Is Australia an island, a country or a continent?
Well, the answer is yes to all three, as all these classifications can be attributed to Australia.
Australia is an island as it is completely surrounded by water has no land borders and is populated by one nation.
Australia is a country as it is populated by one, single nation state.
Australia is a continent as it sits upon it's own continental plate, the Australasian Plate, giving the continent it's official title of Australasia.
Australasia is sometimes known as Oceania, which is classified as a geopolitical region, rather than a geographical area. The Oceania region consists of fourteen countries and twenty five dependencies, made up mainly of south Pacific Islands, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Australia has been populated for well over forty eight thousand years, with it's first inhabitants probably Melanesian islanders and people of the Malay Archipelago who sailed to Australia across the Torres Straits in small rowing boats. These islanders went on to populate over two hundred and thirty different tribes across the country, all of which had their own languages, culture and customs. These people were the ancestors of Australia's indigenous people, the Aborigines.
Geographically Australia is the youngest land mass on earth, having only been discovered when Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon made landfall on the Cape York Peninsular in Queensland on the 26th of February 1606.
The name Australia is derived from the Latin word Australis, which means southern. Until 1606 Australia had been referred to on maps by the title Terra Australis Incognita, Latin for unrecognised southern land.
From 1606 until 1770 several Dutch and English explorers had charted the north and west coasts of Australia, but no settlements had been established until British explorer, Captain James Cook ( 1728 - 1777 ) arrived at Botany Bay, New South Wales aboard his ship HMS Endeavour on the 29th of April 1770 He mapped, charted and then claimed the east coast of Australia for the British, making way for the establishment of the new British Penal and Crown Colony of New South Wales in 1788.
The first fleet of transported convicts arrived at Port Jackson, modern day Sydney Harbour, on the 26th of January 1788, a date which is now remembered by way of the celebration of Australia's national day, Australia Day.
The fleet of eleven ships was led by Captain Arthur Philip ( 1738 - 1814 ) onboard the vessel HMS Supply.
The island state of Tasmania, formerly known as Van Diemen's Land was settled by the British in 1803, becoming Britain's second crown colony in 1825.
This then led to the future colonisation of the states of Western Australia in 1828, South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, Queensland in 1859 and the founding of the Northern Territory in 1911.
Australia became a Commonwealth Realm in 1901 during the Federation of the Colonies.
In 1907 Australia became a Dominion of the British Empire.
Australia ended all constitutional links with Great Britain in 1931, eventually severing all ties with the U.K in 1986 by way of the Australia Act.
Today Australia is a Commonwealth Realm with a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary government which is presided over by a prime minister with a federal division of power. Queen Elisabeth II is the country's monarch who is represented by way of a Governor General with reserve powers at federal level and state governors at state level.
Australia's federal capital city is Canberra, a purpose built city which has only been populated since 1927. Canberra is Australia's eighth largest city with the country's largest city that of Sydney, which was named after the British Home Secretary Thomas Townsend ( 1733 - 1800 ) First Viscount, Lord Sydney
Australia is divided into six states, three mainland territories and six overseas territories.
Western Australia, the country's largest state - Capital city Perth, the fourth most populated city in the country, built on the banks of the Swan River and established in 1829. Perth was named by Sir George Murray ( 1772 - 1846 ) Secretary of State for the Colonies, after his hometown of Perth in Scotland. Due to it's geographical location, Perth is classified as the most remote capital city on earth.
South Australia, the only state founded as a free state which was never used as a penal colony - Capital city Adelaide, the country's fifth most populated city established in 1836 and built on the Gulf of St Vincent on the Indian Ocean coast. The city gets it's name from Queen Adelaide, the queen consort of King William IV.
New South Wales, Australia's first state originally christened New Wales by Captain James Cook who later changed it to new south Wales, probably because the local terrain reminded him of the original south Wales - Capital city Sydney, Australia's most populous city, originally populated by way of the first convict ships to land in Australia in 1788. The city was built around the large, natural harbour of Port Jackson, named after Sir George Jackson ( 1725 - 1822 ) the Lord Commissioner of the British Fleet. Sydney is situated on the coast of the Tasman Sea.
Queensland, named after Queen Victoria - Capital city Brisbane, the third most populous city in Australia which was established in 1824. the city was built beside the river of which the city gets it's name, the River Brisbane. Both the river and the city received their name from Sir Thomas Brisbane ( 1773 - 1860 ) who was the Governor General of New South Wales from 1821 - 1825.
Also part of Queensland are the seventy four, Great Barrier Reef islands known as the Whitsunday Islands, which have a very small population living there solely to run the island's tourism industry.
Tasmania, named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman ( 1603 - 1659 ) is the country's smallest and only island state - Capital city Hobart, established in 1803, Hobart is Australia's second oldest city after Sydney and was built on the estuary of the Derwent River. Hobart was named after the British Colonial secretary Lord Hobart ( 1760 - 1816 ). Hobart is Australia's eleventh most populous city.
Victoria, named after Queen Victoria - Capital city Melbourne, Australia's second most populous city, built on the estuary of the Yarra River and established in 1835. The city was named after William Lamb, Second Viscount Lord Melbourne.
Northern Territory, with a self governing unicameral parliament since 1978 - Capital city Darwin, the least populous of all the state capital cities and ranked as Australia's sixteenth largest city. Darwin was established in 1869 and was built on the coast of the Timor Sea. The city is named after British naturalist Charles Darwin who arrived in the city on the first survey ship to the area, HMS Beagle in 1839.
Australian Capital Territory, with a self governing bicameral paliament since 1927 - Capital city Canberra, established in 1913 the city was fourteen years in the building, eventually being populated, mainly by federal government employees, in 1927. Canberra was a planned city designed by American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin. Canberra is Australia's eighth most populous city and is situated along the banks of the Molonglo River. The name Canberra comes from the word kanbera, a word taken from the Ngunnwal language spoken by the local, indigenous Ngabri people, which means meeting place.
Jervis Bay Territory. A coastal area which is home to the Royal Australian naval base HMAS Cresswell situated two hundred kilometres south of Sydney in New South Wales.
Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling Islands. A group of islands situated in the Indian Ocean, known as the Australian Indian Ocean territories, with a population of around two thousand people.
Ashmore and Cartier Islands. A small group of uninhabited islands in the Indian Ocean.
Coral Sea Islands. A group of many small, uninhabited islands situated in the Coral Sea.
Heard and MacDonald Islands. A group of barren, uninhabited, volcanic islands situated in the Indian Ocean, designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Norfolk Island. A self governing overseas territory situated in the south Pacific with a population of just over two thousand people.
Australian Antarctic Territory. The largest Antarctic territory of any country, divided into nine areas in a region covering 2,276,651 square miles.
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