The best climate, Mediterranean lots of sunshine, vineyards and orchards not far from the city center. Perth, on the soutwest coast with 500,000 population, also has a favored Mediterranean climate. Canberra, the capital, is the result of rivalry between the two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney. Neither would permit the other to be named capital. Canberra is a planned capital, planted squarely in the country. Hobart is the urban center on Tasmania, the island constituency south of Australia. It is a seafaring town and tourist center.
The south coast climate is Mediterranean in character, relatively dry and temperate. Heavy rainfall characterizes the northeast coast and the north coast is semi-tropical.
The vast interior, 85 percent of the land, the outback, is semi-desert, with sheep and cattle stations that cover thousands of acres. Until a few years ago one cattle station, The Victoria River Downs, covered an area the size of Belgium. The nearest neighbor of a station manager may live two hundred miles away; the front gate of a property can be thirty miles from the front door. The outback is Australia’s frontier; it tests man’s fortitude with droughts, floods, heat, and loneliness. Out in the desert is the largest rock in the world, Ayers Rock, sacred to the aborigines and still used as a ceremonial center. There are a few small towns. Alice is one of the best known, with a population of twenty thousand. One-third of Australia is desert; another third is fit only for grazing.
Because of its size, the topography and climate vary widely: dense jungles in the north; deserts in the center with temperatures up to 140 degrees; hundreds of miles of virtually flat land, yet mountains high enough for skiing. A long stretch of mountains, the great Dividing Range, runs the length of the east coast.
About one in every five Australians is foreign born. The largest number are British. Immigrants from Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany are also present. The original inhabitants, the aborigines, constitute less than one percent of the population. A large percentage of Australian men are addicted to beer and sports.