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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, Pacific and Southern Oceans. 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 by European explorers and merchants starting in the
17th century, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in
1770 and initially settled through penal transportation as part of 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. The population is 21 million, and is
concentrated in the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne,
Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

The name "Australia" is derived from the Latin Australis, meaning
"Southern". Legends of an "unknown land of the south" (terra australis
incognita) dating back to Roman times were commonplace in
mediæval geography, but were based on no actual knowledge of the
continent. The first use of the word "Australia" in English was in 1625
— the words "A note of Australia del Espiritu Santo, written by Master
Hakluyt", published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumus. The
Dutch adjectival form Australische was used by Dutch officials in
Batavia to refer to the newly discovered land to the south in 1638.
"Australia" was used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de
Jacques Sadeur dans la Découverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe,
a 1692 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny under the pen name
Jacques Sadeur. Alexander Dalrymple then used it in An Historical
Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean
(1771), to refer to the entire South Pacific region. In 1793, George
Shaw and Sir James Smith published Zoology and Botany of New
Holland, in which they wrote of "the vast island, or rather continent, of
Australia, Australasia or New Holland."

The name "Australia" was popularised by the 1814 work A Voyage to
Terra Australis by the navigator Matthew Flinders, the first recorded
person to circumnavigate Australia. Despite its title, which reflected the
view of the British Admiralty, Flinders used the word "Australia" in the
book, which was widely read and gave the term general currency.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales subsequently used
the word in his dispatches to England, and on 12 December 1817
recommended to the Colonial Office that it be officially adopted). In
1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially
as "Australia".

Largest city
35°18′S, 149°08′E

Official languages
English (de facto )

Monarch   -  
Governor  -    
Prime Minister
federal constitutional monarchy)
Queen Elizabeth II
Michael Jeffery
John Howard

Statute of
Australia Act          
from the United Kingdom  
1 January 1901  

11 December1931   
(adopted 9 September 1939)
3 March 1986
Water (%)
7,741,220 km² (6th)
2,988,888 sq mi  
2007 estimate

2006 census


21,134,563 [1] (53rd)


2.6/km² (224th) 6.7/sq mi

Per capita
2006 estimate
$1.727 trillion (8th1)

$12,096 (59th)
GDP (nominal)

Per capita
2007 estimate
US$822.1 billion (AU $1.1
trillion) (15th)
US$39,320 (DFAT) (17th)
HDI (2004)
0.957 (high) (3rd)
Gini? (2002)
39.9 (medium)
Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone

Summer (DST)
various N3 (UTC+8 to
(UTC+9 to +11.5)
Internet TLD
Calling code         
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