Portal:Australia

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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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Portrait of Yagan by George Cruikshank

Yagan was a Noongar warrior who played a key part in early indigenous Australian resistance to European settlement and rule in the area of Perth, Western Australia. After he led a series of attacks in which white settlers were murdered, a bounty was offered for his capture dead or alive, and he was shot dead by a young settler. Yagan's death has passed into Western Australian folklore as a symbol of the unjust and sometimes brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of Australia by colonial settlers. Yagan's head was removed and taken to Britain, where it was exhibited as an "anthropological curiosity". It spent over a century in storage at a museum before being buried in an unmarked grave in 1964. In 1993 its location was identified, and four years later it was exhumed and repatriated to Australia. Since then, the issue of its proper reburial has become a source of great controversy and conflict amongst the indigenous people of the Perth area. To date, the head remains unburied.

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Giraffes in the Taronga Zoo with the Sydney skyline in background.

Taronga Zoo is the zoological park of the city of Sydney. Founded in 1916, it is located on the shores of Sydney Harbour in Mosman. It is divided into eight zoogeographic regions and features over 2,600 animals on 28.7 hectares, making it one of the largest zoos of its kind.

Photo credit: Jan Derk

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