Australia

Time

Australia can have up to five different time zones during the daylight savings period, and three at other times.

In the east, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria always have the same time. Queensland doesn't observe daylight saving, so it is an hour behind the other eastern states during that period. However Broken Hill, a town in western NSW, keeps South Australian time.

In the centre, South Australia and the Northern Territory are half an hour behind during the winter, but the Northern Territory doesn't observe daylight saving while South Australia does. During daylight saving South Australia remains half an hour behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, but moves half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory remains half an hour behind Queensland, but moves an hour and half behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

In the west, Western Australia is two hours behind the eastern states in winter, and also doesn't observe daylight saving. It moves three hours behind the eastern states that observe daylight saving remaining two hours behind Queensland.

There are no official abbreviations or names for Australian time zones, and you may see a few variations used. EST, CST, WST along with EDT, CDT are sometimes used. Sometimes AEST, etc, with the 'A' prefix distinguishing them from the North American time zones with the same names. In conversation, the abbreviations aren't used. People tend to say Sydney time, Brisbane time, or Perth time. Expect blank stares from most if you start talking about Central Summer Time.

In those states which observe daylight saving, it commences on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.

State/Territory Standard Time Daylight Saving Time
Western Australia UTC+8 N/A
South Australia UTC+9.5 UTC+10.5
Northern Territory UTC+9.5 N/A
Queensland UTC+10 N/A
New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania. ACT UTC+10 UTC+11
Economy

Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies and that has been remarkably resilient to the recent worldwide economic downturn.

The service industries, including tourism, education, and financial services, account for the majority of the Australian Gross Domestic Product – about 69%. Within the service sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia, as it provides employment, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.

The primary industries - mining and agriculture - account for most of Australia's exports. Iron ore and coal are by far the largest exports, with wheat, beef and wool declining in importance.

Australia has a comprehensive social security system, and a minimum wage higher than the United States or the United Kingdom.

Peak holiday times

Most attractions in Australia remain open year-round, some operating at a reduced frequency or shorter hours during the off-peak season.

Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave and school children in the major population centres have January as a long break. Domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.

Summer tends to be the peak travel season through much of the south, with the winter dry season the peak travel season in the tropics.

Australian teenagers finishing high school celebrate the end of school colloquially known as "Schoolies" for a week beginning at the end of October to mid to late November depending on area. The volume of teen revellers can completely change the nature of some of the cities and towns they choose to visit, particularly the nationally popular Gold Coast especially seeing as the vast majority of school-leavers will have reached the legal drinking age of 18.

Politics

Australia has a federal system of government, with eight state and territory governments and a national government. Each of these governments has an elected parliament, with the leader of each government, known as the Premier, being the leader of the largest party represented in the lower house. The national parliament is based on the British "Westminster system", with some elements being drawn from the American congressional system. At the federal level it consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Each Member of the House of Representatives colloquially known as a Member of Parliament (MP) represents an electoral division, with more populous states having more electoral divisions and hence, more MP's. Similar to the US Senate, each Australian state has an equal number of senators, with 12 senators being directly elected by the people in each state, and 2 senators each from the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The political party or coalition of parties which has the most members in the House of Representatives becomes the governing party and forms the national government. Ministers are drawn from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, though by convention, the Prime Minister comes from the House of Representatives. The current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is the current leader of the national government and the Liberal- National Coalition which holds a majority in the House of Representatives.

The Queen remains the head of state, and her representative in Australia - the Governor-General - according to conventional wisdom and lampoon - has a ceremonial and politically powerless role while holding the ultimate power to dismiss the Prime Minister. In practice, the Prime Minister is believed to wield the most authority in government. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was defeated in 1999, but the issue remains a regularly debated topic.

The two major political parties in Australia are the Australian Labor Party ALP and the Liberal Party, which operates in coalition with the National Party. Emerging in power is the social democratic Greens Party, which maintains an environmentalist policy platform and is effectively a partner of the ALP. It should be noted that the Liberal Party is traditionally a centre-right, conservative party - the term liberal refers to maintaining a free market economy.

History

Based upon scientific evidence and theory, the island of Australia was most likely first settled more than 50,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of people from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close spiritual relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian people maintained a hunter-gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the modern impression of Australian people is largely built around an image of the 'aboriginal desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari, Australia provided a comfortable living for the people amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.

Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mer had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries, it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600s, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Northwestern Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them a symbolic road sign pointing north to the much richer and lucrative East Indies modern Indonesia. Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.

In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 Apr 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on 22 Aug 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although other European nations preceded his arrival by more than 160 years.

Following the exploration period, the first British settlement in Australia was founded in 1788 at what is today Sydney, led by Captain Arthur Philip who became the first governor of the colony of New South Wales. This started a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced the indigenous population drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society. Originally comprising the eastern two-thirds of the island, the colony of New South Wales was later split into several separate colonies, with Tasmania then known as Van Diemen's Land becoming a separate colony in 1825, followed by South Australia in 1836, New Zealand in 1841, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. The western third of the island was not settled by Europeans until the British establised a naval base in Albany, then known as King George Sound in 1826. The Swan River Colony was formally established in 1829 at what is today Perth. The Swan River Colony was officially renamed Western Australia in 1832.

While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were mostly along the east coast, with scattered pockets of convict settlements in Western Australia. The state of South Australia was settled entirely by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigrants from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to form a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.

The system of separate colonies federated to form the self-governing British dominion of Australia in 1901, each colony became a state of Australia, with New Zealand opting out of the federation. The new country rapidly developed its natural resources including agricultural and manufacturing industries. This development resulted in a large contribution in relation to size of the population to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops made a valuable, and sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit. Australia and Britain passed the Australia Act in 1986, ending the official power that the British parliament may have had to pass laws for Australia, and ended appeals by Australia to British courts. While the parliament lost that power, the Queen of Australia and her appointees retained full rights to exercise all power.

Climate

As a large island a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. Most of the country receives more than 3,000°hr of sunshine a year. Generally, the north is hot and tropical, while the south tends to be sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C 86°F, even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C 59-68°F. Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England.

As Australia is in the southern hemisphere the winter is June-August while December-February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. In the southern parts of the country, the seasonal temperature variation is greater. The rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the southern parts of the East Coast, while in the rest of the south beyond the Great Dividing Range, the summers are dry with the bulk of the rainfall occurring in winter.

Geography

Australia is the sixth-largest country by land area. It is comparable in size to the 48 contiguous United States. Australia is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Coral Sea lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.

Australia is highly urbanised with most of the population heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Most of the inland areas of the country are semi-arid. The most-populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.

Australia has an area of 7,682,300km² 2,966,152 square miles and the distances between cities and towns are easy to underestimate. The Government has published a National Public Toilet Map.

Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes, but many native forest areas survive in extensive national parks and other undeveloped areas. Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Culture

Culture
 

Australia has a multicultural population practising almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-quarter of Australians were born outside Australia, and another quarter have at least one foreign-born parent. Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney are centers of the multicultural. All three cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global arts, intellectual endeavors, and cuisine available in their many restaurants. Sydney is a hub of art, culture, and history containing the world class architectural gem, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Melbourne especially promotes itself as a centre for the arts, while Brisbane promotes itself through various multicultural urban villages. Adelaide must be mentioned in addition, as it is known for being a centre for festivals as well as Germanic cultural influences. Perth, also, is known for its food and wine culture, pearls, gems and precious metals as well as the international fringe arts festival. There are quite a few more that deserve mention, but this gives an idea via introduction. Smaller rural settlements generally reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic culture often with a small Aboriginal population. Virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the effect of immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s, in the half century after the war when Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.

There are approximately half a million Australians who identify as being of Aboriginal descent. Less maintain elements of traditional Aboriginal culture.

Descendants of the population of convicts mentioned in the country's history are currently a smaller minority compared to the estimated 50% of the population originally comprised of them when Britain and others landed on the shores and inhabited the land. Long ago during the involuntary transportation and relocation from Europe and other places, it must be noted that all records were not kept nor available to others, nor have those records that existed all survived the uses of people throughout history.

The English of Australia were once known for local colour and colloquialisms but that largely has been lost to outside influence and influx. People in rural areas still tend to speak in a broader, colloquial accent and have a different manner, using many of the slang words that have become outmoded in metropolitan areas. Accents tend to be broader and slower outside of the large cities. There are overall small pronunciation differences based upon culture of origin in the cities, but these are becoming less common. Speech has become more generic. For example the word "you" colloquially, is often rolled off the tongue sharply on the south east coast, almost as "ewe" as opposed to the west coast and other regions. Another modern variation based upon migrants from Africa is found in Afrikaans accents on the west coast, modifying the local accents slightly due to the larger population and numbers of Afrikaans and Boer African immigration there. In the urban English speaking world, an educated, white-collar and/or conservative Australian accent is softer or generic in tonal quality, rather than the sharp tones in some rural areas. Regarding other variations in speech, usually native speakers can recognise the subtle regional variations.

A trend among Australians is social conservatism compared to some European cultures and an acquired balanced attitude, defining their European origins within a preference for the growing Asian influence. They tend to be relaxed regarding religious observance. The Australian sense of egalitarianism in its gungho form has moderated; while modes of address still tend to be casual and familiar compared to some other cultures, such as Asian. Most Australians will tend to address you by your first name and will expect that you reciprocate.

Culture
 

The national holidays in Australia are:

1 January
New Years' Day
26 January
Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
Easter weekend
"Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday": a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian calendar.
25 April
ANZAC Day Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, honouring military veterans
Second Monday in June
Queen's birthday holiday celebrated in Western Australia in September WA observes Foundation Day a week earlier
25 December
Christmas Day
26 December
Boxing Day

Many states observe Labour Day, but on different days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays, with Victoria and South Australia having a day off for a horse race The Melbourne Cup and The Adelaide Cup. Western Australia has Foundation Day typically the first Monday in June recognising the founding of the state since 1829 but also celebrates the Queen's Birthday on a different date than the rest of the country, either at the end of September or early October, due to the usual June date's close proximity to Foundation Day.

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday and Tuesday if necessary are usually declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the retail closures will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed Christmas Day and Good Friday. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Christmas Day 25 Dec, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day morning.