Australia


Australian Flag

Australia, island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the Commonwealth of Australia, a self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The continent is bounded on the north by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Torres Strait; on the east by the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea; on the south by the Bass Strait and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Indian Ocean. The commonwealth extends for about 4025 km (about 2500 mi) from east to west and for about 3700 km (about 2300 mi) from north to south. Its coastline measures some 36,735 km (about 22,826 mi). The area of the commonwealth is 7,682,292 sq km (2,966,150 sq mi), and the area of the continent alone is 7,614,500 sq km (2,939,974 sq mi), making Australia the smallest continent in the world, but the sixth largest country.

The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of six states New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia and two territories the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The external dependencies of Australia are the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, the Territory of Cocos Islands (also called the Keeling Islands), the Coral Sea Islands Territory, the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island.

The first people to live in Australia, called Aborigines, migrated there about 40,000 years ago. The continent remained relatively unknown by outsiders until the 17th century. The first European settlement by British convicts occurred in 1788 at Botany Bay in southeastern Australia. Australia grew as a group of British colonies during the 19th century, and in 1901 the colonies federated to form a unified independent nation.

Copyright 1997 by Microsoft Encarta

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