Australia’s formal name is the Commonwealth of Australia. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy – ‘constitutional’ because the powers and procedures of the Australian Government are defined by a written constitution, and ‘monarchy’ because Australia’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. The following websites have more information related to how Australia is governed.
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and its ocean territory is the world’s third largest. Nearly seven million square kilometres, or 91 per cent of Australia, is covered by native vegetation. Although this figure may seem high, many of Australia’s desert landscapes are covered by native plants such as saltbush, albeit sparsely. For tens of thousands of years, the lives and sense of cultural identity of Indigenous Australians were inextricably linked to the land, its forms, flora and fauna. Today, the identity of all Australians is shaped by a relationship with the natural environment. Australia is one of the most urbanised and coast-dwelling populations in the world. More than 80 per cent of Australians live within 100 kilometres of the coast.
Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today. Almost one in four Australian residents were born outside of Australia and many more are first or second generation Australians, the children and grandchildren of recently arrived migrants and refugees. This wide variety of backgrounds, together with the culture of Indigenous Australians who have lived on the Australian continent for more than 50,000 years, have helped create a uniquely Australian identity and spirit.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are complex and diverse. The Indigenous cultures of Australia are the oldest living cultural history in the world - they go back at least 50,000 years and some argue closer to 65,000 years. One of the reasons Aboriginal cultures have survived for so long is their ability to adapt and change over time. It was this affinity with their surroundings that goes a long way to explaining how Aboriginal people survived for so many millennia.
This article about Australian Aboriginal culture and heritage includes information about the land, national parks, languages, kinship, tools, the Dreaming, sacred sites, performance, visual arts and tourism. Relevant online resources provided.
indigenous.gov.au celebrates the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is a gateway to information on Australian Government Indigenous initiatives and programs
Australian Institute of Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AITSIS) aims at furthering understanding of Australian Indigenous cultures, past and present through undertaking and publishing research, and providing access to print and audiovisual collections. AIATSIS is the world’s premier institution for information and research about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, past and present.
Australia's contemporary arts are as unique and diverse as the society and continent they come from. They reflect an ancient landscape that is home to both the world's oldest continuous cultural traditions and also to a rich mix of migrant cultures.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists alike respond to the imaginative challenges Australia presents in diverse ways and have developed new modes of expression that have brought Australia's art and culture to international attention.
Australian arts and artists have much to say and many unique ways to say it - Australia's physical isolation, rich Indigenous artistic traditions and diverse cultural influences have created a whole range of vibrant new art to share with the world.
The Australian film industry has a reputation for innovation and quality, and for producing unique films with an Australian flavour that have global appeal. Australia is increasingly the destination of choice for foreign film producers attracted by our diverse landscapes for location shooting, dozens of sound stages and studios, music scoring and post-production facilities, flexible and professional crews and world-renown actors.
Australia’s artists include world figures such as Sydney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Brett Whiteley and Fred Williams. Highly regarded writers are notably the Nobel Prize winner Patrick White, Booker Prize winners Peter Carey and Thomas Keneally. But also important are Thea Astley, Robert Drewe, Helen Garner, Rodney Hall, Christina Stead, David Malouf, Frank Moorhouse, Tim Winton and Robert Dessaix.
Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford, George Miller and Gillian Armstrong are well-known Australian directors. Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush are all well-known actors who have served the Australian cinema and have been successful in American and European cinema.
Nick Cave, INXS, AC/DC, Midnight Oil, the Bee Gees and Kylie Minogue are all Australian Rock/Pop musicians famous all over the world.
On a more classical note, the late Dame Joan Sutherland is Australia’s best-known opera diva. But already before her, Nellie Melba - who took her name from her home town of Melbourne - was the world’s biggest opera star at the beginning of the 20th century. She is also rekown for giving her name to two famous dishes: the Peach Melba and the Melba toast.
To find out more about Australian Culture, please check the following websites:
Australia in Brief provides an authoritative overview of Australia's history, the land, its people and their way of life. It also looks at Australia's economic, scientific and cultural achievements and its foreign, trade and defence policies.
Overview of Australia provides information about Australia's trade, foreign relations, economy, environment, government, indigenous peoples, science, and culture.
australia.gov.au is an internet portal that gives access to Australian Government information and services.