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The Commonwealth of Australia
is situated in the Southern
Hemisphere and covers an area
of almost 7.7 million square
kilometres, it is approximately
3,200 km wide (or about the
same as Moscow to London).
The country is bounded to the
north by the Timor and Arafura
Seas, to the east by the Coral
and Tasman Seas of the South
Pacific Ocean and to the
south-west by the Indian Ocean.
Australia is made up of the following States and Territories: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, Northern Territory and Canberra (which is the capital).
Geographically, Australia can be divided into four regions:
The Coastal Plains: a series of narrow, fertile belts on forest and farmland, which lie along the whole eastern and south-eastern coast making up the bulk of the farming land.
The Eastern Highlands: a broken chain of mountains averaging around 1,000 meters, known as the Great Dividing Range, running the length of the eastern coast from Cape York in Queensland down to the south-eastern seaboard of Victoria. Some of Australia's highest peaks are in the south-eastern area where they receive more snowfall, some years, than Switzerland. The highest peak is Mount Kosciusko at 2,193m.
The Central Eastern Plain: Stretching through grass and scrubland in western Queensland to the fertile Murray Darling Basin in New South Wales and Victoria
The Western Plateau: Almost three-quarters of the land is an ancient plateau averaging about 300 meters above sea level; this vast arid tableland extends over almost the whole of Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia.
There is also a wide diversity of climate, ranging from tropical in the north to temperate and cool in the south-east and Tasmania. In the central regions desert conditions prevail.
The seasons vary with the latitude but are approximately: Spring (September-October), Summer (November-March), Autumn (April-May) and winter (June-August). In the north the year is divided into wet and dry seasons, the wet seasons occurring in summer with heavy monsoon rains from January to March. In the cooler areas of the extreme south-west, south-east and Tasmania, rainfall is distributed throughout the year, increasing in winter with snow in the highlands.
Most parts of the country enjoy a large measure of sunshine. Perth, capital of Western Australia, has on average eight hours of sunshine a day while all the capital cities enjoy an average of at least five hours. However, temperatures vary considerably and in some capital cities can change very rapidly.
Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne ad Canberra usually have a dry heat in summer with temperatures rising over 38C during heat waves. In Perth, summer afternoons are made bearable by the 'Fremantle Doctor'; a cool humid wind that blows off the Indian Ocean. Sydney and Brisbane have subtropical climates and the humid conditions can be uncomfortable, from early January to mid-March in Sydney and from mid-December to mid-March in Brisbane. Summer in Tasmania is similar to that in north-west Europe.
Winter in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane is generally very pleasant (similar to that of the South of France) but temperatures are lower in Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart. Inland areas experience extremes of both heat and cold; generally the atmosphere is clear and there are long periods of sunshine by day but nights can be very cold with temperatures well below freezing point.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, is the Federal capital and seat of government: Most Commonwealth Government departments have their headquarters in the city. The city is well laid-out and has a number of distinguished buildings; notable are the Australian High Court and the National Gallery, which houses the famous 'Ned Kelly' series of paintings by Sidney Nolan.
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is the largest Australian city. It also the oldest and not so well planned. There are many one-way streets, more than in any other Australian city and so driving can be rather tiresome. It is famous among other things for its harbour, bridge and opera house.
An urban renewal programme is underway in city centres areas such as Paddington where some old houses with iron lacework are being rehabilitated, though many old buildings are being demolished and replaced by blocks of flats. Good transport facilities are available from the city centre to all the inner suburbs, both by road and rail. However, the city is so spread out that many of the outlying suburbs are poorly served by public transport.
Melbourne, capital of Victoria, is situated on the apex of Port Philip Bay, by the banks of the Yarra River. Known as the city of churches, Melbourne is unique in that it is the only capital in the country still using trams as the main method of travel and they are particularly effective when dealing with the rush hour crowds. Both the centre of the city and the suburbs have excellent shopping facilities, and some of the best facilities for sport in the country. It is notable for its many fine parks and gardens both within the inner city and the suburbs.
It was the national capital until the 1920s, and was the country's business and cultural centre until the 1960s. There is great rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, but it scores over the latter in style, high standards of restaurant, shopping facilities, and architecture. It is the most cosmopolitan of Australia's cities due to the large number of immigrants, particularly Jews and Greeks (the largest number outside Athens), from Europe since the Second World War, and most recently Chinese and Vietnamese. In all there are some 170 ethnic groups in the city. Fitzroy is the most heterogeneous district with shops and restaurants from a host of different nationalities.
Brisbane capital of Queensland straddles the broad Brisbane River and is encircled by a chain of hills. The city is one of Australia's largest river ports and its third largest urban centre. Brisbane's border encloses 960 square kilometres and within that area lives nearly half of Queensland's population. It is the largest growing state with 50,000 migrants a year both from other parts of Australia and from overseas. The city is prospering due to its proximity to markets in the Pacific region. Brisbane reflects a strong Californian influence. The average family dwelling is a singe storey house standing in its own plot, often with a swimming pool and boat; the car is an essential means of transport. The city, which is beautifully landscaped, has a fine array of public buildings, excellent shopping facilities, over 100 parks, theatres, cinemas and swimming pools.
Adelaide the capital of South Australia is considered to be one of Australia's best-planned cities. Situated on the banks of the River Torrens, between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the sea, the city is surrounded by spacious parklands, all within walking distances of the city centre. There are numerous beaches along the coast, which are easily accessible. Rundle street is the main centre of cafe society and probably the finest in Australia. Other amenities include plenty of theatres, night-clubs and art galleries. Suburban shopping centres are strategically placed and parking is rarely a problem.
Adelaide was christened the Festival City in 1960, when the first biennial Adelaide Festival of Arts was staged. This festival is now one of Australia's most important cultural events and celebrities from all over the world come to take part in it. Adelaide also has its own Festival Centre built overlooking the Torrens River; it is impressive, functional and futuristic. There is a 2,000 seat concert theatre, a 650 drama theatre, a 350 seat experimental theatre and an outdoor amphitheatre for 12,000. A wine festival is held in the year between the Festival of Arts.
Perth, capital of Western Australia is closer to Singapore than it is Sydney. It lies on the Swan River some 17km from the bustling port of Fremantle and was generally thought to be the most English of any Australian city until the 1960's and Australia's great immigration drive.
It has many fine buildings and commercial houses and is well served with parks and gardens. The city's pride is King's Park, 400 hectares of natural bushland and botanical gardens, lakes and waterfalls on Mount Eliza, only a mile from the city centre. The city's economy is currently booming.
Darwin, a town originally established in 1869 under the name of Palmerston, sits astride a peninsula projecting into a fine natural harbour. The city is expanding rapidly, partly owing to the growth of tourism in the Territory and partly because of commercial development: a Trade Development Zone has been established near the city centre which is currently attracting companies dealing with imports and exports.