Is Australia A Country Or A Continent?
|Is Australia a country or continent? Photo: WonderWhy|
A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity (i.e. a nation). It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship.
A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, a physical territory with a government, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics. It is not inherently sovereign.
A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, these seven regions are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. Variations with fewer continents may merge some of these, for example some systems include Eurasia or America as single continents.
Geologically, the continents correspond to areas of continental crust that are found on the continental plates, but include continental fragments such as Madagascar that are not commonly referred to as continents while others are largely covered with water, such as Zealandia. Continental crust is only known to exist on Earth.
About Australia: Is Australia a country or continent?
Australia is both a continent and a country. It is located to the south of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, in the southeast part of the Indian Ocean. New Zealand lies to its east, and most of the Indian Ocean lies to its west. Antarctica can be found to Australia’s south. The Australian continent consists of the mainland, as well as the island of Tasmania, which lies to the south of mainland, across the Bass Strait. It also includes many smaller islands, such as Kangaroo Island, Christmas Island, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Australia is the world’s smallest continent, though it is also the sixth-largest country in the world. The total land area of Australia is 7,682,300 sq. km.
The Australian mainland extends from west to east for nearly 2,500 miles (4,000 km) and from Cape York Peninsula in the northeast to Wilsons Promontory in the southeast for nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 km). To the south, Australian jurisdiction extends a further 310 miles (500 km) to the southern extremity of the island of Tasmania, and in the north it extends to the southern shores of Papua New Guinea. Australia is separated from Indonesia to the northwest by the Timor and Arafura seas, from Papua New Guinea to the northeast by the Coral Sea and the Torres Strait, from the Coral Sea Islands Territory by the Great Barrier Reef, from New Zealand to the southeast by the Tasman Sea, and from Antarctica in the far south by the Indian Ocean.
What Makes Australia A Continent?
Defining a continent can be tricky. In fact, there is even disagreement on how many continents there are in the world. For example, many people in Russia, the rest of Eastern Europe, and Japan consider Europe and Asia to be one continent, known as Eurasia. In some countries, North and South America are considered one continent, while Europe and Asia are divided. There are even some who believe that Europe, Asia, and Africa should be considered one united continent because they are all joined together by land. The most prevailing view, however, is that there are seven continents in the world, and one of them is Australia.
There is also a widely accepted view of what a continent is. This view defines a continent as a large, continuous, distinct landmass, preferably separated by a vast expanse of water. This definition is problematic because many of today’s continents are not separated by vast expanses of water. In fact, all the continents are connected by land to at least one other continent, with one exception: Australia. Australia is surrounded by vast expanses of water on all sides. Thus, one could argue that it meets the prevailing definition of a continent better than most other continents.
What Makes Australia A Country?
Australia has a federal form of government, with a national government for the Commonwealth of Australia and individual state governments (those of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania). Each state has a constitution, and its government exercises a limited degree of sovereignty. There are also two internal territories: Northern Territory, established as a self-governing territory in 1978, and the Australian Capital Territory (including the city of Canberra), which attained self-governing status in 1988. The federal authorities govern the external territories of Norfolk Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier islands, the Coral Sea Islands, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands and claim the Australian Antarctic Territory, an area larger than Australia itself. Papua New Guinea, formerly an Australian external territory, gained its independence in 1975.
Historically part of the British Empire and now a member of the Commonwealth, Australia is a relatively prosperous independent country. Australians are in many respects fortunate in that they do not share their continent—which is only a little smaller than the United States—with any other country. Extremely remote from their traditional allies and trading partners—it is some 12,000 miles (19,000 km) from Australia to Great Britain via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal and about 7,000 miles (11,000 km) across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the United States—Australians have become more interested in the proximity of huge potential markets in Asia and in the highly competitive industrialized economies of China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Australia, the continent and the country, may have been quite isolated at the beginning of the 20th century, but it entered the 21st century a culturally diverse land brimming with confidence, an attitude encouraged by the worldwide fascination with the land “Down Under” and demonstrated when Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympic Games.
Geographical and climatic features of Australia
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Australia is the smallest of the world's continents. It is also the lowest, the flattest and (apart from Antarctica) the driest.
The highest point on the Australian mainland is Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales, at 2228 metres above sea level. The lowest point is the dry bed of Lake Eyre, South Australia, which is 15 metres below sea level.
The mainland and Tasmania are surrounded by many thousands of small islands and numerous larger ones. Nearly 40 per cent of the total coastline length comprises island coastlines. As an island nation, coastlines play an important role in defining national, state and territory boundaries.
Nearly 20 per cent of Australia's land mass is classified as desert. As well as having a low average annual rainfall, rainfall across Australia is also variable. The rainfall pattern is concentric around the extensive arid core of the continent, with rainfall intensity high in the tropics and some coastal areas.
Climatic zones range from tropical rainforests, deserts and cool temperature forests to snow covered mountains.
Within this climate, our plants and animals have evolved on a geographically isolated continent, through a time of a slowly drying climate, combined with continuing high variability. The uniqueness of much of Australia's flora and fauna is thus at least partly due to these features of our climate.
Biodiversity of Australia
Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, the continent includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests. Fungi typify that diversity—an estimated 250,000 species—of which only 5% have been described—occur in Australia. Because of the continent's great age, extremely variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Australia has at least 755 species of reptile, more than any other country in the world. Besides Antarctica, Australia is the only continent that developed without feline species. Feral cats may have been introduced in the 17th century by Dutch shipwrecks, and later in the 18th century by European settlers. They are now considered a major factor in the decline and extinction of many vulnerable and endangered native species. Australia is also one of 17 megadiverse countries.
Australian forests are mostly made up of evergreen species, particularly eucalyptus trees in the less arid regions; wattles replace them as the dominant species in drier regions and deserts. Among well-known Australian animals are the monotremes (the platypus and echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, koala, and wombat, and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra. Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world. The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE. Many animal and plant species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna; others have disappeared since European settlement, among them the thylacine.
Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced animal, chromistan, fungal and plant species. All these factors have led to Australia's having the highest mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 65 wetlands are listed under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 natural World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 21st out of 178 countries in the world on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index. There are more than 1,800 animals and plants on Australia's threatened species list, including more than 500 animals.
Federal Government of Australia
The federal government of Australia has an executive branch led by a Prime Minister, who heads a cabinet. The legislative branch of Australia’s government is known as the parliament. It is a bicameral legislature, which means that it has two legislative organs or houses.
The lower house is known as the House of Representatives. The upper house is known as the Senate. Like the U.S. House of Representatives, the Australian counterpart is structured on a representation by population model, which means that the more populous areas of the country have more representatives than less populated areas. The Australian senate also resembles the US Senate.
Each Australian state elects 12 senators, while the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Region elect two each. In addition, the Australian judicial branch operates very much like the federal judiciary in the US.
The High Court of Australia is the equivalent of the US Supreme Court. The state governments of Australia largely parallel the structure of the federal government.
Thus, they have their own executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
Economy of Australia
As a sovereign state, Australia not only has its own government, but its own economy as well. This includes its own currency, the Australian dollar. The economy of Australia, valued at about 1.323 trillion U.S. dollars, is the 13th largest in the world, and one of the wealthiest in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia’s economy has also been rated the 3rd freest economy in the world, according to the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom. Moreover, Australia has free trade agreements with 15 different countries, including the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
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