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WHAT MAKES AUSTRALIA UNIQUE?
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Investigating Australia's Physical Environments

AN OVERVIEW

While Australia is part of a global community there are many features of the physical and human environment that make our country unique. Taken together, these features give our country an identity that is readily recognised around the world as Australian.

The unique features of Australia’s physical, human and cultural environments are introduced below. Many of these will be examined in greater depth throughout the text.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS

One feature of Australia that earns it international recognition is its spectacular scenery, especially the diversity of the landscape and the richness of its colour. Throughout the world, distinctive

Australian landmarks, including Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef, rank alongside well-known international landmarks such as the Grand Canyon of the United States, the Matterhorn of Switzerland and the fjords of Norway. International tourists also nominate Australia’s golden beaches as distinctive landmarks. When combined with our warm climate and the popularity of water sports, beaches form an important and widely recognised element of the Australian lifestyle.geo3.PNG

FLORA AND FAUNA

Another feature of Australia’s physical environments that sets them apart from those of other countries is the diversity of our flora and fauna. When people think of Australia, one of the first images that comes to mind is the distinctive wildlife, especially the kangaroo, koala, platypus and echidna. These well-known animals are unique to Australia because the continent has been isolated from the other continental landmasses for such a long period of time.

Animal groups such as the marsupials and monotremes survive in Australia because their predators and competitors, which exist on other continents, did not reach Australia before the land bridge with Asia was submerged by rising sea levels. Birds also developed characteristics suited to the Australian environment.

Many of our birds (such as parrots, cockatoos and galahs) are brilliantly coloured and are well known throughout the world.

Australia’s plants have also evolved into some of the world’s most exotic species. Plant species such as eucalyptus (gum trees) and acacia (wattles) cover large areas of the continent and have many different varieties. Many of these plants can survive in regions with dry climates, poor soils and frequent bushfi res. Cultivated

Australian wildflowers and grasses are exported to markets around the world, where they are highly prized.

The particular combinations of plants and animals found in different parts of the continent reflect the climatic diversity of the landmass, from the tropical north to the arid interior. The plants and animals are, however, always recognisably Australian



DISTINCTIVE HUMAN AND CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTS

Every country has its own characteristic history and cultural traditions. The very long occupation by Aboriginal people and the settlement by Europeans have contributed to Australia’s particular character. Australia has a number of culturally and historically unique features, traditions and influences. These include its Aboriginal heritage; British cultural, political and legal traditions; geo4.PNG
American commercial and media influences; its ethnically diverse population; and its location in the Asia–Pacific region.

Multicultural diversity

The ethnic and cultural diversity evident within the Australian population gives the nation a special quality. Few other countries have experienced such an influx of people from so many lands as Australia has in the last fi fty years. People from more than 160 countries now call Australia home. Australia is one of the world’s great multicultural societies.

Lifestyle

Australia is often described as having a casual lifestyle based on a love of sport and the environment, particularly the beach. While this is obviously an oversimplification, it makes the point that our lifestyle is, to some extent, governed by the nature of our
physical environments. Australia’s mild (temperate) climate, for example, enables people to engage in a wide range of outdoor activities.
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Also enriching the lifestyle enjoyed by Australians is the contribution made by the millions of immigrants who have chosen to settle here. They have brought with them their own cultural traditions, including different religions, languages, foods, sports and arts. These make Australia an interesting and vibrant society.

Supporting this lifestyle is the relatively high material standard of living enjoyed by most Australians. This material standard of living is derived from the country’s mineral wealth, agricultural production, manufacturing and service industries, and the skills and knowledge of its people.