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Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere. It is located in Oceania, in the southern hemisphere, occupying the entirety of the continent situated between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean as well as numerous islands, most notably the island state of Tasmania. Neighboring nations include Indonesia to the northwest, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to the northeast, and New Zealand to the southeast. Antarctica lies to the distant south.
It was established on January 1, 1901 as a British colony. The population reached 20 million in 2005, which is mostly concentrated in its largest cities; Sydney (4.2 million), Melbourne (3.6 million), Brisbane (1.7 million), Perth (1.4 million), and its capital is Canberra (323,000).
Australia is slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous states of the United States. Its total area is 7,686,850 square kilometers, of which 68,920 square kilometers are water. Australian territory and dependencies include thousands of islands that vary greatly in size and proximity.
Australia holds a prominent place as a leader in the modern creation science movement. Dr. Carl Wieland established the Creation Science Association in 1977 as the first creationist organization in Australia. In 1980 it joined with the Creation Science Educational Media Services started in the late 1970s by Mr. Ken Ham (now president of Answers in Genesis-US) and Mr. John Mackay. The new organization was known as the Creation Science Foundation (CSF). CSF adopted the Answers In Genesis name around 1996 after opening an office in the USA. AiG then expanded to New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and South Africa, each being a separate autonomous organization, but working closely together. The Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, and South African organizations changed their name to Creation Ministries International. John Mackay founded and remains the current director of an international organization called Creation Research, which has teams located in Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Canada, Hungary and the U.K.
Roman Catholics represent 27 percent of the population; Anglicans, 21 percent; other Christian denominations, 20 percent; and non-Christian faiths, 5 percent. Australians claiming no religious affiliation represent 16 percent of the population, while another 12 percent choose not to state their religious affiliation.
- School in clear over teaching creation A Christian school in Australia that teaches a biblical view of creation in science classes has been cleared of breaching state curriculum requirements for the teaching of evolution. The Sydney Morning Herald. December 9, 2008
Australia’s climate is subtropical arid. The north has hot, humid, and rainy summers and dry, warm winters. In the south, summers are dry and sunny, and winters are mild and rainy. Except on the eastern coast, rainfall is generally low. Average annual rainfall ranges from 325.6 millimeters in Alice Springs to 1,847.1 millimeters in Darwin. The average daily maximum temperature ranges from 17.2º C to 32.1º C. The average daily minimum temperature ranges from 6.7º C to 23.4º C.
Australia has significant deposits of coal, natural gas, petroleum, and various minerals, including bauxite, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, nickel, silver, tungsten, uranium, and zinc. Only 6 percent of the Australian landmass is arable, and less than 1 percent is dedicated to permanent crops. The remaining 93 percent of the land mass is arid and nutrient poor. As of 2002, 10 percent of Australia’s environment was protected under various forms of legislation.
In 2005 Australia’s population reached 20 million, a major milestone for a country that is underpopulated by world standards. In 2003 (the most recent year for which detailed figures are available), Australia’s population was slightly less than 19.9 million, with an annual growth rate of 1.2 percent. Most of Australia’s residents live in two widely separated coastal regions on the east and southwest coasts. Population density is low, at 2.6 persons per square kilometer. Nevertheless, Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world; less than 15 percent of the population lives in rural areas. The most populous state in 2003 was New South Wales, with some 6.6 million residents; the least populous was Tasmania, with approximately 477,000 residents. Population density is highest in the Australian Capital Territory at 137 persons per square kilometer and lowest in the Northern Territory at 0.16 persons per square kilometer. At the end of 2003, 89,437 permanent settlers arrived in Australia, and the country hosted some 22,800 refugees. That same year, 48,148 persons departed Australia permanently. Nearly two out of every seven Australians are foreign-born.
Australia is an independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations, which is headed by the British monarch. Australia recognizes the sovereignty of the British monarch, who is represented in Australia by a governor general. Australia’s political system is a parliamentary democracy that operates according to the Westminster model. The main features of the Westminster system are that the majority in the lower house of parliament forms the government and appoints the prime minister, who selects a cabinet accountable to the lower house. The minority parties form a loyal opposition. Australia’s government adheres to federalism, whereby power is divided between the national government (also known as the commonwealth) and the states.
Australia’s market economy charted a fourteenth consecutive year of positive growth in 2004, and growth in early 2005, although somewhat cooler, remained robust. Recent growth has been buoyed by rising demand for commodities that Australia has in abundance and that China requires for its surging economy. China and Australia, natural economic partners (China needs raw materials, and Australia needs manufactured goods), are pursuing a free-trade agreement. In January 2005, a free-trade agreement between Australia and the United States went into force. The services sector accounts for 68.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP); mining and agricultural services (only 7 percent of GDP combined) account for 57 percent of Australia’s goods and services exports. Manufacturing, in decline for decades, accounts for just 11 percent of GDP. Since the 1980s, Australia has replaced its import substitution economy with an export-oriented one, in the process instituting key reforms such as reducing high tariffs, floating the Australian dollar, and improving the integration of state economies into a federal system. These reforms, along with consistent positive economic indicators (including high and rising per capita income, rising productivity, low unemployment, low inflation, and consistent GDP growth), are the foundation of Australia’s economic prosperity.
The original inhabitants, who have descendants to this day, are known as aborigines. In the eighteenth century, the aboriginal population was about 300,000. The aborigines, who have been described alternately as nomadic hunter-gatherers and fire-stick farmers (known for using fire to clear the brush and attract grass-eating animals instead of cultivating the land), settled primarily in the well-watered coastal areas. Some observers believe that poor treatment of the environment by aborigines over many centuries may have led to the barren nature of much of the Australian interior. Higher forms of mammals never reached Australia because the land bridge from Asia ceased to exist.
The period of European discovery and settlement began on August 23, 1770, when Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy took possession of the eastern coast of Australia in the name of George III. In 1779 Joseph Banks recommended Botany Bay, named after the profusion of new plants found there, as a site for a penal settlement. Transportation of convicts eventually brought a total of about 160,000 prisoners to Australia. The initial character of a penal colony lasted for about 60 years in the areas of major original settlement.
The Australian colonies of New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria achieved self-government during 1855 and 1856. Queensland received a constitution similar to that of New South Wales when it was separated from the latter and established as a new colony in 1859. Western Australia remained under the old system owing to its small population and limited economic growth. Democratic political practices developed rapidly after the new constitutions came into force.
Sites of Interest
- Christian Astonomers and Christian Astronomy
- Creation Ministries International
- Creation Research
- Creation Tips Creationology for Christians
- Reasons to Believe Australia Chapter
- Reasons to Believe Chapter in New Zealand