Australia was part of the giant continent Gondwana which broke apart over one hundred million years ago.
The name Australia comes from Terra Australis - the southern land.
Shark Bay, a World Heritage site in Western Australia, is famous for the presence of stromatolites. These are hard deposits formed by cyanobacteria, thought to be the first organisms to generate oxygen on earth.
Fossils of ediacara, which include animals resembling jelly-fish, were discovered in the Flinders Mountain Ranges, north of Adelaide, in 1946. These have been dated at 560 million years.
Dinosaur tracks, left by over two hundred dinosaurs, can be seen near Winton, Queensland.
The first Australians arrived in Australia between forty-five to sixty thousand years ago.
Human skeletons dating back to between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago have been found at Lake Mungo, near Sydney.
Indigenous Australians believe that creation took place in "Dreamtime". Stories are passed orally down the generations.
Although hunters have used throwing sticks in many parts of the world, the most famous of all such weapons is the boomerang, which may
be the world's only returning throwing stick.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, formerly known as Uluru (Ayer's Rock), is one of Australia's World Heritage sites. The rock domes are important to the beliefs of the Anangu Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta.
The Great Barrier Reef, also on the World Heritage List, is over two thousand kilometres long.
Fraser Island, south of the Great Barrier Reef, is the largest sand island in the world.
Kakadu National Park, in the north, may have been inhabited up to forty thousand years ago.
The Tasmanian Wilderness, a World Heritage region, is the location of some of the world's oldest trees - some are up to two thousand years old. The Wilderness has one of the best preserved collections of Ice Age rock paintings.
The Wet Tropics of Queensland are home to a number of species of ancient flowering plants surviving from the time when Australia was part of Gondwana.
Wolfe Creek Crater, in the north of Western Australia, is the second biggest meteorite crater in the world.
The folk hero Ned Kelly (1854-1880) who became a bank robber and is famous for wearing homemade armour was captured and hanged in his mid twenties.
The Federal Commonwealth of Australia came into being in 1901, with the British Monarch as the Head of State. (Australia is a member of the Commonwealth).
Australia is responsible for three island territories in the Pacific: Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands. Many of Norfolk Island's people are descended from the mutineers of the Bounty.
The national anthem of Australia is "Advance Australia Fair" which was composed by a Scot, Peter Dodds McCormick: "Australians all let us rejoice. For we are young and free: We've golden soil and wealth for toil: Our home is girt by sea: Our lands abounds in nature's gifts Of beauty rich and rare: In history's page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair".
Australia gave the vote to women in 1902.
Indigenous Australians people did not have vote until 1969.
The "White Australia" policy ended in 1973.
The Flying Doctor service started in 1928 provides emergency and health care to Australians in the outback.
The School of the Air provides education by radio for children living in isolated areas.
Place names in many areas of Australia remind us of places in England: Hackney, Kensington, Mortlake, Putney, Regent's Park, Bexley, Cheltenham, Epping, Guildford, Kent Town, Halifax, Liverpool, Newcastle Street, Ryde and Warwick.
In the England-Australia Cricket Test Series in 1932, the English bowlers employed a technique known as "bodyline. The bowlers aimed at the batsman causing many injuries and arousing a great deal of ill feeling.
In 1953 the British exploded an atomic bomb in the South Australian desert.
The missile testing site in the desert was named Woomera, using the Aborigine word for spear thrower.
In February 2009 Victoria was hit by devastating bushfires, leaving around 180 people dead.
In 2010 the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an apology to the thousands of children who were sent to Australia as part of the Child Migrant Programme between the 1920s and the 1960s.
In January 2011 the worst rains for 50 years cause floods in the Northern Australian state of Queensland, which are said to be the most expensive disaster in Australia’s history.