"Australia" Australia by bwk_michael
Australia Travel Guide: 45,063 reviews and 113,950 photos
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent (the world's smallest), the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.N4 Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the northeast, and New Zealand to the southeast.
For at least 40,000 years before European settlement in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 language groups of indigenous Australians.After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years; the continent was explored, and another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established during the 19th century.
On 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The population is 22 million, with approximately 60% concentrated in and around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. The nation's capital city is Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.
Australia is a prosperous developed country, with a multicultural society. It ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance such as human development, quality of life, health care, life expectancy, public education, economic freedom and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Australian cities rank among the world's highest in terms of cultural offerings and quality of life. It is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, OECD, APEC, South Pacific Forum and the World Trade Organization.
Australia has six states—New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia—and two major mainland territories—the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In most respects these two territories function as states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments. By contrast, federal legislation only overrides state legislation in certain areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including powers over education, police, the judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government as these do not fall under the provisions listed in Section 51.
Each state and major mainland territory has its own legislature or parliament: unicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states. The states are sovereign, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier, and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor; and in the Northern Territory, the Administrator. In the Commonwealth, the Queen's representative is the Governor-General.
The federal government directly administers the following territories
Jervis Bay Territory, a naval base and sea port for the national capital in land that was formerly part of New South Wales
Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Ashmore and Cartier Islands
Coral Sea Islands
Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Australian Antarctic Territory
Norfolk Island is also technically an external territory; however, under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 it has been granted more autonomy and is governed locally by its own legislative assembly. The Queen is represented by an Administrator, currently Owen Walsh
Australia's landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi) is on the Indo-Australian Plate. Surrounded by the IndianN4 and Pacific oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. The world's smallest continent and sixth largest country by total area, Australia – owing to its size and isolation – is often dubbed the 'island continent' and variably considered the world's largest island. Australia has 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands) and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Australia, as seen from spaceThe Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. At 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island is taller at 2,745 metres (9,006 ft).
Australia is the flattest continent,with the oldest and least fertile soils;desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the outback makes up by far the largest portion of land. The driest inhabited continent, only its south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world,although a large proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.
The landscapes of the northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia
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