Portal:Australia

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The Commonwealth of Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the world's smallest continent and a number of islands in the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia's neighbouring countries are 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.

The continent of Australia has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. After sporadic visits by European explorers and merchants from the 17th century onwards, the eastern half of the continent was claimed by the British in 1770, and officially settled as the penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five largely self-governing Crown colonies were successively established over the course of the 19th century.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The current population of around 21 million is concentrated mainly in the coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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The street sign for ACDC Lane, named in the band's honour.

AC/DC are a hard rock band formed in Sydney, Australia in 1973 by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. The band are considered pioneers of hard rock, alongside bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. Its members, however, have always classified their music as "rock 'n' roll". AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, High Voltage, in 1975. Membership remained stable until bassist Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans in 1977. In 1979, the band recorded their highly successful album, Highway to Hell. Lead singer and co-songwriter Bon Scott died on February 19, 1980, after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. The group briefly considered disbanding, but soon ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson was selected as Scott's replacement. Later that year, the band released their biggest-selling album, Back in Black. The band's next album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, was also highly successful and was the first hard rock album to reach #1 in the United States. AC/DC declined in popularity, however, soon after the departure of drummer Phil Rudd in 1983. Poor record sales continued until the release of The Razor's Edge in 1990. Phil Rudd returned in 1994 and contributed to the band's 1995 album Ballbreaker. Stiff Upper Lip was released in 2000 and was well-received by critics. A new album is expected in 2007. AC/DC have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, including more than 68 million albums in the US. Back in Black has sold 42 million units worldwide, including 21 million in the U.S., making it the second-highest-selling album ever, and the biggest-selling album by any band. The band are ranked fourth on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

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Satellite image of Mawson Peak on Heard Island.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands is an Australian territory comprising uninhabited, barren islands in the Southern Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The islands have been a territory of Australia since 1947 and became a World Heritage Site in 1997. It contains the only two active volcanoes in Australian territory, one of which, Mawson Peak, is the highest Australian mountain.

Photo credit: NASA World Wind

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