Australia Overview  

       Modern Australia developed from British settlement and colonialism on the continent. Australia was granted constitutional independence with the 1901 Constitution and ultimately the severance of formal ties to England in 1931. The original inhabitants of the continent (in a sense, to speak metaphorically) were rightfully discovered with the granting of indigenous rights following the World Wars, though their discovery of the Europeans to say the least came much earlier. Today, Australia continues to be governed by a constitutional monarchy, its Commonwealth government architectured similarly to the U.S. federal system with executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.1   By 2006 census estimates, the country ranks 53rd in the world with a population of 20, 555, 3000. The 2006 estimate of GDP (PPP) was $674.9 billion (17th in the world) with a per capita income of 33,220 (14th among World Bank members). Australia ranks 3rd in the world on the Human Development Index.  English is not the official national language. 2 
       The country has a long tradition of visual arts and literatures inspired by the experience of Australia's rustic landscapes; with the evolving qualities of indigenous culture, it had primarily been characterized as Anglo-Celtic up to the mid-20th century. 3  General demographics also estimate 92% of the population is Caucasian, 7% Asian, and 1% Aboriginal. Seventy-five percent of the people claim to be Christian, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, and 0.5% Jewish. 4 Australia is noted as safe for women travelers, is a popular destination for gays and lesbians, and is accommodating for individuals with disabilities given the country's high "disability awareness." 5  Based upon "mutual respect, shared civic values, participation and a sense of belonging for everyone," Australia's government promotes policies of cultural diversity to unify and strengthen communities as well as business relationships. 6
       Australia is a federalist system with six states under the national government, each with their legislative, executive, and judicial legal powers. Seven territories outside its sovereign borders are governed either by Commonwealth law or through some form of self-government. Local governments attend to general civic planning for the localities with a legislative and executive but no judiciary. 7 The Liberal Party (LP), the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and the conservative Nationalists are the "three political parties [that] dominate the center of the Australian political spectrum." 8  In the early 1990s, Australia experienced a recession with high unemployment.  After over a decade as the majority party, the Labor Party was defeated by conservative politics in 1996. Under the conservative party, "the prominent, divisive issues of refugees (and refugee camps) has seen the majority of Australians hardening their hearts to asylum seekers," and political leadership "on Aboriginal issues has been marked more by confrontation than by sympathy."
       Australia's economy is an advanced market economy that has followed globalist trends, transitioning from import to export driven economies. The country is diversifying its market from traditional mining and agricultural goods to a "mix of high value-added manufactured products, services, and technologies." 10 In 2005 Australia entered into a trade agreement with the United States. Australia has also partnered trade agreements with Singapore and Thailand; negotiations are underway with China and Malaysia. The country supports the U.S. war in Iraq. The Australian, New Zealand, U.S. (ANZUS) treaty is a longstanding regional security alliance. Australia was one of the drafters of the United Nations Charter, and is an active member of regional organizations, including the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the island states of the South Pacific, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).11


1 U.S. Department of State. "Background Note:  Australia." Author, 
Retrieved February 6, 2007,
2 Wikipedia. "Australia." Author, Retrieved February 6, 2007,

3 Ibid.
4 Lonely Planet. "Australia Background Info." Author, Retrieved 
February 6, 2007,

5 Ibid.
6 Australian Government. "About Australia." Author, Retrieved  
February 6, 2007,
7 Ibid.
8 "Background Note: Australia," Op. Cit.
9 "Australia Background Info," Op. Cit.
10 "Background Note: Australia," Op. Cit.
11 "Background Note: Australia," Op. Cit.



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