Australia is a unique, geologically ancient island continent. Its flora and fauna are unlike those found anywhere else and the same may be said of its people, politics and health services. The population of 17.3 millions represents a multicultural mix, with an anglo-celtic core conflated by sustained post-war immigration from southern Europe, Turkey, southeast Asia and south America. One in five current Australians was born elsewhere, one in ten comes from a non-English speaking background, and a quarter of those born here have a parent who was born overseas. Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders form 1.4% of the total population. They have third world mortality figures but die of first world diseases, their life expectancy being 20 years less than that of other Australians. Two hundred and four years after what they see as the British invasion, their standard of living lags far behind all other socio-cultural groups in the country. Most members of the Aboriginal community do not live long enough to develop Alzheimer's disease, but it and other age-related diseases are emerging as the major determinants of health costs as Australia moves towards the 21st century.
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