Australia Country Guide
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The Commonwealth of Australia is a country in the
southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the
world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania,
and a number of other islands in the Indian and Pacific
The neighbouring countries are Indonesia, East Timor,
and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands,
Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and
New Zealand to the south-east.
The Australian mainland has been inhabited for more
than 42,000 years by indigenous Australians. After
sporadic visits by fishermen from the north and then
European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the
eastern half of Australia was later claimed by the
British in 1770 and initially settled through penal
transportation to the colony of New South Wales, commencing
on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new
areas were explored, 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 capital city is Canberra,
located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
The population is just over 21.3 million, with approximately
60% of the population concentrated in and around the
mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane,
Perth, and Adelaide.
Australia has six states, two major mainland territories,
and other minor territories. The states are New South
Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria,
and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories
are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital
Territory. In most respects, the territories function
like the 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 Constitution; state parliaments
retain all residual legislative powers, including
powers over hospitals, education, police, the judiciary,
roads, public transport, and local government.
Some of this information has been provided by Wikipedia.