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Australian States and Territories

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Australian States and Territories

The states and mainland territories of the Commonwealth of Australia combine to make up the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Australia comprises six states and various territories; the Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories (including small, somewhat anomalous Jervis Bay), with the sixth island state of Tasmania to the south of the mainland. In addition, there are six island territories, known as external territories, and Australian Antarctic Territory.

All states and two of the three internal grounds have their own parliaments and administer themselves; all remaining territories are administered by the federal government, but with Norfolk Island having some degree of self-government.

States and territories

Reference map for States and Territories of Australia
States and Territories of Australia[1]
Flag State/Territory name Abbrev ISO[2] Postal Type Capital (or largest settlement) Population Area (km²)
Ashmore and Cartier Islands External 0 199
Australian Antarctic Territory External (Mawson Station) 1,000 5,896,500
Australian Capital Territory ACT AU-ACT ACT Territory Canberra 373,100 2,358
Christmas Island CX External Flying Fish Cove 2,072 135
Cocos (Keeling) Islands CC External West Island 596 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) 377 70
New South Wales NSW AU-NSW NSW State Sydney 7,272,800 800,642
Norfolk Island NF External Kingston 2,302 35
Northern Territory NT AU-NT NT Territory Darwin 233,300 1,349,129
Queensland Qld AU-QLD QLD State Brisbane 4,560,059 1,730,648
South Australia SA AU-SA SA State Adelaide 1,650,600 983,482
Tasmania Tas AU-TAS TAS State Hobart 512,100 68,401
Victoria Vic AU-VIC VIC State Melbourne 5,603,100 227,416
Western Australia WA AU-WA WA State Perth 2,451,400 2,529,875

See also: List of State Codes

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

  • From 1926 to 1931, the Northern Territory was divided into Central Australia and North Australia, with the border at the 20th parallel of latitude. Both territories were reincorporated as the Northern Territory at the end of this period.
  • From 1949 to 1975, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was a territory of Australia, remaining so until the independence of the country of Papua New Guinea.

Background and overview

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 colonies of Tasmania (established as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), South Australia (1836), New Zealand (1840),[3] Victoria (1851) and Queensland (1859). The Swan River Colony (present-day city of Perth) was established in Western Australia in 1829. On Federation, the six colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania became original states of the new Commonwealth of Australia.

Legislative powers of the States are protected by the Australian constitution, 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. 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 was an 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.[4] 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.

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, 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

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
Norfolk Island External self-governing territory
Christmas Island External territory 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.

Governors and Administrators of states and territories

Post Incumbent Appointed
Governor of New South Wales Her Excellency Marie Bashir 1 March 2001
Governor of Queensland Her Excellency Penelope Wensley 29 July 2008
Governor of South Australia His Excellency Kevin Scarce 8 August 2007
Governor of Tasmania His Excellency Peter Underwood 2 April 2008
Governor of Victoria His Excellency Alex Chernov 8 April 2011
Governor of Western Australia His Excellency Malcolm McCusker 1 July 2011
Administrator of the Northern Territory Her Honour Sally Thomas 31 October 2011
Administrator of Northern Island His Honour Neil Pope 1 April 2012
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
His Honour Jon Stanhope 5 October 2012

Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories

Post Incumbent Political party Appointed
Premier of New South Wales O'Farrell, BarryBarry O'Farrell MP Liberal March 2011
Premier of Queensland Newman, CampbellCampbell Newman MP Liberal National March 2012
Premier of South Australia Weatherill, JayJay Weatherill MHA Labor October 2011
Premier of Tasmania Giddings, LaraLara Giddings MP Labor January 2011
Premier of Victoria Napthine, DenisDenis Napthine MLA Liberal March 2013
Premier of Western Australia Barnett, ColinColin Barnett MLA Liberal September 2008
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory Gallagher, KatyKaty Gallagher MLA Labor May 2011
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Giles, AdamAdam Giles MLA Country Liberal March 2013
Chief Minister of Norfolk Island Snell, LisleLisle Snell MLA March 2013

State and territorial parliaments

State and territory supreme courts

State and territory police forces

State and territory borders


State / Territory Land area
Rank Population
Rank Population
Rank  % of
in capital
2,358 8th 344,200 7th 137.53 1st 99.6% 1st
800,642 5th 6,967,200 1st 8.44 3rd 63.0% 5th
227,416 6th 5,297,600 2nd 22.00 2nd 71.0% 4th
1,730,648 2nd 4,279,400 3rd 2.26 5th 46.0% 7th
983,482 4th 1,601,800 5th 1.56 6th 73.5% 2nd
2,529,875 1st 2,163,200 4th 0.79 7th 73.4% 3rd
68,401 7th 498,200 6th 7.08 4th 41.0% 8th
1,349,129 3rd 219,900 8th 0.15 8th 54.0% 6th

Distance table

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

State/Territory Abbrev. Call signs Postal Telephone numbers in Australia Time zone
AM/FM TV Amateur Abbrev. Postcode Std Summer
Australian Capital Territory ACT 1xx(x)† xx(x)Cn† VK1xx† ACT 02nn*, 26nn, 29nn +61 2 6xxx xxxx +10 +11
New South Wales NSW 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 1nnn*, 2nnn +61 2 xxxx xxxx ^ +10 (+9½) +11
Victoria Vic 3xx(x) xx(x)Vn VK3xx VIC 3nnn, 8nnn* +61 3 xxxx xxxx ^ +10 +11
Queensland Qld 4xx(x) xx(x)Qn VK4xx QLD 4nnn, 9nnn* +61 7 xxxx xxxx +10
South Australia SA 5xx(x) xx(x)Sn VK5xx SA 5nnn +61 8 8xxx xxxx
+61 8 7xxx xxxx
+9½ +10½
Western Australia WA 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK6xx WA 6nnn +61 8 9xxx xxxx
+61 8 6xxx xxxx
Tasmania Tas 7xx(x) xx(x)Tn VK7xx TAS 7nnn +61 3 6xxx xxxx +10 +11
Northern Territory NT 8xx(x) xx(x)Dn VK8xx NT 08nn +61 8 8xxx xxxx +9½
External Territories
Norfolk Island 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 2899 +672 3 xx xxx +11½
Christmas Island 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK9xx WA 6798 +61 8 9164 xxxx +7
Cocos Island 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK9xx WA 6799 +61 8 9162 xxxx +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.
^ Some exceptions apply to numbers in this state's number range
† a number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if ACT were part of New South Wales.

See also

Australia portal

References and notes

External links

  • CityMayors article
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