States and territories of Australia

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The states and mainland territories of the Commonwealth of Australia combine to make up the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Australia comprises six states and various territories; the Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories (including small, somewhat anomalous Jervis Bay Territory), with the sixth state being located on the island of Tasmania to the south of the mainland. In addition, there are six island territories, known as external territories. Australia also claims part of Antarctica as the Australian Antarctic Territory.

All states and two of the three internal territories have their own parliaments and administer themselves; all remaining territories are administered by the federal government, but with Norfolk Island having some degree of self-government.

Map showing the creation of the colonies/states and mainland territories.

States and territories[edit]

Reference map for States and Territories of Australia
Australian external territories.png
States and Territories of Australia[1]
FlagState/Territory nameAbbrevISO[2]PostalTypeCapital (or largest settlement)PopulationArea (km²)
Ashmore and Cartier IslandsExternal0199
Australian Antarctic TerritoryExternal(Mawson Station)1,0005,896,500
Australian Capital TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryACTAU-ACTACTTerritoryCanberra373,1002,358
Christmas IslandChristmas IslandCXExternalFlying Fish Cove2,072135
Cocos (Keeling) IslandsCocos (Keeling) IslandsCCExternalWest Island59614
Coral Sea IslandsExternal(Willis Island)410
Heard Island and McDonald IslandsHMExternal(Atlas Cove)0372
Jervis Bay TerritoryJBTTerritory(Jervis Bay Village)37770
New South WalesNew South WalesNSWAU-NSWNSWStateSydney7,272,800800,642
Norfolk IslandNorfolk IslandNFExternalKingston2,30235
Northern TerritoryNorthern TerritoryNTAU-NTNTTerritoryDarwin233,3001,349,129
South AustraliaSouth AustraliaSAAU-SASAStateAdelaide1,650,600983,482
Victoria (Australia)VictoriaVicAU-VICVICStateMelbourne5,603,100227,416
Western AustraliaWestern AustraliaWAAU-WAWAStatePerth2,451,4002,529,875

See also: List of State Codes

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

Background and overview[edit]

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 colonies of Tasmania (established as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), South Australia (1836), New Zealand (1840),[3] Victoria (1851) and Queensland (1859). The Swan River Colony (present-day city of Perth) was established in Western Australia in 1829. On Federation, the six colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania became original states of the new Commonwealth of Australia.

Legislative powers of the States are protected by the Australian constitution, 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 powers to legislate in the territories that it does not possess in the states.

Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, while three (the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island) have some degree of self-government. 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 states.

Furthermore, the distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the territories is different from that between the Commonwealth and the states. In the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth retains the power to directly administer uranium mining and Aboriginal lands – powers which it does not possess with respect to the states.

Each state has a Governor, appointed by the Queen, which by convention she does on the advice of the state Premier. The Administrators of the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island are, by contrast, 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 unique in being 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.[4] 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.

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, 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[edit]

EntityState/Territory typeTie to the QueenDomestic administratorHead of GovernmentUpper House of ParliamentLower House of ParliamentMember of Parliament
Upper houseLower house[note 1]
Commonwealth of AustraliaFederal governmentDirectGovernor-GeneralPrime MinisterSenateHouse of RepresentativesSenatorMP
South AustraliaFederated stateDirect (established by Australia Act)GovernorPremierLegislative CouncilHouse of AssemblyMLCMHA
New South WalesLegislative AssemblyMLA
Western Australia
QueenslandN/A (abolished 1922)N/AMP
Australian Capital TerritorySelf-governing territoryNoneAssembly and Chief MinisterChief MinisterN/AMLA
Northern TerritoryIndirect (through Governor-General)Administrator
Norfolk IslandExternal self-governing territory
Christmas IslandExternal territoryMayor/Shire PresidentShire CouncilCouncillor
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  1. ^ The abbreviation MP is an acceptable, and indeed more common, term for members of each lower house.

Governors and Administrators of states and territories[edit]

Governor of New South WalesHis Excellency David Hurley2 October 2014
Governor of QueenslandHis Excellency Paul de Jersey29 July 2014
Governor of South AustraliaHis Excellency Hieu Van Le1 September 2014
Governor of TasmaniaHer Excellency Kate Warner10 December 2014
Governor of VictoriaHis Excellency Alex Chernov8 April 2011
Governor of Western AustraliaHer Excellency Kerry Sanderson20 October 2014
Administrator of the Northern TerritoryHis Honour John Hardy10 November 2014
Administrator of Norfolk IslandHis Honour Gary Hardgrave1 July 2014
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
His Honour Barry Haase5 October 2014

Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories[edit]

PostIncumbentPolitical partyAppointed
Premier of New South WalesBaird, MikeMike Baird MPLiberalApril 2014
Premier of QueenslandPalaszczuk, AnnastaciaAnnastacia Palaszczuk MPLaborFebruary 2015
Premier of South AustraliaWeatherill, JayJay Weatherill MHALaborOctober 2011
Premier of TasmaniaHodgman, WillWill Hodgman MPLiberalMarch 2014
Premier of VictoriaAndrews, DanielDaniel Andrews MLALaborDecember 2014
Premier of Western AustraliaBarnett, ColinColin Barnett MLALiberalSeptember 2008
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital TerritoryBarr, AndrewAndrew Barr MLALaborDecember 2014
Chief Minister of the Northern TerritoryGiles, AdamAdam Giles MLACountry LiberalMarch 2013
Chief Minister of Norfolk IslandSnell, LisleLisle Snell MLAMarch 2013
Mayor of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
Councillor Pirus, BalmutBalmut PirusMarch 2013

State and territorial parliaments[edit]

State and territory supreme courts[edit]

State and territory police forces[edit]

State and territory borders[edit]


State / TerritoryLand areaPopulation
(2011 census)
Population density % of population
in capital
km2sq miNumber/km2/sq mi %
 Australian Capital Territory2,358.0910.48th357,2227th137.53356.21st99.6%1st
 New South Wales801,321.7309,392.05th6,917,6581st8.4421.93rd63.0%5th
 South Australia985,288.7380,422.14th1,596,5725th1.564.06th73.5%2nd
 Western Australia2,531,572.0977,445.41st2,239,1704th0.792.07th73.4%3rd
 Northern Territory1,352,187.6522,082.63rd211,9458th0.150.398th54.0%6th

Distance table[edit]

Australian Distance Table
15333588Alice Springs
2742510612091652182918341248256116343075183112962805Mount Isa

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

State and territory codes[edit]

State/TerritoryAbbrev.Call signsPostalTelephone numbers in AustraliaTime zone
Australian Capital TerritoryACT1xx(x)[nb 1]xx(x)Cn[nb 1]VK1xx[nb 1]ACT02nn,[nb 2] 26nn, 29nn+61 2 62xx xxxx
+61 2 61xx xxxx
New South WalesNSW2xx(x)xx(x)NnVK2xxNSW1nnn,[nb 2] 2nnn+61 2 xxxx xxxx[nb 3]+10 (+9 12)+11
VictoriaVic3xx(x)xx(x)VnVK3xxVIC3nnn, 8nnn[nb 2]+61 3 xxxx xxxx[nb 3]+10+11
QueenslandQld4xx(x)xx(x)QnVK4xxQLD4nnn, 9nnn[nb 2]+61 7 xxxx xxxx+10
South AustraliaSA5xx(x)xx(x)SnVK5xxSA5nnn+61 8 8xxx xxxx
+61 8 7xxx xxxx
+9 12+10 12
Western AustraliaWA6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK6xxWA6nnn+61 8 9xxx xxxx
+61 8 6xxx xxxx
TasmaniaTas7xx(x)xx(x)TnVK7xxTAS7nnn+61 3 6xxx xxxx+10+11
Northern TerritoryNT8xx(x)xx(x)DnVK8xxNT08nn+61 8 89xx xxxx+9 12
                 External Territories
Norfolk Island2xx(x)xx(x)NnVK2xxNSW2899+672 3 xx xxx+11 12
Christmas Island6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK9xxWA6798+61 8 9164 xxxx+7
Cocos Island6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK9xxWA6799+61 8 9162 xxxx+6 12
Australian Antarctic TerritoryAATnoneVK0xxTAS+672 1+6 to +8
Macquarie Islandnone+10+11
  1. ^ a b c A number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if ACT were part of New South Wales.
  2. ^ a b c d This is used for some PO box and large users only.
  3. ^ a b Some exceptions apply to numbers in this state's number range.

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual state and territory articles.
  2. ^ ISO 3166-2:AU (ISO 3166-2 codes for the states and territories of Australia)
  3. ^ A.H. McLintock (ed), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand", 3 vols, Wellington, NZ:R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966, vol 3 p. 526.'
  4. ^ "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. 

External links[edit]