Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is an Oceanian country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Neighboring countries include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east.
For at least 40,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages grouped into roughly 250 language groups.
After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades; the continent was explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies were established.
On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy comprising six states and several territories. The population of 23.6 million is highly urbanized and heavily concentrated in the eastern states and on the coast. The capital is Canberra and the largest city is Sydney. The currency is Australian Dollar (AUD).
Some interesting facts are:
1. It has the world's 3rd largest ocean territory, spanning three oceans and covering around 12 million square kilometers.
2. Australia was the second country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1902.
3. The wattle was adopted as the national floral emblem in 1912.
4. The world’s oldest fossil, which is about 3.4 billion years old, was found in Australia.
5. Australia is home to the longest fence in the world. It is 5,614 km long, and was originally built to keep dingoes away from fertile land.
6. Australia is the only continent in the world without an active volcano.
7. Melbourne has been ranked the world’s most livable city for the past three years.
8. A gay bar in Melbourne won the right to ban women from the premises, because they made the men uncomfortable.
9. Australia includes the world’s longest stretch of dead-straight railway track, a 297 mile length.
10. Lake Hillier in Australia is a bright pink color and scientists aren't sure why.
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