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World > Australia > Australia > People (Notes)

Australia - People (Notes)


PEOPLE
Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people generally referred to today as Aboriginals and Torres Straits Islanders, arrived more than 40,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained static--depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons--their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged from one person per square mile along the coasts to one person per 35 square miles in the arid interior. When Capt. James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain in 1770, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. The aboriginal population currently numbers 455,031, representing about 2.3% of the population. Since the end of World War II, the government and the public have made efforts to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs.

Immigration has been a key to Australia's development since the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations, most settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook similar to those of Americans. However, since the end of World War II, the population has more than doubled; non-European immigration, mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, has increased significantly since 1960 through an extensive, planned immigration program. From 1945 through 2000, nearly 5.9 million immigrants settled in Australia, and about 80% have remained; nearly three out of every 10 Australians are foreign-born. Britain and Ireland have been the largest sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia.

Australia's humanitarian and refugee admissions of about 12,000 per year are in addition to the normal immigration program. In recent years, refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia have comprised the largest element in Australia's refugee program.

Although Australia has scarcely more than three people per square kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries. Less than 2.5% of the population lives in remote or very remote areas.

Cultural Achievements
Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but distinctive Australian features have evolved from the environment, aboriginal culture, and the influence of Australia's neighbors. The vigor and originality of the arts in Australia--films, opera, music, painting, theater, dance, and crafts--are achieving international recognition.

Australian actors such as Nicole Kidman, Rachel Griffiths, Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman, and Heath Ledger have achieved enormous popularity in the United States. Australian movies and directors such as Peter Weir and Philip Noyes, the conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, and singers such as Olivia Newton-John, children's musicians The Wiggles, AC/DC, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Nellie Melba, and Kylie Minogue, also are well known.

Australia has had a widely respected school of painting since the early days of European settlement, and Australians with international reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Pro Hart, and Arthur Boyd. Writers who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, Peter Carey, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Australian Dollar Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Australian Dollar Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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