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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Australian(s).
Population (2002): 19.8 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.3%.
Ethnic groups: European 92%, Asian 6%, Aboriginal 2%.
Religions: Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 21%, other non-Christian 5%, no religion 15%.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 15 in all states except Tasmania, where it is 16. Literacy--85%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5/1,000. Life expectancy--males 77 yrs., females 82 yrs.
Work force (9.3 million): Agriculture--4%; mining, manufacturing, and utilities--22%; services--70%; public administration and defense--4%.
Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people generally referred to as Aboriginals and Torres Straits Islanders, arrived about 40,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained static--depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons--their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged from 1 person per square mile along the coasts to 1 person per 35 square miles in the arid interior. When Capt. James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain in 1770, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. The aboriginal population currently numbers more than 410,000, representing about 2.2% of the population. Since the end of World War II, the government and the public have made efforts to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs.
Immigration has been a key to Australia's development since the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations, most settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook similar to those of Americans. However, since the end of World War II, the population has more than doubled; non-European immigration, mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, has increased significantly since 1960 through an extensive, planned immigration program. From 1945 through 2000, nearly 5.9 million immigrants settled in Australia, and about 80% have remained; nearly two of every seven Australians is foreign-born. Britain and Ireland have been the largest sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia.
Australia's refugee admissions of about 12,000 per year are in addition to the normal immigration program. In recent years, refugees from the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia have comprised the largest-single element in Australia's refugee program.
Although Australia has scarcely more than two persons per square kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries. Less than 15% of the population lives in rural areas.