Australia is the Earth’s smallest continent, but the sixth-largest country in the world. It is an island situated in the southern hemisphere between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas.
Its nearest neighbor in the north is New Guinea from which Australia is separated by the Torres Strait. Along the east coast we can see the Great Barrier Reef, which is the biggest coral reef on Earth. The nearest islands are, besides Tasmania, the King Islands and Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, Kangaroo Island in the Gulf of St. Vincent, Melville Island in the north, and Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The geography of the country is extremely diverse including three deserts - the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert and the Great Victoria Desert. The next part of Australia is in the Central-Eastern Lowland. It is mostly covered by tropical forests and savannah with occasional creeks and rivers, which flow into lakes such as Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, and Lake Gairdner. The eastern part of the Central-Eastern Lowlands is made up of lowland with the biggest river system (the Murray and the Darling Rivers) in Australia. The third basic Australian area is the Australian Cordilleras which run along the eastern coast of Australia and continue into Tasmania. Their northern part, the Great Diving Range, begins on the York Peninsula. The New England Range and the Blue Mountains continue into the Australian Alps with the highest mountain of the whole continent, Mt. Kosciusco. The most interesting place is Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith. It is located in Western Australia.
Thanks to a different historic development, Australia has some animals that cannot be seen in the rest of the world, such as the kangaroo, the koala (which eats eucalyptus leaves), the dingo, the platypus, the Tasmanian devil, etc.
The population of Australia is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts. Australia consists of six states, two major mainland territories, and other minor territories. The states are New South Wales, Queenslansd, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Australia’s native inhabitants, the Aborigines, arrived in Australia at least 40,000 years ago according to present evidence. The first European sightings of Australia were made by a Dutchman, Willem Janszoon, on the Duyfken (Little Dove). Later that year, Louis Vaez de Torres sailed through the Torres Strait, named after him. Both captains have been recorded as having sighted the Cape York Peninsula. The journey around Australia in 1644 by Abel Tasman established that Australia was made up of four coasts: North, West, East and South.
The Australian state of Tasmania was named after this famous explorer. The wave of immigration began in 1788, after Captain James Cook had claimed New South Wales as a British colony in 1770. Britain decided to use its new outpost as a penal colony. The First Fleet of 11 ships carried about 1500 people – half of them convicts. The fleet arrived in Sydney Harbor on 26 January 1788, and it is on this day every year that Australia Day is celebrated.
The 19th century was the age of exploration. The idea of independence appeared as early as in the first half of the 19th century. Things of common interest to the colonies were discussed irregularly and it was not until 1891 that the proposition of a federal constitution was made. This document led the British Parliament to agree with the constitutional law and on September, 1900, Queen Victoria proclaimed the Commonwealth of Australia to be recognized from January, 1901.