Australia Facts 2016

Australia is a developed liberal democracy. It is the largest and most populous country in Oceania, and one of the richest countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

For 40,000 years the continent of Australia was inhabited by indigenous people known as Aboriginals. It was colonised by the British Empire in the late 18th century but gained its independence in 1901.

Demographics of Australia

Australia is a rapidly growing country. Its growth is fuelled by immigration.


At the start of 2016, Australia’s population was estimated to be 23,984,200. Australia today is the 53rd most populous country in the world.

The population has grown by almost 2.5 million people in the five years since the last census, held in 2011, recorded an official population of 21,507,717.

Must of Australia’s population growth is the result of immigration. Around 3 in every 10 Australians was born outside of Australia. The United Kingdom is still the largest single country of origin for migrants to Australia, only just ahead of India and China.Population of Australia



English is the language most commonly spoken in Australia. There is no official language in Australia.


According to the 2011 census, 61% of people in Australia are christians. 2.5% are buddhists, 2.2% are muslims and 1.3% are hindus. 22.3% of people in Australia declared they had no religion. Australia has no official state religion.

Australian economy

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. Its free market economy has seen sustained and steady growth over many decades, driven by its service sector and export of minerals and natural resources.


Australia’s nominal GDP in 2014 was $1.44 trillion. This figure, provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes Australia the 14th largest economy in the world.

Nominal GDP per capita in 2014 was, according to the IMF, $51,642, ranking Australia 7th in the world.

Australian GDP growth over the past few years has been in the 2-4% range – outperforming most European economies, but lagging slightly behind US growth.


Mining is a major industry in Australia, both for domestic consumption and export. Key exports include coal, uranium and natural gas.


The Australian dollar is the currency of Australia. It is also legal tender in Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and, believe it or not, Zimbabwe.

Australian Government

Australia is a federal democracy and, like the United Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy.

Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth. Its head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. She is represented in Australia by a Governor General.

Australia’s parliament is comprised of a house of representatives (with 150 MPs) and a senate (with 76 senators).The Liberal party is the largest party in both Parliament and the Senate. It leads a coalition government. Malcolm Turnbull is leader of the Liberal party and the current Prime Minister of Australia.

Each of Australia’s states and territories also has its own parliament.

Australian cities and states

Capital City of Australia

Canberra is the capital city of Australia. It has a population of 381,488 and is the eighth largest city in Australia.

Canberra was chosen as capital city of Australia in 1908 because the two largest cities (Melbourne and Sydney) could not agree which should become the capital. It is located in the Australian Capital Territory – an area similar in function to Washington D.C. in America.

Largest Australian cities

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia.

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For more detail, and a longer list, please click here to read our more detailed article about the largest cities in Australia.

Australian states and territories

There are six states, three federal territories and seven external territories in Australia.

They are:

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All of the states and most of the territories are self-governing. The remaining territories are governed by federal government.

Australian flag

The zeal is blue with six white stars – five small and one large. It was adopted in 1901.

Australia flag

The stars represent the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross constellation. Because it is a member of the Commonwealth it also contains a union jack in the upper left corner.

Click here to read more about the Australian national flag.

Australian national anthem

Advance Australia Fair is the national anthem of Australia.

It was composed in 1878 by Peter McCormick and adopted as the national anthem in 1984. Before 1984 the national anthem was God Save the Queen.

Australian military

Australia’s military is called the Australian Defence Force. It has 57,982 active personnel and 45,000 reserve personnel.

It has three main branches of service – the Australian Army, The Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.

Australia’s deference budget in 2014 was US$22.5 billion (1.5% of GDP). This is the fourteenth largest military expenditure in the world.

History of Australia


Humans first arrived on the Australian continent nearly 50,000 years ago. In 1788, when the first colonists landed, their population was estimated at between 750,000 and 1 million. They had a predominantly hunter-gatherer lifestyle. No written records exist – their history and culture was passed down orally.

Willem Janszoon, a Dutch sailor, was the first European person to land in Australia, on 26 February 1606. Although the Dutch named this new territory New Holland, they did not settle here.

Instead, it was the English who colonised Australia. Captain James Cook mapped the East Cost of Australia in 1770 and claimed the territory for Great Britain. Captain Arthur Phillip led the first colony – a penal colony that landed near present day Sydney on 26 January 1788.

Britain gradually expanded its penal colonies over the next 50-75 years – driven partly by a need to exile its criminals somewhere far away and partly by a desire to secure a territory that could compensate for its loss of North America in 1783. Gradually, as the penal colonies became established, civilian colonists followed. Over the next fifty years they gradually took on responsibility for their own governance.

The Commonwealth of Australia, a dominion of the British Empire, was established on 1 January 1901. The Commonwealth brought together each of the separate colonies into a single, self-governing, federation.

Australia was rapidly industrialising and growing in economic strength. By the time of the first world war, it was able to send more than 400,000 men to join the fighting in Europe – more than 60,000 of whom were killed in the conflict. Gallipoli, in present day Turkey, is regarded as the Australian military’s first major battle. Australia’s army, navy and air force also played a major part in the Second World War, fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe and the Japanese Empire in Asia.

Growing in confidence, Australia gradually reduced its formal constitutional links with Britain – most were severed in the Statue of Westminster in 1931; the final ties were cut by the Australia Act of 1986.

World Leaders 2017

Updated: 24 January 2017

This page contains a list all world leaders, including a list of all Presidents, Prime Ministers and Monarchs for every country in the world that is a member of the UN or an observer at the UN. It includes the names of the head of state and head of government of each country.

It also includes a list of the heads of significant global and regional organisations – for example, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank or NATO.

The data is accurate as of April 2016.

List of world leaders

This table contains a list of heads of state and heads of government. Where the two roles are combined, only one person is listed.

Where we have written an article about a person included in this list, you can click on a link to visit that article.

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What is the difference between head of state and head of government?

The head of state is almost always an individual. They are often elected but not always – for example, some heads of state are monarchs. Their main role is to act as the representative of that state – for example meeting foreign dignitaries, opening parliaments, or calling elections.

The head of government is usually a prime minister, who leads the government and the legislature. They are responsible for implementing laws and ensuring that the country’s bureaucracy runs smoothly.

Most countries separate the two roles, and appoint a different person to fulfil each function. However some countries, usually in countries with a Presidential system of government, allow one person to fulfil both roles.


Elizabeth II is the only person to be head of state of more than one country. This is because many countries that used to be a part of the British Empire have kept her as their head of state. In total, she is Queen of sixteen countries. She is also head of the Commonwealth of Nations. In countries other than the United Kingdom, she is represented by a Governor-General.

Bhumibol Adulyadejs, also known as Rama IX, is the longest serving head of state. He is also the longest serving current monarch. He has reigned as King of Thailand since 9 June 1946. This is more than five years longer than Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 5 February 1952.

The longest serving head of state who is not a monarch is Paul Biya of Cameroon. He took office on 30 June 1975.

Three countries have more than one head of state. These countries are Switzerland, where members of the federal council take it in turns to take on the role of President, San Marino, which is led by two Captains-Regent, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, which has a three-member Presidency with one member drawn from each of its three nations.

List of organisation leaders

This table contains a list of the leaders of selected international organisations.

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