Australia Essay Research Paper Plant Life Although
Australia Essay, Research Paper
Although only a dozen plant families are unique to Australia, there are 530 unique genera and many unique species within these genera. As the Australian fragment of prehistoric Gondwanaland drifted north, its ancient flora became the basis for the present plant systems. Increasing aridity modified this vegetation, giving much of it hardened, pointed leaves of reduced size–a condition called scleromorphy.
Australia’s native vegetation is divisible into seven types. The first type of vegetation consists of remnants of Gondwanan rain forests, with primitive flowering plants, palms, and laurels. These occur where high rainfall and high temperatures coincide with fertile, often volcanic soils, mainly in coastal north Queensland. In climax rain forests, three layers of trees appear, entangled with shrubs, lianas, and epiphytes. Closest to original Gondwanan conditions are the temperate rain forests of Tasmania, dominated by the myrtle beech and swathed in tree-ferns and mosses–called moss forests.
The second type of vegetation, communities dominated by the tall, straggly eucalyptus trees, is the most ubiquitous, forming a wide, concentric band around the desert core. Of the 500 species, two or three typically form a mosaic in one locality and intermingle with other plant associations. Eucalyptus trees are classified according to their bark types–hence the names stringybark, ironbark, bloodwood, and smoothbark (the gums that shed their outer bark annually). The most widespread is the river red gum. Mallee eucalypts survive in semiarid regions by growing multiple stems (lignotubers) from a common rootstock. The world’s tallest flowering plant is a southern eucalyptus, the mountain ash. Its height can exceed 325 feet (100 meters). Building timbers are obtained in Victoria from alpine ash and mountain ash, in New South Wales and Queensland from blackbutt, spotted gum, bluegum, and ironbark, and in Western Australia from jarrah and karri, another type of eucalypt.
A third type of plant community is dominated by wattles (the genus Acacia of the Mimosa family) and advances beyond the last eucalyptus trees into the desert. Although more than 900 species are known, vast regions are dominated by just a few, including brigalow, mulga, and gidgee. Their tannin-rich bark is used in tanning leather. One of the less attractive of the varieties of acacia is the mulga. This small tree grows on thousands of square miles of arid inland Australia. The slang term “out in the mulga” refers to the distant outback areas. Aborigines had a number of uses for this tree. Its wood provided a slow-burning fuel for cooking fires, and it was also used to make spear blades.
The golden wattle is the acacia most familiar to natives. It is the floral symbol of Australia. There is even a Wattle Day, which may be celebrated on August 1 or September 1. Eucalyptus or acacia trees are dominant over 75 percent of the continent.
Three other types of vegetation are found over smaller areas. Communities dominated by casuarinas (and Allocasuarina species, including she-oaks) occupy semiarid niches between eucalyptus and acacia woodlands. Native conifers command no large areas as they do in the Northern Hemisphere, although white cypress pine grows widely on infertile soils. Pioneer builders were gratified to discover that it withstands drought, fire, and termites. Salt-tolerant shrublands devoid of trees are found mainly along the southern edges of the arid core. Mallee, saltbush, and bluebush are common, and Banksia and Grevillea are of local importance. Finally, grasslands occur where rainfall is insufficient for larger plants. Summer-growing species tend to be more northerly and winter-growing species more southerly. Hummock grasslands (including spinifex) spread across the dunes, sandy plains, and rocky ranges of the Western Plateau.
Minor coastal plant communities include salt marsh, seagrass, and mangroves. Alpine herb fields, often flattened by the wind, are dotted with sphagnum moss bogs. Weeds introduced from outside Australia, such as wild turnip and hoary cress, compete with crops. Lantana, blackberries, bracken fern, and Paterson’s curse overrun pastures. Cape tulip and Saint-John’s-wort can poison livestock or taint food. Algae block drainage and smother plants. Only 5.3 percent of Australia’s 2,966,200 square miles (7,682,300 square kilometers) is covered in forest. Of that, 75 percent is in public domain. Forest plantations account for another 3,759 square miles (9,737 square kilometers), 69 percent of them under California radiata pine. Fine specimens of Australian flora can be seen in the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney and Melbourne, and Kings Park in Perth. Animal Life
Native to Australia are 250 species of mammals (half of them pouched marsupials); 750 species of birds; more than 500 species of reptiles and amphibians, including 150 species of snakes; 22,000 species of fish, but only 150 of them freshwater; 65,000 known insect species; and 1,500 species of spiders. The continent is world-famous for these zoological curiosities. It became a veritable Noah’s ark for monotremes, which include the platypus, and marsupials, saved from competition with carnivores and herbivores and free to evolve uniquely, when Australia split from Gondwanaland between 45 and 70 million years ago. By contrast, other animals drifted free with South America and Africa but became extinct when those continents encountered Northern Hemisphere landmasses that were home to predators.
When Australia drifted closer to Asia 20 million years ago, Asian animal immigrants reached northern Australia across shallow continental shelves. Bats and rodents island-hopped. The dingo, a type of wild dog, came with migrating aborigines or Asian fishermen 5,000 years ago. Other creatures used the broad land bridges which surfaced when the expansion of the ice caps resulted in lowered sea levels, linking the Australian mainland with New Guinea and Tasmania. Marine animals dispersed easily across the entire tropical and subtropical Indian and Pacific oceans. Wallace’s line, drawn in 1868 between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok, marked the proximal separation of Australasian and Oriental faunas.
The present Australian fauna thus contains three main elements–those uniquely Australian (like the monotremes and lyrebirds), those of Gondwanan origin with affinities to other continents (some marsupials, the emu and cassawary, geckos, side-necked tortoises, most frogs, lungfish, and barramundis), and those which flew or floated on drifting vegetation from Asia within the last 30 million years (rodents, lizards, insects, birds, bats, and snakes), still comfortably acclimatized in tropical northern Australia.
The monotremes, an egg-laying order of mammals, include only the platypus and two species of echidnas, or spiny anteaters. Platypuses are found nowhere else in the world, not even in fossil form. Echidnas are found also in New Guinea. The platypus uses its webbed feet and broad, sensitive bill to nuzzle food from the bottoms of coastal creeks from northern Queensland to South Australia. The bill has a unique sensing device that detects changes in electrical fields. The platypus is a skilled swimmer and can remain underwater for up to five minutes at a time. It spends only a few hours of each day in the water. The males have a poisonous spur on each hind leg. Although the poison is not fatal to humans, it can cause agonizing pain.
The shy echidna uses its snout to probe for termites and insects, which adhere to the saliva on its tongue. It settles into the ground, spikes erect, when disturbed. The heavily armored echidna has small spines on the back of its head and long spines on the upper surface and sides of its body. Its clawed limbs are short and powerful. The male has a retractable spur on each hind limb that releases a weak poison. It is from this that the animal gets its name–echidna is derived from a Greek word for viper. The echidna is toothless but has a tongue up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long, the sticky surface of which is used for catching ants.
For a study in sheer animal cunning it would be difficult to surpass the dingo, also known by the aboriginal name warrigal. It is an animal very similar in appearance to the domestic dog. It probably arrived from mainland Asia about 5,000 years ago, along with an immigration of aborigines. The dingo is a fairly large canine, growing to about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long, including its 12-inch tail. The dingo has long been the killer of the outback. It hunts kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, and ground birds–with a special fondness for the echidna. It also runs down and kills sheep and cattle. Like wolves, these animals hunt alone or in packs. Its ferocity resulted in the elimination of the Tasmanian devil and the Tasmanian wolf from mainland Australia. The dingo carries a bounty on its head, and Queensland once erected a 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) fence to keep the animal out.
Of the world’s 19 marsupial families, 16 are native to Australia. They include opossums, koalas, wombats, kangaroos, and wallabies. Whereas placental mammals connect the unborn baby to the mother’s uterus, the marsupials give birth to their young at a very early stage of development, retaining, carrying, and suckling them in an abdominal pouch. A vivid example is the joey, or baby kangaroo, scrambling into the mother kangaroo’s pouch.
There are 50 species of kangaroos in Australia. These macropods have large hind legs for hopping. Their heavy tails serve as a counterbalance during locomotion and as a prop when standing upright.
Kangaroo sizes and characteristics vary widely. There are burrowing rat kangaroos, tree kangaroos with shortened hind legs and exceedingly long tails, rock wallabies with granulated footpads for gripping, pademelons, and quokkas. The largest species are the grey (or forester) kangaroo and the red kangaroo. Males of both species may exceed 8 feet (2.4 meters) from nose to tail.
Many ranchers regard kangaroos as vermin, especially during plagues. Conservationists deplore their slaughter for skins, for pet food, or simply to cut down the size of a herd. (See also Kangaroo.)
Koala is an aboriginal word meaning “it does not drink,” though these animals do drink when ill. Koalas are tree-dwelling marsupials with a home range of 14 to 15 eucalyptus trees. One tree will be an animal’s favorite. They feed exclusively on specific eucalyptus leaves which provide sufficient moisture. An exceptionally long intestine and special liver mechanism cope with the harsh oils and tannin in the leaves. Lacking the tails typical of most arboreal animals, and with pouches that open inconveniently backwards (like their closest relative, the wombat), koalas may have originated as ground-dwelling, burrowing animals.
Koalas were abundant in coastal forests from northern Queensland to southeastern South Australia. Hunters exported their pelts in large numbers (two million in 1924 alone) until public revulsion and an American ban on imports led to total protection by law. Continuing problems include habitat fragmentation–especially in their southern Queensland stronghold–serious fires, and a virulent form of the disease trachoma.
Australian opossums, or phalangers, are also arboreal marsupials. They include the cuscus, a monkeylike marsupial; the ringtail opossum, which has a prehensile tail; and the gliders, which are also called flying phalangers.
Another tree-dwelling marsupial is the tiny pygmy gliding opossum, an acrobatic, mouselike animal and the smallest marsupial adapted for gliding. One of the numerous kinds of Australian possums, it is found in eastern regions of the country. However, it is rarely seen because it is active at night and extremely furtive. It glides from tree to tree in flights that are really prolonged leaps. Membranes between its limbs have a parachute effect, and its fringed tail provides an additional airplanelike surface.
The doglike Tasmanian devil is also a marsupial. It is a slow-moving, clumsy animal that lives in open forest areas. It takes shelter in any available cover by day and scavenges for food by night. Although widely regarded as a fierce killer of animals, the Tasmanian devil is actually a poor hunter and usually feeds on carrion, much like a vulture. The animal is usually about 28 inches (71 centimeters) long with a 10-inch (25-centimeter) tail. It is mostly black, with white bands across its chest and rump. The forefeet have five toes and the rear feet have four. All of its toes are strongly clawed. (See also Marsupials.)
All three orders of reptiles–crocodiles, lizards and snakes, turtles and tortoises–are well represented in Australia. The seagoing estuarine crocodile ranges from India to China and the western Pacific. It is found along the northern coasts of Australia between Broome and Maryborough, in saltwater estuaries and river mouths. Males average 16 feet (5 meters) in length but do reach 23 feet (7 meters). Crocodiles feed on fish, crabs, water rats, and occasionally on larger prey–including horses, cattle, and humans–which they first drown and then dismember. The smaller freshwater crocodile, found in the billabongs (streambeds) and lagoons of monsoonal rivers, is harmless to humans.
Besides estuarine crocodiles, the only Australian animals that will feed on humans are sharks and, of course, mosquitos and fleas. Crocodile-skin handbags and shoes were once highly prized luxury items, but crocodile hunting has been completely banned in Western Australia and the Northern Territory since 1971 and in Queensland since 1974. Crocodile farms, several of them run by aborigines, now market meat.
Australia’s 450 species of lizard probably originated in tropical Asia. Today they are the dominant predators in desert ecosystems. The largest of them is the desert perenty, averaging 5.2 feet (1.6 meters) but known to reach 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). Fossil monitor lizards, called goannas, at 20 feet (6 meters) and 1,300 pounds (600 kilograms), were twice as big as today’s record-holder, the Komodo dragon. Curiosities include the gecko, whose padded, adhesive digits enable it to move and rest on ceilings. Geckoes are able to snap off their still-wriggling tails to distract predators while making their escape. Among the dragon lizards are the thorny devil, the water dragon, and the spectacular frill-necked lizard, which unfolds its ruff like an umbrella when alarmed. Skinks with smooth, silky scales are common sights in suburban gardens.
Of Australia’s marine turtles, the largest is the leathey, or luth, turtle, up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length and 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) in weight. Among reptiles, only the estuarine crocodile exceeds it in size. Marine turtles thrive in the warm tropical seas, coming ashore–vulnerable to human predators–to lay scores of eggs in chambers dug into beach sand. An extraordinary navigational sense permits turtles to return to the very beach where they were hatched.
Australia is the only continent where venomous snakes outnumber the nonvenomous, though only 20 or so of the 160 species (including 32 of sea snakes) are fatal to humans. Among the nonvenomous are blind or worm snakes, tree snakes, file snakes, and 13 species of pythons that suffocate their prey by constriction. The longest is the amethystine, or rock, python, which averages 11 1/2 feet (3.5 meters), and whose maximum length is 28 feet (8.5 meters). The most widespread is the common carpet snake.
All 65 species of venomous snakes are front-fanged elapids. Venom is secreted from modified saliva glands at the base of grooved, hollow fangs. It kills either by destroying the linings of blood vessels, causing blood to clot, destroying the red blood cells, or, in the case of neurotoxins, paralyzing nerves that control the heart and lungs. Australia’s most dangerous snakes are the tiger snake, the Eastern brown snake, the mulga or king brown snake, death adders, the red-bellied black snake, the taipan, and its look-alike, the fierce or giant brown snake. The latter’s neurotoxic venom can kill 100,000 mice, making it the most deadly of all the world’s land snakes. Antivenins developed in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, if administered promptly, can now counteract most of these venoms.
Other poisonous animals include the Sydney funnelweb spider, which spins a silken tube at the entrance to its burrow and has killed unsuspecting gardeners; the trapdoor spider, which seals its burrow with a plug of earth; and the red-back spider; which lurks in outhouses under toilet lids. Many of Australia’s 80,000 known insect species also sting.
The largest insect nests are the towering termites’ nests, or termitaria, some of which surpass 23 feet (7 meters) in height, connected to food sources by 110 yards (100 meters) of tunnels and galleries. Those built in the Northern Territory by the compass, or magnetic, termite are aligned north-south to minimize exposure to the tropical sun.
Of the world’s more than 8,000 species of birds, about 750 are found in Australia. Of these, 368 are peculiar to Australia, 125 are nonbreeding visitors, and 20 or so were introduced, usually by human migrants longing for the birdsongs of their homelands. Acclimatized birds include the house sparrow, starling, song thrush, blackbird, pigeon, and, from India, the mynah and red-whiskered bulbul. Although Australia has 19 of the 25 orders of living birds, it lacks woodpeckers, vultures, true finches, and flamingos. Many of the indigenous birds originated in Asia or Gondwanaland. Many still live in New Guinea, among them the birds of paradise, bowerbirds, and spangled drongo.
The flightless, nomadic emu is the largest native bird and the second largest in the world. It accelerates in short bursts to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and may surpass 6 1/2 feet (2 meters) in height. It is found almost anywhere in inland Australia. Having laid from 7 to 20 green eggs on the ground, the larger female emu wanders off, leaving the male with nest duties of hatching and tending the chicks.
The lyrebird is unique to Australia and is one of the largest songbirds in the world. It can reproduce the sounds of more than 20 other songbirds. Similar in appearance to the peacock, the lyrebid can grow to more than 3 feet (0.9 meter) in length. Rarely seen by humans, it is native to eastern Australia. It is famous for its tail-twirling courtship display, as well as for its incomparable mimicry.
Other native species are mound-building birds, nesting in hot anthills, and the black swan, the symbol of Western Australia. Also peculiar to the continent are honeyeaters, bowerbirds, nocturnal frogmouths, and kingfishers. Singularly Australian birdcalls come from the kookaburra, or laughing jackass–a raucous, throaty, mocking peal of laughter–and the bellbird, which has ringing, tinkling tones. A survey by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, founded in 1901, reported that the ten most commonly sighted Australian birds were the Australian magpie, willie wagtail, Australian magpie-lark, welcome swallow, black-faced cuckoo-shrike, galah, white-faced heron, laughing kookaburra, Australian kestrel, and common starling.
The drab, brown plains of inland Australia are brightened by the brilliant plumage of 55 species of parrots, one sixth of the world total. The gaudily colored rosellas take their name from Rose Hill, the Sydney locality where they were first observed. There are small grass-eating parakeets, tree-dwelling lorikeets, and budgerigars, but the aristocracy must be the cockatoos–among them the galahs (sometimes in flocks of a thousand), the screeching sulphur-crested white cockatoos, gang-gangs, and the glossy black cockatoo. The illegal smuggling of parrots out of Australia remains a problem.
Many seabirds and waders are migratory, even reaching Asia and New Zealand. The muttonbird, or short-tailed shearwater, follows a 19,000-mile (31,000-kilometer) figure-eight loop between Japan and Bass Strait, managing to summer in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Australia’s tropical coral reefs teem with fish, but the scarcity of rivers in an arid continent limits its freshwater fishes to only 150 species, including the carnivorous barramundi (giant perch). Commercial trawlers fish for barricuda, gemfish, or hake, tuna, and Australian salmon in the deeper, colder waters off the southern coasts, nominally inside the 200-nautical-mile Australian Fishing Zone adopted in 1979. Australia’s last whaling station, at Albany, Western Australia, was closed in 1978. The Whale Protection Act of 1980 outlawed whaling in all Australian waters.
Whales still migrate along the Australian coast, where they are sometimes stranded, between Antarctica and their tropical breeding grounds. Two suborders are seen in these waters–the baleen whales, which filter water and plankton through a whalebone screen, and toothed whales, which chew their food. The baleen species are the southern right whale, formerly the prime target of whalers; the blue whale, largest of known mammals, averaging 95 feet (29 meters) but reaching 130 feet (40 meters); and the humpback whale. Toothed species include killer whales, which hunt in packs of 40 or more, preying on dolphins, seals, penguins, and other whales; and sperm whales, which in the 19th century were hunted almost to extinction for their oil and spermaceti.
Thirteen species of dolphins frolic off the Australian coast. The spinner dolphin leaps almost vertically above the waves while rotating at high speed. From 1790 to 1850, an industry that hunted fur seals for their oil and skins operated from the islands of Bass Strait.
The major scavengers in Australian waters today are sharks. They shred and swallow marine carrion indiscriminately and voraciously, but they also attack living creatures. Sharks differ from most other marine species in that their skeletons are cartilage, not bone. Lacking a swim bladder, they must swim ceaselessly to circulate water through the gills and maintain their height above the bottom. That is why sharks quickly drown if snared in nets strung across swimming beaches, just below the surface. Since the installation of such nets in Sydney Harbour in 1937, there has not been a single fatality from shark attacks. An average of less than one shark fatality per year has been reported in all Australian waters over the past 150 years. Attacks occur almost only in summer where water temperatures exceed 72o F (22o C).
Of Australia’s 90 species of shark, the only dangerous man-eaters are the bronze whaler and grey whaler–with which the grey nurse shark is often confused–the tiger shark, the blue pointer (which prefers surfboards and small craft to swimmers), and the most dangerous of them all, variously known as the white pointer, great white shark, or white death. It may be 40 feet (12 meters) long and displays up to 200 replaceable teeth. Other common sharks are the thresher, hammerhead, checkerboard, and paisley-patterned wobbegong. The Australian coast is also plagued by the blue-ringed octopus, which delivers a fatal bite, the box jellyfish, whose trailing tentacles carry venomous cells, the poisonous geographer cone, the well-camouflaged stonefish, and assorted stingrays.
Representative slices of Australia’s natural environment can be seen in more 2,000 national parks and other conservation reserves. These protected areas contain over 154,400 square miles (399,000 square kilometers) and cover 5 percent of the total land area, compared with 8.6 percent of total land area in the United States going to parks, and about 4 percent worldwide. Except in federal territories, they were established and remain controlled by state governments. Australia was one of the first countries to create national parks and nature reserves. Kings Park in Perth dates from 1872 and Sydney’s Royal National Park from 1879. Yet most of the significant natural and cultural sites have been identified, inventoried, and protected systematically only since 1970. National parks are intended primarily for public recreation.
Other reserves are dedicated to protecting such significant or endangered features as prehistoric rock art, sacred or ceremonial aboriginal sites, wilderness areas, marine and terrestrial habitats, and sites of historic or scientific interest. Australia has five major zoos: Taronga Park, Sydney; Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens; Adelaide Zoo; Perth Zoo; and the Western Plains Zoo, an open-range park at Dubbo, New South Wales. Native fauna parks include the Cleland National Park, South Australia; Sir Colin Mackenzie Zoological Park, Victoria; and the Currumbin Sanctuary, Queensland, where friendly perching parrots almost envelop visitors.
Australia Fact Summary
Official Name. Commonwealth of Australia.
Coat of Arms. A shield, bearing the coats of arms of the 6 states of Australia, flanked by a kangaroo on the left and an emu on the right. The background is filled in with golden wattle blossoms. A 7-pointed star above the shield represents the states and territories. Granted in 1912. National Emblems. Kangaroo, emu, and golden wattle.
Motto. Advance Australia.
Anthem. ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
Border. Coast–17,365 miles (27,945 kilometers).
Natural Regions. Great Western Plateau, Central-Eastern Lowlands, Eastern Highlands (Great Dividing Range), Australian Alps.
Major Ranges. Australian Alps, Flinders Ranges, Great Western Tiers, Blue Mountains. Notable Peaks. Mount Kosciusko, 7,310 feet (2,228 meters); Mount Wellington, 4,167 feet (1,270 meters).
Major Rivers. Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee.
Major Lakes. Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, Lake Gairdner.
Major Islands. Tasmania, Melville.
Climate. Central and southern Queensland are subtropical; north and central New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania are warm temperate; Northern Australia has a wet season from November to March. Most rain falls during winter.
Population (1996 estimate). 18,287,000; 6.2 persons per square mile (2.4 persons per square kilometer); 85 percent urban, 15 percent rural (1995 estimate).
Vital Statistics (rate per 1,000 population). Births–14.1; deaths–6.9; marriages–6.0. Life Expectancy (at birth). Males–75.4 years; females–81.1 years.
Official Language. English.
Ethnic Groups. European, aboriginal, Asian.
Major Religions. Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity.
MAJOR CITIES (1995 estimate)
Sydney (3,772,700). Capital of New South Wales; oil refining; mercantile port; transport equipment; foods and beverages; fabricated metals; printing; chemicals; Opera House; Anzac Memorial; St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral (see Sydney, Australia).
Melbourne (3,218,100). Capital of Victoria; metal processing; engineering; textile and clothing manufacture; food processing; papermaking; building materials; chemicals; Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Flinders Street Railway Station; Treasury Gardens (see Melbourne, Australia).
Brisbane (1,489,100). Capital and port of Queensland; engineering; food processing; shipbuilding; lumber; rubber goods; automobiles; cement; fertilizer; petroleum refining; University of Queensland; Parliament House (see Brisbane, Australia).
Perth (1,262,600). Capital of Western Australia; banking and insurance center; paint; furniture; sheet metal; cement; rubber; tractors; fertilizer; paper; automobiles; nickel and petroleum refining; Kings Park; Perry Lakes Stadium; Coolgardie-Kalgoorlie gold mines (see Perth, Australia).
Adelaide (1,081,000). Capital of South Australia; automobile parts; machinery; textiles; chemicals; transportation hub; Adelaide Festival of Arts; St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral; State War Memorial (see Adelaide, Australia).
Newcastle (466,000). Industrial and shipping center; coal; iron and steel; textiles; wood fiber; electrical equipment; zircon mining; fertilizers; University of Newcastle; College of Advanced Education; War Memorial Cultural Centre.
Canberra-Queanbeyan (331,800). Capital of Australia; light industry; tourist trade; National Library of Australia; Australian National Gallery; Mount Stromlo Observatory; Church of St. John the Baptist; Australian War Memorial (see Canberra, Australia).
Gold Coast-Tweed (326,900). Resort area includes such famous resorts as Surfers Paradise, Currumbin, Mermaid Beach, and Broadbeach; surfing; swimming; fishing; wildlife reserves.
Wollongong (253,600). Commercial, railway, and educational center; fishing; coal processing; steel manufacturing; copper refining; brick making; food processing; St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Hobart (194,700). Capital of Tasmania; industrial, trade, and communications hub; textiles; chemicals; cement; confectionery; paper pulp; metal products; fruit and jam processing; Wrest Point Casino; St. George’s Church; Theatre Royal; Anglesea Barracks (see Hobart, Australia).
Chief Agricultural Products. Crops–wheat, sugarcane, cotton, barley, grapes, potatoes, apples, bananas, oats, tomatoes, oranges, rice, sorghum. Livestock–sheep, cattle, pigs, poultry.
Chief Mined Products. Iron ore, bauxite, zinc, lead, copper, tin, gold, diamonds, coal, petroleum, natural gas.
Chief Manufactured Products. Cement, pig iron, textile floor coverings, woven cotton and woolen cloth, beer, electric motors, refrigerators, motor vehicles.
Foreign Trade. Imports, 52%; exports, 48%.
Chief Imports. Machinery, basic manufactures, paper and paper products, nonferrous metals, transport equipment, chemicals, mineral fuels and lubricants, food and live animals. Chief Exports. Metal ores and metal scrap, textile fibers, cereals, meat, mineral fuels and lubricants, petroleum, natural gas, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals.
Chief Trading Partners. United States, Japan, Germany, New Zealand.
Monetary Unit. 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents.
Public Schools. The governments of the Australian states and the Northern Territory administer and fund the majority of primary, secondary, and technical education. They also have special responsibilities for educational and assistance programs for aboriginal people. Compulsory School Age. Attendance is compulsory from ages 6 to 15 (16 years in Tasmania).
Literacy. 99.5 percent of population.
Leading Universities. Australian National University; University of Melbourne; University of Adelaide; University of Tasmania; Murdoch University, Perth; Griffith University, Brisbane; University of New South Wales; Macquarie University, Sydney; Latrobe University, Melbourne.
Notable Libraries. National Library of Australia; Parliamentary Library; State Library of New South Wales; State Library of Victoria.
Notable Museums and Art Galleries. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery, Darwin; Royal Botanic Gardens and Australian Museum, Sydney; National Maritime Museum, Sydney; Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery; Ballarat Art Gallery; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Form of Government. Federal parliamentary state.
Constitution. Took effect Jan. 1, 1901.
Sovereign. British monarch represented by governor-general.
Governor-General. Appointed by British monarch on advice of local government ministers; acts on advice of Federal Executive Council.
Prime Minister. Leader of majority party in Parliament; term, as long as party retains majority.
Cabinet. Selected by prime minister from House of Representatives.
Parliament. Senate and House of Representatives; annual sessions. Senate–76 members, elected by universal suffrage; term, 6 years. House of Representatives–148 elected members; term, 3 years.
Judiciary. High Court of Australia–chief justice and 6 other justices; term, life, with retirement at age 70. Federal Court, Family Court, state courts, industrial tribunals.
Political Divisions. 6 states–New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia; 2 territories–Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory. Voting Qualification. Age 18.