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Key country data

Capital: Canberra
Area: 7.7 mln km2
Population: 22 mln
Languages: English, Chinese, Italian, Greek 1, Arabic, Vietnamese
Currency: Australian dollar (AUD)
Voltage: 230V/50Hz, Plug type I
Time zone: UTC+5 to +11
Political system: Constitutional monarchy with ceremonial monarch
Main religions: Protestant,Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, other Christian, Buddhist, Muslim


Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began  geographic expedition in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took property of the east coast in the name of Great Britain (all of Australia was claimed as British territory in 1829 with the creation of the colony of Western Australia). Free settlers and former prisoners established six colonies in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The six colonies became states and in 1901 federated into the Commonwealth of Australia with a constitution that incorporated British parliamentary and U.S. federal traditions. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It had one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns admit  pressure on infrastructure, ageing of the population and environmental issues such as droughts.

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