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Australia is the only country that is also a continent In area Australia ranks as the sixth largest country and smallest continent Australia is located between the South Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean The part of the Indian Ocean that is south of Australia is called the Southern Ocean in the country Australia is about 7000 miles 11000 kilometers southwest of North America and about 2000 miles 3200 kilometers southeast of mainland Asia Australia is often referred to as being down under because it lies entirely within the Southern Hemisphere The name Australia comes from the Latin word australis which means southern The official name of the country is the Commonwealth of Australia Australia is a dry thinly populated land Only a few areas along or near the coasts receive enough rainfall to support a large population The southeastern coastal region has the most people by far Australias two largest cities--Sydney and Melbourne--lie in this region Canberra the national capital lies only a short distance inland The huge interior of Australia is mostly desert or dry grassland and has few settlements The country as a whole averages only six persons per square mile two persons per square kilometer Australia is famous for its vast open spaces bright sunshine enormous numbers of sheep and cattle and unusual wildlife Kangaroos koalas platypuses and wombats are only a few of the many unusual animals that live in Australia The country was once a group of British colonies and most of the Australian people are of British ancestry When people moved to Australia from Britain they took many British customs with them For example Australians drive on the left side of the road as do British drivers Tea is the favorite hot drink in Australia as it is in Britain English the official language of Australia includes many British terms But Australians have developed a way of life all their own Australia has a warm sunny
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