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".
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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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