About Australia

Commonwealth of Australia is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the world’s sixth-largest country by total area occupying an entire continent of some 7.6 million square kilometres. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Tim or to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. Australia’s capital is Canberra, and its largest urban area is Sydney.

For about 50,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages classifiable into roughly 250 groups. After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia’s eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy comprising six states and several territories. The population of 24 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard.

Australia has the world’s 13th-largest economy and ninth-highest per capita income (IMF). With the second-highest human development index globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and civil liberties and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G 20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Fact sheet – Key facts about immigration

  • Today’s Australia is very multicultural with Indigenous peoples and migrants from some 200 countries.
  • Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, occupying an entire continent of some 7.6 million square kilometers.
  • Australia has the world’s highest proportion of migrant settlers in a developed nation. A quarter of Australians (27%) were born overseas and almost half of the Australian households (46%) had at least one parent born overseas.
  • Australia was the second country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1902.

About one million migrants arrived in each of the six decades following 1950:

  • 1.6 million between October 1945 and June 1960
  • about 1.3 million in the 1960s
  • about 960 000 in the 1970s
  • about 1.1 million in the 1980s
  • over 900 000 in the 1990s
  • over 1.2 million between 2000 and 2010.

Settler arrival figures

Year Settler arrival numbers Net permanent migration
1998–1999 84 100 49 000
1999–2000 92 300 51 200
2000–2001 107 400 60 800
2001–2002 88 900 40 700
2002–2003 93 900 43 500
2003–2004 111 600 52 500
2004–2005 123 400 60 800
2005–2006 131 600 63 700
2006–2007 140 100 68 000
2007–2008 149 400 72 400
2008–2009 158 021 77 000
2009–2010 140 610 54 300
2010–2011 127 460 39 000
2011-2012 158 943 71 500
2012–2013 152 414 60 653

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