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The Commonwealth of Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the world's smallest continent and a number of islands in the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia's neighbouring countries are Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.

The continent of Australia has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. After sporadic visits by European explorers and merchants from the 17th century onwards, the eastern half of the continent was claimed by the British in 1770, and officially settled as the penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five largely self-governing Crown colonies were successively established over the course of the 19th century.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The current population of around 24 million is concentrated mainly in the coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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Sir Thomas Playford (July 5, 1896 – 16 June 1981) was a prominent South Australian politician and farmer. He served continuously as Premier of South Australia from 5 November 1938 to 10 March 1965, the longest term of any democratically elected leader in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations. His tenure as premier was marked by a period of population and economic growth unmatched by any other Australian state. Born into an old political family, he grew up on the family farm in Norton Summit before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I, fighting in Gallipoli and Western Europe. In office, Playford used his negotiating skills to encourage industry to relocate to South Australia during World War II, and built upon this in the post-war boom years. Playford took a unique, strong and direct approach to the premiership and personally oversaw his industrial initiatives. His string of election wins were assisted by a system of electoral malapportionment that bore his name, the 'Playmander'. However, Playford and his party failed to adapt to changing social mores and eventually lost office in the 1965 election.

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A sign on Eyre Highway indicating that a RFDS emergency airstrip is ahead. There are 4 such strips on the highway.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS, informally known as The Flying Doctors) is an air ambulance service for those living in the remote inland areas of Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation which provides both emergency assistance and primary health care to people who cannot easily access a hospital or general practice due to the prohibitive distances of the Outback. The service, founded in 1928 by The Reverend John Flynn, also assists with distance education.

Photo credit: Hossen

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For a topic outline on this subject, see Outline of Australia.

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