it's most fertile land is around the coastal regions, enclosing
what is referred to as the Outback, memorable for it's vivid
colours of red, rich brown, yellows, orange, bluish-green of many
scrub, and the linen-white trunks of ghost gum trees. This seemingly
endless landscape is broken by salt lakes, mountains ranges such as
the MacDonnell and Flinders Ranges and fantastic rock
formations such as Uluru, Mt Olga, Twelve Apostles and the Three
The longest river, originating in Queensland, is the Murray Darling
measuring 2736 km.
The Australian federation consists of six States and two
Territories. Most inland borders follow lines of longitude and
latitude. The largest State, Western Australia, is about the same
size as Western Europe.
Australian plants and animals evolved in isolation from other parts
of the world and as a consequence have a remarkable diversity of
life forms not seen elsewhere in the world. When the super-continent of Gondwanaland split up
about 160 million years ago, Australia joined Antarctica and drifted
towards the South Pole, where glaciers formed a barrier between it
and other land masses.
Over the past 45 million years, Australia has moved away from
Antarctica towards the equator and become warmer and more arid.
About 35 million years ago, eucalypts began to displace the dense
forests of the cool, damp Tertiary era.
Today Australian eucalypts account for more than half of all
eucalypts found throughout the world.
The marsupials native to Australia have a different chromosome
structure than mammals in other parts of the world. Typically, they
suckle their young in a pouch.
Like the eucalypts, marsupials occupied a wide range of ecological
niches in Australia. The first kangaroo marsupials seem to have
appeared about 15 million years ago. They vary enormously in size
and adaptation. A species of tropical kangaroo lives in trees, but
most kangaroos are tough, efficient users of dry bush.
As the world climate warmed and glaciers melted, oceans gradually
rose to their current level and the land bridges to New Guinea and
Tasmania were cut. Corals colonised a flooded coastal plain, forming
the Great Barrier Reef of Queensland.
Ancient plants still grow in the wild. Large 'Antarctic' tree ferns
are common in damp, shaded gullies on the south sides of ridges.
Cycad palms form an understorey to tall, silvery spotted gums
(eucalypts) along the south-east coast. Rare relics from earlier
geological eras are found in small, special habitats, such as desert
Pressure on native habitats from agriculture and introduced pests
like the fox and rabbit have resulted in extinctions of some native
species in the past 200 years. Australia now has a strong scientific
and legal framework to deal with these issues. Australians generally care
about their unique environment.
Source: Commonwealth of Australia
Australian Tourist Commission