Twelve million years ago, give or take a few hundred thousand years, a piece of Antarctica broke off, drifted northward and finally stopped to become Australia. Australia is both forbidding and delightful. Roughly three-quarters of it is composed of Pre-Cambrian rock, most of it worn down by wind, rain and time, to form a vast, low-lying plateau.
Even though it is the smallest of the continents, the country is one of the largest. It is almost the size of the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, yet its population is only fifteen million. Papua New Guinea, once governed by Australia, and Indonesia are to the north. The Tasman Sea, an arm of the Pacific, forms the eastern border. The Indian Ocean is south and west.
The official name of Australia is the Commonwealth of Australia, and it is divided into six states and a Northern Territory. Tasmania, the island south of Australia, is a state with Hobart as the capital. The other states are Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Australia can be thought of as a huge country populated around its eastern and southern rims. Most of Australia’s fifteen million people are urban dwellers. Only 15 percent of the population live in rural areas. Sydney, on the southeast coast, with a population of three million, is the oldest and largest city, and let no one forget, it has the much vaunted wingshaped Opera House. Sydney bustles and is noisy like most cities, saved only by its location on the ocean with twenty-two surf beaches close at hand. Most pictures are taken from the harbor and include the opera house. Melbourne, farther down on the coast, is only slightly smaller with over two million. It claims to be more reserved, more intellectual, more cultural. It is the financial center of the nation. Brisbane, also on the coast, but north of Sydney, has a little over a million residents. It is much like the American midwest fifty years ago. The people are relaxed and friendly.