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Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 60,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century. It is documented that Aborigines spoke languages that can be classified into about 250 groups. After the European exploration of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, who named it New Holland, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia's national day. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories.

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In the news

9 January 2019 –
Diplomatic offices in Melbourne, Australia, are evacuated after suspicious packages were found. (Reuters)
17 December 2018 – Miss Universe 2018
Filipina-Australian model Catriona Gray is crowned Miss Universe at the IMPACT Arena in Thailand. (CNN)
15 December 2018 – Australia–Israel relations
Australia formally recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state but will not move its embassy from Tel Aviv until a peace settlement is reached with the Palestinians. (Sky News)
12 December 2018 –
Pope Francis removes Australian prelate George Pell and Chilean prelate Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa from the Council of Cardinal Advisers. Both are accused of covering up child sexual abuse scandals. Former Archbishop of Kinshasa Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya also leaves the Council for unrelated reasons. (BBC)


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