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States & Territories

opening of the first Australian parliament (click for larger image)The Commonwealth of Australia was created on 1 January 1901 when Federation united the previously individual British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, under one parliamentary system.

The first Parliament of the Commonwealth was opened by the then Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) of Great Britain, representing his father King Edward VII (right). The ceremony took place in Melbourne and Federal Parliament sat there until 1927, when it was moved to the Australian Capital Territory which was created for the sole purpose of housing the federal parliament.

Currently the Commonwealth of Australia comprises six states and various territories.

 

State / Territory
Capital City
Year of European
Colonisation
Population in 2012
Notes
New South Wales
Sydney
1788
7,290,300
beginning as the penal Colony of New South Wales, it originally included the entire east coast and all islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean (including New Zealand) and westward to 135oE
Norfolk Island
Kingston
1788
2,302
first colonised as part of Britain's settlment of Australia and used as a convict penal colony until 1813 and again from 1824-1855, a permanent population of free settlers began in 1856 with the arrival of 194 descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers from Pitcairn Island
Van Diemen's Land / Tasmania
Hobart
1803
512,100
identified as an island in 1798-99, but still part of the Colony of New South Wales, it was a penal colony until 1877, the name was changed to Tasmania in 1856 when it was granted responsible self-government as its own colony
Macquarie Island
nil
1810
nil
a World Heritage Site, the island, claimed for Britian and annexed to the Colony of New South Wales, now politically sits within Tasmania is used for research purposes
Swan River Colony / Western Australia
Perth
1829
2,430,300
a free British colony, its name was changed to Western Australia in 1832 with the eastern boundary extending to 129oE
South Australia
Adelaide
1834
1,654,800
a free British colony, it's western boundary was originally set at 132oE before being changed to current location in 1860
Victoria
Melbourne
1851
5,623,500
402 people first settled the region in 1803, it wasn't until 1851 that Victoria was granted responsible self-government as its own colony
Queensland
Brisbane
1859
4,560,100
settled as a penal colony in 1824, it was 1859 when Queensland was granted responsible self-government as its own colony, with its western border set at 141oE, before it was changed in 1862 to its current location at 139oE
 
Federal Capital Territory / Australian Capital Territory
Canberra
1911
374,700
a territory enclaved within New South Wales for the sole purpose of hosting the Seat of Federal Government for the Commonwealth
Northern Territory
Darwin
1911
234,800
originally part of the Colony of New South Wales from 1825, it was transfered to South Australia in 1862, after Federation it was transferred to the Commonwealth
Jervis Bay Territory
nil
1915
395
was formed so that the ACT would have access to the sea, it is governed by ACT laws and the population is mainly defence service personnel
Ashmore Island & Cartier Islands
nil
1931
nil
transferred from Britain in 1931, these unihabited island & reef systems are located on the edge of the continental shelf and is a nature reserve
Australian Antarctic Territory
nil
1933
<1,000
transferred from Britain in 1933, but since the Antarctic Treaty in 1961, there are no recognised claims in the Antarctic - the area is temporarily inhabited by research staff
Heard Island & McDonald Islands
nil
1947
nil
a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was transferred from Britain in 1947 and is occassionally inhabited by temporary resesearch staff
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
West Island
1955
564
originally settled by a Scottish family in 1814 the islands were annexed by the British Empire in 1857, it was transferred from Singapore to Australia in 1955 and in 1984 a secret ballot was held for self-determination in which the majority of the population sought to integrate with Australia
Christmas Island
Flying Fish Cove
1958
1496
with the discoveryof pure phosphate of lime in 1888, mining began in earnest and the island was administered by the British Colonial Office - it was transferred from Britain in 1958 and is now mostly a tourist destination
Coral Sea Island Territory
nil
1969
nil
is a group of small and uninhabited islands & reefs (only one island is permanently inhabited, by weather observers) - first charted in 1803 and mined for guano, the territory is mainly a nature reserve