Territorial evolution of Australia

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Animated map of the territorial evolution of Australia Territorial evolution of Australia.gif
Animated map of the territorial evolution of Australia

The first colonies of the British Empire on the continent of Australia were the penal colony of New South Wales, founded in 1787, and the Swan River Colony (later renamed Western Australia), founded in 1829. Over the next few decades, the colonies of New Zealand, Queensland, South Australia, Van Diemen's Land (later renamed Tasmania), and Victoria were created from New South Wales, as well as an aborted Colony of North Australia. On 1 January 1901, these colonies, excepting New Zealand, became states in the Commonwealth of Australia. Since federation, the internal borders have remained mostly stable, except for the creation of some territories with limited self-government: the Northern Territory from South Australia, to govern the vast, sparsely populated centre of the country; the split of the Northern Territory into Central Australia and North Australia, and then the quick merger of those back into the Northern Territory; and the Australian Capital Territory, a federal district ceded from New South Wales.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Australia (continent) Continent on the Earths Southern and Eastern hemispheres

The continent of Australia, sometimes known in technical contexts by the names Sahul, Australinea or Meganesia to distinguish it from the country of Australia, consists of the land masses which sit on Australia's continental plate. This includes mainland Australia, Tasmania, and the island of New Guinea. Situated in the geographical region of Oceania, it is the smallest of the seven traditional continents in the English conception.

Contents

Outside of the continent, Queensland attempted an expansion into New Guinea, but British authorities rejected this; the claim would later be made a British protectorate and ceded to Australia. The League of Nations mandated northeast New Guinea to Australia after World War I, as well as Nauru, which was placed under joint Australian-British-New Zealand jurisdiction. These mandates (and, later, United Nations trust territories) became the independent nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea in the mid-20th century. Australia has also obtained several small island territories, mainly from earlier British colonies, and has a large claim on Antarctica.

New Guinea Island in the Pacific Ocean

New Guinea is a large island separated by a shallow sea from the rest of the Australian continent. It is the world's second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 785,753 km2 (303,381 sq mi), and the largest wholly or partly within the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania.

League of Nations 20th-century intergovernmental organisation, predecessor to the United Nations

The League of Nations, abbreviated as LN or LoN, was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Table of changes

Key to map colours

  Australian states
  Australian territories and founding colonies
  disputed area of Australia
  area changed by event

Colonial period

DateEventMap
25 April 1787The Colony of New South Wales was founded as a penal colony by the Kingdom of Great Britain in Australia east of 135° east. [1] Word of the establishment was proclaimed in Australia by Governor Arthur Phillip on 7 February 1788. [2] The commission included "all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean" within the latitudes of 10°37' south and 43°39' south, which included most of New Zealand. [1] Australia change 1787-04-25.png
11 July 1810 Macquarie Island was discovered by Frederick Hasselborough, who claimed it for the United Kingdom and declared it part of New South Wales. [3] [4] Australia change 1810-07-11.png
16 July 1825 New South Wales was extended west to 129° east, so that it would include a trading post set up on Melville Island; and the borders of the "islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean" were moved north to 39°12' south, now including only a small part of New Zealand. [5] Australia change 1825-07-16.png
3 December 1825The southern islands of New South Wales were made the Colony of Van Diemen's Land. [6] [7] Australia change 1825-12-03.png
2 May 1829A colony commonly known as the Swan River Colony was founded in the remainder of Australia outside of New South Wales. [8] Most documents calling for the colony's foundation make no mention of a name, apart from its location at the "Port on the Western Coast of New Holland, at the Mouth of the River called 'Swan River', with the adjacent Territory", [9] and that a settlement should be formed "within the Territory of 'Western Australia'". [10] However, the law calling for the creation of the colony does appear to specify that it should be "Western Australia". [11] Australia change 1829-05-02.png
6 February 1832The legal instrument required to formally appoint James Stirling governor of the Colony of Western Australia was proclaimed, and this is commonly held as the date that the Swan River Colony was renamed Western Australia. [12] [13] Australia change 1832-02-06.png
19 February 1836The portion of New South Wales between 132° east and 141° east, and south of 26° south, was made the Province of South Australia. [14] The actual landing and proclamation occurred on 28 December 1836. [15] Its border with New South Wales south of the Murray River would be erroneously surveyed roughly 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) west of 141° east, and the resulting disputes with the colonies and, later, states that share that border would not be fully resolved until 1914. [16] Australia change 1836-02-19.png
15 June 1839The islands of New Zealand were annexed to New South Wales. [17] [18] The action was proclaimed on 14 January 1840. [19] Australia change 1839-06-15.png
16 November 1840The Colony of New Zealand was chartered and split from New South Wales. [20] [21] Australia change 1840-11-16.png
26 September 1844 Norfolk Island was transferred from New South Wales to Van Diemen's Land. [22] Australia change 1844-09-26.png
17 February 1846The half of New South Wales north of 26° south was made the Colony of North Australia. [23] [24] [25] Australia change 1846-02-17.png
28 December 1847Following a change in government in the United Kingdom, North Australia was merged back in to New South Wales. [23] [25] This is the date Queen Victoria revoked the letters patent establishing North Australia, but it was not proclaimed in Australia until 16 January 1849. Australia change 1847-12-28.png
1 July 1851The portion of New South Wales south of the Murray River and a line from the headwaters of the river to Cape Howe was made the Colony of Victoria. [26] Australia change 1851-07-01.png
1 January 1856 Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania, as a way to get away from its past as a penal colony. [27] Australia change 1856-01-01.png
1 November 1856 Norfolk Island was split from Tasmania, becoming its own colony. [28] Some sources say this occurred the previous day, [29] but the Norfolk Island Act 1913 states it was on this day. Australia change 1856-11-01.png
6 June 1859The portion of New South Wales north of 29° south, the Dumaresq and Macintyre Rivers, and several mountain ridges, and east of 141° east, was made the Colony of Queensland. [30] Australia change 1859-06-06.png
10 October 1861The portion of New South Wales west of South Australia was transferred to South Australia by letters patent. The act of parliament was passed on 22 July 1861. [31] Australia change 1861-07-22.png
13 March 1862The portion of New South Wales north of South Australia and east of 138° east was transferred to Queensland. [32] Australia change 1862-03-13.png
6 July 1863The region of New South Wales north of South Australia was transferred to South Australia. [33] Australia change 1863-07-06.png
30 May 1872All islands lying within 60 miles (97 km) of Queensland were annexed to the colony by letters patent. [34] This was done primarily to incorporate the Torres Strait Islands, which were starting to be claimed by New South Wales. It is unknown which specific islands may have already been considered part of Queensland, and the map included with the letters patent contained errors, such as including Melville Island in Queensland. [35] too vague to map
21 July 1879The Torres Strait Islands were specifically annexed to Queensland. [34] [35] Australia change 1879-07-21.png
4 April 1883 Queensland claimed southeast New Guinea as a dependency, though the British government rejected the claim. [36] Australia change 1883-04-04.png
6 November 1884The British Empire declared southeast New Guinea as a protectorate, removing it from immediate Queensland control, though the colony still largely administered it. [37] Australia change 1884-11-06.png
17 June 1890 Macquarie Island was transferred from New South Wales to Tasmania; while Tasmania immediately requested it then be transferred to New Zealand, this was not done. [38] Australia change 1890-06-17.png

Federation

DateEventMap
1 January 1901Six colonies of the United Kingdom formed the Commonwealth of Australia: [39]

Parliament met in Melbourne until a new federal capital could be built. [40]

Australia change 1901-01-01.png
1 September 1906British New Guinea was transferred from the United Kingdom, becoming the Territory of Papua. [41] [42] Australia change 1906-09-01.png
1 January 1911The Federal Capital Territory was split from New South Wales, [43] [44] and the Northern Territory was split from South Australia. [45] [46] While the acts creating it use the term "Territory for the Seat of Government", legislation and proclamations immediately began using the term "Federal Capital Territory." [47] Australia change 1911-01-01.png
1 July 1914 Norfolk Island was transferred from the United Kingdom, becoming the Territory of Norfolk Island. [28] [48] Australia change 1914-07-01.png
4 September 1915A small peninsula along Jervis Bay was ceded to the Federal Capital Territory by New South Wales. [49] [50] Australia change 1915-09-04.png
17 December 1920The League of Nations mandated Nauru [51] [52] and New Guinea (the former German New Guinea) [53] [54] to Australia, with New Zealand and the United Kingdom as co-trustees of Nauru. [55] Australia change 1920-12-17.png
1 February 1927The Northern Territory was split at 20° south into the territories of Central Australia and North Australia. [56] [57] Australia change 1927-03-01.png
9 May 1927Parliament began meeting in Canberra, formally moving the capital there from Melbourne. [58] [59] Australia change 1927-05-09.png
12 June 1931The territories of Central Australia and North Australia were merged to become the Northern Territory. [60] [61] Australia change 1931-06-12.png
13 June 1933The United Kingdom transferred the portion of its claim to Antarctica between 45° east and 136° east, and 142° east and 160° east, to Australia, where it became the Australian Antarctic Territory. [62] [63] Australia Antarctica change 1933-06-13.png
10 May 1934The Ashmore and Cartier Islands were transferred from the United Kingdom and became the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. The islands were ceded by the United Kingdom on 23 July 1931. [64] [65] Australia change 1934-05-10.png
29 July 1938The Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands was annexed to the Northern Territory. [66]

The Federal Capital Territory was renamed the Australian Capital Territory. [67]

Australia change 1938-07-29.png
26 August 1942The Mandate of Nauru was captured by Japan. [68] Australia change 1942-08-26.png
14 September 1945The Japanese garrison in the Mandate of Nauru surrendered. [68] Australia change 1945-09-14.png
13 December 1946The Territory of New Guinea was reconstituted as a United Nations trust territory. [69] Australia change 1946-12-13.png
1 November 1947The Mandate of Nauru was reconstituted as the United Nations Trust Territory of Nauru. [69] Australia change 1947-11-01.png
26 December 1947 Heard Island and McDonald Islands were transferred from the United Kingdom. The receipt was confirmed in letters exchanged on 19 December 1950. [70] Australia change 1947-12-26.png
1 July 1949The Territory of New Guinea and Territory of Papua were merged into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, mainly for administrative purposes; the act makes it clear that the identities of New Guinea as a United Nations Trust Territory and Papua as a possession of the Crown remain intact. [71] [72] Australia change 1949-07-01.png
24 April 1953 Heard Island and McDonald Islands were formally declared the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands. [73] Australia change 1953-04-24.png
23 November 1955The Cocos (Keeling) Islands were transferred by the United Kingdom from the Colony of Singapore, becoming the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. [74] [75] Australia change 1955-11-23.png
1 October 1958 Christmas Island was transferred from the United Kingdom, becoming the Territory of Christmas Island. [76] Australia change 1958-10-01.png
31 January 1968The Trust Territory of Nauru became independent as the Republic of Nauru. [77] [78] Australia change 1968-01-31.png
30 September 1969The Coral Sea Islands Territory was created from Queensland. [79] Australia change 1969-09-30.png
27 December 1971The Territory of Papua and New Guinea was renamed Papua New Guinea. [80] Australia change 1971-12-27.png
31 December 1973The peninsula along Jervis Bay belonging to the Australian Capital Territory was formally named the Jervis Bay Territory; at this time, it was still considered part of the ACT. [81] no change to map
11 September 1975The Republic of the North Solomons declared the independence of the region surrounding Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea. [82] Australia change 1975-09-11.png
16 September 1975 Papua New Guinea became independent as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, [83] rendering the dispute with the Republic of the North Solomons moot. Australia change 1975-09-16.png
1 July 1978The Ashmore and Cartier Islands were split from the Northern Territory, becoming the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. [84] Australia change 1978-07-01.png
3 March 1986The Australia Act 1986 made Australia completely independent of the United Kingdom. [85] no change to map
11 May 1989 Jervis Bay Territory was split from the Australian Capital Territory to become its own territory. [86] Australia change 1989-05-11.png
7 July 1997 Elizabeth Reef and Middleton Reef were transferred from New South Wales to the Coral Sea Islands Territory. [87] Australia change 1997-07-07.png

See also

States and territories of Australia first-level subdivision of Australia

The states and territories are the first-level administrative divisions of the Commonwealth of Australia. They are the second level of government in Australia, located between the federal and local government tiers.

Today the Northern Territory's land borders are defined to the west by the 129° east longitude with Western Australia, to the south by the 26th parallel south latitude with South Australia and to the east by 138° east longitude with Queensland; however, this is not where all borders are actually marked on the ground.

Today South Australia's land borders are defined to the west by the 129° east longitude with Western Australia, to the north by the 26th parallel south latitude with the Northern Territory and Queensland and to the east by 141° east longitude with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria; however, this is not where all borders are actually marked on the ground.

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Norfolk Island external territory of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean, consisting of the island of the same name plus neighbouring islands

Norfolk Island is an island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres (877 mi) directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Lord Howe Island. Together with the two neighbouring islands Phillip Island and Nepean Island it forms one of the Commonwealth of Australia's external territories. At the 2016 Australian census, it had 1748 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.

Jervis Bay Territory Australia

The Jervis Bay Territory is a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was surrendered by the state of New South Wales to the Commonwealth Government in 1915 so the Australian Capital Territory would have access to the sea.

Australia Act 1986 Legislation by the UK and Australian Parliaments

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Jervis Bay bay in New South Wales, Australia

Jervis Bay is a 102-square-kilometre (39 sq mi) oceanic bay and village on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia, said to possess the whitest sand in the world. It is surrounded by Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay.

Territory of Papua British colony from 1883/4,  placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1902

The Territory of Papua comprised the southeastern quarter of the island of New Guinea from 1883 to 1975. In 1883, the Government of Queensland annexed this territory for the British Empire. The United Kingdom Government refused to ratify the annexation but in 1884 a Protectorate was proclaimed over the territory, then called "British New Guinea". There is a certain ambiguity about the exact date on which the entire territory was annexed by the British. The Papua Act 1905 recites that this happened "on or about" 4 September 1888. On 18 March 1902, the Territory was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. Resolutions of acceptance were passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, who accepted the territory under the name of Papua.

1967 Australian referendum (Aboriginals)

The Australian referendum of 27 May 1967, called by the Holt Government, approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967 Act, which became law on 10 August 1967 following the results of the referendum. The amendments were overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 90.77% of votes cast and carrying in all six states. These amendments altered sections 51(xxvi), and 127, having the immediate effect of including Aboriginal Australians in determinations of population, and also empowering the Federal Parliament to legislate specifically for this racial group. The other question put in the referendum, to allow the number of seats in the House of Representatives to be increased without increasing the number of senators, was rejected. It received majority support in only one state – New South Wales – and received about 40.25% "yes" votes nationwide.

Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

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The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island is the superior court for Australian territory of Norfolk Island. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the territory in civil matters and hears the most serious criminal matters. It also has jurisdiction over the Coral Sea Islands Territory. All matters are heard before a single judge, including appeals from the Court of Petty Sessions. In the Australian court hierarchy it is one of eight state and territory Supreme Courts having unlimited jurisdiction in their respective parts of Australia. Appeal lies to the Federal Court of Australia, from which an appeal by special leave can be made to the High Court of Australia.

Same-sex marriage in Australia has been legal since 9 December 2017. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage, the Marriage Amendment Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017 and received royal assent from the Governor-General the following day. The law came into effect on 9 December, immediately recognising overseas same-sex marriages. The first same-sex wedding under Australian law was held on 15 December 2017. The passage of the law followed a voluntary postal survey of all Australians, in which 61.6% of respondents supported legalisation of same-sex marriage.

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) is a branch within the Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs. The branch was initially a stand-alone agency, formed 1 January 1975. In 1980, the War Graves Act 1980 (Cth) formalised the position of Director War Graves within the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The OAWG acts as Australian agent for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory

The Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory is a court of summary jurisdiction that deals with the majority of criminal law matters and the majority of small civil law matters in the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory and the Australian Antarctic Territory.

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The Supreme Court of Christmas Island was the highest court for Christmas Island, an external territory of Australia. The court was originally established in 1958 after sovereignty over the island was transferred from the United Kingdom to Australia. The court had jurisdiction to deal with all serious crimes and major civil claims for damages occurring on the island. The court was abolished on 10 May 2002.

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The Commonwealth Industrial Court, known as the Australian Industrial Court from 1973, was a specialist court to deal with industrial matters, principally the enforcement of awards and orders of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Over time it took on more matters and its judges were allocated a wide range of judicial tasks until it was replaced in 1977 by the Federal Court of Australia which had a more general jurisdiction covering matters arising under Australian federal law.

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