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3. Australia Australia is one of the oldest landmasses on earth, originally breaking away from the super continent „Gondwana“ and settling in its current position about fifteen million years ago. The continent is also one of the most stable of all landmasses. Australia is the only country occupying a whole continent. With an area covering 7,682,300 km2 it is the sixth largest country in the world after Russia, Canada, China, the US and Brazil. The population is about 17,335,900 people – 98% white (mostly of British origin) and about 300 000 Aborigines. The capital is Canberra, currency is Australian dollar and official language is English. The country is bounded by the Pacific Ocean in the east and by Indian Ocean in the west. It is the flattest of all continents, however you can also find some mountainous places there like MacDonnell Ranges, Flinders Ranges, Ayers Rock. In central Australia there are three big deserts – Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert and Great Victoria Desert and famous lakes like Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, Lake Gaidner. Australia is divided into 6 states and 2 territories – Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. Spending Christmas at the beach or skiing in August may seem strange but the fact is, Australia’s seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere – summer starts in December, autumn in March, winter in June and spring in September. Due to its size, geographical location and the lack of extensive high mountain ranges Australia has a wide range of climates but generally no extremes. Australia has more than 2000 national parks and nature reserves. Beyond the big cities the air so clean rarely experienced elsewhere in the world. There are still areas that haven’t been explored because they are so wild and inaccessible. While driving in the countryside, visitors can see a hopping kangaroos or running emus. Australia’s isolation for more than 55 million years has created a unique place of animals and plants found nowhere else in the world. Australia is famous especially for kangaroos, dingoes, koalas, platypuses (a river dwelling little animal with duck bill and furry body), spiny anteater, wombat and Tasmanian devil, wild buffalos, many species of lizard, humpbacks, sharks, waterbirds, crocodiles and other marine animals. Australia’s native inhabitants, the Aborigines, arrived in Australia at least 40 000 years ago and the existence of this continent was believed in ancient times and was supported by information from Marco Polo at the end of the 13th century. Australia was settled in the 19th century by prisoners from Britain. Often prisoners were given a choice: they could go to Australia or they could be hanged. The head of the state is British Queen Elisabeth II represented by a Governor and it is a constitutional monarchy. The Australian flag has a blue field and five stars. The British flag is in the corner. The biggest towns and cities are mostly along the coast of Australia and there live nearly 90% of the population. The largest is Sidney with 3.8 million people followed by Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra.