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Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continentmarker. Australia's largest state and the second largest subnational entity in the world, it has 2.2 million inhabitants (10% of the national total), 85% of whom live in the south-west corner of the state.

The state's capital city is Perthmarker. The people of Western Australia are often colloquially referred to as sandgropers, the common name of an insect found on sand dunes around Perth.


Western Australia is bounded by South Australiamarker and the Northern Territorymarker to the east, and the Indian Oceanmarker to the west and north. In Australia, the body of water south of the continent is officially gazetted as the Southern Oceanmarker, whereas the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) designates it as part of the Indian Ocean.

The total distance of the state's eastern borders is 1,862 km, and there is 12,889 km of coastline. The total land area occupied by the state is 2.5 million km2.

Natural history


The bulk of Western Australia consists of the extremely old Yilgarn craton and Pilbara craton which merged with the Deccan Plateaumarker of Indiamarker, Madagascarmarker and the Karoo and Zimbabwemarker cratons of Southern Africa, in the Archean Eon to form Ur, one of the oldest supercontinents on Earth (3,200 – 3,000 million years ago).

Because the only mountain-building since then has been of the Stirling Range with the rifting from Antarcticamarker, the land is extremely eroded and ancient, with no part of the state above 1,245 metres (4,085 ft) AHD (at Mount Meharrymarker in the Hamersley Rangemarker of the Pilbaramarker region). Most parts of the state form a low plateau with an average elevation of about 400 metres (1,200 ft), very low relief, and no surface runoff. This descends relatively sharply to the coastal plains, in some cases forming a sharp escarpment (as with the Darling Range/Darling Scarp near Perth).

The extreme age of the landscape has meant that the soils are remarkably infertile and frequently laterised. Even soils derived from granitic bedrock contain an order of magnitude less available phosphorus and only half as much nitrogen as soils in comparable climates in other continents. Soils derived from extensive sandplains or ironstone are even less fertile, being even more devoid of soluble phosphate and also deficient in zinc, copper, molybdenum and sometimes potassium and calcium.

[[Image:WAHighways.png|thumb|left|240px|Western Australian cities, towns, settlements and

road network]]The infertility of most of the soils has required heavy inputs of chemical fertilisers, particularly superphosphate, insecticides and herbicides, which—with the ensuing damage to invertebrate and bacterial populations, and compaction of soils through heavy machinery and hoofed mammals—has done great damage to the fragile soils.

Large-scale land clearing for agriculture and forestry has damaged habitats for native flora and fauna. As a result, the South West region of the state has a higher concentration of rare, threatened or endangered flora and fauna than many areas of Australia, making it one of the world's biodiversity "hot spots". Large areas of the state's wheatbelt region have problems with dryland salinity and the loss of fresh water.


The southwest coastal area is relatively temperate and was originally heavily forested, including large stands of the karri, one of the tallest trees in the world. This agricultural region of Western Australia is in the top nine terrestrial habitats for terrestrial biodiversity, with a higher proportion of endemic species than most other equivalent regions. Thanks to the offshore Leeuwin Current the area numbers in the top six regions for marine biodiversity, containing the most southerly coral reefs in the world.
Hay Street, Perth

Average annual rainfall varies from 300 millimetres (12 in) at the edge of the Wheatbeltmarker region to 1,400 millimetres (55 in) in the wettest areas near Northcliffemarker, but in the months of November to March evaporation exceeds rainfall, and it is generally very dry. Plants must be adapted to this as well as the extreme poverty of all soils. A major reduction in winter rainfall has been observed since the mid-1970s, with a greater number of extreme rainfall events in the summer months.

The central four-fifths of the state is semiarid or desert and is lightly inhabited with the only significant activity being mining. Annual rainfall averages 200–250 millimetres (8–10 in), most of which occurs in sporadic torrential falls related to cyclone events in summer months.

An exception to this is the northern tropical regions. The Kimberleymarker has an extremely hot monsoonal climate with average annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 1,500 millimetres (20–60 in), but there is a very long almost rainless season from April to November. Eighty-five percent of the state's runoff occurs in the Kimberley, but because it occurs in violent floods and because of the insurmountable poverty of the generally shallow soils, the only development has taken place along the Ord Rivermarker.

Occurrence of snow in the state is rare, and typically only in the Stirling Range near Albanymarker, as it is the only mountain range far enough south and with sufficient elevation. More rarely, snow can fall on the nearby Porongurup Rangemarker. Snow outside these areas is a major event; it usually occurs in hilly areas of southwestern Australia. The most widespread low-level snow occurred on 26 June 1956 when snow was reported in the Perth Hills, as far north as Wongan Hillsmarker and as far east as Salmon Gumsmarker. However, even in the Stirling Range, snowfalls rarely exceed 5 cm (2 in) and rarely settle for more than one day.

The highest observed maximum temperature of 50.5 °C (122.9 °F) was recorded at Mardie, Pilbara, 61.6 kilometres (38.3 mi) from Barrow Islandmarker on 19 February 1998. The lowest minimum temperature recorded was -7.2 °C (19.0 °F) at Eyre Bird Observatorymarker on 17 August 2008.


Western Australia is home to around 540 species of birds (depending on the taxonomy used). Of these around 15 are endemic to the state. The best areas for birds are the southwestern corner of the state and the area around Broome and the Kimberley.

The Flora of Western Australia comprises 9437 published native vascular plant species of 1543 genera within 226 families, there are also 1171 naturalised alien or invasive plant species more commonly known as weeds. In the southwest region are some of the largest numbers of plant species for its area in the world.

William Henry Harvey published a five-volume Phycologia Australia which was issued in parts between 1858 and 1863. He earned the title of father of Australian Phycology. His main collection is in the herbarium of Trinity College Dublinmarker, there is also a large collection of his specimens in the Ulster Museummarker, Belfast.


The first inhabitants of Australia arrived from the north approximately 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Over thousands of years they eventually spread across the whole landmass. These Indigenous Australians were well established throughout Western Australia by the time of European explorers began to arrive in the early seventeenth century.

The first European to visit Western Australia was a Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog who on 26 October 1616 landed at what is now known as Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Islandmarker. For the rest of the 17th century, many other Dutch travellers enountered the coast, usually unintentionally. By the late 18th century, British and French sailors had begun to explore the Western Australian coast.

The origins of the present state began with the establishment of a British settlement at King George Soundmarker in 1826 (later named Albanymarker from 1832). The settlement was founded in response to British concerns about the possibility of a French colony being established on the coast of Western Australia.
Western Australian flag at the State War Memorial, Kings Park

In 1829, the Swan River Colony was established on the Swan River by Captain James Stirling. By 1832, the British settler population of the colony had reached around 1,500. The two separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantlemarker and the state's capital, Perth.

Population growth was very slow until significant discoveries of gold were made in the 1890s around Kalgoorliemarker.

In 1887, a new constitution was drafted, providing for the right of self-governance and in 1890, the act granting self-government to the colony was passed by the British House of Commonsmarker. John Forrest became the first Premier of Western Australia.

In 1896, the Western Australian Parliament authorised the raising of a loan to construct a pipeline to transport five million gallons of water per day to the goldfields of Western Australia. The pipeline, known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, was completed in 1903. C.Y. O'Connor, Western Australia's first engineer-in-chief, designed and oversaw the construction of the pipeline. It carries water 530 km (330 miles) from |Perth to Kalgoorliemarker, and is attributed by historians as an important factor driving the state's population and economic growth.

Following a campaign led by Forrest, residents of the Swan River Colony voted in favour of federation, resulting in Western Australia officially becoming a state on 1 January 1901.


Western Australia's capital city, Perth, on the Swan River.
Its metropolitan area is home to 75% of the state's population

The first inhabitants of what is now Western Australia were Indigenous Australians, from a wide variety of language and kin groups—for example, the Nyungah in the southwest, the Wongai in the central desert, the Malkana in Shark Baymarker. These groups continue to form the majority of the local population in the remotest parts of the state such as the Kimberleymarker.

Europeans began to settle permanently in 1826 when Albanymarker was claimed by Britain in order to forestall French claims to the western third of the continent. Perth was founded as the Swan River Colony in 1829 by British and Irish settlers, though the outpost languished, eventually requesting convict labour to augment its population. In the 1890s, interstate migration resulting from a mining boom in the Goldfields regionmarker resulted in a sharp population increase.

Western Australia did not receive significant flows of migrants from Britain, Ireland or elsewhere in the British Empire until the early 20th century when local projects—such as the Group Settlement Scheme of the 1920s which encouraged farmers to settle the southwest—increased awareness of Australia's western third as a destination for colonists.

Led by migrants from the British Isles, Western Australia's population developed at a faster rate during the twentieth century it had previously. Along with the eastern states, Western Australia received large numbers of Italians, Croatians and Greeks after World War II. Despite this, Britain has contributed the greatest number of migrants to this day, and Western Australia—particularly Perth—has the highest proportion of British-born of any state: 10.6% in 2006, compared to a national average of 5.3%. This group is heavily concentrated in certain parts where they account for a quarter of the population.

Distribution of the Western Australian population

In terms of ethnicity, the 2001 census data reveals that 77.5% of Western Australia's population is of European descent: the largest single group was those reporting English ethnicity, accounting for 733,783 responses (32.7%), followed by Australian with 624,259 (27.8%), Irish with 171,667 (7.6%), Italian with 96,721 (4.3%), Scottish with 62,781 (2.8%), German with 51,672 (2.3%) and Chinese with 48,894 responses (2.2%). There were 58,496 Indigenous Australians in Western Australia in 2001, forming 3.1% of the population.

In terms of birthplace, according to the 2006 census 27.1% of the population were born overseas—higher than the Australian average of 22.2%. 8.9% of West Australians were born in England, 2.4% in New Zealand, 1.2% in Scotland, 1.1% in South Africa, and 1.1% in Italy.

Perth's metropolitan area had an estimated population of 1.55 million in 2007 (75% of the state). Other significant population centres include Mandurahmarker (78,612), Bunburymarker (32,499), Kalgoorliemarker (28,242), Albanymarker (25,196), Geraldtonmarker (31,553), Port Hedlandmarker (14,000), and Broomemarker (14,436).


Western Australia's economy is largely driven by extraction and processing of a diverse range of mineral and petroleum commodities. The structure of the economy is closely linked to the abundance of natural resources found in the State, providing a comparative advantage in resource extraction and processing. As a consequence:
  • the Western Australian economy is more capital-intensive than all the other states.
  • Gross state product per person ($60,845) is the highest of all states (2007 national average was $47,610)
  • Diversification (ie a greater range of commodities) over the past 15 years has provided a more balanced production base and less reliance on just a few major export markets, insulating the economy from fluctuations in world prices (eg high oil and gas prices help sustain export income when prices of other commodities such as alumina and nickel fall)
  • There has been strong growth in the services (finance, insurance and property) and construction sector, which have increased their share of economic output.
  • Recent growth in global demand for minerals and petroleum, especially in China (iron-ore) and Japan (for LNG), has ensured economic growth above the national average.

Western Australia's overseas exports accounted for 36% of the nation's total. The state's major export commodies include iron-ore, alumina, crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), nickel, gold, ammonia, wheat, wool, and live sheep and cattle.

Western Australia is a major extractor of bauxite, which is also processed into alumina at three refineries providing more than 20% of total world production. It is the world's third-largest iron-ore producer (15% of the world's total) and extracts 75% of Australia's 240 tonnes of gold. Diamonds are extracted at Argyle diamond minemarker in far north of the Kimberley region. Coal mined at Colliemarker is the main fuel for baseload electricity generation in the state's south-west.
Western Australia's resource commodity mix
Agricultural production in WA is a major contributor to the state and national economy. Although tending to be highly seasonal, 2006-07 wheat production in WA was nearly 10 million tonnes, accounting for almost half the nation's total. and providing $1.7 billion in export income. Other significant farm output includes barley, peas, wool, lamb and beef. There is a high level of overseas demand for imports of live animals from WA, driven mainly by South East Asia's feedlots and Middle Eastern countries, where cultural and religious traditions and a lack of storage and refrigeration facilitites favour live animals over imports of processed meat. Approximately 50% of Australia's live cattle exports come from Western Australia.

Resource sector growth in recent years has resulted in significant labour and skills shortages, leading to recent efforts by the state government to encourage interstate and overseas migration. According to the 2006 census, the median individual income was A$500 per week in Western Australia (compared to A$466 in Australia as a whole). The median family income was A$1246 per week (compared to A$1171 for Australia). Recent growth has also contributed to significant rises in average property values in 2006, although values plateaued in 2007. Perth property prices are still the second highest in Australia behind Sydney, and high rental prices continue to be a problem.

Located south of Perth, the heavy industrial area of Kwinana has the nation's largest oil refinery which produces petrol and diesel for local consumption, along with iron, alumina, and nickel processing plants, port facilities for grain exports, and support industries for mining and petroleum such as heavy and light engineering, and metal fabrication. Shipbuilding (eg Austal Ships) and associated support industries are found at nearby Hendersonmarker, just south of Fremantle. Significant secondary industries include cement and building product manufacturing, flour milling, food processing, animal feed production, automotive body building, and printing.

In recent years, tourism has grown in importance, with significant numbers of visitors to the state coming from the UK and Ireland (28%), other European countries (14%) Singapore (16%), Japan (10%) and Malaysia (8%). Revenue from tourism is a strong economic driver in many of the smaller population centres outside of Perth, especially in coastal locations.

Western Australia has a significant fishing industry. Products for local consumption and export include Western Rock Lobsters, prawns, crabs, shark and tuna, as well as pearl fishing in the Kimberley region of the state. Processing is conducted along the west coast. Whaling was a key marine industry but ceased at Albany in 1978.


Government House, Western Australia

Western Australia was granted self-government in 1889 with a bicameral Parliament located in Perth, consisting of the Legislative Assembly (or lower house), which has 59 members; and the Legislative Council (or upper house), which has 36 members. Suffrage is universal and compulsory for citizens over 18 years of age.

With the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, Western Australia became a state within Australia's federal structure; this involved ceding certain powers to the Commonwealth (or Federal) government in accordance with the Constitution; all powers not specifically granted to the Commonwealth remained solely with the State, however over time the Commonwealth has effectively expanded its powers through increasing control of taxation and financial distribution.

Whilst the sovereign of Western Australia is the Queen of Australia (Queen Elizabeth II), and executive power nominally vested in her State representative the Governor (currently Ken Michael), executive power rests with the premier and ministers drawn from the party or coalition of parties holding a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. The current Premier is Colin Barnett.


Secessionism has been a recurring feature of Western Australia's political landscape since shortly after European settlement in 1826. Western Australia was the most reluctant participant in the Commonwealth of Australia. Western Australia did not participate in the earliest federation conference. Longer-term residents of Western Australia were generally opposed to federation; however, the discovery of gold brought many immigrants from other parts of Australia. It was these residents, primarily in Kalgoorlie but also in Albany who voted to join the Commonwealth, and the proposal of these areas being admitted separately under the name Auralia was considered.

In a referendum in April 1933, 68% of voters voted for the state to leave the Commonwealth of Australia with the aim of returning to the British Empire as an autonomous territory. The State Government sent a delegation to Westminstermarker, but the British Government refused to intervene and therefore no action was taken to implement this decision.

Since the 1930s, no action has been taken to further the cause of secession in the public arena.


Education in Western Australia consists of one year of pre-school at age 5, followed by seven years of primary school education. At age 13, students begin five years of secondary education. The final two years of secondary education are currently changing to compulsory. All students who completed Year 10 in 2005 are now required to undertake further studies in Year 11. Students are required to complete the year in which they turn 16 (usually Year 11).

Commencing in 2008 all students will be required to complete 12 years of study before leaving school. Students will have the option to study at a TAFE college in their eleventh year or continue through high school with a vocational course or a specific University entrance course.

The universities in Western Australia are Curtin University of Technologymarker, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan Universitymarker, University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia.



For more information visit the page Western Australian Papers

Western Australia has two daily newspapers: the independent tabloid The West Australian, Countryman and The Kalgoorlie Miner. Also published is one Sunday tabloid newspaper, News Corporation's The Sunday Times. There are also 17 weekly Community Newspapers with distribution from Yanchep in the North to Mandurah in the South. The interstate broadsheet publication The Australian is also available, although with sales per capita lagging far behind those in other states. With the advent of the Internet, local news websites like WAtoday, which provide free access to their content, are becoming a popular alternative source of news. Other online publications from around the world like the New South Wales based The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian are also available.


Metropolitan Perth has had six broadcast television stations, five of the stations continue to operate;
  • ABCmarker WA. Produces nightly local news at 7 pm. (digital and analogue) (callsign: ABWmarker – Channel 2 Analogue, Channel 12 Digital)
  • SBS WA (digital and analogue) (callsign: SBS – Channel 28 Analogue, Channel 29 Digital)
  • Seven Network Perth. Produces weeknightly local news and current affairs from 6 pm to 7 pm. (digital and analogue) (callsign: TVWmarker – Channel 7 Analogue, Channel 6 Digital)
  • Nine Network Perth. Produces weeknightly local news and current affairs from 6 pm to 7 pm. (digital and analogue) (callsign: STWmarker – Channel 9 Analogue, Channel 8 Digital)
  • Network Ten Perth. Produces weeknightly local news from 5 pm – 6 pm. (digital and analogue) (callsign: NEWmarker – Channel 10 Analogue, Channel 11 Digital)
  • Access 31. Community service channel. (analogue-only) (callsign: ATW – Channel 31 Analogue) – ceased transmission in August 2008, with assets liquidated.

In addition, broadcasters operate digital multichannels:

Regional WA has a similar availability of stations, with the exception of Access 31 in all areas but Bunburymarker and Albany. The metropolitans commercial stations are affiliated with:
  • Golden West Network . Produces weeknightly local news from 5.30 pm to 6 pm, also airs Seven Perth news until 7 pm) (analogue only) (callsign: SSW South West, VEW Goldfields/Esperance, GTW Central West, WAW Statewide)
  • WIN Television WA. Produces weeknightly local news from 5:30 pm – 6 pm, however live from Perth. Also airs Nine Perth news from 6 pm – 6:30 pm. (analogue only) (callsign: WOW)

Pay TV services are provided by Foxtel, which acquired many of the assets and all the remaining subscribers of the insolvent Galaxy Television satellite service in 1998. Some metropolitan suburbs are serviced by Pay TV via cable; however, most of the metropolitan and rural areas can only access Pay TV via satellite.


Perth has many radio stations on both AM and FM frequencies. ABC stations include ABC NewsRadio (6PB 585AM), 720 ABC Perth (6WF 720AM), ABC Radio National (6RN 810AM), ABC Classic FM (6ABC 97.7FM) and Triple J (6JJJ 99.3FM). The six commercial stations are: FM 92.9 (6PPM), Nova 93.7 (6PER), Mix 94.5 (6MIX), 96fm (6NOW), and AM 882 (6PR), and AM 1080 (6IX).

The leading community stations are 6RTR FM 92.1 and Sonshine FM 98.5 (6SON).



Western Australia's winemaking regions are almost entirely concentrated in the south-western portion of the State. Major wine producing regions include: Margaret Rivermarker, The Great Southern, Swan Valley as well as several smaller districts including Blackwood Valley, Manjimupmarker, Pembertonmarker, Peelmarker, Perth Hills, and Geographemarker. Several wineries produce wine for local consumption and international export.


A number of national or international sporting teams and events are based in the state, including:

International events hosted by Western Australia include the Hopman Cup, the Tom Hoad Cup, the Perth Cup, Red Bull Air Race and the Gravity Games.

See also



External links

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