7,692,030 sq km (2,969,909 sq miles).
Canberra. Population: 309,500 (1997).
Australia is bounded by the Arafura Sea and Timor Seas to the north, the Coral and Tasman Seas of the South Pacific to the east, the Southern Ocean to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the west. Its coastline covers 36,738km (22,814 miles). Most of the population has settled along the eastern and south-eastern coastal strip. Australia is the smallest continent (or the largest island) in the world. About 40% of the continent is within the tropics and Australia is almost the same size as the mainland of the United States of America.
The official language is English. Many other languages are retained by minorities, including Italian, German, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese dialects and Aboriginal languages.
26% Roman Catholic, 24% Protestant and smaller minorities of all other major religions.
220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. 3-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adaptor socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels.
There are full facilities for national and international telecommunications. Full IDD is available. Country code: 61. Outgoing international code: 0011. Payphones are red, green, gold or blue. Only local calls can be made from red phones. Green, gold and blue phones also have International Direct Dialling (IDD) and Subscriber Trunk Dial (STD). The cost of a local phone call is 40c. Telstra Smart Phonecards are available at newsagents, supermarkets and chemists and can be bought in denominations of A$2, 5, 10 and 20 and used for local, STD or international calls. Creditphones, which take most major credit cards, can be found at airports, city-centre locations and many hotels.
GSM 900 and 1800 networks in use. Network operators include Vodafone (website: www.vodafone.com.au) and Telstra (website: www.telstra.com.au). Coverage is limited to the main inhabited areas; access in some of the more isolated, outback and rural areas is limited. US handsets are not compatible.
Services are widely available from various retail outlets. Free collection by courier is available in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. Fax number guides are available at post offices, and prices vary.
Internet cafés are prevalent in the capital cities, and individual hotels may also provide facilities. ISPs include Telstra BigPond (website: www.bigpond.com) and Hunterlink (website: www.hunterlink.net.au).
There are post offices in all the main towns of every State. Opening hours are 0900-1700 Mon-Fri. Some post offices are also open 0900-1200 Sat. Stamps are often available at hotel and motel reception areas and selected newsagents. Poste Restante facilities are available at selected post offices throughout the country; mail is held for 30 days free of charge.
The main daily newspapers are The Australian and the Australian Financial Review. The weekly newspapers with the largest circulation are the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mail. Newspapers generally have a high circulation throughout the continent.