The sixth largest country in the world, Australia had been inhabited for over 40,000 years by indigenous people before the arrival of British settlers in 1788. Today, Australia is renowned for its economic, political and cultural stature within the Commonwealth world and locally within the Pacific and South East Asian sphere. Due to its geographical location, ties with Indonesia and China remain high priorities on Australia's foreign policy agenda. In 2008, the Australian government formally apologised to indigenous Australians for past wrongs inflicted upon them by the government, however Australia's indigenous people still suffer from high rates of unemployment and other forms of social inequality.
Australia has a rich artistic tradition, with the earliest examples of art said to be the cave and bark paintings of its indigenous peoples. Well-known modernist artists include Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Sydney Long and Clifton Pugh.
Australia has also produced many internationally-renowned writers. Peter Carey is the Man Booker Prize winning author of novels Bliss and Illywhacker. With ties to Sydney, Patrick White is one of the nation’s greatest playwrights, novelists and poets. Mudrooroo is known as the most ambiguous novelist in Australia. He writes Aboriginal fiction, which is fitting, as his name can be translated to mean paperback in the language of Bibbulmun. Tim Winton is another widely-acclaimed contemporary Australian writer, his sensitive storytelling and breathtaking depictions of the Western Australia landscape having earned him numerous awards. His novels include Cloudstreet and Dirt Music. The iconic works of poets Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, and Dorothea Mackellar and their romanticised visions of Australian life are regarded as emblematic of Australian identity.
Australian filmmakers have sought to cover a wide range of social, political and cultural topics pertinent to Australian life. Baz Luhrmann's blockbuster Australia captures the adventure and magic of the outback and is the second-highest grossing Australian film ever. Philip Noyce's critically-acclaimed Rabbit Proof Fence deals with the still-sensitive topic of the Stolen Generation of indigenous Australian children who were forcibly removed from their families by the then-government for the purposes of assimilation. Peter Weir's Gallipolli depicts the ill-fated WWII battle in Turkey which remains a symbol of Australia's national identity.
Bands like Sydney-born AC/DC and INXS have influenced the world of rock for over thirty years. The main sound in traditional indigenous music comes from the didgeridoo which is one of the world’s oldest instruments. Some of the greatest didgeridoo players include Djalu Gurruwiwi and William Barton. Contemporary Aboriginal musical artists include Jimmy Little and Yothu Yindi.