Australia is a product of a unique blend of established traditions and new influences. The country’s original inhabitants, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, are the custodians of one of the world’s oldest continuing cultural traditions. They have been living in Australia for at least 40 000 years and possibly up to 60 000 years.
The rest of Australia’s people are migrants or descendants of migrants who have arrived in Australia from about 200 countries since Great Britain established the first European settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788.
In 1945, Australia’s population was around 7 million people and was mainly Anglo–Celtic. Since then, more than 6.5 million migrants, including 675 000 refugees, have settled in Australia, significantly broadening its social and cultural profile.
Today Australia has a population of nearly 23 million people. At 2009, abou 25.6 per cent of the estimated resident population comprised those born overseas. Australian Bureau of Statistics projections from the 2006 census of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suggest and Indigenous population of 575,552 people at 30 June 2011.Many of the people who have come to Australia since 1945 were motivated by a commitment to family, or a desire to escape poverty, war or persecution.
The first waves of migrants and refugees came mostly from Europe. Subsequent waves have come from the Asia–Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa.Migrants have enriched almost every aspect of Australian life, from business to the arts, from cooking to comedy and from science to sport. They, in turn, have adapted to Australia’s tolerant, informal and broadly egalitarian society.