A Continent of Dreams: Australia is a continent of enormous measurements, in both physical space and cultural time. Galleries of Aboriginal rock paintings 40000 years old co-exist with state-of-the-art technology, while 36738 kilometers of coastline encompass the largest island on earth. Australia is also the world's driest, smallest and least populated continent.Sydney, capital of the state of New South Wales, became the birthplace of European settlement in Australia when the first British penal colony was established in 1788. Since then the nation - which gained independence in 1901-has grown to one of 18 million citizens. As the world's sixth largest country it is also a society of many sub-cultures, principally reflecting its immigrant composition and the spectrum of countries from which its populace originated. Beyond the familiar images of spectacular coastlines, lush green forests, arid outback lands and a reputation for sporting prowess, contemporary Australia has much more to offer its people.