Australian society has a cultural richness and diversity unequalled by any other country. Though many people come to Australia for the first time with the stereotype Australian in mind, the fact is that there is no such thing as a typical Australian. Whether it is the Aborigines, who first migrated into the Great Southern Land 40,000 years ago, the first European colonists of the late 18th century, or those in the immigration wave of the past century, they have all contributed to the image of contemporary Australian society.
‘Multiculturalism’ is the principle on which Australian society is based today. It is the concept of groups of people from different cultural backgrounds being able to live together, integrate in society, and yet retain their own cultural identities. The Aborigines have recently started to stand up for their rights in a modern Australia, and they are likely to see developments in this respect in the 21st century.
.Australia has a well-deserved reputation for its pioneering work in the field of social security by introducing, as early as 1909, pension schemes for elderly and disabled people. The Federal Government provides assistance to people whose have lost their means of income as a result of occupational disability, old-age retirement, or because of an income gap due to e.g. unemployment or sickness. Old-age pensions – These are granted to men from the age of 65 and to women from the age of 60. Benefits to single-parent families – These are granted to men or women who have to raise children under the age of 16 without the help of a partner. Child Benefit – Depending on income, a child’s parents or guardian are granted a child benefit until the child has reached the age of 16. The list of pensions, benefits, and allowances also include: occupational disability benefits, supplementary child benefits, sickness benefits, allowances for jobseekers, and allowances for new starters, etc. The amounts of various benefits and pensions are reviewed annually. For benefits under the social security system, no contributions have to be paid, and they are usually paid directly to the beneficiary. The emphasis is on income support based on need. Eligibility for most benefits is dependent on income tests. In 1988, a review of the educational and training systems was initiated to do away with the unnecessary educational discrepancies between the various States. Primary schools provide a general elementary programme for seven to eight years, up to year 6. Students start secondary education in year 7. The final two years of secondary school are not compulsory, but three quarters of all students stay at school until year 11, and almost two thirds stay on until year 12. Students who have reached the minimum school-leaving age of 15, or 16 in Tasmania, are allowed to find a job or enrol on a vocationally oriented course at an institute for technical and further education (TAFE). Those who go on to the end of secondary education, i.e. year 12, have the opportunity of continuing their studies at a TAFE institute or a university. After year 12, students have to take their secondary school exams (High School Certificate). A points system is used for admission to some universities. During their stay in Australia on a temporary visa, immigrants have to pay a few thousand dollars of extra tuition fees in some States.Health care in Australia is based on private and public facilities: a predominantly private medical profession, private and public hospitals, private and public health funding. Medicare, the institution for national health care, is partly funded by an income-related levy (1.5%) and partly by the general tax system. Medicare covers the services of public hospitals, the treatments by salaried clinicians, General Practitioners, specialists, and optometrists. From their day of arrival, immigrants are eligible for the benefits provided by Medicare. It is therefore necessary for immigrants to enrol upon arrival. Approximately 80% of Australians have private insurance for medical services not covered by Medicare, such as dental care, glasses and contact lenses, physiotherapy, and chiropractic treatments. There are 73 health funds, and the main ones are MBF, HCF and Medibank Private. The costs of private insurance policies may vary from a few cents to about 5 to 20 dollars a week per person depending on the insurance class.
Australia consists of the main island and a number of small islands, and it comprises a total of approximately 7,682,300 square kilometres, which means that it has roughly the same size as the mainland of the United States. Including Tasmania, the country spans 30 degrees latitude, which makes for a great variety of climates, ranging from temperate to tropical. In Tasmania and on the south-western mainland, there are highlands where the weather may change quickly. Along the country’s east coast, there is the Great Dividing Range, i.e. the eroded remains of a massive mountain range dividing the temperate east-coast area, with its farmlands and population centres, from the somewhat drier inland area, with its vastness and magnificent splendour of colours. Towards the north, there are luxuriant tropical rain forests and marshlands, and in the west there is a giant ancient plateau that abruptly ends in the Indian Ocean. On land and in the water, there are many unique species of plants and animals that may be just as famous as the scenery. Their uniqueness stems from the fact that, approximately 55 million years ago, Australia was separated from the super-continent Gondwanaland when it moved south with a rising sea level. The species that had by then moved to Australia found themselves isolated from the rest of the Continent and started to develop their own specific features. Liberated from their predator enemies, many species spread quickly across the Continent only to get further cut off in places like Tasmania while the sea level kept rising.
DairyMilk production is an important economic factor, ranking in fourth position after the production of wheat, wool and beef. Revenues from milk sales for the overall farming sector was approx. $3.1 billion, and from all dairy plants approx. $7 billion. Around 45% of Australian milk-production is exported after processing. Of this export volume, approx. 80% goes to Asia and the Middle East.The Australian climate is very suitable for dairy farming as it allows cows to graze all year long. Maize, silage grass, hay, and cereals are used as supplementary feed throughout the year or only during certain seasons, depending on farming methods and regions. Accommodation is usually restricted to a milking parlour. A feeding passage or feeding place is used at some farms when a lot of silage or other products are used as supplementary feed during the wet months or at very large dairy farms. The growth of grass generally depends on natural rainfall, with the exception of several dry-land areas that are partially or fully irrigated during spring and summertime. The price of prime lands with gross dry-matter yields of 10,000 to 18,000 kg/ha ranges from $6,200 to $10,000 per hectare. Prices for drier inland lots, with dry-matter yields of 4,000 to 10,000 kg/ha, range from $ 1,750 to $ 6,000 per hectare.The variable costs of milk production are at the same level as in New Zealand, so they are well below the cost-level of most leading milk-producing countries. In most States, calving patterns and milk production are still more or less seasonal. Milk quotas have been abolished as from 1 July 2000. The cost price per litre of milk, including all additional variable costs, is 16 - 25 dollar cents. The purchase price of fertilisers and concentrate feed are subject to market fluctuations. Due to lower land prices, the overhead costs of producing one kg of dry matter are much lower than in Europe.
SheepDuring the nineties, the Australian sheep industry has gone through difficult times due to low wool prices. In the fifties and sixties, there were up to 170 million sheep in Australia. Since the severe drought of 1982, these numbers have declined drastically. In those days, the cost of transport were sometimes higher than market prices! In the nineties, after a significant increase of the sheep herd, meat prices were relatively low and wool prices were very low. This has stopped further increases to previous high levels, and more land is now used for beef cattle, dairy cattle, and arable farming. Due to growing world consumption of sheep meat, increasing exports from Australia, and relatively low quantities of sheep, meat prices are very good. At present, there are about 98 million sheep. For the past two years, meat prices of sheep have been very good, wool prices have been stable, and sheep numbers have to be supplemented. All this makes for excellent prospects.
Beef The Australian beef-cattle industry has gone through major changes during the past twenty years. Many European breeds have been introduced because of their high quality of beef and have been Cross-bred with breeds like British Hereford and Aberdeen Angus. Many Asian breeds have also been imported into the more tropical environments on account of their resistance to high temperatures, humidity, and tick diseases. Angus and Angus crosses are very popular for the production of export meat to Japan and Asia. A lot of cattle are finished in feedlots on a ration of grain for a short period of time. For some decades, meat prices have tended to lag behind the costs and prices of land. Smaller beef-cattle operations (under 300 cows) are no longer viable due to the high costs of labour. Prospects for the industry are good, but production costs will have to be kept low by good management and the capacity to grow high quantities of grass.
PigsIn the past thirty years, the Australian pig industry has witnessed a number of major changes. Since 1980, the number of pig farms has dropped from 20,000 to 3,000. The number of sows per farm is constantly increasing. For some years, pork exports have risen considerably to over $200 million per year. Exports are mainly to Singapore and other Asian countries. Australia has the great advantage of its close proximity to these markets, which enables it to supply refrigerated rather than frozen meat!.
ArableDue to its favourable climate, a great variety of crops may be cultivated in Australia. For one thing, Australia has almost all the arable and horticultural crops we are accustomed to. And in addition to these crops, many other crops may be grown in Australia, such as ground nuts, cotton, sorghum, pyrethrum, poppies, sunflowers, soybeans, etc. Queensland & North New South Wales: Dry-land: $1,000 - $ 4,500 ha.Irrigated inland areas: $3,750 - $ 5,500 ha.Irrigated coastal areas: $7,000 - $15,000 ha.New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, West Australia: Dry-land: $ 300 - $ 4,000 ha.Irrigated inland areas: $4,000 - $ 5,500 ha.Irrigated coastal areas: $7,000 - $12,500 ha. Tasmania: Dry-land: $1,750 - $ 5,000 ha.Irrigation: $7,500 - $ 12,500 ha.
Marker gardeningMarket-gardening and vegetable-growing have traditionally been located near population centres. Land prices in these locations have now become so high that more and more of this type of cultivation has moved inland. Potatoes, onions, and carrots are increasingly grown on sandy soils with irrigation. A cleaner and washed product is more attractive to modern consumers. Supermarkets and packing houses also have a big say in Australia. Onion exports to Europe and Asia are considerable, and the demand for exports to Asia is growing.
Fruit-and nut- growing sectorDue to the diversity of climates and soil types, practically all fruits can be cultivated in Australia. Fruit-growing is traditionally located in the coastal areas. Larger and new operations are now located more inland. There are large-scale exports of mangoes, avocadoes, bananas, apples, and nuts to Europe and Asia.
Australia has the advantage of a 6-month difference between seasons with Europe. By using faster means of transport, bridging the gap with these markets with fresh products has become less difficult. The opportunities for this type of industry are very good indeed. Most operations have several crops in their cropping plan.