Australia (officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia) is a federation of six states, together with ten federal territories. The Australian mainland consists of five of the six federated states and three of the federal territories (the "internal" territories). The state of Tasmania is an island about 200 kilometers from the mainland. The remaining seven territories are classified for some purposes as "external" territories. Aside from the Australian Antarctic Territory, which is Australia's claim to part of Antarctica, Australia is the world's sixth-largest country by total area.
All states and the two largest internal territories are partially self-governing, as well as being represented in the federal parliament; the other territories are administered by the federal government. Since 2015, federal control has also been extended to the formerly self-governing territory of Norfolk Island. Three of the external territories are inhabited; the others are uninhabited, apart from non-permanent scientists.
The term geographic Australia is used by the Australian government to describe the area covered by demographic statistics such as national population figures. This area comprises Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in addition to the six states and three mainland territories. Norfolk Island is the only territory with a native population that is not part of geographic Australia.
The states originated as separate British colonies prior to Federation in 1901. The Colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788 and originally comprised much of the Australian mainland, as well as Lord Howe Island, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and Van Diemen's Land, in addition to the area currently referred to as the state of New South Wales. During the 19th century, large areas were successively separated to form the Colony of Tasmania (initially established as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), the Colony of Western Australia (initially established as the smaller Swan River Colony in 1829), the Province of South Australia (1836), the Colony of New Zealand (1840), the Victoria Colony (1851) and the Colony of Queensland (1859). Upon Federation, the six colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania became the founding states of the new Commonwealth of Australia.
Legislative powers of the states are protected by the Australian constitution, section 107, and under the principle of federalism Commonwealth legislation only applies to the states where permitted by the constitution. The territories, by contrast, are from a constitutional perspective directly subject to the Commonwealth Government; laws for territories are determined by the Australian Parliament.
Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, while two (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) have some degree of self-government although less than that of the states. In the self-governing territories, the Australian Parliament retains the full power to legislate, and can override laws made by the territorial institutions, which it has done on rare occasions. For the purposes of Australian (and joint Australia-New Zealand) intergovernmental bodies, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are treated as if they were states.
Each state has a Governor, appointed by the Queen, which by convention she does on the advice of the state Premier. The Administrator of the Northern Territory, by contrast, is appointed by the Governor-General. The Australian Capital Territory has neither a Governor nor an Administrator, but the Governor-General exercises some powers that in other jurisdictions are exercised by the Governor of a state or Administrator of a territory, such as the power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.
Jervis Bay Territory is the only non-self-governing internal territory. Until 1989, it was administered as if it were a part of the ACT, although it has always been a separate territory. Under the terms of the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act, the laws of the ACT apply to the Jervis Bay Territory insofar as they are applicable and providing they are not inconsistent with an Ordinance. Although residents of the Jervis Bay Territory are generally subject to laws made by the ACT Legislative Assembly, they are not represented in the Assembly. They are represented in the Parliament of Australia as part of the Electoral Division of Fraser in the ACT and by the ACT's two Senators. In other respects, the territory is administered directly by the Federal Government through the Territories portfolio.
The external territory of Norfolk Island possessed a degree of self-government from 1979 until 2015.
Each state has a bicameral parliament except Queensland, which abolished its upper house in 1922. The lower house is called the Legislative Assembly, except in South Australia and Tasmania, where it is called the House of Assembly. Tasmania is the only state to use proportional representation for elections to its lower house; all others elect members from single member constituencies, using preferential voting. The upper house is called the Legislative Council and is generally elected from multi-member constituencies using proportional representation. The three self-governing territories, the ACT, the Northern Territory, and Norfolk Island, each have unicameral Legislative Assemblies.
The head of government of each state is called the Premier, appointed by the state's Governor. In normal circumstances, the Governor will appoint as Premier whoever leads the party or coalition which exercises control of the lower house (in the case of Queensland, the only house) of the state Parliament. However, in times of constitutional crisis, the Governor can appoint someone else as Premier. The head of government of the self-governing internal territories is called the Chief Minister. The Northern Territory's Chief Minister, in normal circumstances whoever controls the Legislative Assembly, is appointed by the Administrator.Parliament of New South Wales
Parliament of Queensland
Parliament of South Australia
Parliament of Tasmania
Parliament of Victoria
Parliament of Western Australia
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly
Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory
Supreme Court of New South Wales
Supreme Court of the Northern Territory
Supreme Court of Queensland
Supreme Court of South Australia
Supreme Court of Tasmania
Supreme Court of Victoria
Supreme Court of Western Australia
Supreme Court of Norfolk Island
Australian Capital Territory Police (performed by Australian Federal Police)
New South Wales Police
Northern Territory Police
South Australia Police
Western Australia Police
Australian Capital Territory border
New South Wales borders
Northern Territory borders
South Australian borders
Western Australian border
Distance in kilometres from the corresponding city on the X-Y axis.