Facts about Australia
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania and a number of other islands in the Southern, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. Australia is the driest inhabited continent, the flattest, and has the oldest and least fertile soils. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the continent have a temperate climate. The majority of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.
Australia has a prosperous, Western-style mixed economy, with a per capita GDP slightly higher than the UK, Germany and France. The country was ranked third in the United Nations' 2006 Human Development Index and sixth in The Economist worldwide quality-of-life index 2005.
Most of the estimated 20.6 million Australians are descended from nineteenth- and twentieth-century European settlers, the majority from Great Britain and Ireland. In 2001, the five largest groups of the 23.1% of Australians who were born overseas were from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam and China.
English is the national language and is spoken and written in a distinct variety known as Australian English. It is the only language spoken in the home for around 80% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Chinese languages, Italian and Greek.
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