G'day mate and welcome to Australia! This island continent is located in the lower Southern Hemisphere, the half of the world south of the equator, and has been nicknamed "the land down under."

Originally inhabited by the Aboriginal people, the British began to colonize Australia in 1788, only 18 years after King George III of Britain claimed the east coast of Australia, by sending convicts to its shores and turning the country into one large prison. However, over time, Australia flourished, developing a unique identity with the influence of the Aboriginal culture. The country gained independence from Great Britain in 1901.

Today, Australia has six states: New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Victoria.

The rural landscape of Australia serves as the natural habitat for animals not found in any other part of the world, such as the kangaroo, the emu, and the koala bear.

The landscape is extremely varied, with tropical forests in the northeastern coast, grasslands in the interior of the country, the rough environment of the outback, and the snow laden peaks of the Australian Alps in the southeast.    

The stars of the Southern Cross shine brightly over the country. Australia contains both an adventurous, breathtaking, and dramatic landscape.

The Aboriginal people are the natives of the Australian continent. Their culture is among the very oldest on earth, stretching back perhaps 40,000 years. Their traditions are defined by a deep reverence for the natural world around them. Rocks, trees, rivers, canyons-they are all sacred and connected in Aboriginal thought. Through these beliefs, the Aboriginal people learned long ago to live in harmony with their natural surroundings, moving with the seasons to find food and shelter.

The arrival of European settlers in the 1800s had a devastating impact on the Aboriginal people. The settlers brought with them diseases, guns, and a desire for land and resources that overwhelmed the native population. Eventually, British rulers forced the Aboriginal people to abandon their culture and beliefs. At the start of European settlement, nearly 300 native languages were spoken in Australia; today, all but about 20 have largely vanished. But with the passage of time, modern Australians have gained a new respect and understanding for Aboriginal culture, traditions, art, and music. Today's Australia has learned to celebrate the rich and unique nature of its native people.

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