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Facts about Australia and Oceania

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Continent name: Australia or Oceania

Story behind the name: Australia comes from the Latin australis, meaning “southern.” Romans used the term Terra Australis Incognita, meaning “unknown land of the South”, before they actually got to know of the continent. When the continent was discovered, people began referring to the land as Terra Australis.

In 1824, “Australia” became the official name of the continent.

Area: 8,536,716 square kilometers, or 3,296,044 square miles

Population: Approximately 36.25 million people

Location and Geography: Australia is located in the southern hemisphere, and is the smallest, lowest, flattest, and driest human-inhabited continent in the world. The Australian Continent consists of Australia, and several nearby islands, including Tasmania and New Guinea. Greater Oceania includes New Zealand, which is not on the same continental shelf as Australia, and includes thousands of coral reef islands.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of mainland Australia is the world’s largest coral reef system, as well as the world’s biggest structure made by living organisms. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space.

About 20 percent of Australia is classified as a desert, though the coastal regions and islands are home to tropical rain forests, hills, and grasslands.

Currencies of Australia/Oceania:
  • Australia – Australian dollar
  • Kiribati – Australian dollar
  • Nauru – Australian dollar
  • Tuvalu – Australian dollar
  • New Zealand – New Zealand dollar
  • Niue – New Zealand dollar
  • Tokelau – New Zealand dollar
  • Fiji – Fijian dollar
  • East Timor – US dollar
  • Palau – Palauan dollar and US dollar
  • Samoa – Samoan tala
  • Tonga – Tongan pa’anga
  • Marshall Islands – US dollar
  • Federated States of Micronesia – Micronesian dollar and US dollar
  • Vanuatu – Vanuatu vatu
  • Solomon Islands – Solomon Islands dollar
  • Papua New Guinea – Kina

Languages: English is the primary language spoken in Australia and New Zealand but many indigenous languages are spoken across the continent. It is estimated that over 250 language groups existed in Australia. The Pama-Nyungan group is most widespread family of indigenous languages, and consists of hundreds of different languages. Many indigenous languages from this region have already become extinct.

History and Colonization: Australia has been inhabited by indigenous Australians, called Aborigines, for anywhere between 40,000 and 125,000 years. The surrounding islands in Oceania were settled by Polynesians around 2,000 years ago.

Europeans explored the region during the Age of Discovery, around the 16th Century. Ferdinand Magellan discovered many of the Oceanic islands, and then Abel Tasman explored parts of Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji. In the 18th century, John Cook explored other parts of Oceania, coming across the Pacific Islands and eastern Australia.

Australia became a British colony in 1788, followed by New Zealand in 1840 and Fiji in 1872. Soon after, other European nations began to establish colonies in the rest of the region.

Australia and New Zealand became independent from the UK in 1901 and 1907, respectively. In 1970, Fiji and Tonga followed suit. Papua New Guinea fought a civil war in the 1990s for their independence.

Countries with their Capitals:
  • Australia – Canberra
  • New Zealand – Wellington
  • East Timor – Dili
  • Fiji – Suva
  • Papua New Guinea – Port Moresby
  • Solomon Islands – Honiara
  • Vanuatu – Port Vila
  • Federated States of Micronesia – Palikir
  • Marshall Islands – Majuro
  • Kiribati – Tarawa
  • Nauru – Yaren
  • Palau – Melekeok
  • Samoa – Apia
  • Tonga – Nuku’alofa
  • Tuvalu – Funafuti

Sports: Rugby is one of the most popular sports in Australia, and is the national sport of New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga.

Australian rules football is a popular version of football played in this region, and is the national sport of Nauru.

Cricket is a popular summer sport in Australia and New Zealand.

Top 5 countries by population:
  1. Australia - 23,783,888
  2. Papua New Guinea - 6,552,730
  3. New Zealand - 4,574,430
  4. Fiji - 903,207
  5. Solomon Islands - 609,883

Important facts
  • Australia is the world’s largest island but smallest continent.
  • Some of the animals unique to Australia are kangaroo, koala, platypus, and wallaby.

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Last Updated on: October 3rd, 2017