Country profile: Australia



Australia was first inhabited some 60,000 years ago by the Aborigines; a tribal, semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer population arrived from Asia. Claimed for the British in 1770 by James Cook under the legal principle of terra nullius (a land belonging to no-one), New South Wales (as it was christened) soon became the landing ground for Britain’s convicts and gold-diggers. Aborigines lost swathes of land to the settlers, receiving no compensation; indeed not until 1972 did the Aborigines hold any land rights and the Australian government formally apologised for past wrongs committed against them in 1980. Today, just over 90% of the population are of European descent, with less than 3% descended from the indigenous Aboriginal population. Recently, the issues of republicanism and asylum-seekers have dominated the plot. A referendum was held in 1999 to keep the Queen as head-of-state.

The country has federal structure, with the six states retaining extensive powers, particularly over education, police, the judiciary and transport. The strong, services-based economy has seen sustained growth; mining and agriculture provide the lion’s share of exports

It is the scenery; however, that earns this classic its greatest accolades. With its parched deserts, dripping rainforests, naked beaches and glistening surf, it is hardly a surprise that Australia attracts some 5 million viewers every year. Isolated from other continents, Australia has an abundance of unique plant and animal life. Home to Ayres Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and Kylie, Australia truly is the land of natural beauty. Is it any wonder one person migrates there on average every 1 minute and 1 second.

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Quick facts

Capital Canberra
Population 25 000 000
Language English
Literacy 99%
Timezone East: GMT + 10 Central: GMT + 9.5 West: GMT + 8
Telephone code +61
Currency AUD (Dollar)
Growth 1.1%

Health data

Life expectancy M: 80 years    F: 84 years
No. doctors 3.5 per 1000 population
Hospital profiles 173
Medschool profiles 22

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Electives with a difference

Fancy doing something a bit ‘out of the ordinary’ for your elective? Why not explore one of our electives with a difference in Australia

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Student experiences in Australia

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7 case studies about electives in Australia

Your Q&As about Australia

There are 187 questions about hospitals in Australia

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