Australia is the sixth largest (by area) country in the world and the only one that is coterminous with a continent. Largest country without a land-border to neighbours. Largest country in Oceania. Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian Continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia, officially called the Commonwealth of Australia, is a union of six states and various territories. It is also the world's thirteenth largest economy.
Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. The first records of European mariners sailing into "Australian" waters occurs around 1606, and includes their observations of the land known as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when english lieutenant James Cook demanded the east coast under instruction from King George III of England on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia "New South Wales".
Six colonies were created by free settlers and former prisoners in the late 18th and 19th centuries: New South Wales (1786), Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land) (1825), Western Australia (1829), South Australia (1834), Victoria (1851), and Queensland (1859). Various gold rushes attracted settlers, as did the mining of other minerals. Sheep farming and grain soon grew into important economic enterprises. The six colonies became states and on 1 January 1901 became a federation and was formed the Commonwealth of Australia based on Constitution that incorporated British parliamentary and USA federal traditions. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries. Australia became known for its liberal legislation: free compulsory education, protected trade unionism with industrial conciliation and arbitration, the secret ballot, women's suffrage, maternity allowances, and sickness and old-age pensions.
During the recent decades Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and is a Commonwealth realm (a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state). The population is more than 22 millions, with approximately 60% concentrated in and around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. The nation's capital city is Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.
Sources: University World and Wikipedia