Overview as a country Manual Austalia


Coming to Australia to study can be both an exciting and overwhelming experience for many students. As an education agent, you can help your students be prepared for their new life here. It’s important that you can reassure them about the benefits of studying in a relaxed, safe, and multicultural society.

It is preferred that you have a better understanding of Australia, this will help you deal with its culture, laws, and people during your work as a Stars N Beyond representative.


You’ll briefly look at four periods of Australian history:


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people possess the most ancient living culture on Earth, having inhabited the land for an estimated 80,000 years before it was colonised.

Traditional Aboriginal culture and social organisation depended on a complex system of rules and kinship networks. The cultural practices are expressed, preserved and passed on through a rich oral tradition.


The European exploration of Australia started in the 1600s, when Dutch explorers visited the northern and western coasts of Australia. The first British explorer to the area was William Dampier, who landed on the northwest coast in 1688.

In 1770, James Cook landed on the eastern coast of Australia, naming it ‘New South Wales’ and claiming the territory for Great Britain.

European settlement of Australia began in 1788, when Britain established a penal colony on the east coast. British colonisation aimed to use Australia as a base for trade with South East Asia and China, and also relieve the overcrowded prisons in Britain.

Captain Arthur Phillip commanded eleven ships full of convicts, military guards and officials, arriving in Australia on January 18, 1788 at Botany Bay. After 8 days, this group moved a few kilometres north to Port Jackson. Their settlement here later grew into the city of Sydney.

Australia Day (26th of January) is an annual public holiday that commemorates the start of settlement at Port Jackson.


The colonisation of Australia grew rapidly and expanded across the entire continent. Within the next hundred years, additional colonies were established near present day Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, and Melbourne.

Great Britain sent over a further 160,000 convicts to Australia over the following 80 years. The rise of the wool industry and discovery of gold in the mid-1800s also saw many British and Irish settlers arrive voluntarily. Around 40,000 Chinese immigrants came to Australia in search of gold between 1852 and 1889.

In 1850 the British Government gave the colonies the power to make their own laws.

By the end of the 19th century, Australia consisted of six self-governing colonies: New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.


A national government was created on January 1, 1901, an event is known as ‘Federation’.

Australia faced a national challenge when it entered World War I. Soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915. They fought an unsuccessful battle that lasted for 8 months and resulted in 26,111 Australian casualties. Today, ANZAC Day is a national holiday on the 25th of April that commemorates the contributions and sacrifices of all men and women from the armed services.

Almost a million Australians served in World War II. The Australian mainland came under direct attack for the first time as Japanese aircrafts bombed Darwin and Japanese submarines attacked Sydney Harbour. Australia’s vulnerability to an invasion influenced a decision to increase its population and encourage the migration of people from about 200 countries.

In total, about 7 million people have migrated to Australia since the end of WWII (including displaced people).

Today, more than one in four Australians were born overseas. More recently, immigration from Asian countries such as China and India have become more significant.


Population and Culture

In this section you’ll look at:
Population – Multiculturalism – Language – Religion


On 15 November 2021 the resident population of Australia was estimated to be 25,794,976. You can check Australia’s current population by using the Population Clock from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Australia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. This is due to its small population and its large area of approximately 7.7 million square kilometres.

Australians are among the most urbanized people in the world. For example, just over 60% of them live in the capital cities and about 20% live in Sydney.


State / Territory Area (km2) Population Capital City Capital population
NSW 801,150 8,164,100 Sydney 5,312,163
VIC 227,416 6,694,900 Melbourne 5,078,193
QLD 1,730,648 5,174,400 Brisbane 2,514,184
WA 2,529,875 2,661,900 Perth 2,085,973
SA 983,482 1,769,300 Adelaide 1,359,760
TAS 68,401 540,600 Hobart 236,136
ACT 2,358 431,100 Canberra 426,704
NT 1,349,129 246,000 Darwin 147,255
TOTALS 7,688,287 25,689,000 17,160,368


Australians pride themselves on their friendliness and cultural diversity. The population lives in a generally safe, friendly, sophisticated and harmonious society. Many ethnic groups are represented in Australia, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.

  • Over 28% of Australians were born in another country.
  • 21% of Australians have at least one parent who was born overseas.
  • Australian migrants are from more than 190 countries;
  • 2.8% of Australians are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.


Although English is the official language in Australia, there are more than 200 languages are spoken in Australian households.

Some interesting figures from the 2016 Australian Census of Population and Housing:

  • more than one-fifth of Australians speak a language other than English at home (4,858,804 people)
  • over 64,000 Australians speak an Indigenous language at home
  • about 7% of the total population speaks one of the six most commonly spoken languages (other

than English) at their home.

The ABS provide these statistics about the number and proportion of people who spoke a language other than English at home in 2016:


Australia is predominantly a Christian country; however, all religions are represented in Australian society. Australia’s respect the freedom of people to practise their choice of religion. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities.

Climate and Environment

Students may ask you about this kind of information: Temperature – Rainfall – Biodiversity – Natural Wonders


Australia has a relatively warm climate. However, extreme temperatures have been recorded such as:

  • 53°C at Cloncurry (Queensland) in 1889,
  • -23°C at Charlotte Pass (NSW) in 1994.

These temperature differences are revealed in the average temperatures for Australia’s capital cities in this table (from the Australian Bureau of Statistics):


AUSTRALIAN CITY Max (°C) Min (°C) Max (°C) Min (°C)
Adelaide (SA) 28.7 16.8 15.2 7.4
Brisbane (Qld) 29.2 21.2 20.6 9.5
Canberra (ACT) 27.7 13.3 11.5 -0.1
Darwin (NT) 31.8 24.8 30.7 19.4
Hobart (Tas) 21.8 12.5 12.2 4.7
Melbourne (Vic) 25.8 15.4 13.9 6.8
Perth (WA) 31.9 17.2 17.9 8.4
Sydney (NSW) 26.1 19.4 17.2 8.6

Overall Australian cities tend to have mild climates in comparison to other cities in English-speaking countries. The following average temperatures have been compiled from World Weather Information Service:


WORLD CITY Max (°C) Min (°C) Max (°C) Min (°C)
Sydney (Australia) 26.1 19.4 17.2 8.6
London (England) 22.3 13.7 7.2 2.4
New York (USA) 28.2 20.1 3.1 -3.9
Auckland (New Zealand) 23.6 15.9 14.0 6.9
Toronto (Canada) 26.4 17.9 -1.1 -7.1


Australia has a low average annual rainfall but high falls occur in the north. The rainfall zones are shown below from the Bureau of Meteorology:

The northern and eastern regions have wet summers and that central Australia is very dry. This is revealed in the data of the rainfall in Australian cities as listed below (from the Australian Bureau of Statistics).


Dec / Jan / Feb
Jun / Jul / Aug
Sep / Oct / Nov
TOTAL (mm)
Adelaide 59.9 129.8 227.6 129.4 546.7
Brisbane 452.5 349.7 150.4 237.6 1190.2
Canberra 166.8 144.2 134.0 185.0 630.0
Darwin 1106.9 503.9 10.1 226.1 1847.0
Hobart 143.8 124.7 150.4 147.6 566.5
Melbourne 162.5 150.9 148.3 192.9 654.6
Perth 38.1 145.2 416.9 147.4 747.6
Sydney 340.6 388.9 288.4 258.6 1276.5


Initially, Australia was part of a larger continent but about 40 million years ago it separated fully and became an isolated continent.

After this separation, marsupial mammals best adapted to the Australian environment and eventually dominated it. Australia is one of the few places on Earth to have such a large number of marsupials, and to have the only two monotreme mammals. These two types of fauna can be explained as follows:

  • Marsupial mammals give birth to their young and carry them in a pouch. Examples – Kangaroo, Koala, Wombat.
  • Monotreme mammals lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. Examples – Platypus, Echidna.

Natural Wonders

Australian landscape consists mainly of low plateaus, which are sectioned off by several rugged mountain ranges. The Great Dividing Range is the longest mountain range that starts in central Victoria and ends in Northern Queensland and is several thousand kilometres in length.

The landscape in the tropical north consists of rainforest that leads into large areas of grasslands. These eventually merge into the central deserts, which are the largest in the world outside of the Sahara. This part of Australia is called the Red Centre, because of the unusual red colour of its sand.

Three unique natural wonders are described here:

  1. Great Barrier Reef
    The Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2000 km and covers an area of almost 35 million hectares on the north-east continental shelf of Australia. It runs from north of Fraser Island to the tip of Cape York and provides habitats for many forms of marine life.

The Reef is a scuba divers paradise with 2,900 individual reefs, 71 coral islands, 350 different species of coral, and over 1,500 species of fish. Also, it provides a major breeding ground for humpback whales and a feeding ground for endangered species such as dugongs and turtles.

  1. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park covers 132,566 hectares close to the centre of Australia and is owned by the Anangu Aboriginal people. It contains a range of remarkable geological and landform features including the spectacular monoliths of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).

Uluru has been the focus of religious, cultural, territorial and economic inter-relations among the Aboriginal peoples of the Western Desert for thousands of years. It is 340 metres high and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres.

Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads and rock formations consist of 36 steep-sided domes. Mount Olga is its highest peak at 500 metres high.

  1. Tasmanian Wilderness

The island state of Tasmania is separated from mainland Australia. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia. It covers about 20 per cent of Tasmania.

This area contains rocks of every geological period and is a major centre for plant diversity. Its Huon pines, which can be up to 2000 years old, are some of the oldest trees in the world.


Australia is divided politically into six States and two Territories.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – Canberra

Canberra is Australia’s federal capital and the largest inland city. Set in a broad valley in the southern tablelands of New South Wales, Canberra is a well-planned lakeside city of parklands, impressive restaurants, beautiful bushland and leafy suburbs.

Canberra is only a three-hour drive or a 45-minute flight south-west of Sydney. It also has many national attractions, embassies and public buildings.

Canberra is famous for:

  • Parliament House.
  • The Australian War Memorial.
  • The National Gallery of Australia.
  • The National Museum of Australia.


New South Wales (NSW) – Sydney

New South Wales was founded in 1788. NSW is the most populous State in Australia. It has dense forests, alpine country, deserts, and golden-sand beaches and bays on its North Coast.

Australia’s longest river system, the Murray-Darling, is situated in this State. Agriculturally, it is renowned for its sheep and beef industry.

NSW is famous for:

  • The Sydney Opera House.
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • The Blue Mountains – a national park about 1 hour west of Sydney.

Northern Territory (NT) – Darwin

The Northern Territory is known for its central desert called the ‘Red’ Centre. Uluru is the most famous geological feature in this region.

Its capital, Darwin, was established in 1869 as a port and centre for the cattle industry. Mineral wealth and tourism has become more important, and Darwin has recently reinvented itself as a gateway to Asia.

NT is famous for:

  • Kakadu National Park – east of Darwin.
  • Alice Springs – a town in the centre of the Northern Territory.
  • Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park – south-east of Darwin.

Queensland (Qld) – Brisbane

Queensland takes up about one-fifth of the area of Australia. Along its eastern coastline are fertile plains and river valleys, which sometimes extend up to 200 km inland. The Great Dividing Range borders these lowlands, stretching south from Cape York to the New South Wales border. The major agricultural products are tropical fruits, beef and wool.

Brisbane was settled by convicts in 1825 and is known for its sunny days and tropical weather. Just north of Brisbane are the beaches and coastal lakes of the Sunshine Coast, and to the south is the popular tourist destination of the Gold Coast.

Queensland is famous for:

  • The rainforests of Far North Queensland.
  • The Great Barrier Reef – a more than 2000 km long coral reef north-east of the mainland.
  • Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world, which is 3 hours north of Brisbane.
  • The Gold Coast – a major holiday destination for national and international tourists.

South Australia (SA) – Adelaide

South Australia is the driest state in Australia. Over 60% of it is desert and 80% receives less that 250mm of rain per year. However, the south-east corner has dry warm summers and cool wet winters. Along with rich fertile soil, this climate makes it ideal for growing wine.

Adelaide contains some of Australia’s best-preserved Victorian architecture. This gracious city is surrounded by parkland and is home to 73% of South Australians.

SA is famous for:

  • The Barossa Valley – a major wine producing area north-east of Adelaide.
  • Coober Pedy – an opal mining town that is underground.
  • The Adelaide Festival of Arts – held every 2 years.

Tasmania (Tas) – Hobart

Tasmania was cut off from mainland Australia at the end of the last Ice Age, and it is known for its unique wildlife, wilderness and unspoiled beauty. The National Parks offer one of the last great wilderness areas in the world. Tasmania’s capital Hobart, was settled in 1803 when the British government in Sydney sent soldiers and convicts there to protect their sealing and whaling interests.

Tasmania has substantial farming, forestry, hydro-electric, mining and fishery industries.

Tasmania is famous for:

  • Port Arthur Historic site – this once was a prison for convicts.
  • The Sydney to Hobart yacht race – starts every year on Dec 26th.
  • Its bushwalking – many wilderness areas are only accessible on foot.

Victoria (Vic) – Melbourne

Victoria is the smallest state on Australia’s mainland but also the fastest growing city. It was settled in 1834 and separated from New South Wales in 1851 at the time when gold was discovered at Ballarat and Bendigo.

Its capital, Melbourne offers colonial and contemporary architecture, beautiful botanical gardens, excellent restaurants and a vibrant artistic community. Melbourne is also considered Australia’s sporting


capital and holds the most famous horse race in Australia each November: the Melbourne Cup. Victoria’s High Country offers some of the best mountain climbing on the continent.

Victoria is famous for:

  • The goldfields of central Victoria.
  • Sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup horse race.
  • The Great Ocean Road – spectacular coastal scenery west of Melbourne.

Western Australia (WA) – Perth

Western Australia is the largest state in Australia. The capital, Perth is situated on the Swan River and has all the modern conveniences, while maintaining a friendly and relaxed feeling. White sandy beaches are only minutes from the city.

Rich farmland lies inland as well as some of the world’s most productive goldfields. The state’s wealth also includes iron, nickel, wheat and wool.

WA is famous for:

  • Kalgoorlie – a gold mining town located in the Western Desert.
  • Ningaloo Marine Park – 1,200 km north of Perth.
  • Fremantle (20mins south-west of Perth).



Australia has 3 levels of government: Federal – State – Local


Australia is a liberal parliamentary democracy, similar to the USA and UK. It is based on:

  • freedom of speech and association,
  • religious tolerance.

Australia’s written constitution outlines all government activities. For example, the federal government is responsible for foreign relations and trade, defence and immigration. Other aspects of governance are shared between the States and the Federal Government. In particular, Federal and State governments cooperate in administering the laws that govern education.

The Australian government is based on a popularly elected Parliament with two chambers, the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House). The party that holds the majority of seats in the House of Representatives forms the government. However, minority parties often hold the balance of power in the Senate, which serves to review the decisions of the government.

Government Ministers are appointed from the Lower House and Upper House to conduct executive government. Policy decisions are made in Cabinet meetings.

Voting in Australia is compulsory and about 90% of voters participate in federal elections. Elections usually occur every 2.5 to 3 years.

The Federal Government’s leader is called the Prime Minister. Currently, the main political parties and people involved in the federal government are summarised here:



Prime Minister

– The Hon. Scott Morrison
– a member of the Liberal Party of Australia

Leader of the Opposition
– Mr Bill Shorten
– a member of the Australian Labor Party
Deputy Prime Minister
– The Hon. Josh Frydenberg – a member of The Nationals
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
– Ms Tanya Plibersek
– a member of the Australian Labor Party

Although Australia is an independent nation, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain is formally Queen of Australia and is the constitutional monarch. The Queen accepts the advice of the elected Australian Government to appoint a Governor-General, who represents her. In the States, the Queen is represented by State Governors.



Each State and Territory has its own democratically elected government and leader:

  • the State Government leader is called the Premier,
  • the Territory leader is called the Chief Minister.

State parliaments are subject to the national Constitution as well as their State constitutions. In practice, the federal and state governments cooperate in many areas such as education, transport, health, and law enforcement.


Local government councils control the urban and rural areas, taking care of issues such as local transport, rubbish collection and town planning. Local councils are active in providing services such as libraries, childcare services as well as activities and events. Local councils also promote their regions as study and tourist destinations, so they sometimes have interaction with education agents. The leader of a council is called the Mayor.


Useful Information

Government sites

  • Australia – Country Information (DFAT)
  • Australian Demographic Statistics, March 2011 (ABS)
  • Public Holidays

Tourism sites

  • Australian Capital Tourism Corporation
  • Tourism New South Wales
  • Northern Territory Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Queensland
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Tasmania
  • Tourism Victoria
  • Western Australian Tourism Commission

Weather Information

  • Rainfall and Temperature graphs (BOM)
  • you also can find weather information about cities around the world from World Climate.

Standard Times

Australia has both Standard Times and Daylight Saving Times (note that GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time).


Eastern Standard Time (EST) New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria
+ 10 5:00pm
Central Standard Time (CST) South Australia Northern Territory + 9.5 4:30pm
Western Standard Time (WST) Western Australia +8 3:00pm


Daylight Saving Times

Eastern Daylight/Summer Time (EDT) New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria
+ 11 8:00pm
Central Daylight/Summer Time (CDT) South Australia + 10.5 7:30pm
Western Daylight/Summer Time (WDT) Western Australia + 9.0 6:00pm
No Daylight Saving Times – use Standard Times Queensland Northern Territory + 10 + 9.5 7:00pm 6:30pm

Refer to the Bureau of Meteorology for the start and finish dates of daylight saving times.