States and territories of Australia

The states and territories of Australia are the second level of government division in Australia, between the federal government and local governments. States and territories are self-administered regions with a local legislature, police force and certain civil authorities, and are represented in the Parliament of Australia. Territories though, unlike states, rely on federal legislation and additional financial contributions to operate, and have less representation in the Senate.
There are six states of Australia: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia; and three internal territories: the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and the Jervis Bay Territory. In total, there are ten territories of Australia, with internal territories being on the Australian mainland, and external territories being sovereign territory offshore. Every state and internal territory, excluding Jervis Bay, has its own executive government, legislative branch, and judicial system. The external territories of Australia are: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island.
State and territory governments have executive authority to legislate on matters concerning their citizens, with the only limitations being on subjects of national importance, such as defence and foreign policy. Each state and internal territory also has its own legislature, although the federal government can overwrite any territory legislation. The federal High Court of Australia acts as a final court of appeal for all matters and has the authority to override any state judiciary. While all states and internal territories have their own judicial system, which is subject to appeal from the High Court, most external territories are subject to the judiciary and legislature of either a state or internal territory. Excluding the Australian Antarctic Territory, all external territories are governed by the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.
Each state of Australia is a successor to historical Australian colonies under British governance, and has its own constitution. The ACT and Northern Territory for the most part operate indistinguishably from states. The Jervis Bay Territory is considered as part of the ACT for almost all intents and purposes. Up until 2015, Norfolk Island was also a self-governing territory, like the ACT.

Geography of Australia

Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea, and from New Zealand by the Tasman Sea. The world's smallest continent, Australia is also the sixth largest country by land area and sometimes considered the world's largest island. Australia has a mainland coastline of and claims an Exclusive Economic Zone of.

Statistical divisions

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' Australian Statistical Geography Standard describes several main statistical divisions of Australia:
The ABS also defines other divisions such as the Greater Capital City Statistical Area Structure, Significant Urban Area Structure, Remoteness Structure, and Indigenous Structure. Other non-ABS divisions include Local Government Areas, Postal Areas, electoral divisions, and tourism regions.

States and territories

Area Seats in House of RepresentativesAdministratorShire President or Mayor
Ashmore and Cartier IslandsNone
Australian Antarctic TerritoryAQNone
Christmas IslandWACXFlying Fish Cove1938135'Natasha GriggsGordon Thompson
Cocos IslandsWACCWest Island54714'Natasha GriggsSeri Wati Iku
Coral Sea IslandsNone
Heard Island and McDonald IslandsHMNone
Norfolk IslandNSWNFKingston175835Eric HutchinsonRobin Adams

At Federation in 1901, what is now the Northern Territory was within South Australia, what are now the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory were within New South Wales, and Coral Sea Islands was part of Queensland. Ashmore and Cartier Islands was accepted by Australia in 1934 and was annexed to the Northern Territory prior to adoption of the Statute of Westminster in 1942, deemed effective from 1939; it has thus become part of Australia.
The Cocos Islands voted for integration in 1984. Together with Christmas Island, Commonwealth laws apply automatically to the territory unless expressly stated otherwise and residents of both external territories are associated with Northern Territory for federal elections. They are, thus, constitutionally part of Australia.
Uninhabited Heard Island and McDonald Islands is treated as constitutionally part of Australia by the central government.
The constitutional status of the Australian Antarctic Territory is unclear, with successive governments treating it either as a separate territory or an integral part of the country., the present government appears to take the view that it is not constitutionally part of Australia.
Norfolk Island's status is controversial, with the present government taking measures to integrate the territory into Australia proper. The Norfolk Islanders have not formally consented to this change in constitutional status and assert that they are not Australian.

Former territories

Internal territories

Three territories established by the federal government under section 122 of the Constitution of Australia no longer exist:
Two present-day countries, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, were administered by the federal government of Australia as de facto and/or de jure external territories, for differing periods, between 1902 and 1975. Nauru and parts of PNG were previously part of the German colonial empire.
Papua & New Guinea, 1883–1949
In 1949, the combined Territory of Papua and New Guinea was created, although both the two territories remained technically distinct, for some administrative and legal purposes, until 1975, when the combined entity became independent.
Nauru, 1920–1968
The Australian government received a League of Nations mandate for Nauru, following World War I.
Following World War II, Papua, New Guinea and Nauru were controlled by the Australian government as United Nations trust territories. The Papua and New Guinea Act 1949 placed the Territory of New Guinea in an "administrative union" with the Territory of Papua. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea was eventually given independence as Papua New Guinea in 1975. Nauru was granted independence in 1968.

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, the Colony of Western Australia, the Province of South Australia, the Colony of New Zealand, the Victoria Colony and the Colony of Queensland. 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.
Most of the territories are directly administered by the Commonwealth Government, while two 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 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 monarch, 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, 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. 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 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.
The term "interstate" is used within Australia to refer to a number of events, transactions, registrations, travel, etc. which occurs across borders or outside of the particular state or territory of the user of the term. Examples of use include motor vehicle registration, travel, applications to educational institutions out of one's home state.
There are very few urban areas bifurcated by state/territory borders. The Queensland/New South Wales border runs through Coolangatta and Tweed Heads and splits Gold Coast Airport. Oaks Estate, a contiguous residential of Queanbeyan, was excised out of New South Wales when the Australian Capital Territory was established in 1909. Some Urban Centres and Localities reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics include some agglomerations of cities spreading across state lines, including Gold Coast–Tweed Heads, Canberra–Queanbeyan, Albury–Wodonga and Mildura–Wentworth


Governors and administrators of states and territories

Governor of Queensland
Governor of South Australia
Governor of Tasmania
Governor of Victoria
Governor of Western Australia
Governor of New South Wales
Administrator of the Northern Territory
Administrator of Norfolk Island
Administrator of Australian Indian Ocean Territories

Premiers and chief ministers of states and territories

PostIncumbentPolitical partyAppointed
Premier of New South Wales Liberal
Premier of Queensland Labor
Premier of South Australia MHALiberal
Premier of Tasmania Liberal
Premier of Victoria Labor
Premier of Western Australia MLALabor
Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory MLA Labor
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory MLALabor
Mayor of Norfolk Island CouncilCouncillor Robin Adams-
Presidents of Australian Indian Ocean Territories:




State and territorial parliaments

State and territory codes