Australia. Did You Know?
- The kangaroo is unique to Australia , and there are more of them now than when Australia was first settled – about 40 million in total. There are also 140 million sheep in the country, mostly merinos, and they produce almost three-quarters of the world’s wool.
- Australia is one of the most resource-rich countries on earth, producing diamonds, emeralds, gold, silver and industrial minerals.
- With 24 million beef cattle, Australia is one of the world’s largest exporter of beef.
- There are an estimated 27,700 species of plants including living fossils in Australia , compared to 17,500 in Europe .
- The largest Greek population outside of Athens, Greece is in Melbourne.
- Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world.
- The 494 kilometres (309 miles) of railway track which crossed the Nullarbor Plain is the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world. Australia also boasts the world’s longest continuous fence. The dingo fence which runs through Central Queensland, designed to keep sheep safe from Australia’s native dog, is a whopping 5,531 kilometres (3437 miles).
- From 1945 through 1996, nearly 5.5 million immigrants settled in Australia.
- Australia has three time zones. Eastern Standard Time (EST includes New South Wales , Victoria , Queensland , Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory . Central Standard Time (CST) covers South Australia and the Northern Territory while Western Australia has Western Standard Time (WST). CST is half an hour behind EST, while WST is two hours behind EST.
- Australia was the second country to give women the vote.
- The Australian federation consists of six States and two Territories. Most inland borders follow lines of longitude and latitude. The largest State, Western Australia, is about the same size as Western Europe and is the 6th largest country in the world.
Situated in the southern hemisphere, Australia’s climate is the opposite to Europe. Winter is from June to August and summer is from December to February. Due to the continent’s vast size and different climatic zones, tempatures can vary from sub-zero in the snowy mountains of South Australia to extreme heat in Kimberley, Western Australia. Average temperatures are as follows:
In the southern capital cities: Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth, defined by the temperate zone, the average temperatures are: Summer minimum 16 and Summer maximum 26 and Winter minimum 6 and Winter maximum 14, all in degrees Celsius.
In the sub-tropic and tropical cities the average minimum temperatures are: Brisbane 16 and Darwin 23C with the average maximums: Brisbane 25C and Darwin 32C. In the inland city of Alice Springs, surrounded by desert and grassland, the average minimum is 20C and the average maximum is 32C.
The education system broadly mirrors that of the UK. Australians take education seriously and Australian universities receive more taxpayer funding than many of their international counterparts. School education is compulsory from ages 5 – 15.
Australian education is divided into public (state schools) and private (independent) schools. Education in public schools is free in most states, although most schools do have a small annual voluntary fee to cover extra-curricular activities. Most public schools are co-educational. Around two thirds of secondary school students attend government secondary schools and one third attend private schools . Australian independent schools fall into two categories; schools administered by the Catholic Education Office, and other independent schools administered by their own boards. One of the poshest is the 150-year-old Geelong Grammar School in Victoria , where Prince Charles spent a term as a boarder.
The school year begins in February and is divided into four terms. Over Easter there is a ten-day break and the June/July holiday usually amounts to two or three weeks. In term three, there is a two-week holiday in September. The Christmas or summer holidays run from the beginning of December to the end of January when many families head to the beach or bush. Students attend school from Monday to Friday each week. School hours vary slightly across Australia but are generally from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm each school day.
The Australian lifestyle is based on a laidback, informal approach to life. Good food, wine and companionship matter a great deal. Because of the superb climate eating outdoors (particularly if there’s a barbie involved) is an important part of the Aussie way of life.
The same carefree outdoors style is found even in bustling cities like Sydney , famous for its Bondi beach, its cosmopolitan energy and vibrant cultural life. The Sydney Opera House, together with Uluru (Ayers Rock), are two of the most iconic images of Australia, and are known around the world. Each city has something different to offer; from the culture and art of Melbourne to the scenic beauty of Perth.
On the world stage Australia has made a huge contribution to culture and sport. The country seems to effortlessly churn out film stars like Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Heath Ledger and Hugh Jackman, most of whom got their first break in local theatre and films. Indigenous music and dance, ballet, theatre, opera and rock ‘n’roll are also thriving.
Australians are sports-crazy and excel in most sports they put their hand too. Sporting superstars like swimmer Ian Thorpe, cricketer Shane Warne, tennis player Rod Laver, rugby star George Gregan and golfing great Greg Norman are all held in very high regard. As you would expect, sporting facilities are superb, and you will never be far from a game of one kind or another.
Housing (prices as at 1st quarter 2013)
- Sydney $673,700 (£408,300)
- Melbourne $545,000 (£330,000)
- Brisbane $430,000 (£260,600)
- Adelaide $395,000 (£240,000)
- Canberra $482,500 (£293,000)
- Perth $505,000 (£306,000)
- Darwin $592,000 (£358,000)
- Hobart $360,000 (£218,100)
Source: Based on The Real Estate Institute of Australia
 Australian Bureau of Statistics
 Australia.com official tourism website: http://www.australia.com/about/key-facts/plants
 About Australia www.about-australia.com/facts
 Guinness Book of Records www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-3000/largestfence
 About Australia http://www.about-australia.com/facts/