Australia

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Australia, island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the Commonwealth of Australia, a self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of six states--New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia--and two territories--the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The first inhabitants of Australia were the Aboriginal people, who migrated to the continent some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. The continent remained relatively unknown to most of the outside world until the 17th century. The first permanent European settlement was established in 1788 at Port Jackson, in southeastern Australia, as a British penal colony; it grew into the city of Sydney. Australia developed as a group of British colonies during the 19th century, and in 1901 the colonies federated to form a unified independent nation, the Commonwealth of Australia.
The climate of Australia varies greatly from region to region, with a tropical climate in the north, an arid or semiarid climate in much of the interior, and a temperate climate in the south. Despite these variations, the moderating influence of the surrounding oceans and the absence of extensive high mountain ranges help prevent marked extremes of weather. However, some areas occasionally experience extreme weather conditions, such as tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and severe drought. 
The major cities of Australia are Sydney, a seaport and commercial center; Melbourne, a cultural center; Brisbane, a seaport; Perth, a seaport on the western coast; and Adelaide, an agricultural center. Canberra, the national capital, is much smaller in population.
The United Kingdom and Ireland were traditionally the principal countries of origin for the majority of immigrants to Australia, reflecting the colonial history of the country. Since World War II (1939-1945), however, Australia's population has become more ethnically diverse as people have immigrated from a wider range of countries. The proportion of residents born in other countries increased from 10 percent in 1947 to 24 percent in 2000.


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