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Australia -- from Wikipedia
Australia's neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east. The shortest border distance is between the mainlands of Papua New Guinea and Australia at about 150 kilometres; however, the northernmost inhabited island, Boigu Island, is about five kilometres from Papua New Guinea. This has led to a complicated border arrangement allowing access for traditional uses of the waterway across the border by Papua New Guinean people and Torres Strait Islanders.
Origin and history of the name
The name Australia is derived from the Latin australis, meaning southern. Legends of an "unknown southern land" (terra australis incognita) date back to the Roman times, and were commonplace in mediæval geography, but were not based on any actual knowledge of Australia. The Dutch adjectival form Australische ("Australian," in the sense of "southern") was used by Dutch officials in Batavia to refer to the newly discovered land to the south as early as 1638. The first writer in English to use the word "Australia" was Alexander Dalrymple in his An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, published in 1771. He used the term to refer to the whole South Pacific region, not specifically to the Australian continent. In 1793, George Shaw and Sir James Smith published Zoology and Botany of New Holland, in which they wrote of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia or New Holland."
The name "Australia" was popularised by the 1814 work A Voyage to Terra Australis by the navigator Matthew Flinders. Despite its title (which reflected the view of the Admiralty), he used the word "Australia" in the book, which was widely read and gave the term general currency. Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales subsequently used the word in his dispatches to England. In 1817 he recommended that it be officially adopted. In 1824, the British Admiralty finally accepted that the continent should be known officially as Australia.
The date of the first human habitation of Australia is estimated to be between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago. The first Australians were the ancestors of the current Australian Aborigines, and arrived via land bridges and short sea-crossings from present-day south-east Asia. Most of these people were hunter-gatherers, with a complex oral culture and spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, inhabited the Torres Strait Islands and parts of far-north Queensland; they had distinct cultural practices and practised subsistence agriculture.
The first undisputed recorded European sighting of the Australian continent was made by the Dutch navigator Willem Jansz, who sighted the coast of Cape York in 1606. During the 17th century, the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of what they called New Holland, but made no attempt at settlement. In 1770, James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Britain. His discoveries provided impetus for the establishment of a penal colony there following the loss of the American colonies.
The British Crown Colony of New South Wales started with the establishment of a settlement (later to become Sydney) at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date was later to become Australia's national day, Australia Day. Van Diemen's Land (the present day Tasmania) was settled in 1803 and became a separate colony in 1825. Britain formally claimed the rest of the continent (present-day Western Australia) in 1829. Separate colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1863 as part of the Province of South Australia. Victoria and South Australia were founded as "free colonies"—that is, they were never penal colonies, although the former did receive some convicts from Tasmania. Western Australia was also founded "free", but later accepted transported convicts due to an acute labour shortage. The transportation of convicts to Australia was phased out between 1840 and 1868.
The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at about 350,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly because of infectious disease, and forced migration, the removal of children and other colonial government policies that by today's understanding constitute genocide. Following the 1967 referendum, the Federal government gained the power to implement policies and make laws with respect to Aborigines. Traditional ownership of land—native title—was not recognised until the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius at the time of European occupation.
Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire. The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence and international shipping. On 1 January 1901, Federation of the Colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation and voting, and the Commonwealth of Australia was born, as a Dominion of the British Empire. The Australian Capital Territory was formed from New South Wales in 1911 to provide a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra (Melbourne was the capital from 1901 to 1927). The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian to the Commonwealth government in 1911. Australia willingly participated in World War I; many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation—its first major military action. The casualties suffered in Australia were the highest per capita of any Allied nation, and the war had a profound effect on the national character.
The Statute of Westminster of 1931 formally ended the constitutional links between Australia and Britain, other than the Crown, but Australia continued to regard itself an essentially British country until World War II, and did not adopt the Statute until 1942. The shock of Britain's defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector. Since 1951 Australia has been a formal military ally of the US under the auspices of the ANZUS treaty. After World War II, Australia encouraged mass immigration from Europe, and since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia Policy from Asia and other parts of the world; radically transforming Australia's demography, culture and image of itself. Although Australian voters rejected a move to become a republic in 1999 by a 55% majority, Australia's links to its British past are increasingly tenuous. Since the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972, there has been an increasing focus on the nation's future as a part of the Asia-Pacific region
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