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The
continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...

continent
of Australia, sometimes known in technical contexts by the names Sahul (), Australinea, or Meganesia to distinguish it from the
country of Australia
country of Australia
, consists of the
landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the ...
es which sit on Australia's
continental plate Continental may refer to: Places * Continent * Continental, Arizona, a small community in Pima County, Arizona, US * Continental, Ohio, a small town in Putnam County, US Arts and entertainment * Continental (album), ''Continental'' (album), an alb ...
. The name "Sahul" takes its name from the
Sahul Shelf Geologically, the Sahul Shelf is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent, lying off the northwest coast of mainland Australia. Etymology The name "Sahull" or "Sahoel" appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged ...
, which is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent. The continent includes
mainland Australia Mainland Australia is the main landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, fe ...

mainland Australia
,
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
, and the island of
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
, which consists of
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea ( tpi, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; ho, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), is a country in Oceania ...

Papua New Guinea
and
Western New Guinea Western New Guinea, also known as Papua or Indonesian New Guinea, is the western portion of New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the ...
(Papua and West Papua, the provinces of
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
). Situated in the geographical region of
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Eart ...

Oceania
, Australia is the smallest of the seven traditional continents. The continent includes a
continental shelf A continental shelf is a portion of a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

continental shelf
overlain by shallow seas which divide it into several landmasses—the
Arafura Sea The Arafura Sea (or Arafuru Sea) lies west of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to A ...
and
Torres Strait The Torres Strait (), also known as Zenadh Kes, is a strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both s ...

Torres Strait
between mainland Australia and New Guinea, and
Bass Strait Bass Strait () is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria (Australia), Victoria. Formed 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels, the Bass Strait was named after explorer and physician Georg ...

Bass Strait
between mainland Australia and Tasmania. When
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloquial, ordinary language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers, usually the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are in th ...

sea level
s were lower during the Pleistocene ice age, including the
Last Glacial Maximum The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), also referred to as the Late Glacial Maximum, was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets In glaciology Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt">Gorner_Glac ...
about 18,000 BC, they were connected by dry land. During the past 18,000 to 10,000 years, rising sea levels overflowed the lowlands and separated the continent into today's low-lying
arid A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in d ...

arid
to
semi-arid A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables ove ...
mainland and the two mountainous islands of New Guinea and Tasmania.


Terminology

The continent of Australia is sometimes known by the names Sahul, Australinea, or Meganesia to distinguish it from the country of Australia, and consists of the landmasses which sit on Australia's continental plate. This includes
mainland Australia Mainland Australia is the main landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, fe ...

mainland Australia
,
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
, and the island of
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
, which comprises
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea ( tpi, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; ho, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), is a country in Oceania ...

Papua New Guinea
and
Western New Guinea Western New Guinea, also known as Papua or Indonesian New Guinea, is the western portion of New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the ...
(Papua and West Papua, provinces of
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...

Indonesia
). The name "Sahul" takes its name from the
Sahul Shelf Geologically, the Sahul Shelf is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent, lying off the northwest coast of mainland Australia. Etymology The name "Sahull" or "Sahoel" appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged ...
, which is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent. The term
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Eart ...

Oceania
, originally a "great division" of the world, was replaced by the concept of Australia as a continent in the 1950s.: "...the 1950s... was also the period when... Oceania as a "great division" was replaced by Australia as a continent along with a series of isolated and continentally attached islands. [Footnote 78: When Southeast Asia was conceptualized as a world region during World War II..., Indonesia and the Philippines were perforce added to Asia, which reduced the extent of Oceania, leading to a reconceptualization of Australia as a continent in its own right. This maneuver is apparent in postwar atlases]" Today, the term Oceania is often used to denote the region encompassing the Australian continent,
Zealandia Zealandia (prounounced ), also known as ( Māori) or Tasmantis, is an almost entirely submerged mass of continental crust 350px, The thickness of Crust (geology)#Earth's crust, Earth's crust (km) Continental crust is the layer of Igneous ...
and various islands in the Pacific Ocean that are not included in the continent, seven-continent model. Archaeological terminology for this region has changed repeatedly. Before the 1970s, the single Pleistocene landmass was called ''Australasia'', derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
, meaning "southern", although this word is most often used for a wider region that includes lands like New Zealand that are not on the same continental shelf. In the early 1970s, the term ''Greater Australia'' was introduced for the Pleistocene continent. Then at a 1975 conference and consequent publication, the name ''Sahul'' was extended from its previous use for just the
Sahul Shelf Geologically, the Sahul Shelf is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent, lying off the northwest coast of mainland Australia. Etymology The name "Sahull" or "Sahoel" appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged ...
to cover the continent. In 1984 W. Filewood suggested the name ''Meganesia'', meaning "great island" or "great island-group", for both the Pleistocene continent and the present-day lands, and this name has been widely accepted by biologists. Others have used ''Meganesia'' with different meanings: travel writer
Paul Theroux Paul Edward Theroux (born April 10, 1941) is an American travel writer and novelist A novelist is an author or writer of novels, though often novelists also write in other genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Some novelists are professional no ...
included New Zealand in his definition and others have used it for Australia, New Zealand and
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
. Another biologist,
Richard Dawkins Richard Dawkins (born 26 March 1941) is a British evolutionary biologist Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes ( natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the Biodiver ...

Richard Dawkins
, coined the name ''Australinea'' in 2004. ''Australia–New Guinea'' has also been used.


Geology and geography

Situated in the geographical region of Oceania, Australia is the smallest continent in land area. The continent includes a continental shelf overlain by shallow seas which divide it into several landmasses—the
Arafura Sea The Arafura Sea (or Arafuru Sea) lies west of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to A ...
and
Torres Strait The Torres Strait (), also known as Zenadh Kes, is a strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both s ...

Torres Strait
between mainland Australia and New Guinea, and
Bass Strait Bass Strait () is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria (Australia), Victoria. Formed 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels, the Bass Strait was named after explorer and physician Georg ...

Bass Strait
between mainland Australia and Tasmania. When
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloquial, ordinary language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers, usually the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are in th ...

sea level
s were lower during the Pleistocene ice age, including the
Last Glacial Maximum The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), also referred to as the Late Glacial Maximum, was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets In glaciology Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt">Gorner_Glac ...
about 18,000 BC, they were connected by dry land. During the past 18,000 to 10,000 years, rising sea levels overflowed the lowlands and separated the continent into today's low-lying
arid A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in d ...

arid
to
semi-arid A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is the climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables ove ...
mainland and the two mountainous islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. With a total land area of , the Australian continent is the smallest, and second-lowest human inhabited (after Antarctica) continent on
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
. The
continental shelf A continental shelf is a portion of a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

continental shelf
connecting the islands, half of which is less than deep, covers some , including the
Sahul Shelf Geologically, the Sahul Shelf is part of the continental shelf of the Australian continent, lying off the northwest coast of mainland Australia. Etymology The name "Sahull" or "Sahoel" appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged ...
and
Bass Strait Bass Strait () is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria (Australia), Victoria. Formed 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels, the Bass Strait was named after explorer and physician Georg ...

Bass Strait
. As the country of Australia is mostly on a single landmass, and comprises most of the continent, it is sometimes informally referred to as an island continent, surrounded by oceans. Geological forces such as
tectonic uplift Tectonic uplift is the geologic uplift An orogeny is an event that leads to both structural Deformation (physics), deformation and compositional differentiation of the Earth's lithosphere (Crust (geology), crust and uppermost Mantle (geology) ...
of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia's early history, when it was still a part of
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (ge ...

Gondwana
. Australia is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore currently has no active volcanism. The continent primarily sits on the Indo-Australian Plate. Because of its central location on its tectonic plate Australia doesn't have any active volcanic regions, the only continent with this distinction. The lands were joined with
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oc ...

Antarctica
as part of the southern supercontinent
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (ge ...

Gondwana
until the plate began to drift north about 96 million years ago. For most of the time since then, Australia–New Guinea remained a continuous landmass. When the last glacial period ended in about 10,000 BC, rising sea levels formed
Bass Strait Bass Strait () is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria (Australia), Victoria. Formed 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels, the Bass Strait was named after explorer and physician Georg ...

Bass Strait
, separating Tasmania from the mainland. Then between about 8,000 and 6,500 BC, the lowlands in the north were flooded by the sea, separating New Guinea, the
Aru Islands The Aru Islands Regency ( id, Kabupaten Kepulauan Aru) are a group of about ninety-five low-lying island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very smal ...
, and the Australian mainland. A northern arc consisting of the
New Guinea Highlands The New Guinea Highlands, also known as the Central Range or Central Cordillera, is a long chain of mountain ranges on the island of New Guinea, including the island's tallest peak, Puncak Jaya , the highest mountain in Oceania. The range is home t ...
, the
Raja Ampat Islands Raja Ampat, or the ''Four Kings'', is an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands. In ...
, and
Halmahera Halmahera, formerly known as Jilolo, Gilolo, or Jailolo, is the largest island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe imag ...

Halmahera
was uplifted by the northward migration of Australia and subduction of the
Pacific Plate The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface Earth is the third planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant th ...
. The
Outer Banda Arc The Banda Arc (main arc, Inner, and Outer) is a set of island arcs in eastern Indonesia. It manifests the collision of a continent and an intra-oceanic island arc. The presently active arc is located on what appears to be oceanic crust whereas the ...
was accreted along the northwestern edge the continent; it includes the islands of
Timor Timor is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerry, s ...

Timor
,
Tanimbar The Tanimbar Islands, also called ''Timur Laut'', are a group of about 65 islands in the Maluku (province), Maluku Provinces of Indonesia, province of Indonesia. The largest and most central of the islands is Yamdena; others include Selaru to the ...
, and
Seram Seram (formerly spelled Ceram; also Seran or Serang) is the largest and main island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such a ...
. Papua New Guinea has several volcanoes, as it is situated along the
Pacific Ring of Fire The Ring of Fire (also known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Rim of Fire, the Girdle of Fire or the Circum-Pacific belt) is a region around much of the rim of the Pacific Ocean where many Types of volcanic eruptions, volcanic eruptions and e ...

Pacific Ring of Fire
. Volcanic eruptions are not rare, and the area is prone to
earthquakes An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known t ...
and
tsunamis A tsunami ( ; from ja, 津波, lit=harbour wave, ) is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquake An earthquake (also known as a quake, tre ...
because of this.
Mount Wilhelm Mount Wilhelm (german: Wilhelmsberg) is the highest mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summ ...

Mount Wilhelm
in Papua New Guinea is the second highest mountain in the continent, and at
above sea level Above may refer to: * Above (artist), Tavar Zawacki (born 1981), contemporary urban artist * ''Above'' (magazine), an American environmental magazine 2009–2010 *Above (Mad Season album), ''Above'' (Mad Season album), 1995 *Above (Pillar album), ' ...
,
Puncak Jaya Puncak Jaya (; literally Glorious Peak) or Carstensz Pyramid, Mount Jayawijaya or Mount Carstensz on the island of New Guinea, with an elevation of , is the highest mountain in Indonesia. It is also the list of islands by highest point, highes ...
is the highest mountain. The Australian continent, being part of the
Indo-Australian Plate The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of ...
(more specifically, the
Australian Plate The Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate in the eastern hemisphere, eastern and, largely, southern hemisphere, southern hemispheres. Originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana, Australia remained connected to Indian plate, India ...
), is the lowest, flattest, and oldest landmass on Earth and it has had a relatively stable geological history.
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
is not part of the continent of Australia, but of the separate, submerged continent of
Zealandia Zealandia (prounounced ), also known as ( Māori) or Tasmantis, is an almost entirely submerged mass of continental crust 350px, The thickness of Crust (geology)#Earth's crust, Earth's crust (km) Continental crust is the layer of Igneous ...
. New Zealand and Australia are both part of the Oceanian sub-region known as
Australasia Australasia is a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. ...

Australasia
, with New Guinea being in
Melanesia Melanesia (, ) is a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabi ...

Melanesia
. Papua New Guinea, a country within the continent, is one of the most
culturally Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in ...
and linguistically diverse countries in the world. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 percent of its people live in urban centres. West Papua, a
province of Indonesia Provinces of Indonesia are the 34 administrative division, administrative division of Indonesia and the highest tier of the local government (formerly called first-level region provinces or ). Provinces are further divided into list of regencie ...
, is home to an estimated 44 . Australia, the largest landmass in the continent, is highly
urbanised Urbanization (or urbanisation) refers to the population shift from rural A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000.">South_Karelia.html" ;"title="Lappeenranta, South Karelia">Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finla ...
, and has the world's 14th-largest economy with the second-highest
human development index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy Life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, its current age, and ot ...
globally. Australia also has the world's 9th largest immigrant population.


Human history

The Australian continent and Sunda were points of early human migrations after leaving Africa. Recent research points to a planned migration of hundreds of people using bamboo rafts, which eventually landed on Sahul.


Indigenous peoples

Indigenous Australians Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continen ...
, that is
Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific ...
and
Torres Strait Islander Torres Strait Islanders () are the Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particular pla ...
people, are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. They migrated from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago and arrived in Australia at least 50,000 years ago, based on archaeological evidence. More recent research points to earlier arrival, possibly 65,000 years ago. They are believed to be among the earliest human migrations out of Africa. There is evidence of genetic and linguistic interchange between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian peoples of modern-day
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
and the islands, but this may be the result of recent trade and intermarriage. The were found at
Lake Mungo imagery of Lake Mungo. The white line defining the eastern shore of the lake is the sand dune, or lunette, where most archaeological material has been found., alt=, 500x500px Lake Mungo is a dry lake A lake is an area filled with water, ...
, a dry lake in the southwest of New South Wales. Remains found at Mungo suggest one of the world's oldest known
cremation Cremation is a method of Disposal of human corpses, final disposition of a Cadaver, dead body through combustion, burning. Cremation may serve as a funeral or post-funeral rite and as an alternative to burial. In some countries, including India ...

cremation
s, thus indicating early evidence for religious ritual among humans.
Dreamtime The Dreaming, also referred to as Dreamtime, is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal mythology, Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Ja ...
remains a prominent feature of
Australian Aboriginal art Indigenous Australian art includes art made by Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander, Torres Strait Islander peoples, including collaborations with others. It includes works in a wide range of media including painting on leaves, bark ...
, the oldest continuing tradition of art in the world. Papuan habitation is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago in New Guinea. Trade between New Guinea and neighboring Indonesian islands was documented as early as the seventh century, and archipelagic rule of New Guinea by the 13th. At the beginning of the seventh century, the
Sumatra Sumatra is one of the Sunda Islands The Sunda Islands are a group of islands in the Malay Archipelago. They consist of the Greater Sunda Islands The Greater Sunda Islands are four tropical islands situated within Southeast Asia S ...

Sumatra
-based empire of
Srivijaya Srivijaya (, ; , ) was a Malay Malay may refer to: Languages * Malay language or Bahasa Melayu, a major Austronesian language spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore ** History of the Malay language#Old Malay, the Malay langu ...
(7th century–13th century) engaged in trade relations with western New Guinea, initially taking items like
sandalwood Sandalwood is a class of woods from trees in the genus ''Santalum''. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and, unlike many other aromatic woods, they retain their fragrance for decades. Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods for us ...

sandalwood
and
birds-of-paradise The birds-of-paradise are members of the family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of famil ...
in tribute to China, but later making slaves out of the natives. The rule of the
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...

Java
-based empire of
Majapahit The Majapahit () was a Javanese Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism.Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 ...

Majapahit
(1293–1527) extended to the western fringes of New Guinea. Recent archaeological research suggests that 50,000 years ago people may have occupied sites in the highlands at New Guinean altitudes of up to , rather than being restricted to warmer coastal areas.


Pre-colonial history

Legends of Terra Australis Incognita—an "unknown land of the South"—date back to Roman times and before, and were commonplace in medieval geography, although not based on any documented knowledge of the continent. Ancient Greek philosopher
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
speculated of a large landmass in the southern hemisphere, saying, "Now since there must be a region bearing the same relation to the southern pole as the place we live in bears to our pole...". His ideas were later expanded by
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
(2nd century AD), who believed that the lands of the
Northern Hemisphere The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remain ...

Northern Hemisphere
should be balanced by land in the
south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

south
. The theory of balancing land has been documented as early as the 5th century on maps by
Macrobius Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, usually referred to as Macrobius (fl. AD 400), was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, during Late Antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study ...

Macrobius
, who uses the term Australis on his maps.
Terra Australis Terra Australis (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be ...
, a hypothetical
continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...

continent
first posited in
antiquity Antiquity or Antiquities may refer to Historical objects or periods Artifacts * Antiquities, objects or artifacts surviving from ancient cultures Eras Any period before the European Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages ...
, appeared on maps between the 15th and 18th centuries.John Noble Wilford: The Mapmakers, the Story of the Great Pioneers in Cartography from Antiquity to Space Age, p. 139, Vintage Books, Random House 1982, Scientists, such as
Gerardus Mercator Gerardus Mercator (; 5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a 16th-century geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', lite ...

Gerardus Mercator
(1569) and
Alexander Dalrymple Alexander Dalrymple FRS (24 July 1737 – 19 June 1808) was a Scottish geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist and humanist whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human ...
as late as 1767 argued for its existence, with such arguments as that there should be a large
landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the ...
in the
south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

south
as a
counterweight 400px, Simple crane A counterweight is a weight that, by applying an opposite force, provides balance and stability of a mechanical system A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional properties. It may represent ...

counterweight
to the known landmasses in the Northern Hemisphere. The cartographic depictions of the southern continent in the 16th and early 17th centuries, as might be expected for a concept based on such abundant conjecture and minimal data, varied wildly from map to map; in general, the continent shrank as potential locations were reinterpreted. At its largest, the continent included
Tierra del Fuego #REDIRECT Tierra del Fuego#REDIRECT Tierra del Fuego Tierra del Fuego (, ; Spanish for "Land of Fire", formerly also Fireland in English) is an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cl ...

Tierra del Fuego
, separated from South America by a small strait;
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
; and what would come to be called Australia.


European exploration

In 1606 Dutch navigator
Willem Janszoon Willem Janszoon (; ), sometimes abbreviated to Willem Jansz., was a Dutch Republic, Dutch navigator and colonial governor. Janszoon served in the Dutch East Indies, Dutch East Indies in the periods 16031611 and 16121616, including as governor of ...
made the first documented European sight and landing on the continent of Australia in
Cape York Peninsula Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends. The surrounding w ...
. Dutch explorer
Abel Janszoon Tasman Abel Janszoon Tasman (; 160310 October 1659) was a Dutch seafarer, explorer Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers ...

Abel Janszoon Tasman
circumnavigated and landed on parts of the
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
n continental coast and discovered
Van Diemen's Land Van Diemen's Land was the original name of the island of Tasmania during the European exploration of Australia in the 19th century. A British settlement was established in Van Diemen's Land in 1803 before it became a separate colony in 1825. ...
(now
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
),
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
in 1642, and
Fiji Fiji ( ; fj, Viti, ; hif, फ़िजी, ''Fijī''), officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about northeast of New Zealand. Fiji consists of an archipelago ...

Fiji
islands. He was the first known European explorer to reach these islands. In the quest for
Terra Australis Terra Australis (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be ...
, Spanish explorations in the 17th century, such as the expedition led by the Portuguese navigator
Pedro Fernandes de Queirós Pedro Fernandes de Queirós ( es, Pedro Fernández de Quirós) (1563–1614) was a Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal Portugal (), officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt ...
, discovered the
Pitcairn The Pitcairn Islands (; Pitkern: '), officially the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, is a group of four volcanic A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth Earth is the third planet ...
and
Vanuatu Vanuatu ( or ; ), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (french: link=no, République de Vanuatu; Bislama Bislama (; ; also known by its earlier French name, ) is a creole language, and one of the official languages of Vanuatu. It is the fi ...

Vanuatu
archipelagos, and sailed the
Torres Strait The Torres Strait (), also known as Zenadh Kes, is a strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both s ...

Torres Strait
between
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
and
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
, named after navigator
Luís Vaz de Torres Luís Vaz de Torres ( Galician and Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal Portugal (), officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=no ), is a cou ...
, who was the first European to explore the Strait. When
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
ans first arrived, inhabitants of New Guinea and nearby islands, whose technologies included bone, wood, and stone tools, had a productive agricultural system. In 1660, the Dutch recognised the Sultan of
Tidore Tidore ( id, Kota Tidore Kepulauan, lit. "City of Tidore Islands") is a city, island, and archipelago in the Maluku Islands The Maluku Islands or the Moluccas () (''Molukken'') are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called a ...

Tidore
's sovereignty over
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
. The first known Europeans to sight New Guinea were probably the
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...
and
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
navigators sailing in the South Pacific in the early part of the 16th century. On 23 April 1770 British explorer
James Cook Captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. The captain is a milit ...

James Cook
made his first recorded direct observation of
indigenous Australians Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continen ...
at
Brush Island The Brush Island is a continental island, contained within the Brush Island Nature Reserve, a protected nature reserve A nature reserve (also known as a natural reserve, wildlife refuge, wildlife sanctuary, biosphere reserve or bioreserv ...
near
Bawley Point Bawley Point is a small coastal hamlet in New South Wales, Australia, in the Shoalhaven with a population of 698 people at the . It is located 30 minutes south of Ulladulla, New South Wales, and 30 minutes north of Batemans Bay, New South Wales, ...
. On 29 April, Cook and crew made their first landfall on the mainland of the continent at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula. It is here that James Cook made first contact with an Aboriginal tribe known as the
Gweagal The Gweagal (also spelt Gwiyagal) are a clan of the Dharawal The Dharawal, or Tharawal, people are Indigenous Australians Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia before History of Au ...
, who he fired upon, injuring one. His expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered the eastern coastline of Australia. Captain Arthur Phillip led the ''
First Fleet The First Fleet was a fleet of 11 ships A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep Sea lane, waterways, carrying goods or passengers, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, r ...
'' of 11 ships and about 850 convicts into
Sydney Sydney ( ; Dharug The Darug or Dharug people are an Aboriginal Australian people, who share strong ties of kinship and, in Colonial Australia, pre-colonial times, survived as skilled hunters in family groups or clans, scattered througho ...

Sydney
on 26 January 1788. This was to be the location for the new colony. Phillip described
Sydney Cove Sydney Cove, officially dual-named with its original Aboriginal Aborigine, aborigine or aboriginal may refer to: * Indigenous peoples, ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area **List of indigenous peoples, i ...

Sydney Cove
as being "without exception the finest harbour in the world".


Modern history

In 1883, the
Colony of Queensland The Colony of Queensland was a colony of the British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or ...

Colony of Queensland
tried to annex the southern half of eastern New Guinea, but the British government did not approve. The
Commonwealth of Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from ...
came into being when the
Federal Constitution Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...

Federal Constitution
was proclaimed by the Governor-General,
Lord Hopetoun John Adrian Louis Hope, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow, 7th Earl of Hopetoun, (25 September 1860 – 29 February 1908) was a British aristocrat and statesman who served as the first Governor-General of Australia The governor-general of Austr ...
, on 1 January 1901. From that point a system of
federalism in Australia Federalism was adopted, as a constitutional principle, in Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent ...
came into operation, entailing the establishment of an entirely new national government (the Commonwealth government) and an ongoing division of powers between that government and the States. With the encouragement of Queensland, in 1884, a British protectorate had been proclaimed over the southern coast of New Guinea and its adjacent islands.
British New Guinea The Territory of Papua comprised the southeastern quarter of the island of New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island, and with an area of , ...
was annexed outright in 1888. The possession was placed under the authority of the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia in 1902 and with passage of the Papua Act of 1905, British New Guinea became the Australian
Territory of Papua The Territory of Papua comprised the southeastern quarter of the island of New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island, and with an area of , ...

Territory of Papua
, with formal Australian administration beginning in 1906. The
bombing of Darwin The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin, on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sov ...
on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. In an effort to isolate Australia, the Japanese planned a seaborne invasion of
Port Moresby (; Tok Pisin: ''Pot Mosbi''), also referred to as Pom City or simply Moresby, is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea. It is one of the largest cities in the southwestern Pacific (along with Jayapura) outside of Australia and New Ze ...

Port Moresby
, in the Australian
Territory of New Guinea The Territory of New Guinea was an Australian-administered territory on the island of New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island, and with an ...
. Between July and November 1942, Australian forces repulsed Japanese attempts on the city by way of the
Kokoda Track The Kokoda Track or Trail is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs overland – in a straight line – through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini; tcs ...
, in the highlands of
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
. The
Battle of Buna–Gona The Battle of Buna–Gona was part of the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific war, Pacific Theatre during World War II. It followed the conclusion of the Kokoda Track campaign and lasted from 16 November 1942 until 22 January 1943. The battle was ...
, between November 1942 and January 1943, set the tone for the bitter final stages of the
New Guinea campaign The New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War lasted from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. During the initial phase in early 1942, the Empire of Japan invaded the Australian-administered Mandated Territory of New Guinea (23 Jan ...
, which persisted into 1945. The offensives in Papua and New Guinea of 1943–44 were the single largest series of connected operations ever mounted by the Australian armed forces. Following the 1998 commencement of reforms across Indonesia, Papua and other Indonesian provinces received greater regional autonomy. In 2001, "Special Autonomy" status was granted to Papua province, although to date, implementation has been partial and often criticized. The region was administered as a single province until 2003, when it was split into the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Elections in 1972 resulted in the formation of a ministry headed by Chief Minister
Michael Somare Sir Michael Thomas Somare (9 April 1936 – 26 February 2021) was a Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini; tcs, Op Deudai), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea ( tpi, Inde ...
, who pledged to lead the country to self-government and then to independence. Papua New Guinea became self-governing on 1 December 1973 and achieved independence on 16 September 1975. The country joined the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
(UN) on 10 October 1975. Migration brought large numbers of southern and central Europeans to Australia for the first time. A 1958 government leaflet assured readers that unskilled non-British migrants were needed for "labour on rugged projects ...work which is not generally acceptable to Australians or British workers". Australia fought on the side of Britain in the two
world war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newsp ...
s and became a long-standing ally of the United States when threatened by
Imperial Japan The was a historical nation-state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...
during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. Trade with Asia increased and a post-war immigration program received more than 6.5 million migrants from every continent. Supported by immigration of people from more than 200 countries since the end of World War II, the population increased to more than 23 million by 2014.


Ecology


Flora

For about 40 million years Australia–New Guinea was almost completely isolated. During this time, the continent experienced numerous changes in climate, but the overall trend was towards greater aridity. When
South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continent ...

South America
eventually separated from Antarctica, the development of the cold
Antarctic Circumpolar Current The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is an ocean current An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of sea water generated by a number of forces acting upon the water, including wind, the Coriolis effect, breaking waves, ca ...

Antarctic Circumpolar Current
changed weather patterns across the world. For Australia–New Guinea, it brought a marked intensification of the drying trend. The great inland seas and lakes dried out. Much of the long-established broad-leaf
deciduous In the fields of horticulture Horticulture is the art of cultivating plants in gardens to produce food and medicinal ingredients, or for comfort and ornamental purposes. Horticulturists are agriculturists who grow flowers, fruits and nuts, ...
forest began to give way to the distinctive hard-leaved
sclerophyllous Sclerophyll is a type of vegetation that has hard leaves A leaf (plural leaves) is the principal lateral appendage of the vascular plant plant stem, stem, usually borne above ground and specialized for photosynthesis. The leaves, stem ...
plants that characterise the modern Australian landscape. Typical Southern Hemisphere flora include the
conifer Conifers are a group of conifer cone, cone-bearing Spermatophyte, seed plants, a subset of gymnosperms. Scientifically, they make up the phylum, division Pinophyta (), also known as Coniferophyta () or Coniferae. The division contains a single e ...
s ''
Podocarpus ''Podocarpus'' () is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer ...
'' (eastern Australia and New Guinea), the rainforest emergents ''
Araucaria ''Araucaria'' (; original pronunciation: .ɾawˈka. ɾja is a genus of evergreen Pinophyta, coniferous trees in the family Araucariaceae. There are 20 extant taxon, extant species in New Caledonia (where 14 species are endemism, end ...

Araucaria
'' (eastern Australia and New Guinea), ''
Nothofagus Beech trees in New Zealand ''Nothofagus'', also known as the southern beeches, is a genus of 43 species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a ...

Nothofagus
'' (New Guinea and
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
) and ''
Agathis ''Agathis'', commonly known as kauri or dammara, is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such class ...
'' (northern
Queensland Queensland ( ) is a state situated in northeastern Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the ...

Queensland
and New Guinea), as well as
tree fern The tree ferns are the fern A fern (Polypodiopsida or Polypodiophyta ) is a member of a group of vascular plants (plants with xylem and phloem) that reproduce via spores and have neither seed A seed is an embryonic plant enclosed i ...

tree fern
s and several species of ''Eucalyptus''. Prominent features of the Australian flora are adaptations to
aridity A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in d ...

aridity
and fire which include scleromorphy and
serotiny Fire has caused minimal damage to this '' follicles and the release of seed.">follicle_(fruit).html" ;"title="Banksia serrata'' (saw banksia) fruiting structure, but has triggered the opening of the follicle (fruit)">follicles and the release of se ...
. These adaptations are common in species from the large and well-known families
Proteaceae The Proteaceae form a family (biology), family of flowering plants predominantly distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises 83 genus, genera with about 1,660 known species. Together with the Platanaceae and Nelumbonaceae, they ...

Proteaceae
(''
Banksia ''Banksia'' is a of around 170 in the . These n s and popular s are easily recognised by their characteristic flower spikes and fruiting "cones" and heads. ''Banksias'' range in size from prostrate woody s to trees up to 30 metres tall. They ...

Banksia
''),
Myrtaceae Myrtaceae or the myrtle family is a family of dicotyledonous plants placed within the order Myrtales. Myrtus, Myrtle, Metrosideros, pōhutukawa, Pimenta racemosa, bay rum tree, clove, guava, Acca (plant), acca (feijoa), allspice, and eucalyptus a ...
(''
Eucalyptus ''Eucalyptus'' () is a of over seven hundred species of s, shrubs or in the , Myrtaceae. Along with several other genera in the , including ', they are commonly known as s. Plants in the genus ''Eucalyptus'' have bark that is either smooth, ...

Eucalyptus
'' or gum trees, ''
Melaleuca ''Melaleuca'' () is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including ...

Melaleuca
s'' and ''
Callistemon ''Callistemon'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), c ...

Callistemon
s''),
Fabaceae The Fabaceae or Leguminosae,International Code of Nomenc ...

Fabaceae
(''
Acacia ''Acacia'', commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of nam ...

Acacia
''s or wattles and ''
Casuarina ''Casuarina'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including th ...

Casuarina
'' or she-oaks) and ''
Grevillea ''Grevillea'' is a diverse genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also ...

Grevillea
s'', which are typically found in the Australian mainland. The flora of New Guinea is a mixture of many
tropical rainforest Tropical rainforests are rainforest Rainforests are characterized by a closed and continuous tree canopy Canopy may refer to: Plants * Canopy (biology), aboveground portion of plant community or crop (including forests) * Canopy (grape ...

tropical rainforest
species with origins in Asia, such as '' Castanopsis acuminatissima,'' ''Lithocarpus'' spp., Elaeocarpaceae, elaeocarps, and Lauraceae, laurels, together with typically Australasian flora. In the New Guinean highlands, conifers such as ''Dacrycarpus, Dacrydium, Papuacedrus'' and ''Libocedrus'' are present. For many species, the primary refuge was the relatively cool and well-watered Great Dividing Range. Even today, pockets of remnant vegetation remain in the cool uplands, some species not much changed from the Gondwanan forms of 60 or 90 million years ago. Eventually, the Australia–New Guinea tectonic plate collided with the Eurasian plate to the north. The collision caused the northern part of the continent to buckle upwards, forming the high and rugged mountains of New Guinea and, by reverse (downwards) buckling, the
Torres Strait The Torres Strait (), also known as Zenadh Kes, is a strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both s ...

Torres Strait
that now separates the two main landmasses. The collision also pushed up the islands of Wallacea, which served as island 'stepping-stones' that allowed plants from Southeast Asia's rainforests to colonise New Guinea, and some plants from Australia–New Guinea to move into Southeast Asia. The ocean straits between the islands were narrow enough to allow plant dispersal, but served as an effective barrier to exchange of land mammals between Australia–New Guinea and Asia. Among the fungi, the remarkable association between ''Cyttaria'' ''gunnii'' (one of the "golf-ball" fungi) and its associated trees in the genus ''
Nothofagus Beech trees in New Zealand ''Nothofagus'', also known as the southern beeches, is a genus of 43 species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a ...

Nothofagus
'' is evidence of that drift: the only other places where this association is known are New Zealand and southern Argentina and Chile.


Fauna

Due to the spread of animals, fungi and plants across the single Pleistocene landmass the separate lands have a related biome, biota. There are over 300 bird species in West Papua, of which at least 20 are unique to the ecoregion, and some live only in very restricted areas. These include the grey-banded munia, Vogelkop bowerbird, and the king bird-of-paradise.WWF: Bird wonders of New Guinea's western-most province
retrieved 11 May 2010
Australia has a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals of Australia, mammals, 89% of reptiles of Australia, reptiles, 24% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia.Williams, J. et al. 2001
''Biodiversity, Australia State of the Environment Report 2001'' (Theme Report)
CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.
This high level of endemism can be attributed to the continent's long geographic isolation, plate tectonics, tectonic stability, and the effects of an unusual pattern of climate change on the soil and Flora of Australia, flora over geological time. Australia and its territories are home to around 800 species of bird; 45% of these are endemic to Australia. Predominant bird species in Australia include the Australian magpie, Australian raven, the pied currawong, crested pigeons and the laughing kookaburra. The koala, emu, platypus and kangaroo are national animals of Australia, and the Tasmanian devil is also one of the well-known animals in the country. The goanna is a predatory lizard native to the Australian mainland. As the continent drifted north from Antarctica, a unique Fauna (animals), fauna, Flora (plants), flora and Fungi, mycobiota developed. Marsupials and monotremes also existed on other continents, but only in Australia–New Guinea did they out-compete the Placentalia, placental mammals and come to dominate. New Guinea has 284 species and six orders of mammals: monotremes, three orders of marsupials, rodents and bats; 195 of the mammal species (69%) are endemic. New Guinea has a rich diversity of coral life and 1,200 species of fish have been found. Also about 600 species of reef-building coral—the latter equal to 75 percent of the world's known total. New Guinea has 578 species of breeding birds, of which 324 species are endemic. Aves, Bird life also flourished – in particular, the songbirds (order Passerine, Passeriformes, suborder Passeri) are thought to have evolved 50 million years ago in the part of
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (ge ...

Gondwana
that later became
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
, New Zealand,
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
, and
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oc ...

Antarctica
, before radiating into a great number of different forms and then spreading around the globe. Animal groups such as Macropodidae, macropods, monotremes, and Cassowary, cassowaries are endemic to Australia. There were three main reasons for the enormous diversity that developed in animal, fungal and plant life. * While much of the rest of the world underwent significant cooling and thus loss of species diversity, Australia–New Guinea was drifting north at such a pace that the overall global cooling effect was roughly equalled by its gradual movement toward the equator. Temperatures in Australia–New Guinea, in other words, remained reasonably constant for a very long time, and a vast number of different animal, fungal and plant species were able to evolve to fit particular ecological niches. * Because the continent was more isolated than any other, very few outside species arrived to colonise, and unique native forms developed unimpeded. * Finally, despite the fact that the continent was already very old and thus relatively infertile, there are dispersed areas of high fertility. Where other continents had Volcanism, volcanic activity and/or massive Glacier, glaciation events to turn over fresh, unleached Rock (geology), rocks rich in minerals, the rocks and soils of Australia–New Guinea were left largely untouched except by gradual erosion and deep weathering. In general, fertile soils produce a profusion of life, and a relatively large number of species/level of biodiversity. This is because where nutrients are plentiful, competition is largely a matter of outcompeting rival species, leaving great scope for innovative co-evolution as is witnessed in tropical, fertile ecosystems. In contrast, infertile soils tend to induce competition on an abiotic basis meaning individuals all face constant environmental pressures, leaving less scope for divergent evolution, a process instrumental in creating new species. Although New Guinea is the most northerly part of the continent, and could be expected to be the most tropical climate, tropical in climate, the altitude of the New Guinea highlands is such that a great many animals and plants that were once common across Australia–New Guinea now survive only in the tropical highlands where they are severely threatened by population growth.


Climate

In New Guinea, the climate is mostly monsoonal (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October), and tropical rainforest climate, tropical rainforest with slight seasonal temperature variation. In lower altitudes, the temperature is around 80 °F (27 °C) year round. But the higher altitudes, such as Mendi, are constantly around 70 °F (21 °C) with cool lows nearing 52 °F (11 °C), with abundant rainfall and high humidity. The
New Guinea Highlands The New Guinea Highlands, also known as the Central Range or Central Cordillera, is a long chain of mountain ranges on the island of New Guinea, including the island's tallest peak, Puncak Jaya , the highest mountain in Oceania. The range is home t ...
are one of the few regions close to the equator that experience snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland. Some areas in the island experience an extraordinary amount of precipitation, averaging roughly of rainfall annually. The Australian landmass's climate is mostly desert or Semi-arid climate, semi-arid, with the southern coastal corners having a Temperateness, temperate climate, such as oceanic climate, oceanic and humid subtropical climate in the east coast and Mediterranean climate in the west. The northern parts of the country have a tropical climate. Snow falls frequently on the Great Dividing Range, highlands near the east coast, in the states of Victoria (Australia), Victoria, New South Wales,
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
and in the Australian Capital Territory. Temperatures in Australia have ranged from above to well below . Nonetheless, minimum temperatures are moderated. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is associated with seasonal abnormality in many areas in the world. Australia is one of the continents most affected and experiences Drought in Australia, extensive droughts alongside considerable wet periods.


Demography


Religion

Christianity is the predominant religion in the continent, although large proportions of Australians belong to Irreligion, no religion.Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020 Society, Religion, and Mission
Center for the Study of Global Christianity
Other religions in the region include Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, which are prominent minority religions in Australia. Traditional religions are often Animism, animist, found in New Guinea. Islam is widespread in the Indonesian New Guinea. Many Papuans Religious syncretism, combine their Christian faith with traditional indigenous beliefs and practices.


Languages

"Aboriginal Australian languages", including the large Pama–Nyungan family, "Papuan languages" of
New Guinea New Guinea (; : ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, historically ) is the , and with an area of , the largest island in the . Located in in the southwestern , it is separated by the wide from . Numerous smaller islands are located to the west and east ...

New Guinea
and neighbouring islands, including the large Trans–New Guinea family, and "Tasmanian languages" are generic terms for the native languages of the continent other than those of Austronesian languages, Austronesian family. Predominant languages include English language, English in Australia, Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, and Indonesian language, Indonesian (Malay) in Indonesian New Guinea. Immigration to Australia have brought overseas languages such as Italian language, Italian, Greek language, Greek, Arabic language, Arabic, Filipino language, Filipino, Mandarin language, Mandarin, Vietnamese language, Vietnamese and Spanish language, Spanish, among others. Contact between Austronesian and Papuan resulted in several instances in mixed languages such as Maisin language, Maisin. Tok Pisin is an English creole language spoken in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with over 820 indigenous languages, representing 12% of the world's total, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers.


Immigration

Since 1945, more than 7 million people have settled in Australia. From the late 1970s, there was a significant increase in immigration from Asian and other non-European countries, making Australia a Multiculturalism in Australia, multicultural country. Sydney is the most multicultural city in Oceania, having more than 250 different languages spoken with about 40 percent of residents speaking a Languages Other Than English, language other than English at home. Furthermore, 36 percent of the population reported having been foreign born, born overseas, with top countries being Italy, Lebanon, Vietnam and Iraq, among others. Melbourne is also fairly multicultural, having the largest Greek community of Melbourne, Greek-speaking population outside of
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
, and the second largest Asian Australians, Asian population in Australia after Sydney.


Economy

Australia is the only first world country in the Australian-New Guinea continent, although the economy of Australia is by far the largest and most dominant economy in the region and one of the largest in the world. Australia's per-capita GDP is List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita, higher than that of the UK, Canada, Germany, and France in terms of purchasing power parity. The Australian Securities Exchange in
Sydney Sydney ( ; Dharug The Darug or Dharug people are an Aboriginal Australian people, who share strong ties of kinship and, in Colonial Australia, pre-colonial times, survived as skilled hunters in family groups or clans, scattered througho ...

Sydney
is the largest List of stock exchanges in Oceania, stock exchange in Australia and in the South Pacific. In 2012, Australia was the 12th largest national economy by nominal GDP and the 19th-largest measured by Purchasing power parity, PPP-adjusted GDP. Tourism in Australia is an important component of the Australian economy. In the financial year 2014/15, tourism represented 3.0% of
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
's Gross domestic product, GDP contributing A$47.5 billion to the national economy. In 2015, there were 7.4 million visitor arrivals. Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranks Sydney tenth in the world in terms of quality of living, making it one of the world's most livable cities, most livable cities. It is classified as an Alpha+ World City by Globalization and World Cities Research Network, GaWC. Melbourne also ranked highly in the World's Most Livable Cities, world's most liveable city list, and is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region. Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources, which account for two-thirds of their export earnings. Though PNG is filled with resources, the lack of country's development led foreign countries to take over few sites and continued foreign demand for PNG's resources and as a result, the United States constructed an oil company and began to export in 2004 and this was the largest project in PNG's history. Papua New Guinea is classified as a Developing country, developing economy by the International Monetary Fund. Strong growth in Mining in Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea's mining and resource sector led to the country becoming the sixth List of countries by real GDP growth rate, fastest-growing economy in the world in 2011.


Politics

Australia is a federalism, federal parliamentary system, parliamentary constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II at its apex as the Monarchy of Australia, Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in Australia by the Governor-General at the federal level and by the Governors of the Australian states, Governors at the state level, who by convention act on the advice of her ministers. There are two major political groups that usually form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition (Australia), Coalition which is a formal grouping of the Liberal Party of Australia, Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party of Australia, National Party. Within Australian political culture, the Coalition is considered centre-right and the Labor Party is considered centre-left. Papua New Guinea is a Commonwealth realm. As such, Queen Elizabeth II is its sovereign and head of state. The constitutional convention, which prepared the draft constitution, and Australia, the outgoing metropolitan power, had thought that Papua New Guinea would not remain a monarchy. The founders, however, considered that imperial honours had a cachet. The monarch is represented by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, currently Bob Dadae. Papua New Guinea (along with the Solomon Islands) is unusual among Commonwealth realms in that governors-general are elected by the legislature, rather than chosen by the executive branch.


Culture

Since 1788, the primary influence behind Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture, with some Indigenous Australians, Indigenous influences. The divergence and evolution that has occurred in the ensuing centuries has resulted in a distinctive Australian culture. Since the mid-20th century, Culture of the United States, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema.#Teo, Teo and White, pp. 121–23. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations. The Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne are the oldest and List of largest art museums, largest museums in the continent, as well as in
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Eart ...

Oceania
.National Gallery of Victoria – Victorian Heritage Register Sydney's Sydney New Year's Eve, New Year's Eve celebrations are the largest in the continent. It is estimated that more than 7000 different cultural groups exist in Papua New Guinea, and most groups have their own language. Because of this diversity, in which they take pride, many different styles of cultural expression have emerged; each group has created its own expressive forms in art, performance art, weaponry, costumes and architecture. Papua New Guinea is one of the few cultures in Oceania to practice the tradition of bride price. In particular, Papua New Guinea is world-famous for carved wooden sculpture: masks, canoes, story-boards. Australia has a tradition of Aboriginal art which is thousands of years old, the best known forms being rock art and bark painting. Evidence of Aboriginal art in Australia can be traced back at least 30,000 years. Examples of ancient Aboriginal rock artworks can be found throughout the continent – notably in national parks such as those of the UNESCO listed sites at Uluru and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, but also within Sydney rock engravings, protected parks in urban areas such as at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. Aboriginal culture includes a number of practices and ceremonies centered on a belief in the
Dreamtime The Dreaming, also referred to as Dreamtime, is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal mythology, Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Ja ...
. Reverence for the land and oral traditions are emphasized.


Sport

Popular sports in Papua New Guinea include various codes of football (rugby league, rugby union, soccer, and Australian rules football), cricket, volleyball, softball, netball, and basketball. Other Olympic Games, Olympic sports are also gaining popularity, such as boxing and Olympic weightlifting, weightlifting. Rugby league is the most popular sport in Papua New Guinea (especially in the highlands), which also unofficially holds the title as the ''national sport''. The most popular sport in Australia is cricket, the most popular sport among Australian women is netball, while Australian rules football is the most popular sport in terms of spectatorship and television ratings. Australia has hosted two Summer Olympic Games: 1956 Summer Olympics, Melbourne 1956 and 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney 2000. Australia has also hosted five editions of the Commonwealth Games (1938 British Empire Games, Sydney 1938, 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Perth 1962, 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane 1982, 2006 Commonwealth Games, Melbourne 2006, and 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast 2018). In 2006 Socceroo, Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation and qualified for the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2014 World Cups as an Asian entrant.


See also

*
Australian Plate The Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate in the eastern hemisphere, eastern and, largely, southern hemisphere, southern hemispheres. Originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana, Australia remained connected to Indian plate, India ...
* List of islands in the Pacific Ocean * Outline of Australia * Paleoclimatology


References


Bibliography

* {{Authority control Australia (continent), Continents Oceania Asia-Pacific Pacific Ocean Southern Ocean Indian Ocean