About Australia

Society and Culture

Education

In Australia, education starts in the years before formal schooling, with many child care services and preschools receiving government funding.

School students
School students (Oliver Strewe, Tourism Australia)

DID YOU KNOW?

Australia's secondary school enrolment rate is the highest in the world.

Australian students participate in formal school education from the age of five or six to around 18, with many going on to tertiary education. The public and private education sectors are working together to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and improve outcomes in Indigenous education.

Australia's vocational education and training system provides students with the skills required in a modern labour market, and delivers competency-based training that is practical and career orientated. The Australian higher education system has both public and private universities. Some universities have campuses in other countries. There are Australian branches of overseas universities and other higher education providers as well.

Indigenous school children from the Ngukurr School in the Northern Territory droving community cattle
Indigenous school children from the Ngukurr School in the Northern Territory droving community cattle (Newslines)

School of the Air

Australia is home to some of the most geographically isolated and remote communities in the world. School of the Air allows children in remote communities and living on isolated properties to 'attend' school via a computer. Various communication technologies are used to provide daily contact between students, home tutors (often parents) and teachers.

Graph of the stages of Australia's education system: Primary education (Kindergarten to Year 6), Secondary education (Year 7 to 12), Vocational education and training, Private education and training, University.
Stages of Australia's Education System

Australia in Brief publication

The cover image for the booklet. It depicts a painting, Jilji 2007, and has an area in the top right corner that contains the title: Australia in Brief.

Australia in Brief provides an authoritative overview of Australia's history, the land, its people and their way of life. It also looks at Australia's economic, scientific and cultural achievements and its foreign, trade and defence policies.

Australia in Brief

 

Innovation

Australia's development has been forged through its enterprising spirit— the resilience, creativity and unquenchable desire to succeed. Australian innovations have improved the lives of billions—from the black box flight recorder to Google Maps, from Wi-Fi technology to the bionic ear, from spray-on skin to a vaccine for cervical cancer.

DID YOU KNOW?

Australia has produced 14 Nobel laureates.

Some recent Australian laureates are:

  • Brian P Schmidt, Physics, 2011
  • Elizabeth H Blackburn, Physiology or Medicine, 2009
  • Barry J Marshall, Physiology or Medicine, 2005
  • J Robin Warren, Physiology or Medicine, 2005

DID YOU KNOW?

Australia's CSIRO ranks in the top one per cent of the world's scientific institutions in 15 of 22 research fields.

Australia's research institutions are among the world's best and offer unsurpassed opportunities for industry partnerships. Australian scientists collaborate internationally in many fields from coral reef management to medicine. In 2012, Australia won the right to co-host, with South Africa, the world's largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, which will give astronomers new insights into the universe.

Business expenditure on research and development is increasingly recognising Australia's research excellence: it has more than tripled in the last decade reaching A$18.3 billion in 2011–12.

Australia has always been an early adopter of innovations and new technologies and is a global leader in five diverse sectors—agribusiness, education, tourism, mining and wealth management—with 16 out of 20 industries having productivity levels above global averages. An increasing number of innovative international companies have recognised these strengths and established facilities in Australia. In 2014, more than 18,000 international companies were registered in Australia and many are involved in specific product development initiatives with Australians for example Boeing, Canon, IBM, GE and Baosteel.

Australian scientist working in a lab
Australian scientist working in a lab (Department of immigration and Border Protection)
 

The Square kilometre Array will be the largest and most capable radio telescope ever constructed. The SKA will be co-hosted in two locations with central array sites in Australia and South Africa.

Artists rendition of the Square Kilometre Array in operation at night time
Artists rendition of the Square Kilometre Array in operation at night time (SKA Organisation)
 
 

Sport

Australians love sport. There are more than 140 national sporting organisations and thousands of local, regional and state sports bodies.

Community-based sport across the nation underpins Australia's remarkable sporting achievements at the elite level where many international champions have been produced in many sports. The nation unites when Australians play on the international stage. Sport is a powerful force in creating social harmony in a nation made up of people from so many different countries.

Successive governments have committed to supporting sport in Australia from grassroots to elite, increasing participation in physical and recreational activities to promote physical and mental health, staging world-class major sporting events, and using sport as a vehicle to address disadvantage and social inclusion challenges.

Almost all the world's sports are played somewhere in Australia, with men and women well represented in sporting activities across the nation. Football (soccer) and netball are the biggest team sports in Australia. Three other football codes are also popular throughout the country: rugby league, rugby union and Australia's own unique brand of Australian Rules Football. Cricket, tennis, golf, swimming, field hockey and cycling are also popular.

The Australian Sports Commission promotes and funds grassroots participation in sport. It also invests in high-performance sport, including through scholarships for athletes in facilities such as the Australian Institute of Sport, based in Canberra.

The Nullabor Links—the world's longest golf course. It covers 1,365 kilometres along the Eyre Highway between Ceduna in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. There is a hole at each participating town or roadhouse
The Nullabor Links—the world's longest golf course. It covers 1,365 kilometres along the Eyre Highway between Ceduna in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. There is a hole at each participating town or roadhouse

Sporting events

Australia has a reputation for staging successful major sporting events. It has hosted the summer Olympics twice (Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000) and the Commonwealth Games four times (Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982 and Melbourne 2006). Queensland's Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. In 2015, Australia will also host the Cricket World Cup, the World Netball Championships, and the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup. Other international events are staged annually around Australia such as the gruelling Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, the internationally accredited Tour Down Under cycling event in South Australia, and a round of the Moto GP on Phillip Island in Victoria. The world tennis circuit begins each year with the Australian Open in Melbourne.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Australian Institute of Sport is a world best practice model for high-performance athlete development. It bases its activities on outstanding athlete results combined with skilled coaches, world-class facilities and cutting-edge sports science and sports medicine services.

Australian Socceroo Brett Holman playing against Bahrain in the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar
Australian Socceroo Brett Holman playing against Bahrain in the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2015, Australia will host the AFC Asian Cup. With 15 countries vying for the title of Asia's best football team, it is the biggest football tournament ever staged in Australia. The 23-day event is expected to attract 45,000 international visitors to Australia and reach a television audience of more than 2.5 billion, making it the most watched Asian Football Cup in history.

Child kicking ball
Child kicking ball (Australian Sports Commission)
Outdoor boxercise session
Outdoor boxercise session (Australian Sports Commission)
Cyclists
Cyclists (Australian Sports Commission)
Children playing cricket
Children playing cricket (Australian Sports Commission)

DID YOU KNOW?

Almost all of the world's sports are played in Australia.

Silver medal winner in Canoe Slalom at the 2012 London Olympics, Jessica Fox
Silver medal winner in Canoe Slalom at the 2012 London Olympics, Jessica Fox (Australian Sports Commission)
 

Creative Australia

Australia has one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world—that of the Aboriginal peoples—and at the same time has one of the most diverse cultures, being home to people from all corners of the globe. This unique make-up permeates Australia's culture and how it expresses its identity, including in the creative arts.

Cate Blanchett at the G'day USA Gala 2014
Cate Blanchett at the G'day USA Gala 2014 (DFAT)

Australia has many publicly run galleries, museums and performance spaces, from the World Heritage listed Opera House in Sydney and world-class national galleries and museums in Canberra, to history museums and galleries in country towns. The Australia Council provides government funding to artists and arts organisations and Screen Australia supports Australia's film industry.

Private sector arts philanthropy is growing in Australia. Tasmania's innovative Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is privately funded, and generous private support helped to create the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2014, Australia's Cate Blanchett won an Academy Award for best actress.

Bangarra performer Leonard Mickelo in 'of earth & sky'
Bangarra performer Leonard Mickelo in 'of earth & sky' (Jason Capobianco, Bangarra Dance Theatre)
MONA, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart
MONA, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart (MONA)
Circus Oz 2014: But Wait…There's More!
Circus Oz 2014: But Wait…There's More! (Rob Blackburn)
Opera Australia's 'The Elixir of Love'
Opera Australia's 'The Elixir of Love' (Georges Antoni, Opera Australia)
The Aboriginal Memorial at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The Aboriginal Memorial at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (Adrian Brown, Tourism Australia)

Australia's creative industries have built a global reputation for innovation, talent and energy and play an important role in the Australian economy. Almost 90 per cent of the population engages with the arts at least once a year.

Contemporary visual arts in Australia encompass photography, multi-media, sculpture, installations, drawings, paintings and performance art. Since the 1970s, the works of Indigenous artists have attracted international attention, featuring, for example, in the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Australia's performing arts groups, musicians, dance troupes and theatre performers display the energy and diversity of Australia's arts and many are involved in international exchanges. Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet regularly undertake world tours. Smaller companies, such as dance troupe Chunky Moves, have toured the Middle East and the Bangarra Dance Theatre, Circus Oz and others are recognised internationally for the quality of their productions.

Australian music is another big export and covers an extraordinary range, from classical to contemporary and children's entertainment. The Australian Chamber Orchestra regularly tours Europe and Japan, and guitarist Slava Grigoryan is one of a number of prominent classical musicians and composers who regularly tour and work overseas. An eclectic group of Australian contemporary artists have achieved international success, including AC/DC, Gotye, Nick Cave, INXS, Kylie Minogue, Keith Urban, and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

Fashion Week in Sydney and Melbourne showcases to the world the best of Australian designers and fashion brands: Akira Isogawa, Carla Zampatti, Alex Perry and Wayne Cooper.

Screen Australia's support for the film industry has resulted in many overseas film successes and Australian actors such as Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts continue to receive international acclaim.

Australia's talented visual effects companies have worked on some of the world's biggest and most high-profile movies including The LEGO Movie, Gravity, Iron Man 3, Prometheus, The Avengers, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, and The Matrix trilogy.

 
 

Health Care

The Australian health system is world class in effectiveness and efficiency: Australia consistently ranks in the World Health Organization's best performing group of countries for healthy life expectancy and health expenditure per person.

University of Melbourne physiotherapy student in clinic with a patient
University of Melbourne physiotherapy student in clinic with a patient (University of Melbourne)

Medicare is Australia's public health system, providing free public hospital care and subsidies for primary care. Medicare ensures that all Australians have access to a broad range of quality health services at little or no cost. The Australian Government provides significant financing for the health system, working closely with state and territory governments with responsibility for on-the-ground delivery of hospital services. A private health sector complements the public system.

The non-Indigenous Australian population has a generally good health status with an average life expectancy at birth of 83 years (80 for men and 84 for women), one of the highest in the world. There are some groups with poor health status, and improving the life expectancy of Indigenous peoples is a national priority. Generally, the pattern of disease in Australia is similar to that of other developed countries.

medical evacuation from Mount Ive Station, South Australia
A medical evacuation from Mount Ive Station, South Australia (Royal Flying Doctor Service)

The Royal Flying Doctor Service

One of Australia's best known and respected institutions is the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Flying Doctor is a charity that operates a fleet of more than 63 planes from 21 bases around the country. Every day doctors, nurses and paramedics fly large distances to attend to patients or conduct clinics in small towns or on remote properties. Often they escort patients back to larger centres for hospital and medical treatment. The Royal Flying Doctor Service began in 1928 and every year has more than 290,000 patient contacts a year—the equivalent of one every two minutes.

 
 

Media and Communications

Australia has many media outlets. There are two national radio, television and online broadcasters that receive public funding—the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

Woman with mobile phone
(Austrade)

The ABC is Australia's national public broadcaster. Founded in 1929, the ABC provides television, radio, online and mobile services across the country. Through its international charter, it also provides radio and television services to overseas audiences.

SBS broadcasts programs in English and a range of other languages, and covers news from all over the world. SBS also manages the National Indigenous Television channel (NITV), which broadcasts programs produced primarily by Australia's Indigenous people.

Australia also has three commercial free-to-air television networks, an indigenous commercial television station, hundreds of pay television channels, and many print, radio, digital and online media outlets.

DID YOU KNOW?

83% of Australia's population has access to the internet.

Telstra telecommunications tower, Canberra
Telstra telecommunications tower, Canberra (VisitCanberra)