The Aborigines, or the indigenous people of Australia, were said to have arrived on the island in 60 000 BC. They had remained practically the only residents of Australia until the early 17th Century, when Australia was discovered during a Portuguese expedition. During this period of time, many European explorers set foot on Australian soil. In 1900, the nation officially became the Commonwealth of Australia as passed by the legislation of the UK Parliament. In the 1960s, various social and economic reforms transformed the society of Australia into what it is known as today.
The culture in Australia, though predominantly Western, includes a good mix of Aboriginal and various other tribal cultures. The society is also multi-ethnic, due to the large numbers of immigrants during and after World War II. The commonly spoken language in Australia is English, with a minority of up to 300 Indigenous Australian tongues. It is common for Australians to display modesty and humility, and they are generally casual and easy-going when it comes to greetings.
Traditional folk music and dance, as well as country music, are still widely celebrated, though modern pop culture has popularised other forms of performing arts such as Australian rock music. Theatre is also immensely popular, much of which revolve around European influences and themes. A number of great theatres in the world, most significantly the Sydney Opera House, find home here in Australia. Australia is also renowned for its literature; its most famous writers include the Nobel-winning Patrick White.
Australia, known also as the Commonwealth of Australia, operates under a federal constitutional monarchy. The Australian Government consists of the Queen (currently Elizabeth II), the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate plays an active role in the legislation of the country, while the House of Representatives deals with the opposition of the government, presenting arguments against the proposals of the Government.
Australia is the country currently with the highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the developed world. Current efforts to reverse the environmental damage caused by human population include the protection of natural habitats and conservation of rainforests.
Australia boasts a wide range of building designs, including the styles of the early European settlers. Georgian-style architecture is commonly seen for state buildings and homes of the rich. More outstanding designs are seen in iconic buildings such as the famous Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the Parliament House in Canberra.
The two most common sports that Australians are very passionate about are cricket and Australian football. Rugby league was also established in 1908 for Australians and gradually became the most widely-played sport in Australia in the winter. Australia's weather is also ideal for water sports such as surfing, swimming and sailing.