir John Robertson, who served as Premier of New South Wales for five separate terms, reportedly drank a pint of rum every morning. His personal philosophy? ”None of the men who have left footprints in this country have been cold water men."
11. When “Mate” is Outlawed…
In 2005, security guards at the Parliament House in Canberra were banned from addressing anyone as “mate.” The ban lasted less than a day, with Australian heads of state passionately weighing in on the matter. Prime Minister John Howard had previously tried to include "mateship" in the preamble to the constitution.
10. Progressive Labour
Stonemasons in the province of Victoria became early champions of labour rights: a protest in 1856 lead to the local adoption of the 8-hour workday, a world first!
9. A Perfect Circle
Sydney is known for one of the most iconic architecture feats in the world, the Sydney Opera House. Completed in 1973, the Opera House's outside consists of concrete “shells” or “sails.” Designing such a shape required the architects to mathematically describe the curvature of each shell. They solved this by deriving the shape from the surface of spheres.
8. On Tape
The Sydney Opera House was on display when Sydney hosted the Summer Olympics in 2000. It was later revealed that the orchestra had mimed their entire performance—the music in the opening ceremony had all been pre-recorded!
7. Blue Moon
In 1838, prison officials were trying to enact measures to counter “mateship,” or camaraderie, amongst prisoners. In defiance, 300 female convicts dropped their drawers and mooned the governor of Tasmania.
6. High Culture
A shopping centre in Knox, Australia found an unusual way to keep teens from loitering at the bus terminal: playing classical music!
5. Not That Kind Of Dry
Beer aside, Australia is the driest continent on Earth, besides Antarctica!
4. Wet Patch
While most of inland Australia is arid desert, north Queensland is home to the Daintree Rainforest, the country’s largest at 1,200 square kilometres!
3. Not Choosing Is Still A Choice
Australia has a voter turnout rate of 81%—which sounds high until you learn that voting is compulsory for all citizens over 18! There is a fine of $72 issued for all non-voters, but that doesn’t seem to be enough of a deterrent for the 19% of voters who still can’t be bothered!
2. Starting From Scratch
Australian politics has had its ups and downs: In 1975 a political feud between two parties led to a government shutdown because the legislature had failed to designate the funds to keep the government going. As a result, the Queen stepped in and fired everyone! Australia is part of the Commonwealth, and rather than let the Australian government flounder, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative to Australia simply dismissed the Prime Minister and appointed a replacement who passed a new budget. Within a month, Australia had a new election to select a new government.
1. Bad Neighbours
In 2006, a man from Brisbane, Australia posted an eBay listing attempting to sell the country of New Zealand! The bidding began at the lowball price of $0.01, and by the time the auction was closed by officials the price had risen to $3,000.