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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 21 million is concentrated mainly in the coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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Holden VE Commodore.

The Holden VE Commodore is the fourteenth and current model of the Holden Commodore, a full-size car produced by Holden, the Australian subsidiary of General Motors. The car was officially presented at a media launch in Melbourne on 16 July 2006, which was broadcast live on the Internet. With a sales debut on 14 August 2006, it is the first Commodore to be entirely designed and engineered in Australia. All previous generations from the original VB Commodore had been based on European sourced platforms from Opel that had been adapted both mechanically and in size for the local market. The engines and transmissions of the VE are mainly carry-overs from the previous VZ model, except for a new six-speed automatic transmission offered on selected trim levels. Holden released the VE Commodore to the New Zealand market in September 2006. This was followed by the achievement of the prestigious Wheels Car of the Year award on 23 January 2007. Before the release of the VE model, Holden confirmed that station wagon and utility body styles of the VE would not be launched for some time. Holden will instead manufacture two parallel generations of Commodores until the VE variants are released.

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Horses race on grass at the 2006 Tambo Valley Races in Swifts Creek, Victoria.

Horseracing is the third most popular spectator sport in Australia, behind Australian rules football and rugby league, with almost 2 million admissions to the 379 racecourses throughout Australia in 2002–03. It is administered nationally by the Australian Racing Board, with the Australian Rules of Racing applying in each state.

Photo credit: Fir0002


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