Beauty for all

Australia | Health care in Australia | Culture of Australia | Music of Australia

Health care in Australia is provided by both private and government institutions. The Minister for Health and Ageing, currently Nicola Roxon, administers national health policy. Primary health care remains the responsibility of the federal government, elements of which (such as the operation of hospitals) are overseen by individual states.

In Australia the current system, known as Medicare, was instituted in 1984. It coexists with a private health system. Medicare is funded partly by a 1.5% income tax levy (with exceptions for low-income earners), but mostly out of general revenue. An additional levy of 1% is imposed on high-income earners without private health insurance. As well as Medicare, there is a separate Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that heavily subsidizes prescription medications. In 2007-08, Australia spent 9.1% of GDP on health care, or A$4874 per capita.

The life expectancy of Australia in 1999-2001 was 79.7 years (77.0 years for males and 82.4 years for females). The infant mortality rate of Australia in 2000 was 5.2 per 1,000. The death rate of Australia in 2000 was 6.7 deaths per year per 1,000 people. The neonatal infant mortality rate of Australia in 2000 was 3.5 per 1,000. The postneonatal infant mortality rate of Australia in 2000 was 1.7 per 1,000.


The public health system is called Medicare. It ensures free universal access to hospital treatment and subsidised out-of-hospital medical treatment. It is funded by a 1.5% tax levy on all taxpayers, an extra 1% levy on high income earners, as well as general revenue

The private health system is funded by a number of private health insurance organizations. The largest of these is Medibank Private, which is government-owned, but operates as a government business enterprise under the same regulatory regime as all other registered private health funds. The Coalition Howard government had announced that Medibank would be privatised if it won the 2007 election, however they were defeated by the Australian Labor Party under Kevin Rudd which had already pledged that it would remain in government ownership.

Some private health insurers are 'for profit' enterprises, and some are non-profit organizations such as HCF Health Insurance. Some have membership restricted to particular groups, some focus on specific regions - like HBF which centres on Western Australia, but the majority have open membership. Membership to most of these funds is also accessible using a comparison websites or the decision assistance sites. These sites operate on a commission-basis by agreement with their participating health funds and allow consumers to compare policies before joining online.

Most aspects of private health insurance in Australia are regulated by the Private Health Insurance Act 2007. Complaints and reporting of the private health industry is carried out by an independent government agency, the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. The ombudsman publishes an annual report that outlines the number and nature of complaints per health fund compared to their market share.

The private health system in Australia operates on a "community rating" basis, whereby premiums do not vary solely because of a person's previous medical history, current state of health, or (generally speaking) their age (but see Lifetime Health Cover below). Balancing this are waiting periods, in particular for pre-existing conditions (usually referred to within the industry as PEA, which stands for "pre-existing ailment"). Funds are entitled to impose a waiting period of up to 12 months on benefits for any medical condition the signs and symptoms of which existed during the six months ending on the day the person first took out insurance. They are also entitled to impose a 12-month waiting period for benefits for treatment relating to an obstetric condition, and a 2-month waiting period for all other benefits when a person first takes out private insurance. Funds have the discretion to reduce or remove such waiting periods in individual cases. They are also free not to impose them to begin with, but this would place such a fund at risk of "adverse selection", attracting a disproportionate number of members from other funds, or from the pool of intending members who might otherwise have joined other funds. It would also attract people with existing medical conditions, who might not otherwise have taken out insurance at all because of the denial of benefits for 12 months due to the PEA Rule. The benefits paid out for these conditions would create pressure on premiums for all the fund's members, causing some to drop their membership, which would lead to further rises, and a vicious cycle would ensue.

There are a number of other matters about which funds are not permitted to discriminate between members in terms of premiums, benefits or membership - these include racial origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, nature of employment, and leisure activities. Premiums for a fund's product that is sold in more than one state can vary from state to state, but not within the same state.

Culture of Australia

The culture of Australia is essentially a Western culture influenced by the unique geography of the Australian continent and by the diverse input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and various waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation of Australia. While factors such as the predominance of the English language, the existence of a democratic Westminster system of government, the popularity of sports such as cricket and rugby, or the predominance of Christianity evidence a significant Anglo-Celtic heritage, Australia today hosts a great diversity of cultural practices and pursuits.

Aboriginal people are believed to have arrived in Australia as early as 60,000 years ago, and evidence of Aboriginal art in Australia dates from at least 30,000 years. Several states had their origins as penal colonies, with the First Fleet of British convicts arriving at Sydney Cove in 1788. Stories of outlaws have endured in Australian music, cinema and literature - Ned Kelly being the most famous of the bushrangers. The Australian gold rushes from the 1850s brought wealth as well as new social tensions to Australia, including the miners' Eureka Stockade rebellion. The colonies established elected parliaments and rights for workers and women in advance of most other Western nations. Federation in 1901 evidenced a growing sense of national identity - expressed by such artists as the Heidelberg School painters and the writers Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson. The World Wars profoundly altered Australia's sense of identity - with World War I introducing ANZAC and World War II seeing a reorientation from Britain to the United States as a major ally. After the second war, 6.5 million migrants from 200 nations brought immense new diversity and Australians grew increasingly aware of proximity to Asia.

Egalitarianism, informality and even irreverence have been common themes of cultural commentary - exemplified by the works of C J Dennis, Barry Humphries and Paul Hogan. While fascination with the outback has persisted as a theme of Australian art, cinema and literature, and agriculture has been an important economic sector, the demographics of Australia show it to be one of the most urbanized populations in the world, with more than 75 per cent of people living an urban lifestyle, largely in the capital cities along the coast. These comprise the melting pots of what has become known since the 1970s as multicultural Australia. The capital cities host such internationally renowned cultural institutions as the Sydney Opera House and National Gallery of Victoria, and Australia has contributed many artists to international pop and classical culture, from hard rock's AC/DC to opera's Joan Sutherland.

Music of Australia

The music of Australia is the music produced in the area of, on the subject of, or by the people of modern Australia, including its preceding Indigenous and colonial societies. Indigenous Australian music is a part of the unique heritage of a 40–60,000 year history which produced the iconic didgeridoo. Contemporary fusions of Indigenous and Western styles (exemplified in the works of Yothu Yindi, Christine Anu and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu) mark distinctly Australian contributions to world music. During its early western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, and Australian folk music and bush ballads such as Waltzing Matilda were heavily influenced by Anglo-Celtic traditions, while classical forms were derived from those of Europe. Contemporary Australian music ranges across a broad spectrum with trends often concurrent with those of the US, the UK, and similar nations – notably in the Australian rock and Australian country music genres. Tastes have diversified along with post-World-War-II multicultural immigration to Australia.

Notable Australian musicians include: the opera Dames Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland; country music stars Slim Dusty (Australia's biggest selling domestic artist) and John Williamson; folk-rocker Paul Kelly; Dance group The Avalanches; jazz guitarist Tommy Emmanuel; pioneer rocker Johnny O'Keefe, global rock and pop bands the Bee Gees, AC/DC, INXS, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Midnight Oil, Silverchair, Youth Group, You Am I and Powderfinger; the "pop princess" Kylie Minogue, Cody Simpson, Pendulum and alternative music stars John Butler Trio and Xavier Rudd.

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Related : Australia | Health care in Australia | Culture of Australia | Music of Australia