States and territories of Australia

Australian states and territories
A clickable map of Australia's states, mainland territories and their capitals
Category Federated states (6)
Internal federal territories (3)
External federal territories (7)
Location Commonwealth of Australia
Populations 0 (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands) – 7,704,300 (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 (officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia) is a federation of six states, together with ten federal territories. The Australian mainland consists of five of the six federated states and three of the federal territories (the "internal" territories). The state of Tasmania is an island about 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of the mainland. The remaining seven territories are classified for some purposes as "external" territories. Aside from the Australian Antarctic Territory, which is Australia's claim to part of Antarctica, Australia is the world's sixth-largest country by total area.

All states and the two largest internal territories are partially self-governing, as well as being represented in the federal parliament; the other territories are administered by the federal government. Since 2015, federal control has also been extended to the formerly self-governing territory of Norfolk Island.[1] The third internal territory is the Jervis Bay Territory (JBT) which is located on the coast of New South Wales south of Sydney and east of Canberra. Three of the external territories are inhabited; the others are uninhabited, apart from temporary-resident scientists.

Geographic Australia

The term geographic Australia is used by the Australian Government to describe the area covered by demographic statistics such as national population figures. This area comprises Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in addition to the six states and three mainland territories; Norfolk Island is the only territory with a permanent population that is not part of geographic Australia.[2]

States, territories, and external territories

Reference map for states and territories of Australia
States and territories of Australia[n 1]
Flag State/territory name Abbrev ISO[3] Postal Type Capital
(or largest settlement)
Population[4][5] Area (km²)[6]
New South WalesNSWAU-NSWNSWStateSydney7,704,300800,628
South AustraliaSAAU-SASAStateAdelaide1,706,500978,810
Western AustraliaWAAU-WAWAStatePerth[n 2]2,613,7002,526,786
Australian Capital TerritoryACTAU-ACTACTTerritoryCanberra397,3972,280
[n 3]Jervis Bay TerritoryJBTJBTTerritory(Jervis Bay Village)39172
Northern TerritoryNTAU-NTNTTerritoryDarwin244,0001,335,742
[n 3]Ashmore and Cartier IslandsExternal(Offshore anchorage)0199
[n 3]Australian Antarctic TerritoryAATAQ[n 4]ExternalDavis Station1,000[n 5]5,896,500
Christmas IslandCXExternal[n 6]Flying Fish Cove2,072135
Cocos (Keeling) IslandsCCExternal[n 6]West Island/Pulu Panjang59614
[n 3]Coral Sea IslandsExternal(Willis Island)4[n 7]10
[n 3]Heard Island and McDonald IslandsHIMIHMExternal(Atlas Cove)0372
Norfolk IslandNFExternalKingston2,30235

All states, (internal) territories and the external territory of Coral Sea Islands were part of Australia at federation and are constitutionally part of the Commonwealth. Northern Territory was part of South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory were part of New South Wales, and Coral Sea Islands was part of Queensland. Ashmore and Cartier Islands was accepted by Australia in 1934[7] and annexed to Northern Territory prior to the adoption of the Statute of Westminster in 1942 and, as such, is deemed to form part of Australia proper.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands voted for integration in 1984. Together with Christmas Island, Commonwealth laws apply automatically to the territory unless expressly stated otherwise[8] and residents of both external territories are associated with Northern Territory for federal elections. They are, thus, constitutionally part of Australia.

Uninhabited Heard and McDonald Island is treated as constitutionally part of Australia by the central government.[9]

The constitutional status of the Australian Antarctic Territory is unclear, with successive governments treating it either as a separate territory (as in the United Kingdom and Norway) or an integral part of the state (as in New Zealand and France). As of 2018, the present government appears to take the view that it is not constitutionally part of Australia.[10]

Norfolk Island's status is controversial, with the present (as of 2018) government taking measures to integrate the territory into Australia proper (including representation in parliament and compulsory voting). The Norfolk Islanders have not formally consented to this change in constitutional status and assert that they are not Australian.[11]

Proposed states

Proposed external territories

Defunct territories

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),[12] 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; laws for territories are determined by the Australian Parliament.[13]

Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, while two (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) have some degree of self-government although less than that of the states. 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 if they were states.

Each state has a Governor, appointed by the Queen, which by convention she does on the advice of the state Premier. The Administrator of the Northern Territory, by contrast, is 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 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 1915,[14] 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.[15] 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.

The external territory of Norfolk Island possessed a degree of self-government from 1979 until 2015.

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 the Australia Act 1986) 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
Christmas Island External territory Mayor/Shire President Shire Council Councillor
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Norfolk Island Regional Council[note 2]
  1. The abbreviation MP is an acceptable, and indeed more common, term for members of each lower house.
  2. Between 1979 and 2015 Norfolk Island was a self-governing external territory with its own legislature, the Norfolk Legislative Assembly, until this was abolished by the Commonwealth Parliament.

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 His Excellency Kim Beazley 1 May 2018
Administrator of the Northern Territory Her Honour Vicki O'Halloran 31 October 2017
Administrator of Norfolk Island His Honour Eric Hutchinson 1 April 2017
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories
(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
Her Honour Natasha Griggs 5 October 2017

Premiers and Chief Ministers of states and territories

Post Incumbent Political party Appointed
Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian MP Liberal 23 January 2017
Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk MP Labor 14 February 2015
Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall MHA Liberal 19 March 2018
Premier of Tasmania Will Hodgman MP Liberal 31 March 2014
Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews MP Labor 4 December 2014
Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan MLA Labor 17 March 2017
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory Andrew Barr MLA Labor 11 December 2014
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner MLA Labor 31 August 2016
Mayor of Norfolk Island Council Councillor Robin Adams 6 July 2016
Presidents of Australian Indian Ocean Territories:
President of the Shire of Christmas Island
President of the Shire of Cocos Council

Councillor Foo Kee Heng
Councillor Balmut Pirus

18 October 2011
May 2013

State and territorial parliaments

State and territory supreme courts

State and territory police forces

State and territory borders


State / territory Abbreviation Land area[6][16]
Population density
  • % of population
  • in capital
km2sq miRank NumberRank /km2/sq miRank %Rank
 Australian Capital Territory ACT2,280 8808395,2007167.6 434199.6%1[17]
 New South WalesNSW800,628 309,12457,704,30019.62 24.9363.0%5[18]
 Northern TerritoryNT1,335,742 515,7333244,00080.18 0.47854.0%6[19]
 QueenslandQLD1,723,936 665,61524,827,00032.79 7.2546.0%7[20]
 South AustraliaSA978,810 377,92041,706,50051.74 4.5673.5%2[21]
 TasmaniaTAS64,519 24,9117518,50067.58 19.6441.0%8[22]
 VictoriaVIC227,010 87,65066,039,100226.56 68.8271.0%4[23]
 Western AustraliaWA2,526,786 975,59812,613,70041.03 2.7773.4%3[24]

Distance table

Australian distance table
15333588Alice Springs
2742510612091652182918341248256116343075183112962805Mount Isa

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
New South Wales NSW 2xx(x)xx(x)NnVK2xx NSW 1nnn,[nb 2] 2nnn+61 2 xxxx xxxx[nb 3]+10 (+9 12)+11
Victoria Vic 3xx(x)xx(x)VnVK3xx VIC 3nnn, 8nnn[nb 2]+61 3 xxxx xxxx[nb 3]+10+11
Queensland Qld 4xx(x)xx(x)QnVK4xx QLD 4nnn, 9nnn[nb 2]+61 7 xxxx xxxx+10
South Australia SA 5xx(x)xx(x)SnVK5xx SA 5nnn+61 8 8xxx xxxx
+61 8 7xxx xxxx
+9 12+10 12
Western Australia WA 6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK6xx WA 6nnn+61 8 9xxx xxxx
+61 8 6xxx xxxx
Tasmania Tas 7xx(x)xx(x)TnVK7xx TAS 7nnn+61 3 6xxx xxxx+10+11
Northern Territory NT 8xx(x)xx(x)DnVK8xx NT 08nn+61 8 89xx xxxx+9 12
External territories
Norfolk Island 2xx(x)xx(x)NnVK2xx NSW 2899+672 3 xx xxx+11
Christmas Island 6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK9xx WA 6798+61 8 9164 xxxx+7
Cocos Island 6xx(x)xx(x)WnVK9xx WA 6799+61 8 9162 xxxx+6 12
Australian Antarctic Territory AAT noneVK0xx TAS +672 1 +6 to +8
Macquarie Island none +10+11
  1. 1 2 3 A number of broadcast stations in the ACT have call signs allocated as if ACT were part of New South Wales.
  2. 1 2 3 4 This is used for some PO box and large users only.
  3. 1 2 Some exceptions apply to numbers in this state's number range.

See also


  1. Unless provided, references and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual state and territory articles.
  2. Perth was defined as the capital by statute in 2016: City of Perth Act 2016 (WA) in AustLII.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 The national Flag of Australia is used in territories which have no flag of their own.
  4. Under the definitions in ISO 3166-1, the AAT is covered by the Antarctican ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code "AQ".
  5. No permanent population, research station with fluctuating staff numbers.
  6. 1 2 Part of geographic Australia
  7. No permanent population, weather monitoring station generally with four staff.


  1. Strom, Marcus (1 June 2016). "Norfolk Island elects council that supports self-determination". Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. Pink, Brian (2010). "Definition of Australia". Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (Report). Australian Bureau of Statistics. p. 5.
  3. ISO 3166-2:AU (ISO 3166-2 codes for the states and territories of Australia)
  4. "3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2016". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Area of Australia - States and Territories". Geoscience Australia: National Location Information. Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  12. A.H. McLintock (ed), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 3 vols, Wellington, NZ:R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966, vol 3 p. 526.'
  13. Constitution of Australia, section 122
  14. Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915 (Cth).
  15. "Jervis Bay Territory Governance and Administration". The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 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'
  17. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Australian Capital Territory". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  18. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "New South Wales". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  19. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Northern Territory". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  20. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Queensland". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  21. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "South Australia". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  22. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Tasmania". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  23. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Victoria". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  24. Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Western Australia". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
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