States and territories of Australia

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Australian States and Territories
Australia history.gif
Animated map showing boundary changes
Category Federated states (6)
Federal territories (3)
External territories (7)
Location Commonwealth of Australia
Populations 0 (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands) – 7,272,800 (New South Wales)
Areas 10 km2 (3.9 sq mi) (Coral Sea Islands) – 5,896,500 km2 (2,276,700 sq mi) (Australian Antarctic Territory)
Subdivisions Local government areas
Cadastral divisions

Australia is a federation consisting of six states, three federal territories and seven external territories. The Australian mainland consists of five of the six federated states (with the sixth state, Tasmania, being located on an island in close proximity to the mainland) and three federal territories (including the small, somewhat anomalous Jervis Bay Territory) which constitute the world's sixth-largest country by total area. In addition, there are six island territories, known as external territories. Three of the external territories are inhabited, and the other three, besides non-permanent scientists, are uninhabited. Australia additionally 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.

External territories, states and territories

Reference map for States and Territories of Australia
Australian external territories.png
States and Territories of Australia[1]
Flag State/Territory name Abbrev ISO[2] Postal Type Capital
(or largest settlement)
Population Area (km²)
[n 1] Ashmore and Cartier Islands External (Offshore anchorage) 0 199
[n 1] Australian Antarctic Territory AAT AQ[n 2] External Davis Station 1,000[n 3] 5,896,500
Australian Capital Territory ACT AU-ACT ACT Territory Canberra 373,100 2,358
Christmas Island CX External Flying Fish Cove 2,072 135
Cocos (Keeling) Islands CC External West Island 596 14
[n 1] Coral Sea Islands External (Willis Island) 4[n 4] 10
[n 1] Heard Island and McDonald Islands HIMI HM External (Atlas Cove) 0 372
[n 1] Jervis Bay Territory JBT JBT Territory (Jervis Bay Village) 377 70
New South Wales NSW AU-NSW NSW State Sydney 7,272,800 800,642
Norfolk Island NF External Kingston 2,302 35
Northern Territory NT AU-NT NT Territory Darwin 233,300 1,349,129
Queensland Qld AU-QLD QLD State Brisbane 4,560,059 1,730,648
South Australia SA AU-SA SA State Adelaide 1,650,600 983,482
Tasmania Tas AU-TAS TAS State Hobart 512,100 68,401
Victoria Vic AU-VIC VIC State Melbourne 5,603,100 227,416
Western Australia WA AU-WA WA State Perth 2,451,400 2,529,875

See also: List of State codes

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

Background and overview

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 Colony of Tasmania (initially established as a separate colony named Van Diemen's Land in 1825), the Colony of Western Australia (initially established as the smaller Swan River Colony in 1829), the Province of South Australia (1836), the Colony of New Zealand (1840),[3] the Victoria Colony (1851) and the Colony of Queensland (1859). Upon Federation, the six colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania became the founding states of the new Commonwealth of Australia.

Legislative powers of the states are protected by the Australian constitution, section 107, 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 power to legislate in the territories that it does not possess in the states: Constitution section 122.

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, each 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

Entity Type of entity Tie to the Queen Domestic administrator Head of Government Upper House of Parliament Lower House of Parliament Member of Parliament
Upper house Lower house[note 1]
Commonwealth of Australia Federal government Direct Governor-General Prime Minister Senate House of Representatives Senator MP
South Australia Federated state Direct (established by Australia Act) Governor Premier Legislative Council House of Assembly MLC MHA
New South Wales Legislative Assembly MP
Victoria MLA
Western Australia
Queensland N/A (abolished 1922) N/A MP
Australian Capital Territory Self-governing territory Indirect (through Governor-General acting as "Administrator") Assembly and Chief Minister Chief Minister N/A MLA
Northern Territory Indirect (through Governor-General) Administrator
Norfolk Island External self-governing territory
Christmas Island External territory Mayor/Shire President Shire Council Councillor
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

Post Incumbent Appointed
Governor of New South Wales His Excellency David Hurley 2 October 2014
Governor of Queensland His Excellency Paul de Jersey 29 July 2014
Governor of South Australia His Excellency Hieu Van Le 1 September 2014
Governor of Tasmania Her Excellency Kate Warner 10 December 2014
Governor of Victoria Her Excellency Linda Dessau 1 July 2015
Governor of Western Australia Her Excellency Kerry Sanderson 20 October 2014
Administrator of the Northern Territory His Honour John Hardy 10 November 2014
Administrator of Norfolk Island His Honour Gary Hardgrave 1 July 2014
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
His Honour Barry Haase 5 October 2014

Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories

Post Incumbent Political party Appointed
Premier of New South Wales Baird, MikeMike Baird MP Liberal April 2014
Premier of Queensland Palaszczuk, AnnastaciaAnnastacia Palaszczuk MP Labor February 2015
Premier of South Australia Weatherill, JayJay Weatherill MHA Labor October 2011
Premier of Tasmania Hodgman, WillWill Hodgman MP Liberal March 2014
Premier of Victoria Andrews, DanielDaniel Andrews MLA Labor December 2014
Premier of Western Australia Barnett, ColinColin Barnett MLA Liberal September 2008
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory Barr, AndrewAndrew Barr MLA Labor December 2014
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Giles, AdamAdam Giles MLA Country Liberal March 2013
Norfolk Island Council Norfolk Island Council
Mayor of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
Councillor Pirus, BalmutBalmut Pirus March 2013

State and territorial parliaments

State and territory supreme courts

State and territory police forces

State and territory borders


State / Territory Land area Population
(2011 census)
Population density  % of population
in capital
km2 sq mi Number /km2 /sq mi  %
 Australian Capital Territory 2,358.0 910.4 8th 357,222 7th 137.53 356.2 1st 99.6% 1st
 New South Wales 801,321.7 309,392.0 5th 6,917,658 1st 8.44 21.9 3rd 63.0% 5th
 Victoria 227,417.5 87,806.4 6th 5,354,042 2nd 22.00 57.0 2nd 71.0% 4th
 Queensland 1,734,218.7 669,585.6 2nd 4,332,739 3rd 2.26 5.9 5th 46.0% 7th
 South Australia 985,288.7 380,422.1 4th 1,596,572 5th 1.56 4.0 6th 73.5% 2nd
 Western Australia 2,531,572.0 977,445.4 1st 2,239,170 4th 0.79 2.0 7th 73.4% 3rd
 Tasmania 67,914.3 26,221.9 7th 495,354 6th 7.08 18.3 4th 41.0% 8th
 Northern Territory 1,352,187.6 522,082.6 3rd 211,945 8th 0.15 0.39 8th 54.0% 6th

Distance table

Australian Distance Table
2673 Albany
1533 3588 Alice Springs
1578 3633 443 Uluru
2045 4349 3038 3254 Brisbane
2483 1943 2483 1223 3317 Broome
3352 5656 2457 2900 1716 2496 Cairns
1196 3846 3706 2751 1261 3275 2568 Canberra
3022 4614 1489 1932 3463 1803 2882 4195 Darwin
1001 3674 2534 2579 1944 3636 3251 918 4023 Hobart
3219 3787 1686 2129 3660 1045 3079 4392 827 4220 Kununurra
2783 5087 2505 2948 976 2840 740 1999 2930 2682 3127 Mackay
731 3404 2264 2309 1674 3124 2981 648 3753 609 3950 2412 Melbourne
2742 5106 1209 1652 1829 1834 1248 2561 1634 3075 1831 1296 2805 Mount Isa
2781 409 3696 3741 4457 2389 5764 3954 4205 3782 3378 5195 3512 4905 Perth
1412 3970 3830 2875 1001 3373 2495 286 4034 1142 4516 1926 872 2400 4078 Sydney

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

State and territory codes

State/Territory Abbrev. Call signs Postal Telephone numbers in Australia Time zone
AM/FM TV Amateur Abbrev. Postcode Std Summer
Australian Capital Territory ACT 1xx(x)[nb 1] xx(x)Cn[nb 1] VK1xx[nb 1] ACT 02nn,[nb 2] 26nn, 29nn +61 2 62xx xxxx
+61 2 61xx xxxx
+10 +11
New South Wales NSW 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 1nnn,[nb 2] 2nnn +61 2 xxxx xxxx[nb 3] +10 (+​9 12) +11
Victoria Vic 3xx(x) xx(x)Vn VK3xx VIC 3nnn, 8nnn[nb 2] +61 3 xxxx xxxx[nb 3] +10 +11
Queensland Qld 4xx(x) xx(x)Qn VK4xx QLD 4nnn, 9nnn[nb 2] +61 7 xxxx xxxx +10
South Australia SA 5xx(x) xx(x)Sn VK5xx SA 5nnn +61 8 8xxx xxxx
+61 8 7xxx xxxx
+​9 12 +​10 12
Western Australia WA 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK6xx WA 6nnn +61 8 9xxx xxxx
+61 8 6xxx xxxx
Tasmania Tas 7xx(x) xx(x)Tn VK7xx TAS 7nnn +61 3 6xxx xxxx +10 +11
Northern Territory NT 8xx(x) xx(x)Dn VK8xx NT 08nn +61 8 89xx xxxx +​9 12
External territories
Norfolk Island 2xx(x) xx(x)Nn VK2xx NSW 2899 +672 3 xx xxx +​11 12
Christmas Island 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK9xx WA 6798 +61 8 9164 xxxx +7
Cocos Island 6xx(x) xx(x)Wn VK9xx WA 6799 +61 8 9162 xxxx +​6 12
Australian Antarctic Territory AAT none VK0xx TAS +672 1 +6 to +8
Macquarie Island none +10 +11
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if ACT were part of New South Wales.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 This is used for some PO box and large users only.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Some exceptions apply to numbers in this state's number range.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The national Flag of Australia is used in territories which have no flag of their own.
  2. Under the definitions in ISO 3166-1, the AAT is covered by the Antarctican ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code "AQ".
  3. No permanent population, research station with fluctuating staff numbers.
  4. No permanent population, weather monitoring station generally with four staff.


  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links