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|States and territories of Australia|
|Number||Six states, three internal territories, and seven external territories|
|Subdivisions||Local Government Areas and Unincorporated Areas|
The states and territories of Australia are the second level of government division in Australia, between the federal government and local governments. States and territories are self-administered regions with a local legislature, police force and certain civil authorities, and are represented in the Parliament of Australia. Territories though, unlike states, rely on federal legislation and additional financial contributions to operate, and have less representation in the Senate.
Australia consists of six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia), three internal territories (the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and the Northern Territory), and seven external territories (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island). In total, there are ten territories in Australia, with internal territories being on the Australian mainland, and external territories being sovereign territories offshore. Every state and internal territory, excluding the Jervis Bay Territory, has its own executive government, legislative branch, and judicial system.
State and territory governments have executive authority to legislate on matters concerning their citizens, with the only limitations being on subjects of national importance, such as defence and foreign policy. Each state and internal territory also has its own legislature, although the federal government can overwrite any territory legislation. The federal High Court of Australia acts as a final court of appeal for all matters and has the authority to override any state judiciary. While all states and internal territories have their own judicial system, which is subject to appeal from the High Court, most external territories are subject to the judiciary and legislature of either a state or internal territory. Excluding the Australian Antarctic Territory (which is governed by the Department of the Environment and Energy), all external territories are governed by the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.
Each state of Australia is a successor to historical Australian colonies under British governance, and has its own constitution. The ACT and Northern Territory for the most part operate indistinguishably from states. The Jervis Bay Territory is considered as part of the ACT for almost all intents and purposes. Up until 2015, Norfolk Island was also a self-governing territory, like the ACT.
Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea, and from New Zealand by the Tasman Sea. The world's smallest continent, Australia is also the sixth largest country by land area and sometimes considered the world's largest island. Australia has a mainland coastline of 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) and claims an Exclusive Economic Zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi).
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) Australian Statistical Geography Standard describes several main statistical divisions of Australia:
The ABS also defines other divisions such as the Greater Capital City Statistical Area Structure, Significant Urban Area Structure, Remoteness Structure, and Indigenous Structure. Other non-ABS divisions include Local Government Areas, Postal Areas, electoral divisions, and tourism regions.
|Area (km²)||Seats in House of Representatives||Governor||Premier|
|New South Wales||NSW||AU-NSW||Sydney||8,157,735||809,952||47||Margaret Beazley||Gladys Berejiklian|
|Queensland||QLD||AU-QLD||Brisbane||5,160,023||1,851,736||30||Paul de Jersey||Annastacia Palaszczuk|
|South Australia||SA||AU-SA||Adelaide||1,767,247||1,044,353||10||Hieu Van Le||Steven Marshall|
|Tasmania||TAS||AU-TAS||Hobart||539,590||90,758||5||Kate Warner||Peter Gutwein|
|Victoria||VIC||AU-VIC||Melbourne||6,689,377||237,657||38||Linda Dessau||Daniel Andrews|
|Western Australia||WA||AU-WA||Perth[n 3]||2,656,156||2,642,753||16||Kim Beazley||Mark McGowan|
(or largest settlement)
|Area (km²)||Seats in House of Representatives||Administrator||Chief Minister|
|Australian Capital Territory||ACT||AU-ACT||Canberra||429,834||2,358||3||None||Andrew Barr|
|Jervis Bay Territory||ACT||None
(Jervis Bay Village)
|405||67||(Part of Division of Fenner)||None||None|
|Northern Territory||NT||AU-NT||Darwin||245,353||1,419,630||2||Vicki O'Halloran||Michael Gunner|
|Area (km²)||Seats in House of Representatives||Administrator||Shire President or Mayor|
|Ashmore and Cartier Islands||None
|Australian Antarctic Territory||AQ[n 6]||None
|Christmas Island||WA||CX||Flying Fish Cove||1,938||135||(Part of Division of Lingiari)||Natasha Griggs||Gordon Thompson|
|Cocos (Keeling) Islands||WA||CC||West Island||547||14||(Part of Division of Lingiari)||Seri Wati Iku|
|Coral Sea Islands||None
|Heard Island and McDonald Islands||HM||None
|Norfolk Island||NSW||NF||Kingston||1,758||35||(Part of Division of Bean)||Eric Hutchinson||Robin Adams (mayor) |
At Federation in 1901, what is now the Northern Territory was within South Australia, what are now the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory were within New South Wales, and Coral Sea Islands was part of Queensland. Ashmore and Cartier Islands was accepted by Australia in 1934 and was annexed to the Northern Territory prior to adoption of the Statute of Westminster in 1942, deemed effective from 1939; it has thus become part of Australia.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands voted for integration in 1984. Together with Christmas Island, Commonwealth laws apply automatically to the territory unless expressly stated otherwise and residents of both external territories are associated with Northern Territory for federal elections. They are, thus, constitutionally part of Australia.
Uninhabited Heard Island and McDonald Islands is treated as constitutionally part of Australia by the central government.
The constitutional status of the Australian Antarctic Territory is unclear, with successive governments treating it either as a separate territory (as in the United Kingdom and Norway) or an integral part of the country (as in New Zealand and France). As of 2018 , the present government appears to take the view that it is not constitutionally part of Australia.
Norfolk Island's status is controversial, with the present (as of 2018) government taking measures to integrate the territory into Australia proper (including representation in parliament and compulsory voting). The Norfolk Islanders have not formally consented to this change in constitutional status and assert that they are not Australian.
|Territory||Subject to laws of||Subject to courts of||Part of electorate of|
|for House||for Senate|
|Christmas Island||Western Australia*||Division of Lingiari||Northern Territory|
|Cocos (Keeling) Islands|
|Norfolk Island||New South Wales*||Norfolk Island||Division of Bean||Australian Capital Territory|
|Jervis Bay Territory||Australian Capital Territory*||Division of Fenner|
|Australian Antarctic Territory||Australian Capital Territory||(no permanent population)|
|Heard Island and McDonald Islands|
|Coral Sea Islands||Australian Capital Territory||Norfolk Island|
|Ashmore and Cartier Islands||Northern Territory|
|* Residents of the territory are not represented in the parliament or assembly that makes these laws, or in the government that appoints judges to these courts.|
Three territories established by the federal government under section 122 of the Constitution of Australia no longer exist:
Two present-day countries, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, were administered by the federal government of Australia as de facto and/or de jure external territories, for differing periods, between 1902 and 1975. Nauru and parts of PNG were previously part of the German colonial empire.
Papua and New Guinea, 1883-1949
In 1949, the combined Territory of Papua and New Guinea was created, although both the two territories remained technically distinct, for some administrative and legal purposes, until 1975, when the combined entity became independent.
The Australian government received a League of Nations mandate for Nauru, following World War I.
Following World War II, Papua, New Guinea and Nauru were controlled by the Australian government as United Nations trust territories. The Papua and New Guinea Act 1949 placed the Territory of New Guinea in an "administrative union" with the Territory of Papua. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea was eventually given independence as Papua New Guinea in 1975. Nauru was granted independence in 1968.
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 Colony of Tasmania (initially established as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), the Colony of Western Australia (initially established as the smaller Swan River Colony in 1829), the Province of South Australia (1836), the Colony of New Zealand (1840), the Victoria Colony (1851) and the Colony of Queensland (1859). Upon Federation, the six colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania became the founding states of the new Commonwealth of Australia.
The legislative powers of the states are protected by the Australian constitution, section 107, 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; laws for territories are determined by the Australian Parliament.
Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, while two (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) have some degree of self-government although less than that of the states. 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 if they were states.
Each state has a governor, appointed by the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), which by convention she does on the advice of the state premier. The Administrator of the Northern Territory, by contrast, is 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 the only non-self-governing 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 1915, 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.
The external territory of Norfolk Island possessed a degree of self-government from 1979 until 2015.
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, each 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.
The term "interstate" is used within Australia to refer to a number of events, transactions, registrations, travel, etc. which occurs across borders or outside of the particular state or territory of the user of the term. Examples of use include motor vehicle registration, travel, applications to educational institutions out of one's home state.
There are very few urban areas bifurcated by state/territory borders. The Queensland/New South Wales border runs through Coolangatta (Queensland) and Tweed Heads (New South Wales) and splits Gold Coast Airport. Oaks Estate, a contiguous residential of Queanbeyan, was excised out of New South Wales when the Australian Capital Territory was established in 1909. Some Urban Centres and Localities reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics include some agglomerations of cities spreading across state borders, including Gold Coast-Tweed Heads, Canberra-Queanbeyan, Albury-Wodonga (New South Wales-Victoria) and Mildura-Wentworth (Victoria-New South Wales)
|Entity||Type of entity||Tie to the monarch||Domestic administrator||Head of government||Upper House of Parliament||Lower House of Parliament||Member of Parliament|
|Upper house||Lower house[note 1]|
|Commonwealth of Australia||Federal government||Direct||Governor-General||Prime Minister||Senate||House of Representatives||Senator||MP|
|South Australia||Federated state||Direct (established by the Australia Act 1986)||Governor||Premier||Legislative Council||House of Assembly||MLC||MHA|
|New South Wales||Legislative Assembly||MP|
|Queensland||N/A (abolished 1922)||N/A||MP|
|Australian Capital Territory||Self-governing territory||Indirect (through Governor-General acting as "administrator")||Assembly and Chief minister||Chief minister||N/A||MLA|
|Northern Territory||Indirect (through Governor-General)||Administrator|
|Christmas Island||External territory||Shire president||Shire Council||Councillor|
|Cocos (Keeling) Islands|
|Norfolk Island||Mayor||Regional Council[note 2]|
|Governor of Queensland||His Excellency Paul de Jersey||29 July 2014|
|Governor of South Australia||His Excellency Hieu Van Le||1 September 2014|
|Governor of Tasmania||Her Excellency Kate Warner||10 December 2014|
|Governor of Victoria||Her Excellency Linda Dessau||1 July 2015|
|Governor of Western Australia||His Excellency Kim Beazley||1 May 2018|
|Governor of New South Wales||Her Excellency Margaret Beazley||2 May 2019|
|Administrator of the Northern Territory||Her Honour Vicki O'Halloran||31 October 2017|
|Administrator of Norfolk Island||His Honour Eric Hutchinson||1 April 2017|
|Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
|Her Honour Natasha Griggs||5 October 2017|
|Premier of New South Wales||Gladys Berejiklian||Liberal||23 January 2017|
|Premier of Queensland||Annastacia Palaszczuk||Labor||14 February 2015|
|Premier of South Australia||Steven Marshall MHA||Liberal||19 March 2018|
|Premier of Tasmania||Peter Gutwein||Liberal||20 January 2020|
|Premier of Victoria||Daniel Andrews||Labor||4 December 2014|
|Premier of Western Australia||Mark McGowan MLA||Labor||17 March 2017|
|Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory||Andrew Barr MLA||Labor||11 December 2014|
|Chief Minister of the Northern Territory||Michael Gunner MLA||Labor||31 August 2016|
|Mayor of Norfolk Island Council||Councillor Robin Adams||None||6 July 2016|
|Presidents of Australian Indian Ocean Territories:
Councillor Gordon Thomson
21 October 2013
|State / territory||Abbreviation||Land area||
|km2||sq mi||Rank||Number||Rank||/km2||/sq mi||Rank||%||Rank|
|New South Wales||NSW||801,150||309,330||5||7,704,300||1||9.62||24.9||3||63.0%||5|||
|State/territory||Abbrev.||Call signs||Postal||Telephone numbers in Australia||Time zone|
|Australian Capital Territory||ACT||1xx(x)[nb 1]||xx(x)Cn[nb 1]||VK1xx[nb 1]||ACT||02nn,[nb 2] 26nn, 29nn||+61 2 62xx xxxx
+61 2 61xx xxxx
|New South Wales||NSW||2xx(x)||xx(x)Nn||VK2xx||NSW||1nnn,[nb 2] 2nnn||[nb 3]||+10 (+ +) [nb 4]||+11 (+) [nb 5]>|
|Victoria||Vic||3xx(x)||xx(x)Vn||VK3xx||VIC||3nnn, 8nnn[nb 2]||+61 3 xxxx xxxx[nb 3]||+10||+11|
|Queensland||Qld||4xx(x)||xx(x)Qn||VK4xx||QLD||4nnn, 9nnn[nb 2]||+61 7 xxxx xxxx||+10|
|South Australia||SA||5xx(x)||xx(x)Sn||VK5xx||SA||5nnn||+61 8 8xxx xxxx
+61 8 7xxx xxxx
|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 89xx xxxx||+|
|Norfolk Island||2xx(x)||xx(x)Nn||VK2xx||NSW||2899||+672 3 xx xxx||+11|
|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||+|
|Australian Antarctic Territory||AAT||none||VK0xx||TAS||+672 1||+6 to +8|
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'