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AUSTRALIA

How did Australia get its name?

Long throughout history there remained an assumed, yet completely undiscovered, land called Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown southern land. As early as the fourth century b.c.e. Aristotle believed that an extremely large continent, located in the Southern Hemisphere, lay undiscovered and would complete the symmetry of the land masses. For centuries, this unknown landmass remained a treasured legend and often appeared on maps in varied sizes and shapes. When the territory now known as Australia was discovered in the early seventeenth century, no one believed that this was the famed Terra Australis Incognita. During the early seventeenth century, the western coast of this territory was named New Holland and claimed for the Netherlands; in 1770 James Cook claimed the east coast of this territory for England and called it New South Wales. It wasn't until 1803 that Matthew Flinders circumnavigated this territory and proved that it was a continent and was the long sought-after Terra Australis Incognita. Finally, in the early nineteenth century, nearly two centuries after having been discovered, this land was finally named Australia.

Who are the Aborigines?

The Aborigines are the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, having migrated from Southeast Asia approximately 40,000 years ago. In the late eighteenth century, when European colonization began, there were over 300,000 Aborigines in Australia. Many were killed by European diseases and abuses, and by 1920 there were only 60,000 Aborigines remaining. Like the Maori of New Zealand, Australia's Aborigine population rebounded in the late twentieth century, and now stands at over 200,000. Most Aborigines now live in urban areas and are gaining political support and benefits.

Was Australia really used as a penal colony?

Yes, approximately two-thirds of Australia's initial settlers were convicts from Great Britain. From 1788 to 1850, when Australia was used as a penal colony, approximately 160,000 prisoners were sent to the continent. Though Britain stopped sending prisoners to Australia in 1850, free colonists began arriving with the first ship of convicts.

Where is the outback?

The outback is the general term used to describe the remote interior of Australia. Most of Australia's population is concentrated on the coast, since the interior is extremely dry and barren.

What is the capital of Australia?

The capital of Australia is Canberra, which is located in a federal territory (similar to Washington, D.C.) within the Australian state of New South Wales. When Australia was founded in 1901, both Sydney and Melbourne wanted to become the capital city. In 1908 it was ultimately decided that a brand-new capital city would be built and located away from the coast. Canberra is the largest city in Australia that is not on the coastline (population 334,000).

What's the big red rock in the middle of Australia?

The big, red, sandstone monolith in the center of Australia is called Uluru (its indigenous name; it was previously called Ayers Rock). It is the world's largest monolith, approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) wide and one-fifth of a mile (1,100 feet [335 meters]) high.

Are kangaroos native to Australia?

Yes, kangaroos are native to Australia. Kangaroos range in size from giant kangaroos (five feet [1.5 meters] tall) to tiny, rat-sized kangaroos, called potoroos.

Is the Tasmanian devil a real animal?

The Tasmanian devil is a real animal, though it resembles few characteristics of its cartoon counterpart. The real Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial that lives on the island of Tasmania, just southeast of the Australian mainland.

Is Australia the smallest continent?

Despite being the sixth-largest country in the world, Australia is the smallest continent in the world. Australia is approximately three million square miles (7.8 million square kilometers) in area, just a little smaller than Brazil.

Which country is the world's leading bauxite producer?

Australia mines more bauxite than any other country in the world, producing 33 percent of the world's supply annually. An ore of aluminum, bauxite is especially prevalent in Australia's Darling Range, located in the southwestern part of the country.

Which country is the world's leading lead producer?

Australia produces approximately 23.5 percent of the world's lead annually. Most of the lead is mined near Mt. Isa in the northeast area of the country and near Broken Hill in the southeast.

How much beef does Australia export?

Australia is responsible for more than 26 percent of the world's beef exports— 1,203,000 metric tons.

What is a boomerang?

The boomerang was developed as a hunting tool by the Aborigines of Australia. There are two types of boomerangs—those that return and those that do not return. The returning boomerang is used to kill small animals; the non-returning boomerang is used to kill large game or enemies.

 
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