Australia uncovered

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Australia occupies the whole of the island continent of the same name and lies between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Although the country's land mass is half as big again as that of Europe, most of Australia is unpopulated. The population is predominantly concentrated in the South–Eastern coastal cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. The interior of the country – the Outback – is comprised of sparsely populated semi–desert and tropical wetlands.

Historical overviewAustralia's Aboriginal people were thought to have arrived in the country by boat from South–East Asia during the last Ice Age, at least 50, 000 years ago. At the time of European discovery and settlement, up to 1m Aboriginal people lived across the continent as hunters and gatherers. They were scattered in 300 clans and spoke 250 languages and 700 dialects. Each clan had a spiritual connection with a specific piece of land. However, they also travelled widely to trade, find water and seasonal produce and for ritual and totemic gatherings. Despite the diversity of their homelands – from outback deserts and tropical rainforests to snow–capped mountains–all Aboriginal people share a belief in the timeless, magical realm of the Dreamtime. According to Aboriginal myth, totemic spirit ancestors forged all aspects of life during the Dreamtime of the world's creation. These spirit ancestors continue to connect natural phenomena, as well as past, present and future through every aspect of Aboriginal culture. A number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, then known as New Holland, in the 17th century. However it wasn't until 1770 that Captain James Cook chartered the east coast and claimed it for Britain. The new outpost was put to use as a penal colony and on 26 January 1788, the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying 1, 500 people–half of them convicts–arrived in Sydney Harbour. By the time that penal transportation ended in 1868, 160, 000 men and women came to Australia as convicts. Whilst free settlers began to flow in from the early 1790s, life for prisoners was harsh. Male re–offenders were brutally flogged and could be hung for crimes as petty as stealing. The Aboriginal people displaced by the new settlement suffered even more. The dispossession of land and illness and death from introduced diseases disrupted traditional lifestyles and practices. The Gold RushBy the 1820s, many soldiers, officers and emancipated convicts had turned land they received from the government into flourishing farms. News of Australia's cheap land and bountiful work was bringing more and more boatloads of adventurous migrants from Britain. Settlers or 'squatters' began to move deeper into Aboriginal territories–often with a gun – in search of pasture and water for their stock. In 1825, a party of soldiers and convicts settled in the territory of the Yuggera people, close to modern–day Brisbane. Perth was settled by English gentlemen in 1829, and 1835 a squatter sailed to Port Phillip Bay and chose the location for Melbourne. At the same time a private British company, proud to have no convict links, settled Adelaide in South Australia. Gold was discovered in New South Wales and central Victoria in 1851, luring thousands of young men and some adventurous young women from the colonies. They were joined by boat loads of prospectors from China and a chaotic carnival of entertainers, publicans, illicit liquor–sellers, prostitutes and quacks from across the world. In Victoria, the British governor's attempts to impose order – a monthly licence and heavy–handed troopers – led to the bloody anti–authoritarian struggle of the Eureka stockade in 1854. Despite the violence on the goldfields, the wealth from gold and wool brought immense investment to Melbourne and Sydney and by the 1880s they were stylish modern cities. Shaping modern AustraliaBefore 1901, Australia was made up of six self–governing colonies; New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. These colonies were ultimately under British rule from the time the First British Fleet landed until 1901. Numerous politicians and influential Australians through the years had pushed for federation of the colonies, and self–government. On 22 January 1899, leaders of the six Australian colonies met in Melbourne, Victoria to discuss a federation bill. After not being accepted by the independent states the first time, the amended Commonwealth Constitution was given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved and the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed. Australia's first governor–general, John Hope, made the proclamation at Centennial Park in Sydney. Australia's first prime minister was Edmund Barton. The first Australian Federal Parliament, held in the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne which was the only building large enough to house the 14, 000 guests, was opened by the Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V, on 9 May 1901. Australia in the NoughtiesRich in natural resources, Australia has a largely affluent society and open and innovative economy, resulting in growing foreign investment over the past decade. Australia continues to be a strong advocate of increased trade liberalisation in the World Trade Organisation and plays an active role in global trade talks. Japan remains Australia's largest export market, followed by China, the US, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand. Strong political, economic and cultural links to the UK make Australia a more significant market for UK exports than its comparatively small population might suggest. In 2007–08, the UK was Australia's sixth largest merchandise trading partner and seventh largest source of merchandise imports. Today the UK remains Australia's top European Union trading partner. The UK sells more to Australia than to India or China, and Australia is the UK's 5th largest market for goods outside the EU. In 2007–08, two–way merchandise trade between Australia and the UK was worth approximately A$16. 8bn. The services trade was also strong in 2007–08, around A$4. 7bn in exports and A$4. 2bn in imports. Recreational travel on both sides remains the strongest contributing factor to the services sector. The UK recently overtook the US as the largest investor in Australia. The following sectors have been identified as offering significant opportunities for overseas companies:• Science & Innovation• Financial Services• Mining & Minerals• Oil & Gas• ICT• Biotechnology• Agribusiness• Energy• Environment• ServicesAustralian businessmen are friendly, but hard–headed. They are exposed to exporters from around the world, notably the US, Japan and other European and Asian firms. They can therefore afford to be selective, and like to deal with professionals. It follows that they therefore expect good standards of performance. Failure to meet these criteria may damage a company's prospects. When dealing with Australians, it is important to send the right people with the right authority, good negotiating skills and, of equal importance, expert knowledge of the product on offer. Sport in AustraliaAustralia's ability to punch well above its weight in international sport, from swimming to cycling, is often attributed to its extensive training facilities, financed by the government, communities and sponsors. Australia is one of only two nations to have competed in every modern Summer Olympic Games. The most popular sports in Australia are the Australian Football League (Aussie Rules) and the National Rugby League. Australians also follow cricket, golf, soccer, basketball, motorsports and cycling. The Australian Sports Commission is the government authority responsible for funding and developing sport in Australia. The Commission administers the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Meanwhile, the Australian International Sporting Events Secretariat (AISES) is a joint initiative of the Australian State Governments of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria aimed at promoting the combined business expertise arising from the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, the Brisbane 2001 Goodwill Games and other major international events. AISES is presently targeting markets for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games, London 2012 Olympic Games and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

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