The Commonwealth of Australia
The name comes from the Latin Terra Australis meaning a southern land.
Australia is a continent lying between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. It consists of 6 states and 2 territories.
The area of the country is approximately 7.7 million km2, there are about 23 million inhabitants.
Vast areas of interior Australia are only sparsely inhabited because they are made up by desert or the outback (arid regions).
The highest peak is Mt Kosciuszko (2 228m) in the Australian Alps. The mountain was named after a Polish military leader, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought also in the American War of Independence.
Australia’s nature had been untouched by human civilisation for a long time, because the country was isolated from other continents. That´s why there are many animals (e.g. koala, dingo, wombat, echidna or platypus) which are endemic. Koalas are marsupials, their main food are eucalyptus leaves and because of their slow metabolism they spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping.
Kiwi is bird with same name as a fruit and it cannot fly. Kangaroo is the symbol of Australia and its babies are called joeys.
The native inhabitants are called Aborigines. Their history begins approximately 50,000 years before European settlement. After British colonization Aborigines were forced to change their way of life and driven off their traditional land. Due to European diseases their population declined rapidly.
Australia was discovered by a British explorer, Captain James Cook, who landed in 1770 at Botany Bay.
In 1788 a fleet of ships brought the first settlers and convicts from England. The colony was called New South Wales and for almost 100 years served as a British convict colony.
In the middle of the 19th century the discovery of gold attracted many immigrants and the population increased rapidly.
In 1901 Australia became an independent dominion within the British Empire (known as the Commonwealth of Australia).
The head of the state is the British sovereign – Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor General.
The national flag consists of the British flag on a large blue field in which 5 stars are arranged in the form of the Southern Cross constellation. The large white 7-pointed star under the British Union Jack symbolises 6 Australian states (6 points), the seventh point represents Australian territories.
Places of interest:
Canberra – was chosen as the capital of Australia to reach a compromise between two disputing cities, Sydney and Melbourne
Sydney – is the largest city in Australia. The best-known sites include Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Melbourne – is the second largest city in Australia. Australian Open is held there every year.
Ayers Rock (Uluru) – one of the most famous natural sites in Australia. It seems to become red, especially at dawn and sunset.
Great Barrier Reef – Being over 2,000km long, it is the world´s largest coral reef system.
New Zealand consists of 2 large islands – North Island and South Island in the Pacific ocean.
The highest point is Mount Cook, 3724m high, lying on the Southern Alps.
The population is about 4,5 million inhabitants. The original inhabitants are the Maori. As in Australia, the arrival of Europeans had devastating consequences for the Maori. Since the 1960s there has been a revival of the Maori culture, Maori is also an official language of New Zealand (apart from English).
The first European to have reached NZ was a Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, in 1642.
In 1907 NZ became a dominion within the British Empire.
The head of the state is Queen Elizabeth II represented by the Governor General.
The flag consists of the British Union Jack in the left upper corner and 4 red stars representing the Southern Cross.
Places of interest:
The capital of NZ is Wellington. The largest city is Auckland.
Canada is the second largest country in the world. Its area is almost 10 million sq km.
It borders on the USA in the south, in the north there is the Arctic Ocean, in the west the Pacific Ocean, and in the east the Atlantic Ocean.
The highest mountain is Mount Logan (5,959 m). The longest river is the Mackenzie River.
Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The largest province is Quebec.
The population is 36 million inhabitants. However, the country is not densely populated. The density of its population is only 3.5 people per square kilometre.
Most of the inhabitants are concentrated near the border with the USA.
There are three indigenous nations in Canada – First Nations (Indians), Inuits and Metis.
The name Canada comes from Iroquoi /ˈɪrəkwɔɪ/ word “kanata“ meaning settlement or village.
The first Europeans were the Norsemen, arriving in Newfoundland around 1000 AD.
In the 15th century an Italian sailor John Cabot explored the coast of Canada and claimed it for England.
In 1867 the Dominion of Canada was established.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The official head of the state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor General.
The flag consists of a red field with a white square in the centre. On the square there is a red maple leaf – being a symbol of Canada since the 1700s.
Places of interest:
Ottawa – the capital city
Quebec – it’s one of the oldest cities in North America
- about 95% Quebecers (the Québécois) speak French as their mother tongue
Toronto – the largest city in Canada. You can see the famous CN Tower there.
Vancouver – in 2010 it was the host city for the Winter Olympics
Niagara Falls – on the border with the USA
Banff National Park – with numerous glaciers, ice fields and coniferous forests
Capital city: Dublin
Inhabitants: 4 milion
It is divided into two major political units − Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland.The longest river is the Shannon.
The climate is mild, with frequent rains which are responsible for the brilliant green grass of the “Emerald Isle”.
The Republic of Ireland is divided into 26 counties. It has a Parliament consisting of an upper house (Senate) and a lower house (House of Representatives). The head of the government is the prime minister, the chief of state is the president. Since 1973 Ireland has been a member of the EU. The 6 counties of Northern Ireland are ruled from London.
People and culture
Although Irish Gaelic is the official first language and it is a compulsory subject at school, English is the language used in everyday life.
Ireland is the homeland of writers such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and W. B. Yeats, and Irish music is known worldwide, from traditional music to modern artists such as U2 or Sinéad O’Connor
The most typical Irish holiday is St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), which remembers St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The celebrations include parades, concerts, theatre productions, fireworks, and of course drinking and feasting. Today the holiday is celebrated worldwide and not only by Irish people
Ireland was originally inhabited by the Celts. St. Patrick brought them Christianity in the 5th century, and from then on Irish missionaries spread the Christian religion throughout Europe. From the twelfth century onwards Normans from England moved to Ireland, at first peacefully, then confiscating the land and imposing English law on Ireland. A long series of revolts were crushed (for example by Oliver Cromwell), the country was devastated by famines, and many people emigrated to the US. In the Easter Rising in April 1916, the nationalists proclaimed independence, but the revolt was suppressed by the British army.
An independent Irish state was established in 1921 but the six northern counties remained a part of the United Kingdom. The struggles between the Catholics (led by Sinn Féin) and the pro− British Protestants continued in Northern Ireland until the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.