December 18, 2023 | Eva Blanchefleur

Down-Under Facts About Australia


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.


1. 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.

australia

2. Pre-European

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.

Australia FactsWikimedia Commons

 

3. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

4. 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.

Australia FactsPixabay

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5. Literally

The name ‘Australia’ comes from the Latin word ‘australis’, meaning southern.

Australia FactsGetty Images

6. 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.

Australia FactsPixabay

7. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

8. A Large Continent

Australia is the 6th largest country in the world by area, at 7.692 million kilometres squared.

Australia FactsMax Pixel

9. 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.

Australia FactsPexels

10. 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 FactsGetty Images

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11. Baa!

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!

Australia FactsGetty Images

12. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

13. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

14. 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".

Australia FactsPixabay

15. 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! 

Australia FactsGetty Images

16. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

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17. 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.

Australia Facts Wikipedia

18. 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.

Vegas factsShutterstock

19. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

20. 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 FactsFlickr, Angus Fraser

21. Peace

Australia's manslaughter rate is very low: only 1.2 murders per 100,000 population. Comparatively, the United States manslaughter rate hovers around 6.3 per 100,000.

Australia FactsPixabay

22. 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.

Australia FactsWikipedia

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23. No Fire Above

Australia is the only continent on Earth without an active volcano!Travel talesWikipedia

24. 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!

Australia FactsPixabay

25. Green Paradise

Nearly seven million square kilometres of Australia’s land—over 91% of the country—is covered in natural vegetation!

Australia FactsPixabay

26. 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.

Australia FactsWikipedia

27. 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!

Australia factsWikimedia Commons, Poulsen

 

28. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

29. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

30. 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 brew drinking: he was a past world record holder for chugging a yard of brew. He downed the yard in just 11 seconds!

Australia FactsGetty Images

31. Yo, Ho, Ho

Sir John Robertson, who served as Premier of New South Wales for five separate terms, reportedly drank a pint of booze every morning. His personal philosophy? ”None of the men who have left footprints in this country have been cold water men".

Australia factsWikimedia Commons, Kgbo

32. 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.

Australia factsWikimedia Commons,R D Ward

33. 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!

Australia factsFlickr

34. 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. Sydney Opera HouseShutterstock

35. 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! Australia FactsWikipedia, Diliff

36. Blue Moon

In 1838, jailhouse 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.

Australia FactsShutterstock

38. High Culture

A shopping centre in Knox, Australia found an unusual way to keep teens from loitering at the bus terminal: playing classical music!

Australia FactsGetty Images

39. Not That Kind Of Dry

Brew aside, Australia is the driest continent on Earth, besides Antarctica!

Australia FactsGetty Images

40. 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!

Australia FactsWikimedia Commons,Bob Linsdell

41. 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!

Australia FactsGetty Images

42. 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.

Australia FactsGetty Images

43. 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.

Australia FactsPixabay

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40


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