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About Australia

About Australia


Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and home to the world's oldest continuing culture. We have a highly skilled workforce and a proud history of democracy and stable government.

Australia's Indigenous peoples have lived on and managed the land for more than 60,000 years however, the early treatment of Australia's Indigenous population was marked by conflict and mistreatment.

Since the 1960s successive Australian Governments have joined with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to work towards reconciliation.

In 2008, the Australian Parliament passed a motion of Apology to Indigenous Australians for past mistreatment and injustices, especially the Stolen Generations, who were Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families. National Sorry Day is held every year on 26 May to remember and acknowledge this mistreatment. In July each year, NAIDOC Week celebrations mark the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In the 1850s gold was discovered and the gold rush that followed brought people to Australia from all over the world.

In 1901, Australia became a nation, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. One year later, Australia became one of the first countries in the world to give women the right to vote.

In 1945, Australia became a founding member of the United Nations.

We take our international responsibilities seriously and work closely with other countries to promote peace and security. Since 1947, over 65,000 Australians have served in more than 50 peace and security operations around the world.

We have a strong and open economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Australia recorded 28 straight years of annual economic growth and was the world's 14th largest economy.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to assist countries in the Indo-Pacific to access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. For example, our regional vaccine program ensures that Pacific countries achieve full COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

We also provide development assistance to developing countries to increase their economic growth and reduce poverty. In 2019-20, Australia provided $4 billion in development assistance — this included $1.4 billion to the Pacific.

Today we are home to 25 million people from almost 200 countries.

All Australians have access to quality and affordable health care – for both physical and mental health.

Over 30 per cent of the Australian resident population were born overseas. While English is the national language, more than 300 languages are spoken in Australian homes. The top five (excluding English) are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Italian.

Australia in Brief publication

Australia in Brief cover image

Australia in Brief provides an authoritative overview of Australia's history, the land, its people and their way of life. It also looks at Australia's economic, scientific and cultural achievements and its foreign, trade and defence policies.

Australia in Brief

Australian democracy

The core defining values of Australian Democracy are:

  • freedom of election and being elected
  • freedom of assembly and political participation
  • freedom of speech, expression and religious belief
  • rule of law
  • other basic human rights.

Australia is a representative democracy where voters elect candidates to carry out the business of government on their behalf.

All Australian citizens over the age of 18 must vote in elections.

The Australian Constitution of 1901 established a federal system of government, based on the British (Westminster) tradition of government. Powers are distributed between a national government (the Commonwealth) and the six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia). The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have self-government arrangements.

Australia's elected national government is answerable to the Parliament for its actions. The Prime Minister leads a Cabinet of ministers, who are responsible for decisions made by their department.

A strong and open economy

Australians enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world despite being home to only 0.3 per cent of the global population.

Since 1992, our economy has grown faster than any other major developed country. We have plentiful natural resources and a sophisticated services sector backed by a highly educated workforce.

As one in five Australian jobs is trade related, we work hard to keep overseas markets open and Australians in employment.

Australia has fifteen Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with 26 countries.

These agreements open up export markets for our companies, reduce the cost of doing business overseas, and give Australians greater choice and more affordable products.

In 2020, FTAs with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru entered into force, as did PACER Plus, a free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and several Pacific Island countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on the Australian economy and society. But compared to our major trading partners, Australia has shown great resilience, underwritten by significant government support and ongoing demand for our mining exports.

In 2018-19, the mining sector accounted for 8.5 per cent of Australia's GDP and minerals and fuels accounted for 50.9 per cent of Australia's goods and services exports. Our agriculture, tourism, education, financial services and science and technology products are also in high demand.

We welcome foreign investment. It has helped build our economy by providing capital to finance new industries and enhance existing ones. Our well-regulated and transparent environment makes it easy to establish and operate a business in Australia.

Australia and the world

As a founding member of the United Nations (UN), Australia plays a constructive role shaping and maintaining international laws.

The Indo-Pacific is our region and home to many of our major strategic and trading partners. Helping countries in our region overcome the health, social and economic effects of COVID-19 is a major focus of our international engagement.

Australia most recently served as an elected member of the UN Security Council in 2013-14 and on the UN Human Rights Council in 2018-20.

We are deepening our engagement with the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS), and lead collaboration on issues such as cyber security, counter-terrorism, infrastructure development and maritime security.

Beyond our immediate region, we enjoy strong economic, security, political, social and cultural ties with the United States and Canada, and continue to build on our strong and longstanding political, cultural, trade, investment, and people-to-people links with the United Kingdom and Europe.

We have significant people-to-people links and growing trade and investment interests in the Middle East, in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

We work closely with other countries to promote peace and security. We have a defence and security alliance with the Unites States, long term links with New Zealand and robust defence and security ties with India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

In our region, Australia has helped build peace in regional missions in Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (Papua New Guinea).

Climate action

Australia is a world leader in low emissions technology and is focussed on advancing practical, scalable and commercially viable technologies to drive the global transition to net-zero.

We are helping to reduce the cost of key technologies, through our Technology Investment Roadmap, a $1.9 billion investment package in future technologies.

We also support our region by providing billions in climate finance to support vulnerable communities to address and adapt to climate change.

Renewable energy

Australia has some of the best wind and solar resources in the world and remains committed to sustainable and renewable energy solutions. We are building and investing in renewables at record levels.

Renewables are expected to contribute 50 per cent of our electricity sent out by 2030.

We also have the world's highest level of uptake of household solar at one in four Australian homes.

Hydrogen strategy

Australia is also positioning to be a global leader in hydrogen production and is driving investments to support the growth of a clean, innovative, safe and competitive Australian hydrogen industry.

Science and innovation

Innovation drives Australian enterprise, science and research sectors, as well as our response to global crises, and is a priority of the Australian Government. We have developed and implemented a National Innovation and Science Agenda that supports smart ideas to create business growth, local jobs and global success.

Emerging technologies are making an impact across Australia's economy and society and are being embraced by Australian businesses of different sizes, across different sectors.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia's most trusted research institution and most connected innovator working with every Australian university, government department and major Australian industry. CSIRO works in over 80 countries and is ranked in the top one per cent of world scientific institutions in 13 of 22 research fields.

A leading Antarctic nation

We are a leading Antarctic nation, driving international efforts to preserve Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. We take great pride in this role, with around 80 scientists and support staff living and working on Australia's Antarctic stations during winter, with this number increasing to 200 during summer.


Tourism is one of Australia's largest export industries. It employs over 666,000 people.

With 43 cents in every tourism dollar spent in regional areas, tourism is important to both city and rural communities.

The top reasons visitors choose Australia are:

  • world-class beauty and natural environments (43 per cent)
  • local wildlife (30 per cent)
  • safety and security (27 per cent)
  • friendly citizens (27 per cent)
  • interesting attractions (25 per cent).

Three Australian cities – Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide – were listed in the top ten world's most liveable cities in 2019 by the Economist Intelligence Unit's global liveability index.

We are home to an incredible 10 per cent of the world's biodiversity, including a great number of native plants and animals that exist nowhere else on earth.

The beauty of our natural landscapes, from pristine coastal areas to lush rainforests and red deserts, makes Australia one of the most desirable travel destinations in the world.

Australia's national environment reserve system covers 19.74 per cent of our land mass–more than 151 million hectares across 12,000 properties–and includes a range of habitats from lush rainforests to savannas and deserts.

We have the world's largest representative network of marine protected areas (covering 37 per cent of our waters) and are responsible for managing over 17 per cent of the world's coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef.


Australians love sport.

We have a reputation for staging successful international sporting events. We hosted the summer Olympics twice (Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000), the Commonwealth Games five times (Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982, Melbourne 2006 and Gold Coast 2018), the 2015 Cricket World Cup and 2020 T20 Women's Cricket World Cup, the 2015 World Netball Championships, the 2015 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup and the 2019 INAS Global Games for people with an intellectual disability.

Other international events are staged annually around Australia such as the gruelling Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, the internationally accredited Tour Down Under cycling event in South Australia, and a round of the Moto GP on Phillip Island in Victoria. The world tennis circuit begins each year with the Australian Open in Melbourne.

In 2023, Australia will co-host with New Zealand the FIFA Women's World Cup, the largest sporting event for women in the world.

In 2032, Australia will host the summer Olympics in Brisbane.

Community-based sport across the country has helped produce many Australian sporting champions. Sporting success unites Australia and is a powerful force in creating social harmony.

Football (soccer), basketball and netball are the biggest team sports in Australia. Other team sports, such as rugby league, rugby union, Australia's unique brand of Australian Rules Football and cricket are also very popular.

Australia's new Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy will:

  • Empower Australian sport to represent Australia globally
  • Build linkages with our neighbours
  • Maximise trade, tourism and investment opportunities
  • Strengthen communities in the Indo-Pacific

Creative Australia

As well as being a great sporting nation, Australia has one of the most sophisticated creative sectors in the world.

Australia's vibrant and diverse performing arts sector continues to captivate and grow its audiences in Australia and internationally. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts companies such as Bangarra Dance Theatre, Yirra Yaarkin and Ilbijerri Theatre Company offer diverse and contemporary expressions of the world's oldest continuous culture.

Australian cultural festivals are calendar highlights nationally and internationally. Events such as the Sydney Biennale, the OzAsia Festival, Splendour in the Grass, WOMADelaide and Vivid Sydney draw large audiences from across Australia and the world.

The Australian movie and music industries are also bursting with world-class talent and creativity that has seen Australian actors and musicians, directors, producers and films receive wide acclaim.

Study in Australia

Our education system includes:

  • early childhood (pre-school or kindergarten)  
  • schooling (12 years)
  • vocational and training
  • tertiary
  • international.

Education is our largest services export —in 2019, more than 758,000 international students were studying and living in Australia.

More than half of our universities are listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2021) — six are in the top 100.

Our education sector includes world-leading providers, and a diverse range of study options for international students.

We also offer prestigious Australia Award scholarships to emerging leaders from around the world to undertake study, research, and professional development in tertiary institutions in Australia and the region.

For information on how to apply visit the Australia Awards website.

For Australian students, the New Colombo Plan provides opportunities for undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in 40 locations throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

For information on how to apply visit the New Colombo Plan website.

Visa and immigration requirements

If you're not an Australian citizen, you will need a visa before you travel or transit through Australia.

There are different visas depending on your travel purpose and length of visit.

Many visas can be applied for online, and the Electronic Travel Authority can be applied for through travel agents and airlines.

For more information on visa and immigration requirements visit the Department of Home Affairs website

Australia is free of the world's most serious pests and diseases, and their introduction could have serious environmental and economic impacts for us.

When travelling to Australia, all international passengers must declare any biosecurity risks on their incoming passenger card.

This includes any:

  • food
  • plant material
  • animal products
  • wooden items.

All people, mail, cargo and vessels are screened for biosecurity risks before entering the country.

The penalties for breaking our biosecurity laws include large fines or imprisonment.

For more information on Australia's biosecurity requirements visit the Department of Agriculture website

Australia's national symbols

The Australian flag

The stars of the Southern Cross represent Australia's geographic position in the Southern Hemisphere. The large Commonwealth star symbolises the federation of the states and territories, and the Union Jack reflects Australia's early ties to Great Britain.

The Aboriginal flag

Harold Thomas, a Luritja man of Central Australia, is the designer and copyright owner of the Aboriginal Flag. The colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia, the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal people's spiritual relation to the land, and the sun, the giver of life and protector

The Torres Strait Islander flag

Designed by Bernard Namok, the Torres Strait Islander flag was created as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islander peoples. Torres Strait Islanders' culture and traditions are strongly connected to the land and sea – elements represented in the flag. The colours of the flag represent the land, the Indigenous peoples, the sea and peace.

Our national colours

Australia's national colours are green and gold. The colours represent the Golden Wattle, which was proclaimed the national floral emblem in August 1988.

The coat of arms

The Australian coat of arms consists of a shield containing the badges of the six Australian states symbolising federation, and the national symbols of the Golden Wattle, the kangaroo and the emu.

National anthem

The tune of 'Advance Australia Fair' has been Australia's official national anthem since 19 April 1984.

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are one and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature's gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history's page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross

We'll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours

Renowned of all the lands;

For those who've come across the seas

We've boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

National celebrations

Australia Day is celebrated each year on 26 January to celebrate our nation, its achievements, and its people. ANZAC Day - a national day of commemoration for all Australians who have fought in conflicts - is held on 25 April. It marks the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915 during World War One.

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