The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a claim to a territory in Antarctica. All states and two of the three internal territories have their own parliaments and administer themselves; the remaining territories are administered by the Federal Government.

Map showing the creation of the colonies/states and mainland territories.

States and territories[edit | edit source]

Reference map for States and Territories of Australia
Australian external territories.png
States and Territories of Australia[1]
Flag State/Territory name ISO[2] Postal Type Capital (or largest settlement) Population Area (km²)
Ashmore and Cartier Islands External (West Islet) 0 199
Australia Australian Antarctic Territory External (Mawson Station) 1,000 5,896,500
Australian Capital Territory Australian Capital Territory AU-ACT ACT Territory Canberra 358,894 2,358
Christmas Island Christmas Island CX External Flying Fish Cove 1,493 135
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Cocos (Keeling) Islands CC External West Island 628 14
Coral Sea Islands External (Willis Island) 4 10
Heard Island and McDonald Islands HM External (Atlas Cove) 0 372
Jervis Bay Territory JBT Territory (Jervis Bay Village) 611 70
New South Wales New South Wales AU-NSW NSW State Sydney 7,238,819 800,642
Norfolk Island Norfolk Island NF External Kingston 2,114 35
Northern Territory Northern Territory AU-NT NT Territory Darwin 229,675 1,349,129
Queensland Queensland AU-QLD QLD State Brisbane 4,516,361 1,730,648
South Australia South Australia AU-SA SA State Adelaide 1,644,642 983,482
Tasmania Tasmania AU-TAS TAS State Hobart 507,626 68,401
Victoria (Australia) Victoria AU-VIC VIC State Melbourne 5,547,527 227,416
Western Australia Western Australia AU-WA WA State Perth 2,296,411 2,529,875

See also: List of State Codes

Australia has had three now-defunct territories in its history:

Background and overview[edit | edit source]

The states originated as separate British colonies prior to Federation (in 1901). Their powers are protected by the Australian constitution, and 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. The Australian Parliament has powers to legislate in the territories that it does not possess in the states.

Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth government, while three (the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island) administer themselves. 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 states.

Furthermore, the distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the territories is different from that between the Commonwealth and the states. In the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth retains the power to directly administer uranium mining and Aboriginal lands – powers which it does not possess with respect to the states.

Each state has a Governor, appointed by the Queen, which by convention she does on the advice of the state Premier. The Administrators of the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island are, by contrast, 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 unique in being the only non-self-governing territory that is not an external territory. Until 1989 it was a part of the ACT, but was separated when the ACT achieved self-government. Residents of the Jervis Bay Territory are not represented in the ACT Legislative Assembly. However, laws made by that assembly generally apply to them. They are represented in the Australian parliament 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.

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 instant-runoff voting(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, 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.

Comparative terminology[edit | edit source]

Entity State/Territory type Tie to the Queen? Domestic administrator Head of Government Upper House of Parliament Lower House of Parliament Member of Parliament*
Australia Federal Government Direct Governor-General Prime Minister Senate House of Representatives Senator MP
South Australia Federated state Direct (established by Australia Act) Governor Premier Legislative Council House of Assembly MLC MHA
New South Wales Legislative Assembly MLA
Western Australia
Queensland None (abolished 1922) None MP
Australian Capital Territory Self-governing territory None Assembly and Chief Minister Chief Minister None Legislative Assembly None MLA
Northern Territory Indirect (through Governor-General) Administrator Administrator
Norfolk Island External territory
Christmas Island Mayor/Shire President Shire Council Councillor
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
*Note: The abbreviation MP is an acceptable, and indeed more common, term for members of each lower house.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

State/territory Land area (km²) Rank Population (2006) Rank Population density (/km²) Rank % of population in capital Rank
 Australian Capital Territory 2,358 8th 344,200 7th 137.53 1st 99.6% 1st
 New South Wales 800,642 5th 6,967,200 1st 8.44 3rd 63% 5th
 Victoria 227,416 6th 5,297,600 2nd 22 2nd 71% 4th
 Queensland 1,730,648 2nd 4,279,400 3rd 2.26 5th 46% 7th
 South Australia 983,482 4th 1,601,800 5th 1.56 6th 73.5% 2nd
 Western Australia 2,529,875 1st 2,163,200 4th 0.79 7th 73.4% 3rd
 Tasmania 68,401 7th 498,200 6th 7.08 4th 41% 8th
 Northern Territory 1,349,129 3rd 219,900 8th 0.15 8th 54% 6th

Distance table[edit | edit source]

Distance Table Australia
2673 Albany
1533 3588 Alice Springs
1578 3633 443 Uluru
2045 4349 3038 3254 Brisbane
2483 1943 2483 1223 3317 Broome
3352 5656 2457 2900 1716 2496 Cairns
1196 3846 3706 2751 1261 3275 2568 Canberra
3022 4614 1489 1932 3463 1803 2882 4195 Darwin
1001 3674 2534 2579 1944 3636 3251 918 4023 Hobart
3219 3787 1686 2129 3660 1045 3079 4392 827 4220 Kununurra
2783 5087 2505 2948 976 2840 740 1999 2930 2682 3127 Mackay
731 3404 2264 2309 1674 3124 2981 648 3753 609 3950 2412 Melbourne
2742 5106 1209 1652 1829 1834 1248 2561 1634 3075 1831 1296 2805 Mount Isa
2781 409 3696 3741 4457 2389 5764 3954 4205 3782 3378 5195 3512 4905 Perth
1412 3970 3830 2875 1001 3373 2495 286 4034 1142 4516 1926 872 2400 4078 Sydney

Distance in kilometres from the corresponding city on the X-Y axis.

State and territory codes[edit | edit source]

State/Territory Call signs Postal Telephone area codes Time zone
AM/FM TV Amateur Abbrev. Postcode Std Summer
Australian Capital Territory 1xx(x)† xx(x)Cn† VK1xx† ACT 02nn*, 26nn, 29nn 02 +10 +11
New South Wales 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 1nnn*, 2nnn 02 +10(+10½) +11
Victoria 3xx(x) xx(x)Vn VK3xx VIC 3nnn, 8nnn* 03 +10 +11
Queensland 4xx(x) xx(x)Qn VK4xx QLD 4nnn, 9nnn* 07 +10
South Australia 5xx(x) xx(x)Sn VK5xx SA 5nnn 08 +9½ +10½
Western Australia 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK6xx WA 6nnn 08 +8
Tasmania 7xx(x) xx(x)Tn VK7xx TAS 7nnn 03 +10 +11
Northern Territory 8xx(x) xx(x)Dn VK8xx NT 08nn 08 +9½
External Territories
Norfolk Island 2xx(x) VK9xx (NSW) +672 3 +11½
Christmas Island (WA) (WA) +7
Cocos Island +6½
Australian Antarctic Territory none VK0xx (Tas) +672 1 +6 to +8
Macquarie Island none +10 +11
* used for some PO box and Large Users only.
† a number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if it was part of New South Wales.

See also[edit | edit source]

  • ISO 3166-2:AU, the ISO codes for the states and territories of Australia.

References and notes[edit | edit source]

  1. References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual state and territory articles.
  2. ISO 3166-2:AU (ISO 3166-2 codes for the states and territories of Australia)

External links[edit | edit source]

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