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Flag of Australia (converted).svg

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 discovery 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.

Being the oldest, flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils, Australia has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi). A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east and mountain ranges in the south-east. A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, which boosted the population of the country. Nevertheless, its population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, remains among the lowest in the world. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking and manufacturing. Indigenous Australian rock art is the oldest and richest in the world, dating as far back as 60,000 years and spread across hundreds of thousands of sites.

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Yarralumla is home to most foreign missions in Australia, including the Chinese Embassy pictured.

Yarralumla (35°18′S 149°06′E / 35.300°S 149.100°E / -35.300; 149.100) is a large suburb in the inner south of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Located approximately 3.5 kilometres south-west of the city centre, Yarralumla extends for much of the southern bank of Lake Burley Griffin. Europeans first settled in the area in 1828. It was officially named Yarralumla after the local Ngunnawal Indigenous Australian name for the area in 1834. Fredrick Campbell built a large homestead on his property in 1891 that now serves as Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia. The suburb was officially gazetted in 1928 and today is home to approximately 3000 people and many diplomatic missions. Although Yarralumla is one of the largest suburbs in Canberra by area, its population remains quite small because more than half of its area consists of open space or non-residential developments. In recent years, it has become one of Canberra's most desirable and expensive suburbs because of its leafy streets, lakeside setting and central location.

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View over Macquarie Island beach (with Royal and King penguins).

Macquarie Island lies in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about half-way between Australia and Antarctica. Politically, it has formed part of the Australian state of Tasmania since 1900 and became a Tasmanian State Reserve in 1978. In 1997 it became a world heritage site. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) maintains a permanent base on the island. The base's residents, the island's only inhabitants, range in numbers from 20 to 40 people throughout the year.

Photo credit: M. Murphy

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

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