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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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units. During the first decades of the 20th century, the Australian Government established three separate armed services. Each service had an independent chain of command. In 1976, the Government made a strategic change and established the ADF to place the services under a single headquarters. Over time, the degree of integration has increased and tri-service headquarters, logistics and training institutions have supplanted many single-service establishments. The ADF is technologically sophisticated but relatively small. Although the ADF's 51,000 full-time active-duty personnel and 19,400 reservists make it the largest military in Oceania, it is much smaller than most Asian militaries. Nonetheless, the ADF is able to deploy forces in multiple locations outside Australia.

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Sturt's Desert Pea, at Melbourne Zoo.

Sturt's Desert Pea is an Australian plant in the genus Swainsona. One of Australia's best-known wildflowers, it is known for its distinctive blood-red leaf-like flowers, each with a bulbous black centre, or "boss". It is native to the arid regions of central and north-western Australia, and its range extends into all mainland Australian states with the exception of Victoria. It is the floral emblem of South Australia.

Photo credit: Fir0002

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The Japanese Garden in Cowra commemorating the breakout (Spring 2004)

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