New prime minister Down Under

On December 3rd, Kevin Rudd was sworn in as the next prime minister of Australia. He replaces John Howard. Rudd was born in a small town in Australia. His father, who was a farmer, died when Kevin Rudd was 11 years old. He went to a university in Canberra, the capital of Australia.

For many years, Australia was inhabited by indigenous people such as the Aborigines who are native to Australia. In the 17th century, European explorers started discovering Australia. Great Britain claimed part of Australia in 1770 and initially used it as a prison – it would send its criminals there. More settlers came in and Australia got divided into six colonies. In 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the Commonwealth of Australia was created. Australia has some very unique animal species not found in too many other places around the world: koala, wombat, emu, kangaroo, dingo, kookaburra, and platypus. Australia is also the first country to have all polymer (plastic) bank notes instead of paper. Plastic money has some benefits – it’s harder to create fake money, it doesn’t rip easily and lasts longer, and when it eventually does rip, it can be recycled!

Australia is often called “the land Down Under” because it lies entirely in the Southern Hemisphere and appears low down on globes and in maps.