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

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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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