States and territories of Australia

Australian States and Territories
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A clickable map of Australia's states, mainland territories and their capitals
Category Federated states (6)
Federal territories (3)
External territories (7)
Location Commonwealth of Australia
Populations 0 (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands) – 7,704,300 (New South Wales)
Areas 10 km2 (3.9 sq mi) (Coral Sea Islands) – 5,896,500 km2 (2,276,700 sq mi) (Australian Antarctic Territory)
Subdivisions Local government areas
Cadastral divisions

Australia (officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia) is a federation of six states, together with ten federal territories. The Australian mainland consists of five of the six federated states and three of the federal territories (the "internal" territories). The state of Tasmania is an island about 200 kilometers from the mainland. The remaining seven territories are classified for some purposes as "external" territories. Aside from the Australian Antarctic Territory, which is Australia's claim to part of Antarctica, Australia is the world's sixth-largest country by total area.

All states and the two largest internal territories are partially self-governing, as well as being represented in the federal parliament; the other territories are administered by the federal government. Since 2015, federal control has also been extended to the formerly self-governing territory of Norfolk Island.[1] Three of the external territories are inhabited; the others are uninhabited, apart from non-permanent scientists.

Geographic Australia

The term geographic Australia is used by the Australian government to describe the area covered by demographic statistics such as national population figures. This area comprises Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in addition to the six states and three mainland territories.[2] Norfolk Island is the only territory with a native population that is not part of geographic Australia.

External territories, states and territories

Reference map for States and Territories of Australia
States and Territories of Australia[3]
Flag State/Territory name Abbrev ISO[4] Postal Type Capital
(or largest settlement)
Population[5] Area (km²)[6]
[n 1] Ashmore and Cartier Islands External (Offshore anchorage) 0 199
[n 1] Australian Antarctic Territory AAT AQ[n 2] External Davis Station 1,000[n 3] 5,896,500
Australian Capital Territory ACT AU-ACT ACT Territory Canberra 395,200 2,358
Christmas Island CX External[n 4] Flying Fish Cove 2,072 135
Cocos (Keeling) Islands CC External[n 4] West Island 596 14
[n 1] Coral Sea Islands External (Willis Island) 4[n 5] 10
[n 1] Heard Island and McDonald Islands HIMI HM External (Atlas Cove) 0 372
[n 1] Jervis Bay Territory JBT JBT Territory (Jervis Bay Village) 377 70
New South Wales NSW AU-NSW NSW State Sydney 7,704,300 800,642
Norfolk Island NF External Kingston 2,302 35
Northern Territory NT AU-NT NT Territory Darwin 244,000 1,349,129
Queensland Qld AU-QLD QLD State Brisbane 4,827,000 1,730,648
South Australia SA AU-SA SA State Adelaide 1,706,500 983,482
Tasmania Tas AU-TAS TAS State Hobart 518,500 68,401
Victoria Vic AU-VIC VIC State Melbourne 6,039,100 227,416
Western Australia WA AU-WA WA State Perth[7] 2,613,700 2,529,875

See also: List of State codes

Australia has had three now-defunct territories in its history:

Background and overview

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),[8] 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.

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. The Australian Parliament has power to legislate in the territories that it does not possess in the states: Constitution section 122.

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 Queen, 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, 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.[9] 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.

Comparative terminology

Entity Type of entity Tie to the Queen 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 Australia Act) Governor Premier Legislative Council House of Assembly MLC MHA
New South Wales Legislative Assembly MP
Victoria MLA
Western Australia
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 Mayor/Shire President Shire Council Councillor
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Norfolk Island Regional Council[note 2]
  1. The abbreviation MP is an acceptable, and indeed more common, term for members of each lower house.
  2. Between 1979 and 2015 Norfolk Island was a self-governing external territory with its own legislature, the Norfolk Legislative Assembly, until this was abolished by the Commonwealth Parliament.

Governors and Administrators of states and territories

Post Incumbent Appointed
Governor of New South Wales His Excellency David Hurley 2 October 2014
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 Her Excellency Kerry Sanderson 20 October 2014
Administrator of the Northern Territory His Honour John Hardy 10 November 2014
Administrator of Norfolk Island His Honour Gary Hardgrave 1 July 2014
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
His Honour Barry Haase 5 October 2014

Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories

Post Incumbent Political party Appointed
Premier of New South Wales Baird, MikeMike Baird MP Liberal April 2014
Premier of Queensland Palaszczuk, AnnastaciaAnnastacia Palaszczuk MP Labor February 2015
Premier of South Australia Weatherill, JayJay Weatherill MHA Labor October 2011
Premier of Tasmania Hodgman, WillWill Hodgman MP Liberal March 2014
Premier of Victoria Andrews, DanielDaniel Andrews MLA Labor December 2014
Premier of Western Australia Barnett, ColinColin Barnett MLA Liberal September 2008
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory Barr, AndrewAndrew Barr MLA Labor December 2014
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Gunner, MichaelMichael Gunner MLA Labor August 2016
Norfolk Island Council Norfolk Island Council
Mayor of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
Councillor Pirus, BalmutBalmut Pirus March 2013

State and territorial parliaments

State and territory supreme courts

State and territory police forces

State and territory borders


State / Territory Land area[6]
  • Population
  • (Mar 2016)[5]
Population density
  • % of population
  • in capital
km2 sq mi Number /km2 /sq mi %
 Australian Capital Territory 2,358 910 8th 395,200 7th 167.6 434 1st 99.6% 1st
 New South Wales 800,642 309,130 5th 7,704,300 1st 9.62 24.9 3rd 63.0% 5th
 Victoria 227,416 87,806 6th 6,039,100 2nd 26.56 68.8 2nd 71.0% 4th
 Queensland 1,730,648 668,207 2nd 4,827,000 3rd 2.79 7.2 5th 46.0% 7th
 South Australia 983,482 379,725 4th 1,706,500 5th 1.74 4.5 6th 73.5% 2nd
 Western Australia 2,529,875 976,790 1st 2,613,700 4th 1.03 2.7 7th 73.4% 3rd
 Tasmania 68,401 26,410 7th 518,500 6th 7.58 19.6 4th 41.0% 8th
 Northern Territory 1,349,129 520,902 3rd 244,000 8th 0.18 0.47 8th 54.0% 6th

Distance table

Australian Distance Table
15333588Alice Springs
15783633 443Uluru
1001367425342579194436363251 9184023Hobart
32193787168621293660104530794392 8274220Kununurra
2783508725052948 9762840 7401999293026823127Mackay
731340422642309167431242981 6483753 60939502412Melbourne
2742510612091652182918341248256116343075183112962805Mount Isa
2781 409369637414457238957643954420537823378519535124905Perth
1412397038302875100133732495 2864034114245161926 87224004078 Sydney

Distance in kilometres from the corresponding city on the X-Y axis.

State and territory codes

State/Territory Abbrev. Call signs Postal Telephone numbers in Australia Time zone
AM/FM TV Amateur Abbrev. Postcode Std Summer
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
+10 +11
New South Wales NSW 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 1nnn,[nb 2] 2nnn +61 2 xxxx xxxx[nb 3] +10 (+9 12) +11
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
+9 12 +10 12
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 +9 12
External territories
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 +6 12
Australian Antarctic Territory AAT none VK0xx TAS +672 1 +6 to +8
Macquarie Island none +10 +11
  1. 1 2 3 A number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if ACT were part of New South Wales.
  2. 1 2 3 4 This is used for some PO box and large users only.
  3. 1 2 Some exceptions apply to numbers in this state's number range.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 The national Flag of Australia is used in territories which have no flag of their own.
  2. Under the definitions in ISO 3166-1, the AAT is covered by the Antarctican ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code "AQ".
  3. No permanent population, research station with fluctuating staff numbers.
  4. 1 2 Part of geographic Australia
  5. No permanent population, weather monitoring station generally with four staff.


  1. Strom, Marcus (1 June 2016). "Norfolk Island elects council that supports self-determination". Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. Pink, Brian (2010). "Definition of Australia". Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (Report). Australian Bureau of Statistics. p. 5.
  3. Unless provided, references and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual state and territory articles.
  4. ISO 3166-2:AU (ISO 3166-2 codes for the states and territories of Australia)
  5. 1 2 "3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2016". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Area of Australia - States and Territories". Geoscience Australia: National Location Information. Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  7. The old capital of Western Australia was technically Broome, although it was never quite defined as such. Perth was eventually defined as the capital by statute in 2016: City of Perth Act 2016 (WA) in AustLII.
  8. A.H. McLintock (ed), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand", 3 vols, Wellington, NZ:R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966, vol 3 p. 526.'
  9. "Jervis Bay Territory Governance and Administration". 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". The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
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