Australia: More Travel Locations
|Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, New South Wales, Outback, Queensland, South Australia, Sydney, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia|
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Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is the sixth-largest country in the world, the only country to occupy an entire continent, and the largest in the region of Australasia/Oceania. It also includes a number of secondary islands, the largest of which is the State of Tasmania. Australia is a federation, and is governed as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy.
Australia's neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Pacific Islands to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east. The shortest border distance is between the mainlands of Papua New Guinea and Australia at about 150 km; however, the nearest inhabited island, Boigu Island, is about 5 km from Papua New Guinea. This has led to a complicated border arrangement allowing access for 'traditional' uses of the waterway across the border by Papua New Guinean people and Torres Strait Islanders.Australia has been continually inhabited for at least 50,000 years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Eastern Australia was claimed by the British in 1770, and offically settled as a British colony on January 26, 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored six self-governing Crown Colonies were established within Australia. On 1 January 1901 the colonies agreed to form a federation and the Commonwealth of Australia was established. Since federation Australia has had a stable democratic political system and it remains a Commonwealth Realm.
History of Australia
The exact date of the first human habitation of Australia is still a subject of considerable research. There is strong scientific evidence for a presence around 50,000 years ago, a period of massive ecological upheaval in Australia which is believed to be consistent with human colonisation. These first Australians were the remote ancestors of the current Australian Aborigines, and arrived via land bridges and navigation of significant sea crossings from present-day south-east Asia.
The sharing of animal and plant species between adjacent parts of Australia, the island of New Guinea, and nearby Indonesian islands is another consequence of the early land bridges, which closed when sea levels rose. The traditional movement of people between these places in primitive sailing craft for trade and fishing indicates the possibility of Arab and Chinese traders to the northern islands learning of and then visiting the shores of the southern continent from as early as the 9th century. Maps compiled in Europe from the late 1400s show parts of the coastline.
Sydney in about 1828, looking north over Hyde Park, Sydney towards the harbour.The land is believed to have been first discovered by Europeans in 1522 by the Portuguese explorer Crist髒?o de Mendon?a, but it was only in the 17th century that the island continent became the subject of European exploration, with several expeditions sighting Terra Australis: the Dutch explorer Willem Jansz (1606), the Portuguese explorer Luis Vaez de Torres in Spanish service (1607), and the Dutch explorers Jan Carstensz (1623), Dirk Hartog and Abel Tasman (1642), after whom is named the island of Tasmania, but which he himself originally named van Diemenslandt (Van Diemen's Land) after Anthony van Diemen.
The first English explorers were William Dampier on the west coast of the continent in 1688, and Lieutenant James Cook who, in 1770, claimed the eastern two-thirds of the continent for Britain, despite orders from King George III to first conclude a treaty with the indigenous population. His report to London that Australia was unowned land (see Terra nullius) provided impetus for the establishment of a penal colony there following the loss of the American colonies.The British Crown Colony of New South Wales began by the establishment of a settlement (later to become Sydney) in Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip on January 26, 1788. This date was later to become Australia's national day, Australia Day. Van Diemen's Land (the present day Tasmania) was settled in 1803, and became a separate colony in 1825. The rest of the continent, what is now Western Australia, was formally claimed by the United Kingdom in 1829. Following the spread of British settlement, separate Colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded, as part of the Province of South Australia, in 1863.
During the period of 1855-1890, the six Crown Colonies each successively became self-governing colonies, which managed most of their own affairs. British law was adopted in each colony at the time of the granting of responsible government, and was subsequently modified by the individual legislatures. The British government retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence and international shipping. Despite its heavily rural-based economy, Australia remained significantly urbanised, centred particularly around the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. In the 1880s 'Marvellous Melbourne' was the second largest city in the British Empire. Australia also gained a reputation as a 'working man's paradise' and as a laboratory for social reform, with the world's first secret ballot and first labour party government. Universal suffrage was also granted comparatively early in most colonies.
New Parliament House in Canberra.On 1 January 1901, Federation of the Colonies was achieved after a 10-year gestation period, and the Commonwealth of Australia was born, as a dominion of the British Empire. The Australian Capital Territory was formed from New South Wales in 1911, to provide a neutral place for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra (the initial capital being Melbourne from 1901 to 1929). Although Australia had become independent in many respects, the British government retained some powers until the Statute of Westminster of 1931 was ratified by Australia in 1942, and the theoretical authority of the British Parliament over the Commonwealth Constitution and those of individual states was not completely severed until the passing of the Australia Act in 1986. The original constitution gave the federal government power to make laws relating to any race of people except Aborigines. In 1967, a referendum supported by more than ninety per cent of voters gave the federal government the right to enact laws to protect Aboriginal people and to count them in the census.