Australia is situated to the south-east of Asia between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Commonwealth of Australia occupies the whole continent and a number of smaller islands, where Tasmania is the largest. Australia has an area of 2,965 thousand square miles, administratively is divided into 6 states and 2 territories. Australia is the biggest island in the world, it is only a little smaller than the USA. The Australians like to mention the fact that territory of their country is 33 times larger than that of Great Britain. Australia is the biggest island and the smallest continent in the world. At the same time Australia is the oldest continent on earth-some of the rocks are more than 3,000 million years old.

The Australian continent is washed in the north by the Timor and Arafura Seas; in the east by the Tasman and Coral Seas; in the south and west by the Indian Ocean.

The population of the country is about 18 million people, among whom are the English, the Aborigines( 150 th), the emigrants from Greece, Italy (nearly 2 million people).

The official language is English. There are 3 lakes in Australia, lake Erie is the largest.

The continent of Australia is mostly a plain with mountains along the east coast and some along the west coast. The western part of the continent forms a plateau which occupies half of the continent. The highest point of the continent is Mount Kosciusko in the Australian Alps. It is 2,228 metres high. The main rivers of the country are the Murray and the Darling.

The continent of Australia is situated in the southern hemisphere, so the summer months are December, January and February; winter months are June , July and August. The average temperature in summer is +29° C in the north and +17° C in the south: in winter it is +7.5° C in the north and +8° C in the south. The country has "different climatic zones. In the north the weather is tropical-hot and wet. In the centre, the climate is very dry, droughts are common and the land is mainly desert. The 4 great deserts of central Australia cover 2,000,000 square kilometres. In the south, it is pleasant with cool winters and warm summers. In Tasmania and around Kosciusko there are snowfields in winter, much visited by ski enthusiasts. Australia's mMpst region is in TVismnnifl-where the temperature in winter often falls below zera

Australia is called the green, sunny continent. Many parts of Australia have scanty and irregular rainfalls. In the places, where rainfalls are plentiful, tall trees and thick forests grow.

The isolation of the continent has resulted in the development of a unique Australian flora, Australia has 20,000 species of plants and brilliant flowers. Many of the trees lose their bark not their leaves and a lot of flowers have no smell.

The common trees of Australia are the blue-coloured eucalyptus (nearly 500 kinds), bottle brush tree, rubber plant, palm-tree, acacia ( nearly 600 kinds ), fern, beech, cedar, liana. Australian acacia or mimosa, the golden flowered wattle is the national emblem of Australia.

Even stranger than the plants are the native animals of the country. Some animals are called marsupials. The best known are kangaroo; the comic and loved by all koala-bear (that eats only eucalyptus leaves); the possum; the wombat, (a creature, looking like a very large rat). Rabbits were introduced by settlers. The unusual platypus or the duck-bill and the echidna; the dingo or wild dog; the Tasmanian tiger -really it is the wolf; bat and many other small animals can be found nowhere else in the world.

There are about 800 kinds of birds in Australia. You can find eagle, swan, parrot cockatoo, lyre-bird, pelican, the emu (the Australian cousin of the ostrich, which cannot fly); funny bird kookaburra with the unusual voice, which eats snakes. Many beautiful Australian birds have unmelodious voices. There are many unusual animals and birds peculiar to Australia which surprise people.

There are 1,400 different kinds offish and more than 300 kinds of corals.

The country has 300 national parks. The most interesting among them is Lichfield National Park where one can observe a lot of unusual plants and animals.

Australia is the highly developed industrial and agrarian country. It is sometimes called "the lucky country". The reason is the wonderful riches under the earth: coal, iron, bauxite, oil, uranium, copper, zinc, natural gas, nickel, diamonds, gold and many precious metals. Its rich mineral deposits place it among the leaders in the capitalist world for its strategic raw material resources. Such branches of industry as coal-mining, chemical, metallurgy, automobile, wood-working, mechanic engineering are highly developed in the country.

Australia exports minerals, meat, butter, fruit. Agriculture is the main occupation in Australia. This country is famous for its sheep, it has nearly 150 million now. Three fourth of these sheep are merinos. Merinos are famous for their fine wool. Production and export of wool is the basis of the country's economy. Australia produces one fourth of the world's total wool production. Cattle provides the beef and dairy products. Australia grows wheat, beet, oats, maize, pine-apples, apples, black currant. Big farms grow millions of tons of wheat every year, and wheat has become Australian's second biggest export.

The capital of the country is Canberra, its population is about 264 thousand people. It is the university-city and the cultural centre of the country and the very attractive capital.

The main ports of the country are Sydney (3.5 mln), Melbourne (3mln), Adelaide (1 mln). Sydney and Melbourne are the university-cities.

The Commonwealth of Australia -a federation of the 6 former colonies as states-was proclaimed in 1901. Now the Commonwealth of Australia is a self-governing federal state and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Each state has its own government and its own capital city. The head of the country is the Queen of England, represented by the Governor General. The constitution of the country was adopted in 1901. Australian Parliament sits in Canberra, the capital of the country. The Parliament consists of two Houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. 76 members of the Senate are elected by the population for 6 years term, and 148 members of the House of Representatives are elected by the population for 3 years. The Government of the country is headed by the Prime Minister. 4 main political parties are represented in the Australian Parliament: the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, the National Agrarian Party and the Australian Democrats.   .

The flag of the country has 3 main colours: red, white and blue. The Union Jack in the upper left quarter, represents the historical link with Britain ; the 5 small white stars form the Southern Cross in the right half; and the white seven-pointed federal star represents the Commonwealth of Australia The kangaroo and the emu and a twig of wattle are incorporated in the coat-of-arms of Australia.

The Australia national anthem "Advance Australia Fair" was adopted in thel970s. The country celebrates its birthday on the 26th of January.

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