Australia Encyclopedia for Kids

By | December 26, 2021


An island as big as a continent

Australia is a vast island located between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, straddling the Tropic of Capricorn. A great variety of climates and natural environments, the originality of the flora and fauna, the peculiarities of the human presence make Australia a continent in itself, economically and technologically advanced, but also in many ways primitive

Not just kangaroos

The Australian territory consists of an ancient plateau in the central-western portion and a large lowland in the central-eastern part. The rivers, such as the Murray and the Darling, have a very irregular regime, given the scarcity of rainfall, and also the lakes – Eyre, Torrens, Gairdner – often take on the appearance of ponds. Along the east coast rises a long mountain range, the Great Dividing Range, culminating in Mount Kosciusko (2,228m). For Australia travel information, please check

The coasts are cut by the Gulf of Carpentaria to the north and the Great Australian Bay to the south; other small bays lie to the north and southeast. Opposite the east coast, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2,000 km, the largest coral and coral formation on Earth. Off the southeast coast is the Island of Tasmania.

Much of Australia has a continental climate, with strong temperature variations: in winter it reaches below 0 ° C and above 40 ° C in summer. Most of the population is concentrated in the south-eastern area, the one with the mildest climate.

In the northeastern region the tropical forest grows: evergreen plants, ferns, lianas, bamboos, orchids. To the west of the Great Dividing Range there are prairies dotted with thickets of thorny plants (the bush), even further west there are steppe and then desert areas (Great Victoria Desert and Great Sandy Desert).

A very original fauna has survived in Australia: at least 160 species of extinct or unknown mammals elsewhere. The kangaroo, with over fifty varieties, is the best known of the marsupials, which also include the koala, the opossum, the Tasmanian devil. Among the birds, the bird of paradise and the parrots are spectacular. The marine fauna is also rich, with whales, sharks and dolphins.

The human settlement

The residents of Australia are almost three quarters of English origin and the rest come from continental Europe and Asia. The Aboriginal population – 400,000 units – has been relegated to the poorest areas of the country and often lives in conditions of absolute degradation.

A profound difference runs between the south-eastern belt and the internal territory. The southeast coast is ultramodern, economically advanced and there are the main cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide; only Perth, of the major cities, is on the west coast. More than 90% of the Australian population lives in cities, where they live from industry, which is traditionally underdeveloped, and from activities with a strong scientific and technological content: applied research, communication, finance. Inland (called outback by Australians), on the other hand, the human presence is scarce and distributed in small towns; the dominant activity is sheep breeding, together with the cultivation of cereals (especially wheat) and the exploitation of the rich mineral and energy resources. Here the settlements are reminiscent of the American Far West, and much of daily life takes place using air transport and computer and telematic communications.

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