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Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Canberra
Area: 7,682,300 sq km; 2,966,200 sq miles
Population: 18,950,108 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 85 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 15 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment, dairy and meat products, petroleum

Industry: Mining, industrial and transport equipment, food processing, textiles, chemicals, iron and steel

Agriculture: Beef, wool, mutton; wheat, barley, sugar cane, fruit; cattle, sheep, poultry

Currency: 1 Australian dollar ($A), consisting of 100 cents

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


The people

Ethnic: Caucasian 95 per cent, Asian 4 per cent, Aboriginal and other 1 per cent

Language: English, indigenous languages. Most Australians speak English, although immigrants often use their native languages at home. The Aborigines once had more than 250 languages, but only about 50 have survived in teachable form. Recently there has been an increasing effort to preserve them; Aborigines have their own radio network that broadcasts in their languages and more Aboriginal families are speaking traditional languages at home. In many Aborigine schools, traditional languages are used for instruction and English is introduced later.

Religion: Anglican 26 per cent, Roman Catholic 26 per cent, Other Christian 24 per cent, Other or non-religious 24 per cent. Although relatively few Australians are regular churchgoers, about one-quarter is nominally Anglican, one-quarter are Roman Catholic and another quarter belong to other Christian churches.


The history

Independence: 1 January 1901 (federation of United Kingdom colonies)

Government: The British monarch, represented by a governor-general, is head of state. Australia is a political federation with six states (New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) and two territories (the Australian Capital Territory around Canberra and the Northern Territory). The states enjoy considerable autonomy, although national law overrides state laws that conflict with it. The federal parliament consists of a 150-member House of Representatives, elected for three years and a 76-member Senate. The voting age is 18 and people can be fined for not voting. Australia was one of the first countries to extend the right to vote to women (1902).

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