States and territories of Australia
The states and mainland territories 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 territories 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
|Flag||State/Territory name||Abbrev||ISO||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|
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 (1849), Victoria (1851) and Queensland (1859). The Swan River Colony (present-day city of Perth) was established in Western Australia in 1829.
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 is not an external 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.
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.
|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|
|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
|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|
Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories
|Premier of New South Wales||Barry O'Farrell MP||Liberal||March 2011|
|Premier of Queensland||Campbell Newman MP||Liberal National||March 2012|
|Premier of South Australia||Jay Weatherill MHA||Labor||October 2011|
|Premier of Tasmania||Lara Giddings MP||Labor||January 2011|
|Premier of Victoria||Denis Napthine MLA||Liberal||March 2013|
|Premier of Western Australia||Colin Barnett MLA||Liberal||September 2008|
|Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory||Katy Gallagher MLA||Labor||May 2011|
|Chief Minister of the Northern Territory||Adam Giles MLA||Country Liberal||March 2013|
|Chief Minister of Norfolk Island||David Buffett MLA||March 2010|
State and territorial parliaments
State and territory supreme courts
- 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
State and territory police forces
State and territory borders
|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|
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|
|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||+8|
|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|
|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|
|* 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.
References and notes
- References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual state and territory articles.
- ISO 3166-2:AU (ISO 3166-2 codes for the states and territories of Australia)
- A.H. McLintock (ed), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand", 3 vols, Wellington, NZ:R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966, vol 3 p. 526.'
- "Jervis Bay Territory Governance and Administration". Although the Jervis Bay Territory is not part of the Australian Capital Territory, the laws of the ACT apply, insofar as they are applicable and, providing they are not inconsistent with an Ordinance, in the Territory by virtue of the Jervis Bay Acceptance Act 1915. The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
Read in another language
This page is available in 47 languages
- Bahasa Indonesia
- Bahasa Melayu
- Simple English
- Српски / srpski
- Tiếng Việt