The quality of life enjoyed by Australians is one of the highest in the world. The high quality education system, clean environment, great health services and sub-tropical weather system all help to make Australia a fantastic place to live.
Australia’s diverse lifestyle and culture reflect its liberal democratic traditions and values, geographic closeness to the Asia–Pacific region and the cultural and social influences of the millions of migrants who have settled in Australia since the 1950’s.
Australia is a product of a unique blend of established traditions and new influences. The country’s original inhabitants, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, are the custodians of one of the world’s oldest continuing cultural traditions. They have been living in Australia for at least 40 000 years and possibly up to 60 000 years.
The rest of Australia’s people are migrants or descendants of migrants who have arrived in Australia from about 200 countries since Great Britain established the first European settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788.
In 1945, Australia’s population was only 7 million and was mainly Anglo–Celtic. Since then, more than 6.5 million migrants, including 675 000 refugees, have settled in Australia, significantly broadening its social and cultural profile.
Today Australia has a population of nearly 23 million people. At 2009, about 25.6 per cent of the estimated resident population comprised those born overseas. Australian Bureau of Statistics projections from the 2006 census of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suggest and Indigenous population of 575,552 people at 30 June 2011.
Many of the people who have come to Australia since 1945 were motivated by a commitment to family, or a desire to escape poverty, war or persecution. The first waves of migrants and refugees came mostly from Europe. Subsequent waves have come from the Asia–Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa.
Migrants have enriched almost every aspect of Australian life, from business to the arts, from cooking to comedy and from science to sport. They, in turn, have adapted to Australia’s tolerant, informal and broadly egalitarian society.
By far the largest part of Australia is semi-arid or desert, about 40% of the landmass and covered by sand dunes. Australia’s climate varies widely. The south-west and south-east have moderately fertile soil and temperate climates. The climate in the northern part of the country is tropical and varies between grasslands, part desert and tropical rainforests.
Australia’s weather system is ruled by the sinking, hot air of the subtropical high pressure belt, moving north and south with the seasons causing the rainfall pattern over Australia to be highly seasonal. Seasonal lows and highs in many parts of Australia can be great with temperatures ranging from over 50C to well below zero.
Rainfall in Australia is the lowest of the seven continents and is variable, with frequent droughts lasting many seasons. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, 80% of the land has a rainfall less than 600mm (24 inches) in a year and 50% receive less than 300mm (12 inches).
Snow can fall in the mountains of Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory. There is a regular snow season in several areas which have seasonal ski tourism industries.
Australia’s health care is provided by both government and private institutions. The current system, known as Medicare coexists with a private health system and was founded in 1984.
Each state in government manages the school system within their state. They provide funds and regulation for their schools. Public schools and private schools both exist in each state. Curriculums taught in each state or school vary but the learning areas are the same in all.
Each state has a Vocational Education and Training (VET) or Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system. VET prepares people for work in a career that does not need a university degree. Each state manages their system and meets at a national level to coordinate their effort. VET is transferable between all states. Study done in one state gains the same status in another state. Usually VET/TAFE course takes two years of study.
Australia’s national government provides the funding for universities within all states. Each is independent in its governance. They set their courses and course content. Courses must be endorsed by professional bodies. University courses usually take three or four years of study.
In the work place employers use agreed courses and outcomes to set standards of training for employment. Many parts of industry and business provide ongoing work place training for their employees. Some of this training can count towards a qualification.
People from overseas can gain recognition of their training which can help them to get employment.