Welcome to Australia
The Australia Country Guide will provide a historical overview, scholarship information, health and safety tips, plus identity-specific resources to ensure students feel prepared with insight and resources for their global experience in Australia. The information shared below is a bird eye’s view and meant to provide some country-specific context. We encourage students to conduct further research and chat with relevant points of contact including advisors, program leaders, international student services at the host campus, internship coordinators or peers who have traveled to Australia, to gain a greater understanding of their host country and/or city.
If you’re searching for adventure, outdoor activities, a diverse landscape and population, you will find all this and more in the land down under. Australia is a vast land of cosmopolitan cities and endless wilderness. The country is impressive for its high standard of living, its natural and geographical diversity, and the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world. Most of the population lives on the coast, and more than half the population of twenty million lives in the five state capitals. The cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Sydney feature the most iconic images of Australia.
Many United States students choose to study abroad in Australia because English is the official language, its universities are highly-ranked, and the higher education system gives students opportunities to conduct independent research.
Visitors to Australia are treated to famous landmarks like the Sydney Opera House. Adventure seekers often take the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains National Park. The Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney allows you to be up close and personal with animals such as Koalas and various kangaroo species. Across Sydney and Melbourne there are markets where local businesses and vendors share their work for affordable prices. Perth, on Australia’s western shore, has beautiful beaches and parks.
Every part of Australia has something amazing to offer from the arid desert of the Outback to the marine wildlife on the Great Barrier Reef.
Cities & Education
Australian higher education institutions are recognized worldwide for their quality and attract hundreds of thousands of students from over 120 countries study in Australia each year.
Each city in Australia offers unique attractions. The most popular city in the nation is Sydney. Nicknamed the “New York City of the Southern Hemisphere," it is truly a 24 hour city and you can do anything from head to performances and dance clubs to visiting the largest IMAX in the world or the Sydney Observatory. Melbourne is home to the largest student population in the country - 1/3 are international students! It has a fun and engaging arts culture from extensive comedy theaters to multiple museums and alleyways filled with graffiti art. Brisbane is also a popular location for students - it is located near the coast and has generally warmer weather.
Events & Tourism
Australia has a slew of historical sites in each state; we highly encourage you to visit while you are in the country! There are old prison facilities from the colonial age to Aboriginal settlements that are protected as museums. Many of the historical sites are also natural areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru Rock, so make sure to leave no trace!
In Australia, due to its multicultural population, there are many cultural events celebrated by different groups. Some of the main cultural events are ANZAC Day, which is a day remembering the Australian and New Zealand forces for their participation in WWI at the Battle of Gallipoli and any other war or peacekeeping operation. In addition, there is Australia Day, which is the day the British forces arrived on Australian soil. However, this is a contentious holiday in the country and the Aboriginal populations refer to it as, “Invasion Day.”
Beyond the events celebrated throughout the country, each state of Australia and the Australian Capital Territory of Canberra each have their own cultural events. These can range from a footy match between Victoria and New South Wales to the horse races. Another quite popular event is Vivid Sydney! There are many light displays throughout Sydney and it is celebrated by many special events coinciding with it.
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Australia’s unique history has shaped the diversity of its peoples, and the current state of diversity and inclusion in the country. Australia’s population of about 23.4 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. The country was colonized by the British and has experienced immigration from many different countries and cultures. Australia is home to a diverse Indigenous population; however most of the leadership positions in the country are held by people of European descent.
Over 200 languages are spoken in Australia. 21% of the population reports speaking a language other than English. Of these, almost 64,800 people reported speaking an Indigenous language.
As an American student, you will likely experience warm hospitality and there is a good chance many Australians will ask you multiple questions about the state of political affairs and immigration in the United States. You may have varying experiences based on your identities - you can learn more in the Diversity & Inclusion sections of this guide.
Source: Cultural Diversity in Australia
Note: This information is intended to serve as an overview and is not exhaustive. Be sure to research your destination thoroughly as your identity can have a significant impact on your experience abroad.
Population in Australia:
23,470,145 (July 2018 est.)
English 25.9%, Australian 25.4%, Irish 7.5%, Scottish 6.4%, Italian 3.3%, German 3.2%, Chinese 3.1%, Indian 1.4%, Greek 1.4%, Dutch 1.2%, other 15.8% (includes Australian aboriginal .5%), unspecified 5.4% (2011 est.)
Noted from the website: data represent self-identified ancestry, over a third of respondents reported two ancestries
English 72.7%, Mandarin 2.5%, Arabic 1.4%, Cantonese 1.2%, Vietnamese 1.2%, Italian 1.2%, Greek 1%, other 14.8%, unspecified 6.5% (2016 est.)
Protestant 23.1% (Anglican 13.3%, Uniting Church 3.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 2.3%, Baptist 1.5%, Pentecostal 1.1%, Lutheran .7%, other Protestant .5%), Roman Catholic 22.6%, other Christian 4.2%, Muslim 2.6%, Buddhist 2.4%, Orthodox 2.3% (Eastern Orthodox 2.1%, Oriental Orthodox .2%), Hindu 1.9%, other 1.3%, none 30.1%, unspecified 9.6% (2016 est.)
Immigration and Emigration
Before the British colonization of Australia began in 1788, over 500 different indigenous groups resided in the area. Each group had their language, culture, and way of life. The British decided to colonize the land towards the end of the 1700s and the first colony was established as a place for exiled prisoners from other parts of the world. Continued immigration forced the indigenous inhabitants out of their lands. Violence and disease led to the loss of nearly 60% of the indigenous population.
Australia went through many periods of immigration-based change. There were many different population fluctuations as people from other Commonwealth Nations (nations previously ruled by the United Kingdom) would immigrate to Australia and vice versa. In addition, before and after World War II, there were many Europeans that immigrated, leaving considerable marks on cities, such as Melbourne and Sydney.
Australia has a large percentage of immigrants and nearly a quarter of residents were born overseas, particularly in Asian countries and the United Kingdom. However, Australia is not immune to immigration-related issues. It is known for being a friendly and tolerant nation, but, in the past decade, there have been reports about the Australian government turning away refugees arriving in boats from Southeast Asia and offshore detention centers in Papua New Guinea and some of the smaller island nations around Australia.
Staying Healthy & Safe in Australia
You cannot always predict everything that may occur during your time abroad, but taking the proper measures to ensure your health and safety in Australia lessens the risk of health and safety issues.
Health risks of traveling to Australia are relatively low. As with any country, make sure you are up to date on any vaccines and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns as you prepare to travel.
One item of note can be the extreme heat. If you study abroad during the Australian summer, be prepared for soaring temperatures and take heat sickness precautions. The last thing you want disrupting your time down under is a stint in the hospital due to dehydration! In addition, if you are traveling to the very remote areas of Australia, make sure to keep track of the nearest medical facilities as they can be quite far and difficult to reach.
No matter where you are in the world, whether it is your hometown or a new city, it is important to be alert and practice awareness of your surroundings. Australia is known as a safe destination for U.S. students; however, there are a few precautions any traveler should take while navigating the country.
Pickpocketing can happen in city centers and sites that are attractive to tourists. There are many giveaways that can signal someone is a tourist from accent to something as subtle as mannerisms and the way one walks. The goal is not to mask that you are a visitor, but to protect your belongings and ensure you do not fall victim to theft. We recommend following these general tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Have a travel partner when possible
Aside from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing or scamming, most travelers can expect a safe and comfortable experience in Australia. One recommendation from the State Department is registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to register your trip with the local embassy or consulate which can provide support should you need it.
At Diversity Abroad, we acknowledge that experiences can vary by identities and others’ perceptions of them. To access identity-based resources regarding health and safety view the Diversity Guides below.
000 - Australian emergency number
106 - Australian emergency number for those with hearing or speech impairment
Funding & Scholarship Opportunities
There are many scholarships to fund your education abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country, some of which can be applied to other types of international experiences:
For more scholarships, visit our Scholarships page.
We invite you to review the IES programs available in Australia.