Australia has the distinction of being both a country and a continent. Although the Dutch first discovered it in the early 17th century, it ended up being colonized by the British in the 18th century (when it was first used as a penal colony in 1788, in an area that became the state of New South Wales). Latter British waves of colonization of Australia were marked by a gold rush during the 1850s – which stimulated investments in that country’s economy through the rest of the 19th century. In 1907, the Commonwealth of Australia was established, making it a dominion of the British Empire at that time.
With Australia assisting the Allied Forces during World War I, it gained independence from the UK immediately afterwards (and became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations). Australia also participated in World War II (once again assisting the UK and other Allied Forces – from North Africa to Papua New Guinea – where they held back the Japanese). The post-war period (1950s) saw a rise in migration (mainly from southern and eastern Europe — and to a lesser degree from the UK), due to an economic boom that Australia enjoyed at the time. These and other factors spurred the growth of Australia’s major cities, especially in the southeastern part of the country – from Sydney to Melbourne and Canberra (New South Wales province), Brisbane (further up the Pacific coast within Queensland province), and Adelaide (South Australia province).
In more recent times, migration from the Far East and India has made Australia a more multicultural country than ever. Even so, for a country its size (7.6 million km2), Australia (whose total number of residents is 23 million) is still underpopulated, mainly due to the desert climate that reigns through much of that country (especially at the central and western regions of the country – popularly known as “the outback”). No doubt, those visiting Sydney and other cities in southeastern Australia will note the high standard of living enjoyed there (helping to drive tourism in that country), along with those interested in visiting “the outback” (which also covers portions of New South Wales and Queensland provinces).
Along with Sydney, another major tourist destination within Australia is the Gold Coast. This is both the name of a modern city which faces the Pacific Ocean, as well as a popular and extensive beachside area that goes far beyond that city’s boundaries. The Gold Coast, which is a popular surfer’s paradise, is also where the “bikini” first came into existence. Along with endless stretches of golden beaches, there are international theme parks, designer boutiques, spa retreats, world-class golf courses, gourmet restaurants, upmarket bars and trendy nightclubs.
In addition, those exploring Australia’s rural areas can also learn about the country’s first inhabitants, the aborigines – the original residents of Australia (said to have arrived there from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea around 40,000 years ago). As of the early 2000s, the indigenous Australians represent just 517,200 residents (or 2.5% of the country’s population).