Australia (continent)

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Australia
Australia-New Guinea (orthographic projection).svg
Area8,600,000 km2 (3,300,000 sq mi) (7th)
Population38,000,000 (estimated population of Australia, Papua New Guinea, Papua and West Papua for 2019, 6th)
Population density4.2/km2 (11/sq mi)
Demonym Australian
Countries3 (Australia, Papua New Guinea and portions of Indonesia)
Languages English, Indonesian, Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, 269 indigenous Papuan and Austronesian languages, and about 70 Indigenous Australian languages
Time zonesGMT+10, GMT+9.30, GMT+8
Internet TLD .au, .pg and .id
Largest cities List of cities in Australia by population
List of cities and towns in Papua New Guinea by population

The continent of Australia, sometimes known in technical contexts by the names Sahul, Australinea or Meganesia to distinguish it from the country of Australia, consists of the land masses which sit on Australia's continental plate. This includes mainland Australia, Tasmania, and the island of New Guinea (comprising Papua New Guinea and two Indonesian provinces). [1] Situated in the geographical region of Oceania, it is the smallest of the seven traditional continents in the English conception.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are 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. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Mainland Australia island in Australia

Mainland Australia is the main land mass of the Commonwealth of Australia excluding Tasmania and other offshore islands and external territories. The land mass also constitutes the mainland of the Australian continent, and the term, along with continental Australia, can be used in a geographic sense to exclude surrounding continental islands. Generally, the term is applied to the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia, as well as the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, and Jervis Bay Territory.

Tasmania island state of Australia

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. It is located 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of around 526,700 as of March 2018. Just over forty percent of the population resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city, Hobart.

Contents

The continent includes a continental shelf overlain by shallow seas which divide it into several landmasses—the Arafura Sea and Torres Strait between mainland Australia and New Guinea, and Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania. When sea levels were lower during the Pleistocene ice age, including the Last Glacial Maximum about 18,000 BC, they were connected by dry land. During the past 10,000 years, rising sea levels overflowed the lowlands and separated the continent into today's low-lying arid to semi-arid mainland and the two mountainous islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. [2]

Continental shelf A portion of a continent that is submerged under an area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea

A continental shelf is a portion of a continent that is submerged under an area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea. Much of the shelves were exposed during glacial periods and interglacial periods.

Arafura Sea Marginal sea between Australia and Indonesian New Guinea

The Arafura Sea lies west of the Pacific Ocean, overlying the continental shelf between Australia and Indonesian New Guinea.

Torres Strait strait which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea

The Torres Strait is a strait which lies between Australia and the Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately 150 km (93 mi) wide at its narrowest extent. To the south is Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost extremity of the Australian mainland. To the north is the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. It is named after navigator Luís Vaz de Torres, who passed through the Strait in 1606.

The Australian continent, being part of the Indo-Australian plate (more specifically, the Australian plate), is the lowest, flattest, and oldest landmass on Earth [3] and it has had a relatively stable geological history. New Zealand is not part of the continent of Australia, but of the separate, submerged continent of Zealandia. [4] New Zealand and Australia are both part of the Oceanian sub-region known as Australasia, with New Guinea being in Melanesia. The term Oceania is often used to denote the region encompassing the Australian continent, Zealandia and various islands in the Pacific Ocean that are not included in the seven-continent model. [5] [6]

New Zealand Constitutional monarchy in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Zealandia Mostly submerged mass of continental crust containing New Zealand and New Caledonia

Zealandia, also known as the New Zealand continent or Tasmantis, is an almost entirely submerged mass of continental crust that sank after breaking away from Australia 60–85 million years ago, having separated from Antarctica between 85 and 130 million years ago. It has variously been described as a continental fragment, a microcontinent, a submerged continent, and a continent. The name and concept for Zealandia was proposed by Bruce Luyendyk in 1995. Zealandia's status as a continent is not universally accepted, but New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer has commented that "if it wasn't for the ocean" it would have been recognized as such long ago.

Australasia region of Oceania

Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia, New Zealand, neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean and, sometimes, the island of New Guinea. Charles de Brosses coined the term in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes (1756). He derived it from the Latin for "south of Asia" and differentiated the area from Polynesia and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica). The bulk of Australasia sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.

Papua New Guinea, a country within the continent, is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world. [7] It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 percent of its people live in urban centres. [8] West Papua, a province of Indonesia, is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups. [9] Australia, the largest landmass in the continent, is highly urbanised, [10] and has the world's 13th-largest economy with the second-highest human development index globally. [11] [12] Australia also has the world's 9th largest immigrant population. [13] [14] The first settlers of Australia, New Guinea, and the large islands just to the east arrived between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago. [15]

Cultural diversity Quality of diverse or different cultures

Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global monoculture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural decay. The phrase cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other's differences. The phrase "cultural diversity" is also sometimes used to mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. Globalization is often said to have a negative effect on the world's cultural diversity.

West Papua (province) Province in Indonesia

West Papua is a province of Indonesia. It covers the two western peninsulas of the island of New Guinea along with nearby islands. The province is bordered to the north by the Pacific Ocean, to the west by the Halmahera Sea and the Ceram Sea, to the south by the Banda Sea, and to the east by the province of Papua and the Cenderawasih Bay. Manokwari is the capital, while Sorong is the largest city and the main gateway to the province. According to the 2010 census by Statistics Indonesia, West Papua recorded a population of 760,422. Inaugurated as a province in 2003, West Papua was initially named West Irian Jaya until 2007. The name West Papua itself is also used by the Free Papua Movement to refer the whole Western New Guinea. Consisting of twelve regencies and one city, the province enjoys a special autonomous status as granted by the Indonesian legislation. West Papua is well known by its Raja Ampat Islands which contains the richest marine biodiversity in the world.

Provinces of Indonesia Indonesian administrative division, first-level subdivision of the country

The Provinces of Indonesia are the 34 largest subdivisions of the country and the highest tier of the local government. Provinces are further divided into regencies and cities, which are in turn subdivided into subdistricts (kecamatan).

Etymology

Mainland Australia showing the continental Sahul Shelf (light blue) extending to the islands of New Guinea in the north, the island of Timor in the northwest, and Tasmania in the south Australia New Guinea continent.jpg
Mainland Australia showing the continental Sahul Shelf (light blue) extending to the islands of New Guinea in the north, the island of Timor in the northwest, and Tasmania in the south

Archaeological terminology for this region has changed repeatedly. Before the 1970s, the single Pleistocene landmass was called Australasia, derived from the Latin australis, meaning "southern", although this word is most often used for a wider region that includes lands like New Zealand that are not on the same continental shelf. In the early 1970s, the term Greater Australia was introduced for the Pleistocene continent. [16] Then at a 1975 conference and consequent publication, [17] the name Sahul was extended from its previous use for just the Sahul Shelf to cover the continent. [16]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Sahul Shelf part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent

Geologically, the Sahul Shelf is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent and lies off the coast of mainland Australia.

In 1984 W. Filewood suggested the name Meganesia, meaning "great island" or "great island-group", for both the Pleistocene continent and the present-day lands, [18] and this name has been widely accepted by biologists. [19] Others have used Meganesia with different meanings: travel writer Paul Theroux included New Zealand in his definition [20] and others have used it for Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. [21] Another biologist, Richard Dawkins, coined the name Australinea in 2004. [22] Australia-New Guinea has also been used. [23]

Paul Theroux American travel writer and novelist

Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best-known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975). He has published numerous works of fiction, some of which were adapted as feature films. He was awarded the 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Mosquito Coast, which was adapted for the 1986 movie of the same name.

Hawaii State of the United States of America

Hawaii is the 50th and most recent state to have joined the United States, having received statehood on August 21, 1959. Hawaii is the only U.S. state located in Oceania, the only U.S. state located outside North America, and the only one composed entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean.

Richard Dawkins English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author

Clinton Richard Dawkins, is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.

History

Indigenous History

Aboriginal pictographs known as Wandjina in the Wunnumurra Gorge, Barnett River, Kimberley, Western Australia Aboriginal rock art on the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station.jpg
Aboriginal pictographs known as Wandjina in the Wunnumurra Gorge, Barnett River, Kimberley, Western Australia

Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands who migrated from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago [24] and arrived in Australia around 50,000 years ago. [25] They are believed to be among the earliest human migrations out of Africa. There is evidence of genetic and linguistic interchange between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian peoples of modern-day New Guinea and the islands, but this may be the result of recent trade and intermarriage. [26] The earliest known human remains were found at Lake Mungo, a dry lake in the southwest of New South Wales. [27] Remains found at Mungo suggest one of the world's oldest known cremations, thus indicating early evidence for religious ritual among humans. [28] Dreamtime remains a prominent feature of Australian Aboriginal art, the oldest continuing tradition of art in the world. [29]

Papuan habitation is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago in New Guinea. [30] Trade between New Guinea and neighboring Indonesian islands was documented as early as the seventh century, and archipelagic rule of New Guinea by the 13th. At the beginning of the seventh century, the Sumatra-based empire of Srivijaya (7th century–13th century) engaged in trade relations with western New Guinea, initially taking items like sandalwood and birds-of-paradise in tribute to China, but later making slaves out of the natives. [31] The rule of the Java-based empire of Majapahit (1293–1527) extended to the western fringes of New Guinea. [32] Recent archaeological research suggests that 50,000 years ago people may have occupied sites in the highlands at New Guinean altitudes of up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft), rather than being restricted to warmer coastal areas. [33]

Pre-colonial history

Terra Australis, as it appears on a map by Rumold Mercator, 1587 Mercator World Map.jpg
Terra Australis, as it appears on a map by Rumold Mercator, 1587

Legends of Terra Australis Incognita—an "unknown land of the South"—date back to Roman times and before, and were commonplace in medieval geography, although not based on any documented knowledge of the continent. [34] Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle speculated of a large landmass in the southern hemisphere, saying, "Now since there must be a region bearing the same relation to the southern pole as the place we live in bears to our pole...". [35] His ideas were later expanded by Ptolemy (2nd century AD), who believed that the lands of the Northern Hemisphere should be balanced by land in the south. The theory of balancing land has been documented as early as the 5th century on maps by Macrobius, who uses the term Australis on his maps. [36]

Terra Australis, a hypothetical continent first posited in antiquity, appeared on maps between the 15th and 18th centuries. [37] Scientists, such as Gerardus Mercator (1569) [38] and Alexander Dalrymple as late as 1767 argued for its existence, with such arguments as that there should be a large landmass in the south as a counterweight to the known landmasses in the Northern Hemisphere. [39] The cartographic depictions of the southern continent in the 16th and early 17th centuries, as might be expected for a concept based on such abundant conjecture and minimal data, varied wildly from map to map; in general, the continent shrank as potential locations were reinterpreted. At its largest, the continent included Tierra del Fuego, separated from South America by a small strait; New Guinea; and what would come to be called Australia. [40]

European exploration

A typical map from the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography (ca. 1590s-1720s). Thevenot - Hollandia Nova detecta 1644.png
A typical map from the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography (ca. 1590s–1720s).

In the quest for Terra Australis, Spanish explorations in the 17th century, such as the expedition led by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, discovered the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos, and sailed the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named after navigator Luís Vaz de Torres, who was the first European to explore the Strait. When Europeans first arrived, inhabitants of New Guinea and nearby islands, whose technologies included bone, wood, and stone tools, had a productive agricultural system. In 1660, the Dutch recognised the Sultan of Tidore's sovereignty over New Guinea. The first known Europeans to sight New Guinea were probably the Portuguese and Spanish navigators sailing in the South Pacific in the early part of the 16th century.

Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, made the first documented European sight and landing on the continent of Australia, in Cape York Peninsula (1606). [41] Abel Janszoon Tasman circumnavigated and landed on parts of the Australian continental coast and discovered Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), New Zealand in 1642, and Fiji islands. [42] He was the first known European explorer to reach these islands. [43]

On 23 April 1770 British explorer James Cook made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point. [44] On 29 April, Cook and crew made their first landfall on the mainland of the continent at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula. It is here that James Cook made first contact with an aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal. His expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered its eastern coastline of Australia. [45] Captain Arthur Phillip led the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 850 convicts into Sydney on 26 January 1788. [46] This was to be the location for the new colony. Phillip described Sydney Cove as being "without exception the finest harbour in the world". [47]

Modern history

In 1883, the Colony of Queensland tried to annex the southern half of eastern New Guinea, but the British government did not approve. [48] The Commonwealth of Australia came into being when the Federal Constitution was proclaimed by the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, on 1 January 1901. From that point a system of federalism in Australia came into operation, entailing the establishment of an entirely new national government (the Commonwealth government) and an ongoing division of powers between that government and the States. With the encouragement of Queensland, in 1884, a British protectorate had been proclaimed over the southern coast of New Guinea and its adjacent islands. British New Guinea was annexed outright in 1888. The possession was placed under the authority of the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia in 1902 and with passage of the Papua Act of 1905, British New Guinea became the Australian Territory of Papua, with formal Australian administration beginning in 1906. [49]

An Australian light machine gun team in action near Wewak, Papua New Guinea, in June 1945 Aust soldiers Wewak June 1945.jpg
An Australian light machine gun team in action near Wewak, Papua New Guinea, in June 1945

The bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. [50] In an effort to isolate Australia, the Japanese planned a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. Between July and November 1942, Australian forces repulsed Japanese attempts on the city by way of the Kokoda Track, in the highlands of New Guinea. The Battle of Buna–Gona, between November 1942 and January 1943, set the tone for the bitter final stages of the New Guinea campaign, which persisted into 1945. The offensives in Papua and New Guinea of 1943–44 were the single largest series of connected operations ever mounted by the Australian armed forces. [51]

Following the 1998 commencement of reforms across Indonesia, Papua and other Indonesian provinces received greater regional autonomy. In 2001, "Special Autonomy" status was granted to Papua province, although to date, implementation has been partial and often criticized. [52] The region was administered as a single province until 2003, when it was split into the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Elections in 1972 resulted in the formation of a ministry headed by Chief Minister Michael Somare, who pledged to lead the country to self-government and then to independence. Papua New Guinea became self-governing on 1 December 1973 and achieved independence on 16 September 1975. The country joined the United Nations (UN) on 10 October 1975. [53]

Migration brought large numbers of southern and central Europeans to Australia for the first time. A 1958 government leaflet assured readers that unskilled non-British migrants were needed for "labour on rugged projects ...work which is not generally acceptable to Australians or British workers". [54] Australia fought on the side of Britain in the two world wars and became a long-standing ally of the United States when threatened by Imperial Japan during World War II. Trade with Asia increased and a post-war immigration program received more than 6.5 million migrants from every continent. Supported by immigration of people from more than 200 countries since the end of World War II, the population increased to more than 23 million by 2014. [55]

Geology

The Sahul continent Map of Sunda and Sahul.png
The Sahul continent

With a total land area of 8.56 million square kilometres (3,310,000 sq mi), the Australian continent is the smallest, and second-lowest human inhabited (after Antarctica) continent on Earth. [56] The continental shelf connecting the islands, half of which is less than 50 metres (160 ft) deep, covers some 2.5 million square kilometres (970,000 sq mi), including the Sahul Shelf [57] [58] and Bass Strait. As the country of Australia is mostly on a single landmass, and comprises most of the continent, it is sometimes informally referred to as an island continent, surrounded by oceans. [59]

Geological forces such as tectonic uplift of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia's early history, when it was still a part of Gondwana. Australia is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore currently has no active volcanism. [60]

The continent primarily sits on the Indo-Australian Plate. Because of its central location on its tectonic plate Australia doesn't have any active volcanic regions, the only continent with this distinction. [61] The lands were joined with Antarctica as part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana until the plate began to drift north about 96 million years ago. For most of the time since then, Australia–New Guinea remained a continuous landmass. When the last glacial period ended in about 10,000 BC, rising sea levels formed Bass Strait, separating Tasmania from the mainland. Then between about 8,000 and 6,500 BC, the lowlands in the north were flooded by the sea, separating New Guinea, the Aru Islands, and the Australian mainland.

A northern arc consisting of the New Guinea Highlands, the Raja Ampat Islands, and Halmahera was uplifted by the northward migration of Australia and subduction of the Pacific Plate. The Outer Banda Arc was accreted along the northwestern edge the continent; it includes the islands of Timor, Tanimbar, and Seram. Papua New Guinea has several volcanoes, as it is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanic eruptions are not rare, and the area is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis because of this. [62] Mount Wilhelm in Papua New Guinea is the second highest mountain in the continent, [63] and at 4,884 metres (16,024 ft) above sea level, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain.

Ecology

Flora

Australian eucalyptus forest in a state of regeneration. Eucalyptus forest2.jpg
Australian eucalyptus forest in a state of regeneration.

Among the fungi, the remarkable association between Cyttaria gunnii (one of the "golf-ball" fungi) and its associated trees in the genus Nothofagus is evidence of that drift: the only other places where this association is known are New Zealand and southern Argentina and Chile. [64] Prominent features of the Australian flora are adaptations to aridity and fire which include scleromorphy and serotiny. These adaptations are common in species from the large and well-known families Proteaceae ( Banksia ), Myrtaceae ( Eucalyptus – gum trees), and Fabaceae ( Acacia – wattle).

For about 40 million years Australia–New Guinea was almost completely isolated. During this time, the continent experienced numerous changes in climate, but the overall trend was towards greater aridity. When South America eventually separated from Antarctica, the development of the cold Antarctic Circumpolar Current changed weather patterns across the world. For Australia–New Guinea, it brought a marked intensification of the drying trend. The great inland seas and lakes dried out. Much of the long-established broad-leaf deciduous forest began to give way to the distinctive hard-leaved sclerophyllous plants that characterise the modern Australian landscape. The flora of New Guinea is a mixture of many tropical rainforest species with origins in Asia, together with typically Australasian flora. Typical Southern Hemisphere flora include the conifers Podocarpus and the rainforest emergents Araucaria and Agathis , as well as tree ferns and several species of Eucalyptus. [65]

For many species, the primary refuge was the relatively cool and well-watered Great Dividing Range. Even today, pockets of remnant vegetation remain in the cool uplands, some species not much changed from the Gondwanan forms of 60 or 90 million years ago. Eventually, the Australia–New Guinea tectonic plate collided with the Eurasian plate to the north. The collision caused the northern part of the continent to buckle upwards, forming the high and rugged mountains of New Guinea and, by reverse (downwards) buckling, the Torres Strait that now separates the two main landmasses. The collision also pushed up the islands of Wallacea, which served as island 'stepping-stones' that allowed plants from Southeast Asia's rainforests to colonise New Guinea, and some plants from Australia–New Guinea to move into Southeast Asia. The ocean straits between the islands were narrow enough to allow plant dispersal, but served as an effective barrier to exchange of land mammals between Australia–New Guinea and Asia.

Fauna

The king bird-of-paradise is one of over 300 bird species in West Papua. Cicinnurus regius-20031005.jpg
The king bird-of-paradise is one of over 300 bird species in West Papua.

Prominent features of the Australian flora are adaptations to aridity and fire which include scleromorphy and serotiny. These adaptations are common in species from the large and well-known families Proteaceae ( Banksia ), Myrtaceae ( Eucalyptus – gum trees), and Fabaceae ( Acacia – wattle). Due to the spread of animals, fungi and plants across the single Pleistocene landmass the separate lands have a related biota. [66] There are over 300 bird species in West Papua, of which at least 20 are unique to the ecoregion, and some live only in very restricted areas. These include the grey-banded munia, Vogelkop bowerbird, and the king bird-of-paradise. [67]

Australia has a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 24% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia. [68] This high level of endemism can be attributed to the continent's long geographic isolation, tectonic stability, and the effects of an unusual pattern of climate change on the soil and flora over geological time. Australia and its territories are home to around 800 species of bird; [69] 45% of these are endemic to Australia. [70] Predominant bird species in Australia include the Australian magpie, Australian raven, the pied currawong, crested pigeons and the laughing kookaburra. [71] The koala, emu, platypus and kangaroo are national animals of Australia, [72] and the Tasmanian devil is also one of the well-known animals in the country. [73] The goanna is a predatory lizard native to the Australian mainland. [74]

Natural history illustrator John Gould popularised the koala with his 1863 work The Mammals of Australia. Phascolarctus cinereus 2 Gould.jpg
Natural history illustrator John Gould popularised the koala with his 1863 work The Mammals of Australia.

As the continent drifted north from Antarctica, a unique fauna, flora and mycobiota developed. Marsupials and monotremes also existed on other continents, but only in Australia–New Guinea did they out-compete the placental mammals and come to dominate. New Guinea has 284 species and six orders of mammals: monotremes, three orders of marsupials, rodents and bats; 195 of the mammal species (69%) are endemic. New Guinea has a rich diversity of coral life and 1,200 species of fish have been found. Also about 600 species of reef-building coral—the latter equal to 75 percent of the world’s known total. New Guinea has 578 species of breeding birds, of which 324 species are endemic.Bird life also flourished — in particular, the songbirds (order Passeriformes, suborder Passeri) are thought to have evolved 50 million years ago in the part of Gondwana that later became Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Antarctica, before radiating into a great number of different forms and then spreading around the globe. [75]

Animal groups such as macropods, monotremes, and cassowaries are endemic to Australia. There were three main reasons for the enormous diversity that developed in animal, fungal and plant life.

Although New Guinea is the most northerly part of the continent, and could be expected to be the most tropical in climate, the altitude of the New Guinea highlands is such that a great many animals and plants that were once common across Australia–New Guinea now survive only in the tropical highlands where they are severely threatened by overpopulation pressures.

Climate

In New Guinea, the climate is mostly monsoonal (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October), and tropical rainforest with slight seasonal temperature variation. In lower altitudes, the temperature is around 80 °F (27 °C) year round. But the higher altitudes, such as Mendi, are constantly around 70 °F (21 °C) with cool lows nearing 52 °F (11 °C), with abundant rainfall and high humidity. The New Guinea Highlands are one of the few regions close to the equator that experience snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland. Some areas in the island experience an extraordinary amount of precipitation, averaging roughly 4,500 millimetres (180 in) of rainfall annually.

The Australian landmass's climate is mostly desert or semi-arid, with the southern coastal corners having a temperate climate, such as oceanic and humid subtropical climate in the east coast and Mediterranean climate in the west. The northern parts of the country have a tropical climate. [76] Snow falls frequently on the highlands near the east coast, in the states of Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and in the Australian Capital Territory. Temperatures in Australia have ranged from above 50 °C (122 °F) to well below 0 °C (32 °F). Nonetheless, minimum temperatures are moderated. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is associated with seasonal abnormality in many areas in the world. Australia is one of the continents most affected and experiences extensive droughts alongside considerable wet periods. [77]

Demography

Religion

Migrants to Australia disembarking from a ship, ca. 1885 StateLibQld 1 110096 Drawing of migrants disembarking from a ship, ca. 1885.jpg
Migrants to Australia disembarking from a ship, ca. 1885

Christianity is the predominant religion in the continent, although large proportions of Australians belong to no religion. [78] Other religions in the region include Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, which are prominent minority religions in Australia. Traditional religions are often animist, found in New Guinea. Islam is prevalent in the Indonesian New Guinea. [79] Many Papuans combine their Christian faith with traditional indigenous beliefs and practices. [80]

Languages

"Aboriginal Australian languages", including the large Pama–Nyungan family, "Papuan languages" of New Guinea and neighbouring islands, including the large Trans–New Guinea family, and "Tasmanian languages" are generic terms for the native languages of the continent other than those of Austronesian family. Predominant non-native languages include English in Australia, Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, and Indonesian (Malay) in Indonesian New Guinea. Immigration to Australia have brought overseas languages such as Italian, Greek, Arabic, Filipino, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish, among others. [81] Contact between Austronesian and Papuan resulted in several instances in mixed languages such as Maisin. Tok Pisin is an English creole language spoken in Papua New Guinea. [82] Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, [7] with over 820 indigenous languages, representing 12% of the world's total, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers. [83]

Immigration

Since 1945, more than 7 million people have settled in Australia. From the late 1970s, there was a significant increase in immigration from Asian and other non-European countries, making Australia a multicultural country. [84] Sydney is the most multicultural city in Oceania, having more than 250 different languages spoken with about 40 percent of residents speaking a language other than English at home. [85] Furthermore, 36 percent of the population reported having been born overseas, with top countries being Italy, Lebanon, Vietnam and Iraq, among others. [86] [87] Melbourne is also fairly multicultural, having the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Europe, [88] and the second largest Asian population in Australia after Sydney. [89] [90] [91]

Economy

Melbourne City Centre has been placed alongside New York City and Berlin as one of the world's great street art meccas, and designated a "City of Literature" by UNESCO in its Creative Cities Network. Melbourne CBD.jpg
Melbourne City Centre has been placed alongside New York City and Berlin as one of the world's great street art meccas, and designated a "City of Literature" by UNESCO in its Creative Cities Network.

Australia is the only first world country in the Australian-New Guinea continent, although the economy of Australia is by far the largest and most dominant economy in the region and one of the largest in the world. Australia's per-capita GDP is higher than that of the UK, Canada, Germany, and France in terms of purchasing power parity. [93] The Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney is the largest stock exchange in Australia and in the South Pacific. [94] In 2012, Australia was the 12th largest national economy by nominal GDP and the 19th-largest measured by PPP-adjusted GDP. [95] Tourism in Australia is an important component of the Australian economy. In the financial year 2014/15, tourism represented 3.0% of Australia's GDP contributing A$47.5 billion to the national economy. [96] In 2015, there were 7.4 million visitor arrivals. [97]

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are an iconic image of Sydney, and the continent itself. Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.jpg
The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are an iconic image of Sydney, and the continent itself.

Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranks Sydney tenth in the world in terms of quality of living, [100] making it one of the most livable cities. [101] It is classified as an Alpha+ World City by GaWC. [102] [103] Melbourne also ranked highly in the world's most liveable city list, [104] and is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region. [105] [106]

Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources, which account for two thirds of their export earnings. Though PNG is filled with resources, the lack of country's development led foreign countries to take over few sites and continued foreign demand for PNG's resources and as a result, the United States constructed an oil company and began to export in 2004 and this was the largest project in PNG's history. [107] [108] Papua New Guinea is classified as a developing economy by the International Monetary Fund. [109] Strong growth in Papua New Guinea's mining and resource sector led to the country becoming the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world in 2011. [110] [111]

Politics

Government House, Canberra is the official residence of the Governor-General. Government House Canberra.JPG
Government House, Canberra is the official residence of the Governor-General.

Australia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy [112] with Elizabeth II at its apex as the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in Australia by the Governor-General at the federal level and by the Governors at the state level, who by convention act on the advice of her ministers. [113] [114] There are two major political groups that usually form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party. [115] [116] Within Australian political culture, the Coalition is considered centre-right and the Labor Party is considered centre-left. [117]

Papua New Guinea is a Commonwealth realm. As such, Queen Elizabeth II is its sovereign and head of state. The constitutional convention, which prepared the draft constitution, and Australia, the outgoing metropolitan power, had thought that Papua New Guinea would not remain a monarchy. The founders, however, considered that imperial honours had a cachet. [118] The monarch is represented by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, currently Bob Dadae. Papua New Guinea (along with the Solomon Islands) is unusual among Commonwealth realms in that governors-general are elected by the legislature, rather than chosen by the executive branch.

Culture

An Indigenous Australian playing the didgeridoo. Didgeridoo (Imagicity 1070).jpg
An Indigenous Australian playing the didgeridoo.

Since 1788, the primary influence behind Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture, with some Indigenous influences. [119] [120] The divergence and evolution that has occurred in the ensuing centuries has resulted in a distinctive Australian culture. [121] [122] Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema. [123] Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations. [123] [124] The Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne are the oldest and largest museums in the continent, as well as in Oceania. [125] [126] Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations are the largest in the continent. [127]

Kurulu Village War Chief at Baliem Valley in New Guinea. Kurulu Village War Chief.jpg
Kurulu Village War Chief at Baliem Valley in New Guinea.

It is estimated that more than 7000 different cultural groups exist in Papua New Guinea, and most groups have their own language. Because of this diversity, in which they take pride, many different styles of cultural expression have emerged; each group has created its own expressive forms in art, performance art, weaponry, costumes and architecture. Papua New Guinea is one of the few cultures in Oceania to practice the tradition of bride price. [128] In particular, Papua New Guinea is world-famous for carved wooden sculpture: masks, canoes, story-boards.

Australia has a tradition of Aboriginal art which is thousands of years old, the best known forms being rock art and bark painting. Evidence of Aboriginal art in Australia can be traced back at least 30,000 years. [129] Examples of ancient Aboriginal rock artworks can be found throughout the continent – notably in national parks such as those of the UNESCO listed sites at Uluru and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, but also within protected parks in urban areas such as at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. [130] [131] Aboriginal culture includes a number of practices and ceremonies centered on a belief in the Dreamtime. Reverence for the land and oral traditions are emphasized. [132]

Sport

Papua New Guinea's national team at the 2008 International Cup (Australian rules football) in Melbourne Png mosquitos 2008 international cup.jpg
Papua New Guinea's national team at the 2008 International Cup (Australian rules football) in Melbourne

Popular sports in Papua New Guinea include various codes of football (rugby league, rugby union, soccer, and Australian rules football), cricket, volleyball, softball, netball, and basketball. Other Olympic sports are also gaining popularity, such as boxing and weightlifting. Rugby league is the most popular sport in Papua New Guinea (especially in the highlands), which also unofficially holds the title as the national sport. [133] The most popular sport in Australia is cricket, the most popular sport among Australian women is netball, while Australian rules football is the most popular sport in terms of spectatorship and television ratings. [134] [135] [136]

Australia has hosted two Summer Olympics: Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000. Australia has also hosted five editions of the Commonwealth Games (Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982, Melbourne 2006, and Gold Coast 2018). In 2006 Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation and qualified for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as an Asian entrant. [137]

See also

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Oceania geographic region comprising Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia

Oceania is a geographic region comprising Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Spanning the eastern and western hemispheres, Oceania covers an area of 8,525,989 square kilometres (3,291,903 sq mi) and has a population of 40 million. Situated in the southeast of the Asia-Pacific region, Oceania, when compared to continental regions, is the smallest in land area and the second smallest in population after Antarctica.

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Territory of Papua and New Guinea administrative union between the Australian-administered territories of Papua and New Guinea est. 1949

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Coordinates: 26°S141°E / 26°S 141°E / -26; 141