Australia's resident population in currently estimated at 22.02 million people and is projected to increase at the rate of one person every 1 minute and 44 seconds. This population growth is based on the assumption that there is one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds, one death every 3 minutes and 32 seconds and a net gain of one international migrant every 1 minute and 23 seconds. (Source: ABS | Australian Population Clock May 2013)
Most Australians are descended from settlers and immigrants from Europe, including the UK, Ireland and Scotland. It is estimated that nearly 25% of Australia's population was born outside of Australia and have ethnic ties spanning over 140 countries. Most Australians who were born overseas were born in the UK, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam or China.
Australia also has an indigenous population of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders that is estimated at approximately 2.5 % of the total population. This estimate is often difficult to verify as a large number of indigenous Australians live in remote communities.
English is the national language of Australia. Australian English has its own rather unique accent and some vocabulary. Much of the Australian English derives from American and British English, though some Australian English has also been adopted in other varieties of English too!
It is estimated that more than 2.4 million people speak another language at home, the most common languages being Chinese, Italian and Greek. Many 1st and 2nd generation Australians are considered bilingual.
There are said to have been hundreds on indigenous languages, though now it is estimated that only about 70 indigenous languages have survived with fewer languages still spoken by all indigenous age groups.
Australia is the considered the world's largest island and has one of the world's lowest population densities with only 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre. Given that the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid and not populated, the vast majority of the population lives along the south-eastern coast line.
Australia is a land of contrasts, from harsh deserts to huge grazing lands, from sweeping golden beaches and exotic coral reefs to mountain ranges, and from tropical rainforests to modern cities. It is renowned for the world's largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef and one of the largest monoliths on earth, Uluru (Ayres Rock).
Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Australia is home to an abundance of diverse animals and plants, many of which are unique to the continent. Among Australia's most well known animals are the kangaroo, koala, platypus and kookaburra.
Australia is a stable democracy, with compulsory voting for those over 18 years of age ensuring a representative government. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of any democracy and Australians have no hesitation in expressing their views on political and controversial issues.
There are three levels of government:
Commonwealth Government or Federal Government
Led by the Prime Minister of Australia, responsibilities at this level of government include nation-wide matters such as defence, trade, foreign affairs and telecommunications.
This level of government is led by various State Premiers and complements the activities of the Commonwealth Government, especially in the areas of education, social welfare and law enforcement.
This level of government is administered by locally-elected councillors. Responsible for municipal activities such as town planning, building regulations and waste disposal.
Common law is the basis of Australia's legal system. The Parliament is based on the Westminster system of government. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth. Elected by the people of Australia, the Commonwealth Government of Australia governs our nation as a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is also the Queen of Australia. Formally, she is the head of state, represented in Australia by the Governor-General.