Australia is an island, and also the sixth largest country in the world, and the smallest continent in the world.
Australia is a relatively new country, one of the youngest on earth. Therefore it has had to do a lot of catching up to be up to the standards of other developed countries, often surpasing them.
As an island, Australia also has many beautiful coastal beaches. Over 70% of Australians now live in cities or towns. Most of this population lives in the eastern and southern coasts, and around Perth in the west. Australia has a very dramatic landscape and is famous for its "Outback," the remote lands of the interior. The Outback covers most of the interior and is too hot, dry and barren to support many people. Eastern Australia consists of large areas of grasslands, used primarily for sheep and cattle ranches.
Australia also has mountainous areas and plateaus scattered throughout the country. The Blue Mountains, on the south-eastern end of Australia, get their name from the blue haze caused by oil droplets given off from the eucalyptus trees. Off the northeast coast of Australia is the Great Barrier Reef which is over 1,900 kilometers of coral. It has developed over the last million years, and is now the largest living structure in the world.
English is the official language, but the way it is spoken and written makes it distinctively Australian English. There were believed to be between 200 to 300 Australian Aboriginal languages at the time of first European contact. However, only about 70 of these languages survived, with all but 20 of these now endangered. Australia has it's own sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 6,500 deaf people.
School attendance is compulsory in Australia between the ages of 6-15 years (16 years in South Australia and Tasmania), resulting in an adult literacy rate assumed to be 99%. Government grants have supported the establishment of Australia's 38 universities, however there are several private universities. A state-based system of vocational training colleges exists known as TAFE Institutes, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58% of Australians between 25 to 64 years of age have vocational or tertiary qualifications.
Most of the estimated 20.4 million Australians are descended from 19th and 20th century immigrants, with the majority originating from Britain and Ireland.
Indulge in some of the best local country produce and a number of wineries offering great wine tasting and cellar door wine tour experiences.
The Clare Valley is one of Australia's oldest wine regions, dating back 150 years, and home to some of the best Riesling wines in the country.