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About the Continent
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north; the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east.
A highly developed country, Australia is the world's 13th-largest economy and has the world's sixth-highest per capita income.
For almost two centuries the majority of settlers, and later immigrants, came from the British Isles. As a result the people of Australia are mainly a mixture of British and Irish ethnic origin.
Although Australia has no official language, English is so entrenched that it has become the de facto national language. Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon. General Australian serves as the standard dialect. Spelling is similar to that of British English with a number of exceptions. According to the 2011 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 81% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Mandarin (1.7%), Italian (1.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese (1.3%), Greek (1.3%), and Vietnamese (1.2%).
Between 200 and 300 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact, of which only about 70 have survived. Many of these are exclusively spoken by older people; only 18 Indigenous languages are still spoken by all age groups.