Art Australia History | History Dissertations

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Introduction

During the five months I spent here I learned a lot about Australia. It is a country which has a very different history from that of European countries mainly because it was discovered by Europeans during the 18th century which created a break in its history. This report is a brief summary of Australia’s history from before its discovery by Europeans until today. A few questions about Australia’s future have also been raised.

Quick presentation of Australia

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world’s smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania, and numerous other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The distance on the mainland from east to west is 3983 km and from north to south 3138 km. Its area is 7 682 300 square kilometres, which makes it about the size of the US excluding Alaska and around 11.5 times the size of the whole of France.

Australia is made up of six states and several territories:
  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia
  • Northern Territory
  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  • Other minor territories

In most respects, the territories function like the states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments.

Figure 1: Map of Australia

By contrast, federal legislation only overrides state legislation in certain areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including powers over hospitals, education, police, the judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government. Each state and territory has its own legislature: unicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states. The states are sovereign, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier, and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor; an Administrator in the Northern Territory and the Australian Governor-General in the ACT, have analogous roles. Most of the estimated 21.3 million Australians are descended from colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants from Europe, with almost 90% of the population being of European descent. For generations, the vast majority of both colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants came almost exclusively from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin.

  • Australian symbols
  • Flag
The Australian flag uses three prominent symbols:
  • The Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack)
  • A large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star
  • The Southern Cross constellation,

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