What continent is India in?

India is a country in the continent of Asia. It is the second largest country in Asia, both in terms of population (1.2 billion people) and area (1.27 million square miles).

India is located in South Asia, in an area that is also commonly referred to as the Indian subcontinent. Major countries on its borders include China in the North East, Pakistan in the North West and Bangladesh in the East. Until 1947, both India and Bangladesh were a part of India.

World map with magnifying on India. Blue earth globe with India flag pin. Zoom on India map. Vector Illustration

This article goes into more detail about what continent India is in. It also explains what it means when people refer to India as a subcontinent (and explains why India is not a continent in its own right.

Is India in Asia?

Yes. India is a part of Asia.

India has a population of 1.2 billion people, making it the second most populated country in Asia after China (as well as the second most populated country in the world. India has a total area of 1,269,346 square miles (3,287,263 km2) which makes it the second largest country in Asia by area, and the seventh largest country in the world by area.

India has strong cultural, historical and political links with other countries in Asia although, because the Himalayas acted as a boundary between India and much of the rest of the continent, it also developed its own distinct culture and languages during its early history.

Today India sees itself as a rising power. It has good relations with many other Asian countries and is a member of many Asian international organisations, including ASEAN, the Asian Development Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

India’s relationships with some of its continental neighbours are strained, though. It has particularly poor relations with Pakistan and China. India’s borders with each of these two countries are disputed, and it has fought wars against both countries during the last fifty years.

India used to be a part of the British Empire, and is still a member of the Commonwealth. Because of this, it also has strong ties with other Commonwealth countries.

Is India a continent?

No, India is not a continent in its own right. It is a part of the content of Asia.

Because of its size, though, India is sometimes referred to as a ‘continent masquerading as a country’.

One reason why people sometimes talk about India as if it were a continent in its own right (and sometimes call it a subcontinent – see below) is because it sits on its own tectonic plate – called the Indian tectonic plate.

The Indian tectonic plate used to be a part of the Gondwana supercontinent. But 75 million years ago it broke off from Gondwana and gradually began to move northwards. Eventually it crashed (very slowly!) into the Eurasian tectonic plate. Here is an animated video showing how the force of the impact created the Himalaya mountain range.

Why is India called a subcontinent?

A large landmass which is part of a larger continent, but is geographically distinct and self-contained, is often called a subcontinent.

India is one example of a subcontinent; Greenland and the Arabian Peninsula are other examples.

The Indian subcontinent exists because it is effectively separated from the rest of Asia by three mountain ranges – the Himalayas. the Hindu Kush, and Karakorum. Because India also sits on its own tectonic plate (see above) the argument that India is a subcontinent has added weight.

The most common definition of the Indian subcontinent is the land covered by the countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (all of which were, before 1947, part of one country).

When India was part of the British Empire, it was widely referred to as the Indian Subcontinent, so the term is particularly widely used in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.

But when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, it made people think that a broader definition of the subcontinent might be appropriate.

Academics and news organisations have begun to move away from calling the region the Indian subcontinent. Instead, they often use other related terms, such as the Asian subcontinent or South Asia.

A good example is the UN’s official definition of Southern Asia which includes not just India, but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iran, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

What continent is France in?

Metropolitan France is in Europe. However, France is a Trans-Continental country. It has Overseas Regions (which are an integral part of France) in three other continents – North America, South America and Africa.

France also has a number of additional Overseas Collectives and Overseas Territories spread across the world – four in North America, three in Oceania, and one in Antarctica. These do not have quite the same status as France ‘proper’ but have been included for completeness.

What Continent is France in

In this article we explain where Metropolitan France, its Overseas Regions, Collectives and Territories are located around the world. At the end of the article you will find a list of each part of France and its continent.

Metropolitan France

Ask most people ‘What continent is France in’ and you’ll get a slightly puzzled look followed by the answer ‘Europe, of course.’

But really its only Metropolitan France that is in Europe.

Almost all of the population of France (64.6 million people in 2016) is located in the European (Metropolitan) part of France. That’s 96% of the total population.

Metropolitan France also makes up 82% of the total amount of French territory worldwide.

Paris, the capital city, and the 20 largest cities in France are all in Metropolitan France.

France Overseas Regions by Continent

France has five Overseas Regions. They are French Guiana (South America), Guadeloupe and Martinique (North America), Mayotte and Réunion (Africa). Together they are home to 2.1 million people and 18% of French territory.

France Overseas Regions Map

Each of these five regions is considered an integral part of France. The French constitution and laws apply and each region has exactly the same powers as a region in Metropolitan France. Each region also elects representatives to serve in the French Parliament (National Assembly) and French Senate.

France’s five overseas regions also elect a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and have the Euro as their currency. They, along with one other French Overseas Community (Saint-Martin – see below), two Portuguese autonomous regions and one Spanish autonomous region, are classified by the EU as Outermost Regions. They are considered to be an integral part of the European Union.

Saint-Denis, in Reunion, is the 21st largest city in France, with a population of 142,244 people.

France Overseas Collectives and Territories by Continent

France also has a number of Overseas Collectives and Territories.

They are different to Overseas Regions in that they are not considered to be an integral part of France. They have different levels of autonomy and local government. You can see a full list in the table below.

French Polynesia, in the South Pacific Ocean (Oceania) has perhaps the most autonomy. It has its own President and Assembly, and has been designated an Overseas country inside the French Republic. However, France still retains a great deal of administrative control. It has strong links to France, in that it can vote in French elections and elect MPs, but it also has a strong independence movement.

New Caledonia, also in the South Pacific (Oceania) also has a great deal of autonomy, alongside representation in the French Parliament and Senate. It held an independence referendum in 1987, which was rejected. A further referendum on independence is expected to take place in 2018.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon is unusual in that it is the only French territory to the north of Metropolitan France. A group of islands with a population of just 6,080 people, it is located just off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

France also controls Clipperton Island, a small uninhabited island to the west of Mexico in North America, and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, a collection of uninhabited islands off the north coast of Antarctica plus a slice of mainland Antarctica known as Adélie Land.

Metropolitan France and Overseas France by Continent

Here is a table listing each part of France, its location, its continent and its population.

Metropolitan FranceEuropeMetropole66,689,000
RéunionAfricaOverseas Region844,944
GuadeloupeNorth AmericaOverseas Region403,355
MartiniqueNorth AmericaOverseas Region394,173
French PolynesiaOceaniaOverseas Collective268,270
New CaledoniaOceaniaSpecial Collectivity258,958
French GuianaSouth AmericaOverseas Region229,040
MayotteAfricaOverseas Region212,600
Saint MartinNorth AmericaOverseas Collective36,979
Wallis and FutunaOceaniaOverseas Collective13,135
Saint BarthélemyNorth AmericaOverseas Collective8,938
Saint Pierre and MiquelonNorth AmericaOverseas Collective6,081
French Southern & Antarctic LandsAntarcticaOverseas Territorynone
Clipperton IslandNorth AmericaState Private Propertynone


What continent is Armenia in?

Armenia is a country in Asia. Located in the Caucasus region, Armenia used to be a part of the Soviet Union but is now an independent country.

Although Armenia is geographically located in Asia it could be argued that Armenia has closer political, cultural and linguistic ties with Europe than Asia.

Where is Armenia located?

Armenia is in the Caucasus, which consists of three independent countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, plus parts of Russia (in the north) Iran and Turkey (in the south).

What continent is Armenia in - Map

Image source: Jeroenscommons

The country is landlocked, sandwiched between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. It has a difficult relationship with Azerbaijan, and territorial disputes between the two countries erupted into the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s.

Is Armenia in Asia?

Geographically, yes, Armenia is in Asia.

The Caucasus, along its coast with the Black Sea, is considered by many to mark one of the unofficial borders between Europe and Asia. Because of this, most geographers consider the entire Caucasus region, including Armenia, to be a part of Asia rather than Europe.

Armenia is a member of a number of Asian political and economic organisations, including the Asian Development Bank. As we will see in the next section, however, its closest political relationships are with European organisations.

Is Armenia in Europe?

Setting geography aside, Armenia is in many ways much more of a European country than an Asian country.

In terms of recent history, of course, Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union (and the Russian Empire before that). As we have discussed in another article (‘What Continent is Russia in?’) Russia and the Soviet Union were split culturally and geographically between Europe and Asia, although in terms of culture, were both perhaps slightly more heavily dominated by their European heritage. It would be fair to say that Armenia’s Soviet experience has had a heavy impact on its culture and outlook today.

Armenia’s closest political relationships are with organisations in Europe – for example, it is a member of the Council of Europe and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it has a close relationship with NATO and, until recently, it was working towards signing an Association Agreement with the European Union.

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language. Although it is a distinct branch of the language group in its own right, it has many characteristics of Greek and Albanian, as well as some Indo-Iranian influences. Its alphabet draws heavily on the Greek alphabet.

In terms of sport, Armenia is more likely to compete in European events than in Asian events. It is a member of UEFAand a member of the European Olympic Committee rather than the Olympic Committee of Asia.

What continent is Israel in?

Israel is a country in Asia. It is located on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, in the region known as the Middle East.

Although Israel is geographically located in Asia, the country has strong historical, cultural, sporting and economic links with Europe. Additionally, one of its neighbours is one of the largest countries in Africa.

Even the Israeli government adds to the confusion sometimes – in an article about Israel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains that Israel “lies at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.”

So it is not surprising that many people ask the simple question – just what continent is Israel in? In this article we provide the definitive answer, as well as respond to a number of misconceptions.

Is Israel in Asia?

Yes. Israel is geographically located in Asia.

The continent itself spreads from Turkey in the far West, through to Japan and Russia in the East of Asia; and from Arctic Russia in the North to the islands of Indonesia in the South. Here is a map of Asia, including Israel in the far left:

Asia Map

Although the exact border between Europe and Asia is not clearly defined, most geographers agree that it runs south from the Ural Mountains, along the coasts of the Caspian and Black Seas, and the far eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

Politically, Israel doesn’t have particularly close ties with the rest of Asia (or the Middle East for that matter – see below). Until its exclusion in the mid-1970s, for example, Israel competed in Asian sporting competitions. However, since the 1990s, Israel has more commonly participated in European sporting contests – for example it is a member of UEFA.

Did you know? The highest temperature ever recorded in the continent of Asia was in Israel – in 1942 a temperature of 54.0 °C / 129.2 °F was recorded in Tirat Zvi.

Is Israel in the Middle East?

Yes, Israel is a geographically a part of the Middle East, a region which runs from the far East of Europe (Cyprus), through to Iran in the East and Egypt, which is in both Africa and Asia.

Politically and culturally, however, Israel does not have close relations with its Middle Eastern neighbours. Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has been in a more or less continuous state of conflict (including numerous wars) with many of its Arab neighbours in the Middle East.

At its root (and at great risk of over-simplification) the conflict is between two religious groups, both of whom claim the same territory as their homeland – both geographically and religiously. Click here for more detail on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Is Israel in Europe?

No. Israel is not geographically a part of Europe.

It does, however, have close ties with the continent – historical, cultural, sporting and economic.

Most Jewish people who live in Israel today either emigrated directly from Europe to Israel, or had ancestors who emigrated during the last century. Prior to this mass emigration (known as Aliyah) the vast majority of Jews in the world lived as a part of the Jewish diaspora, spread primarily across Europe and the United States.

Because of this, Israel has strong cultural, historical and economic ties to Europe – all of which have a strong influence on Israel today.

Partly because of this, but more importantly because of poor relations with other countries in the Middle East and Asia, has close ties with European political and sporting organisations.

Israel has close links with the European Union and, although perhaps not realistic in the short term, there are many people who support the idea of Israel joining the EU.

In the sporting arena, since its exclusion from competition in Asia, Israel competes primarily in Europe. For example, Israel’s route to qualification for the football World Cup is through UEFA. It also competes in the Eurovision Song Contest (although arguably with the introduction of Australia, this is now a global contest!).

Is Israel in Africa?

No. Israel is not in the continent of Africa. It shares a border with Egypt, a country which is in both Africa and Asia.

A small minority of people argue that because, in the Bible, Israel used to be called the land of Canaan, Israel should be considered to be African. Canaan was the son of Ham, who is considered by many to be the father of Africa – in the Bible, Egypt is called the “land of Ham.”

What continent is Jerusalem in?

Geographically, Jerusalem is in Asia.

Jerusalem is considered a holy city by three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Although it is claimed as the capital city by both Israel and Palestine, Jerusalem is currently occupied entirely by Israel.

With a population of 850,000 people, Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel.

Beijing population 2016

At the start of 2016, the population of Beijing was 21,700,000.

Beijing is the capital city of China, the second largest city in China (after Shanghai), and the third largest city in the world (after Shanghai and Karachi).

Beijing has always been one of the world’s largest cities. From 1425 to 1650, and then again from 1710 to 1825, it was the largest city in the world. It was also the first city in the modern era to reach a population of more than one million people – a feat it achieved in 1775.

Population of Beijing map

The population of Beijing has grown rapidly in recent years, but Chinese authorities have plans to limit the city’s growth in the near future.

How many people live in Beijing today?

The latest official population data was outlined in the Chinese Government’s most recent (2016-2020) five year plan.

It reported that at the end of 2015 / beginning of 2016, the population of Beijing was 21.7 million people.

The majority of people living in Beijing (13 million) are permanent residents and hold an official Hukou permit. The other 8 million are temporary residents who have migrated to Beijing from other parts of the country, often looking for better opportunities for work.

Permanent residents13 million
Migrants9 million

Beijing population growth

Beijing’s population has grown rapidly in the past sixty years. In 1953, when China held its first post-war census, the population of Beijing was recorded at just 2.7 million people. Today, the population is more than eight times as high.

In the 25 years since China’s market reforms began in earnest, the number of people living in Beijing has more than doubled – from 10.8 million people in 1990 to 21.7 million people today.

Here is a table that lists the Beijing population during selected years, from 1953.


Recent population growth has been driven primarily by migration. The birth rate in the city is quite low, at 8.93 births per thousand population per year.

Improved health care has meant that people in Beijing are also living longer. The average life expectancy in Beijing is now 81.95 years. This is well above the national average of 75.15 years, although below the average in some other major Chinese cities, such as Shanghai where life expectancy recently hit 84.8 years.

Beijing life expectancy81.85 years
China life expectancy75.15 years
Shanghai life expectancy84.8 years

Although population growth is slowing, it is still causing concern in the Chinese and Beijing government. Continued population rises can put strain on a city’s infrastructure, and Beijing’s residents suffer from problems with pollution – particularly the dangerously toxic Beijing smog which often shrouds the city.

To address this problem the city has plans to limit population growth in Beijing in the next few years and, potentially, to even reduce the city’s population.

As a part of its five year plan, the government plans to limit Beijing’s population to a maximum of 22 million people in 2016 and 23 million by 2020.

It is not certain that the government will be able to achieve this ambition, however. It has set targets aimed at limiting growth in the past, none of which have been met.

Beijing population density

1,322 people live in every square kilometer of Beijing.

This figure was calculated by taking the 2016 population of Beijing (21.7 million) and dividing it by the size of the city (16,411 km sq).

The bulk of the population in Beijing is concentrated in its central areas, and more than half of the residents of China’s capital city live in just six of its sixteen administrative districts.

For example, the two central districts of Chaoyang and Shijingshan are each home to more than three million people. These two districts, respectively, have a population density of 7,528 people per square mile and 7,701 people per square mile.

Beijing1,322 people per sq km
Chaoyang district 7,528 people per sq km
Shijingshan district7,701 people per sq km

This puts immense pressure on the city’s infrastructure and limits people’s quality of life. To address this the city government, as a part of its five year plan, intends to redistribute some the city’s population from the centre to the suburbs. They hope that the population of Beijing’s six central districts will fall by 15% by 2020.

Ethnic groups in Beijing

Han Chinese are the largest single ethnic group in Beijing. They make up 95.69% of the city’s population (2010 census data).

Other groups with significant numbers in the city are Manchu (1.84%) and Hui (1.74%).

Han Chinese95.69%

There is also a large number of foreign residents in Beijing. Although their numbers are not reliably captured in census data, there were thought to be at least 90,000 foreign residents in Beijing at the time of the 2010 census.

Beijing demographics

Reflecting its status as a city of internal migrants, many of whom have come to the capital to find work, Beijing has a higher ratio of males:females than the rest of the country. At the time of the 2010 census, the city’s gender balance was 51.6% male and 48.4% female.

Male 51.6%Female 48.4%

The majority of the city’s population is also of working age. According to data from 2004, when the population was much lower at 14.2 million people, the number of residents aged 0-14 was 1.4 million (10%), the number of residents aged 15-64 was 11.2 million (79%) and the number of residents aged over 65 was 1.6 million (11%).

0-14 years1.4 million (10%)
15-64 years11.2 million (79%)
Over 65 years1.6 million (11%)

It is likely that the percentage of people who are of working age has increased slightly over the decade since these figures were released.

Where is Beijing?

Beijing is a city in northern China, located near the coast.

Population of Beijing map

It is surrounded by Hebei province in the north, south and west. Tianjin province is to the south east of Beijing and, sandwiched between Beijing and the coast, acts as the city’s port.

Beijing has been the capital city of China for most of the last eight hundred years.

The name Beijing means ‘Northern Capital’. It was previously known outside of China as Peking.

What continent is Russia in?

When a country has borders with Poland in the West and Japan in the East, it gives rise to the question – just what continent is Russia in? Is Russia in Europe or Asia? Or is it in both continents at the same time?

The quick and simple answer is that, because the Ural Mountains form the boundary between the two continents and mark the unofficial border between Asia and Europe, Russia is a part of two continents – Russia is in both Europe and Asia.

But the detailed answer is slightly more complex that just considering where is Russia located geographically. To deal with it properly we need to look more carefully at Russia’s geography, its history, its politics and its culture.

Last updated: 27 June 2016.

Is Russia in Europe or Asia geographically?

Although Russia is thought of by many people as a European country, almost three quarters of its landmass is actually in Asia, east of the Urals. A more pertinent question might be – is Russia in Asia?

It is usually accepted that the Ural Mountains mark the border between Europe and Asia. Anything to the west of the Urals is considered to be in Europe and everywhere on the Eastern side of the range is considered to be in Asia.

What continent is Russia in
European Russia is shaded gray, Asian Russia is shaded red.

Russia is a massive country – 17,098,242 square kilometres in size. But only about 4 million square kilometres of Russia are in Europe, west of the Urals. The remaining 13 million square kilometers, including Siberia and the Russian Far East are in Asian Russia.

European Russia is much more densely populated than the rest of Russia, though. About 75% of the Russian population lives in European Russia. Population density in European Russia is around 27 people per square kilometer, whereas in Asian Russia contains just 2.5 people per square kilometer.

There are some how believe that Europe and Asia are not actually separate continents. Instead, the European and Asian continents should be treated as one mega-continent called Eurasia. This is because, geographically, there is no real border between Europe and Asia – the choice of the Ural Mountains was largely arbitrary and based on history and politics. If Eurasia existed, it would be the largest single continent in the world, with a population of around 4 billion people – almost a half of the world’s population.

What other countries are in more than one continent?

Russia is one of a select number of countries in the world that are located in more than one continent. The other famous example of a transcontinental state is Turkey, which is also in both Europe and Asia. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is one of the few examples of cities which are located in multiple continents.

There are also quite a few other, less well known, transcontinental states. Examples include France, which has territory on almost every continent, Egypt, which because it straddles the Suez Canal is in both Africa and Asia, and Greece, which is mostly in Europe, but has a couple of islands near Turkey, in Asia.

Did Russia once span three continents?

Historically, Russia is one of the few countries in the world that has held territory in three continents at the same time.

As well as its European and Asian territory, Russia held territory in North American in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, through the auspices of the Russian American Company. Quite a few Russian colonies were founded in Alaska, as well as a number of others along the western seaboard of North America, going as far south as Fort Russ (now Fort Ross) in California.

Russia gave up its American territories in 1867, when it sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million in a sale known as the Alaska Purchase, or Seward Purchase.

How has Russian territory changed over the years

Watch this video to see how Russia’s borders have ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It shows whether Russia is in Europe or Asia with an animated map.

At times the Russian government has controlled only small amounts of territory in European Russia, often around the Moscow area. Whereas, at other times, its reach has expanded into Poland in West and North America in the East.

Is Russia a part of Europe or Asia politically and culturally?

The split between two Russia’s two identities has been a major factor in Russian politics and has shaped its relations with the outside world for hundreds of years. Russia has never quite decided whether it is a European country, or an Asian country.

Under Peter the Great, Russia became a great European power.
Under Peter the Great, Russia became a great European power.

The confusion goes back to the times of Peter the Great, who was one of the great modernisers of Russian history. Until Peter’s arrival, Russia was a landlocked, and generally not well respected country.

Peter believed that Russia could not hope to be a great power without looking outwards, and so he traveled across Europe to learn about new technologies and ways of organising society. He took many of these new developments back to Russia, and his vision was instrumental in turning Russia into a strong country and a major player in 16th century Europe.

The debate became formalised, and entrenched, in 1840s and 1850s when two opposing intellectual movements began to take shape. On the one hand were the Westernizers, who advocated building Russian society along Western, European lines. And, on the other hand were the Slavophiles, who wanted Russia to accept its uniqueness and develop its own, distinct way of doing things – their vision was a more traditional, less individualistic society.

Since then, every Russian leader has faced the dilemma of whether to build closer links to Europe, or Asia, and Russia has often see-sawed between the two approaches. As a result, Russia has developed in a way that doesn’t quite fit either vision.

A modern example of this tension is the different approaches taken by two of Russia’s most recent Presidents – Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. While Yeltsin adopted Western free-market economic policies at the end of the Cold War, Putin’s Russia is characterised by a more centralised form of State Capitalism, combined with an assertive foreign policy.

Perhaps this tension is one of the reasons why many in the West are so fascinated by Russia – we can see how similar it is to us in so many respects, but also how different.

Is Moscow in Europe or Asia?

Moscow, the capital city of Russia, sits at the Western point of Russia, close to the country’s borders with Ukraine, Belarus and Estonia and with the Ural Mountains several hundred miles to the east.

So, the answer to the question ‘is Moscow in Europe or Asia?’ is that Moscow is comfortably in the European part of Russia.

Is Moscow in Europe or Asia
Moscow is in European Russia

The majority of major Russian cities lie to the west of the Ural Mountain range – for example, St Petersburg, Samara and Kazan are all comfortably in European Russia.

A number of other cities lie just to the East of the Urals. The most prominent example is Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia, which is home to 1.5 million people. It lies just 30 miles east of the mountain range that separates the two continents. This leads many to claim that Novosibirsk is a city on the border between Europe and Asia.

The only other major city on the border between Europe and Asia is actually in Turkey. Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus Strait, another geographical boundary between Europe and Asia, and has its northern sector in Europe and its southern sector in Asia.

Is Russia in the EU?

No. Russia is not a member of the EU (European Union) and has no plans to join the EU.

Russia and the EU have strong trading links, and in 2014 50% of Russia’s exports were sent to EU states – notably in the form of gas and oil exports.

At the time of writing (2016), EU-Russia relations are tense because of the conflict. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia and, in return, Russia has imposed a ban on importing food from EU member states. The sanctions have not dramatically affected trade between Europe and Russia, however.

Formal relationships between Russia and the EU are governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which was signed in June 1994.

Is Russia in NATO?

No. Russia is not a member of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

The relationship between Russia and NATO was positive in the 1990s and early 2000s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A number of Western and Russian leaders even suggested that Russia should join NATO.

Russia did join the NATO Partnership for Peace program in 1994 and in 2002 a Russia-NATO council was formed to handle joint security issues.

In recent years, however, relations between the two organisations have soured and on 1 April 2014 NATO suspended co-operation with Russia. Relationships have further worsened during the conflict in Ukraine.

The Russian government has instead focused on developing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security, military and political organization whose members are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Australian history timeline

Quick Timeline (click each entry to read more)40,000 BC – First Aborigines arrive in Australia1606 – First European landfall in Australia1770 – James Cook lands and claims Australia for the British Empire1788 – First fleet of convicts arrives in Australia1851 – Australian gold rush begins1877 – Australia and England play the first cricket test match1901 – The Commonwealth of Australia is founded1911 – Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is founded1914 – The First World War begins1939 – The Second World War begins1948 – ‘Populate or Perish’ – Australia’s new immigration policy1956 – Melbourne hosts the Olympic Games1971 – Neville Bonner becomes Australia’s first aboriginal Senator1966 – The Australia Act – independence from Britain1993 – Native Title Act grants land rights to indigenous Australians2000 – Sydney hosts the Olympic Games2002 – The Bali bombings kill 88 Australians

This Australian history timeline covers all of the major events of Australia’s 40,000 year history – from the first arrival of aboriginal Australians tens of thousands of years ago, right up to the 21st century.

Click on any of the entries in the timeline below to read a more detailed explanation. 

40,000 BC – First Aborigines arrive in Australia

Thanks to archaeological records, we know that the first people to set foot on the continent of Australia arrived somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago, towards the end of the Pleistocene era

At that time, sea levels were lower than they are today and New Guinea was joined to Australia. The first arrivals are thought to have come initially by sea, hopping from island to island in what is today Indonesia.

Over time, these settlers expanded across the entire Australian landmass, although the population was highest in the Southern and Eastern parts of the continent. They developed a sophisticated stone-age society, based on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

By the time the late eighteenth century, when the first European settlers began to arrive, the indigenous population of Australia was approximately 350,000 – 750,000 people, divided into what is thought to have been at least 250 different nations each with their own language. Within a hundred years, European settlers’ dominance of Australia was complete, although a few isolated tribes did survive with little to no contact well into the twentieth century.

The last tribe to give up it’s nomadic lifestyle – the Pintupi Nine of the Gibson Desert – did so only in 1984.

1606 – First European landfall in Australia

The first European person to set foot on the territory of present day Australia was Willem Janszoon, Dutch captain of the Duyfken. On 26 February 1606 he, and a number of un-named members of his icketew, landed at the mouth of what is today known as the Pennefather River in Queensland.

He had mistakenly thought he was landing on a southerly part of the island of New Guinea and named the territory Nieu Zeland – a name that was later adopted by some islands to the East…

Other European sailors, usually attached to the Dutch East India Company, returned to Australia at intermittent intervals over the following century and a half. No attempts were made to settle during this period, but much of the Australian coastline was mapped and there was some small scale trading with aboriginal people.

However, information about the newly discovered continent was not shared widely and, for most Europeans, Australia remained a mythical ‘Southern Continent.’

1770 – James Cook lands and claims Australia for the British Empire

In 1769, Lieutenant James Cook (not, as is commonly thought, Captain James Cook), took command of HMS Endeavour and set sail for the island of Tahiti.

Officially, his mission was to make astronomical observations, but really Cook had been given a secret mission by the British Admiralty. His role was to find out whether the ‘Southern Continent’ was real and, if it was, to chart it and claim its territory for the British Empire.

Captain Cook’s route

Cook and his crew first sighted Australia on 19 April 1770 and, ten days later on 29 April 1770, landed for the first time at Botany Bay. Five months later, on 22 August 1770, Cook formally claimed the territory of Australia for King George III and the British Empire, naming it New South Wales.

Other European powers also laid claim to parts of Australia – for example, the French claimed Western Australia in 1772 and Sweden briefly planned a colony at Swan River – but none of them followed up on their claims with an actual attempt to settle.

The British, however, did…

1788 – First fleet of convicts arrives in Australia

On 13 May 1787 a fleet of eleven ships set sail from Portsmouth. Two Royal Navy escort ships, three supply ships and six transport ships filled with crew, marines and more than eight hundred convicts, all bound for the new British territory of Australia.

Although they first landed at Botany Bay on 18 January 1770, Captain Arthur Phillip quickly deemed the land there unsuitable for habitation and, instead, set up the first colony in Australia at Sydney Cove. 

More ships filled with convicts followed and, by the time the last convict arrived in Australia in 1868, over 130,000 men and 25,000 women had been transported to Australia’s penal colonies.

The first free settlers arrived in 1793, and began building a life alongside the convicts. But, for the first thirty five years of its existence New South Wales remained primarily a penal colony.

1851 – Australian gold rush begins

Although colonists had know for many years that gold existed in Australia, the discovery of five flecks by Edward Hargreaves in 1851 led to a gold rush to rival the earlier California gold rushes.

Within months, hundreds of diggers had flocked to Bathurst, the site of Hargreaves’ discovery. Other gold sites were discovered throughout Victoria and New South Wales, and the first diggers were followed by tens of thousands more miners, plus other settlers to support them.

Within a decade, more than a third of the world’s gold was being mined in Australia, a country that was suddenly becoming very rich.

The gold rush also led to discontent and violence. Heavy handed taxes imposed by the government caused anger and, in December 1854, the diggers simmering anger boiled over into the Eureka Rebellion, a conflict that would shape Australia’s democratic future.

More than a thousand diggers gathered in Eureka, demanding a reduction in the cost of mining licences, an end to government harassment, and calling for an end to taxation without representation.

The government’s response was swift, and violent. The diggers were overrun and more than 30 were killed in what as known as the battle of Eureka Stockade.

Although the battle was lost, the government recognised that changes were needed and a sweeping programme of reforms was implemented the next year, including the introduction of voting rights for miners. Because of this, the Eureka rebellion is celebrated as a key moment in Australian history. Mark Twain, visiting years later, remarked:

It was a revolution—small in size; but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and oppression … It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle.

Mark Twain

An indication of just how important the Gold Rush was to Australia’s development can be seen in Australia’s population statistics. In just a decade, the colony’s population almost trebled – growing from 405,000 in 1850 to 1.1 million in 1860.

1877 – Australia and England play the first cricket test match

Australia has the distinction of being host to the first ever test match, contested between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – a ground which, even in 1877, was large enough to warrant a grandstand.

Opening batsman Charles Bannerman led Australia from the front. He scored test cricket’s first ever run and its first century before retiring hurt on a score of 165, helping Australia to a respectable first innings total of 245.

England, led by James Lillywhite, had been favourites to win the match but its batsmen, sadly missing the strength of the legendary W.G. Grace, could not match their hosts. They fell short with a first innings total of 196. Although England out-scored Australia by 108 to 104 in the second innings, it was not enough to prevent the first of many English defeats on Australian soil.

The Ashes were first used as a trophy in matches between the two countries after England’s first defeat on home soil, five years later in August 1882. The Sporting Times posted a mock obituary of English cricket: “The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

A small urn, containing the ashes of one of the bails, was duly taken to Australia and, since 1883, cricket teams representing Australia and England have fought for the honour of retaining the Ashes.  

1901 – The Commonwealth of Australia is founded

Half a world away from Britain, home of the British Empire, the Australian colonies could only function if they had a great deal of autonomy.

Over time, as the number of people born in Australia gradually became the majority of all people living in Australia and technological advances such as the telegraph allowed speedy communication between the various Australian colonies, calls for increased autonomy and self government became irresistible.

Australia’s first constitutional convention was held in 1891, in Sydney. Representatives of each of the six colonies, plus New Zealand, gathered together to develop constitution that could be used by a federation of the Australian states and New Zealand.

Although New Zealand dropped out of the process early on, enough progress had been made by the time of the second (1897-98) convention to produce a draft constitution which, after some further amendments, was ratified by referendums in each of the six colonies.

The next step was to return to London. In July 1900, the House of Parliament debated, and then passed the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. Several days later, on 9 July 1900, Queen Victoria signed the Act into law.

  Read more about Australia’s constitution…

You can read the Australian constitution on the Parliament of Australia website. Or, because it is also technically still a law in Britain as well, you can also read it on the UK Parliament website!

The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901. From that point on, although it was still technically a colony of the British Empire, Australia effectively had self-government and full autonomy over its own affairs.

The last formal ties with the United Kingdom were severed in 1986 when the Australian Parliament and the UK Parliament both based the Australia Act. Click here to jump to the section about the Australia Act.

1911 – Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is founded

One of the first things any new country needs to have is a capital city.

Although Australia’s first capital city was, because of necessity, Melbourne, this was not a good long term solution.

The problem was that no-one really wanted the capital of Australia to be in either of its two largest cities – Sydney or Melbourne.

Leaving aside the political problem of choosing one of these two rival cities over the other, they were both hot in summer, and too close to the coast for comfort.

The solution? Create a new city entirely from scratch in a location that is both temperate and safe from sea bombardment, and make it the nations capital.

An enclave of land in New South Wales, known as Canberra-Yass was chosen, the Australian Capital Territory was formed, and a competition was launched to design a new model city.

Construction began shortly afterwards and, by 9 May 1927, Canberra was ready for the opening of the Provisional Parliament House (today known as Old Parliament House).

Today, Canberra is home to 380,000 people. It remains the seat of Australia’s Government and Australia’s Capital City.

1914 – The First World War begins

The First World War was Australia’s first major military conflict, and the one that has had the most profound impact on its society.

From Gallipoli in Turkey, to the Western Front in France and Belgium, thousands of Australian men fought and died on the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East. Of the 331,781 Australian men who served, 152,284 (almost half) were injured and 60,284 (one in five) died. 

Australia’s first involvement in the war was the hastily assembled Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. Two thousands sailors and soldiers set sail from Sydney on 19 August 1914, just two weeks after the declaration of war, in a successful mission to capture German New Guinea.

Troops of the First Australian Imperial Force were then quickly assembled and sent north to Europe and the Middle East.

In the early years of the war, most Australians were based in Egypt, to fight against the threat posed by the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The Gallipoli campaign the first major campaign of the war. On 25 April 1915, thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (ANZACs), alongside others from Britain, India and France, landed on the peninsula of Gallipoli. Their ultimate goal was to defeat the Ottoman Empire, and capture Constantinople, its capital city.

The campaign was, from start to finish, a disaster. Allied forces quickly became bogged down and, after eight months of brutal fighting, were forced to withdraw. By the end of a campaign that the Sydney Morning Herald called Australia’s “Baptism of Fire”, almost 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed, alongside more than 50,000 troops from Britain, France and other parts of the Empire.

Australian soldiers also fought on the Western Front, taking part in the brutal trench warfare that characterised the first world war. In total, more than 40,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives on the Western Front.

The bloodiest single day of the war for Australia came on the night of 19th and 20th July 1916 at the Battle of Fromelles in Northern France. In a period of just 24 hours Australian forces suffered 5,533 casualties as they attempted, and failed, to capture territory from the Germans.

The impact of the First World War on Australia was immense, particularly the Gallipoli Campaign, which has become an enduring symbol of Australia’s national identity. Although it was a massive military defeat, it singled Australia’s coming of age as a nation and Australia’s soldiers are celebrated for showing the Anzac Spirit – the courage, determination and mateship that defines Australia today.

1939 – The Second World War begins

After standing down the bulk of its military after the First World War, Australia was underprepared for the Second. When Australia declared war on Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939, its regular army numbered just 3,000 troops

Military strength was quickly ramped up to almost a million servicemen and women. In total 575,799 Australians served overseas during World War 2 – that’s almost one in every ten Australians at the time.

Casualties were much lower than in the first world war – 39,429 Australians died in the Second World War, and 66,563 were injured

More than a hundred Australian pilots also fought alongside the RAF during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

More difficult defensive battles were to follow. Australians were heavily involved in fighting in Greece and, in particular, the lost Battle of Crete in May 1941. The same summer, however, 14,000 soldiers held firm under a five month German siege of Tobruk – their determined defence earning them the name ‘Rats of Tobruk’.

Because Australia had committed the bulk of its military forces to the conflict in Europe and North Africa, it was not well prepared to resist the Japanese advance in the Pacific in 1942.

In the months following the raid on Pearl Harbour, a lack of airpower, naval power and manpower meant that Australian and British Empire strongholds throughout the Pacific fell one after the other. After a disorganised, determined, and desperate last stand in Singapore, 80,000 allied soldiers, including 15,000 Australians, were taken as Japanese Prisoners of War.

Dozens air raids on northern Australian towns brought the war to Australian territory – between 900 and 1,100 people were killed in the Darwin air raid of 19 February 1942. These raids, combined with a Japanese invasion of New Guinea, prompted fears that a Japanese invasion of Australia itself was planned.

With Britain pre-occupied in Europe, Australia turned to Washington for support in the Pacific War. A deal was swiftly agreed which put Australian forces under the command of US General Douglas MacArthur. By 1943 there were more American troops in Australia than there were Australian troops.

Australian troops focused on pushing the Japanese from New Guinea – a feat which, in the face of dogged Japanese resistance was only achieved in April 1944, while the Americans focused on attacking Japan’s new Pacific islands strongholds.

As a part of the deal with America, Australia also scaled back its direct military involvement in the overall conflict. Instead, it focused on boosting production of military weaponry and supplies for allied troops engaged elsewhere.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Australia took over responsibility for administering territories such as Borneo and Lombok, and for guarding more than 300,000 Japanese who had been stranded across the Pacific by the Allied advance. Many Australian troops continued to serve overseas for a time, but demobilisation of the Australian army was rapid and completed by February 1947.

1948 – ‘Populate or Perish’ – Australia’s new immigration policy

Between 1945 and 1965 over two million immigrants came to Australia. They travelled from all over the world, mostly from a Europe scarred by years of conflict. Together, they changed Australia forever.

In the aftermath of the second world war, Australia had two problems.

The first was that its economy, especially its manufacturing economy, had grown massively during the war. People were needed to work in the factories – more people than Australia had.

The second was that the resource rich, but sparsely populated, territories of Australia had looked incredibly appealing to other powers – not least the Japanese. “Populate or Perish” was the catchy slogan of Authur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration.

The solution was to open up immigration to people from across Europe, as well as to British migrants. Victims of European conflict became the first priority and, between 1947 and 1953, Australia accepted over 170,000 displaced persons.

The policy was helped by a decision taken in Britain and other parts of its Empire, to change the law so that residents of countries like Australia and New Zealand would, instead of being British citizens, become Australian citizens, or New Zealand citizens. The British Nationality Act 1948 and the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 each came into force on 26 January 1949, and the first Australian citizens were created.

Displaced migrants from Europe were followed by economic migrants from Britain and the rest of Europe. Any Britain who could pay ten pounds (leading to the nickname ‘Ten Pound Toms’) could emigrate to Australia. And hundreds of thousands came from other countries in Europe – the most popular countries of origin for 1950s migrants were Italy, Germany, Holland and Greece. 

Almost all migrants to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s were white – immigrants from non-white countries were strongly discouraged for many years. Those that did come – for example, from the pacific islands, faced discrimination. The White Australia policy began to be abandoned in the 1960s, and today the majority of immigrants to Australia come from Asia.

1956 – Melbourne hosts the Olympic Games

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics were a global statement of Australia’s new found confidence. As host to the first Olympics ever to be held outside of Europe or the United States, Melbourne gave Australia a showcase on the world stage.

The Olympic Committee had been keen to take the Olympics to a new region, and Melbourne beat Buenos Aires of Argentina in the contest to host the Games by a narrow margin of just 21 votes to 20.  

The ‘Friendly Games’ as they were called, drew 3,314 athletes from 72 nations, to compete in 17 different sports. With thirteen gold medals, eight silver medals and fourteen bronze medals, Australia came third in the 1956 Olympic medal table behind only the Soviet Union (37 golds) and the United States (32 golds).

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was the main stadium for the 1956 Games, host to the opening and closing ceremonies, the athletics events, and the finals of the football and hockey tournaments.

Some facts about the Melbourne Olympic Games

  • The MCG was not only host to the main events. An exhibition baseball game at the stadium attracted an estimated 102,000 spectators!
  • The infamous Blood in the Water water polo match was played in Melbourne. The game became so violent that police were called in to restore order.
  • ​The 1956 closing ceremony marked the first occasion where teams marched together, instead of in groups divided by country.
  • All of the equestrian events at the 1956 Olympics were actually held in Stockholm, Sweden, several months earlier. This is because strict import rules barred competitors from bringing their horses to Australia.

1971 – Neville Bonner becomes Australia’s first aboriginal Senator

One of the more shameful aspects of Australia’s history is that <a href=”http://www.aec.gov.au/indigenous/history.htm”>it wasn’t until the 1960s that all aboriginal people were entitled to vote in elections</a>.

Although limited voting rights were extended to indigenous Australians in the late 19th centuries, the ‘White Australia’ policy had rolled back many of these advances. Supported by the 1901 Commonwealth Franchise Act, almost all Aboriginal people were prevented from voting in elections.

These rules were relaxed slightly in 1949, when Aboriginal people who had served in the military were granted the right to vote, but it was not until 1965 that the franchise was extended to all Aboriginals in Australia.

Neville Bonner became the first indigenous Australian to sit in the Federal Parliament when, on 11 June 1971, he was appointed by the Liberal Party to fill a vacant seat in the Senate. Bonner was re-elected in competitive elections in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1980, going on to serve as Senator for Queensland until February 1983.

As an activist Senator, Bonner was prepared to cross the floor and vote against his own party when he deemed it necessary – an approach that won him both respect and political enemies. In his first Senate speech, on 8 September, he said that he would play “the role which my State of Queensland, my race, my background, my political beliefs, my knowledge of men and circumstances dictate.”

Bonner’s lack of party loyalty was probably a factor in the Liberal Party’s decision not to select him as a candidate in the 1983 elections. He went on to unsuccessfully fight the 1983 election as an independent candidate.

Bonner was named Australian of the Year in 1979

Neville Bonner remains one of only five indigenous Australians to have served in Australia’s Federal Parliament – the others are Aden Ridgeway (Democrat, Senator, New South Wales), Ken Wyatt (Liberal, MP, Hasluck, Western Australia), Nova Peris (Labor, Senator, Northern Territory) and Joanna Lindgren (LNP, Senator, Queensland).

1966 – The Australia Act – independence from Britain

Although, by 1986, Australia had been effectively independent of the United Kingdom for many years, it was still technically possible for the UK to pass laws that would apply in Australia. It was also possible for legal appeals to be heard at the UK’s Privy Council, rather than in Australia.

To prevent this from ever happening, the Australia Act 1986 was introduced. In the same way as other laws that would separate the UK and Australia (for example, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act and the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, both of which are discussed earlier in this article) the Australia Act 1986 was passed in both England and Australia. 

The Act made it impossible for any UK laws to be introduced in Australia. The Act also made it impossible for constitutional appeals to be heard in the UK’s Privy Council – instead, the High Court of Australia became the final venue for all appeals.

Despite this, the Queen remains Australia’s head of state. She is represented in Australia by the Governor General. Although the Queen and Governor General’s powers are mostly ceremonial, they do still technically have the right to appoint or dismiss the Prime Minister, and to dissolve the House of Representatives. These powers have only once been used unilaterally – in the Australian Constitutional Crisis of 1975, also known as ‘The Dismissal’.

Australia held a referendum in 1999 to consider whether it should replace the Queen as head of state and replace her with a President. The vote was lost, with 55% of Australians voting against the proposal, and 45% voting for it.

Many people still believe that Australia should become a republic, although Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister, said in 2015 that he did not believe any changes were likely until after the end of the Queen’s reign.

You can read a good overview of republicanism in Australia here

1993 – Native Title Act grants land rights to indigenous Australians

Although indigenous Australians were, as their name suggests, in Australia first, for centuries they did not have any right to land or waters that they had originally owned or used.

Land rights for indigenous Australians became a topical issue in the 1960s, when Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory began to protest against the use of their traditional land, largely for mining. As a result, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was passed. It gave indigenous Australians increased rights over their lands – but only in the Northern Territory.

In the 1980s, public and political opinion began to recognise the importance of land rights. A set of principles was outlined in 1983, but then quickly dropped in 1985 under pressure from mining companies.

Pressure continued to build on the government but it wasn’t until 1993, when the Native Title Act was introduced, that Australia finally had a “national system for the recognition and protection of native title.”

The Act sets out a clear legal process which native Australians can use to prove that they have title to land based on traditional law and custom, rather than formal ownership documents. It also compels the Social Justice Commissioner to prepare a report about native rights each year.

2000 – Sydney hosts the Olympic Games

If the 1956 Melbourne Olympics announced Australia’s arrival on the world stage, the 2000 Sydney Olympics demonstrated Australia’s maturity and self-confidence.

Cathy Freeman was the undoubted star of the Games for Australia. She lit the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony, going some way to demonstrating Australia’s increased comfort with its multi-cultural heritage. The Guardian newspaper called Freeman “a symbol of Australia’s edgy transformation from the white male-dominated imperial outpost that staged the 1956 Olympics to the multicultural melting pot of 2000.”

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, on an unforgettable night Freeman blazed her way to a gold medal in the 400 metres final. She remains, to this day, the only person to have lit the Olympic flame and to have won an Olympic gold medal

10,651 athletes from 199 countries took part in the Sydney Games, competing in 300 different sporting events. Australia finished fourth in the medal table, with 58 medals – 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze. Ahead of them in the final table were China (28 golds, 58 total medals), Russia (32 golds, 89 total medals) and the United States (37 golds, 93 total medals).

The Sydney Olympic Stadium (now known as the ANZ stadium) was the centrepiece venue for the Sydney Games, packing in a record 114,714 spectators for the closing ceremony – the highest attendance ever recorded for a modern Olympic event. Today the stadium is in regular use as a venue for concerts, rugby (union and league), soccer, australian rules, speedway, and even international cricket.

2002 – The Bali bombings kill 88 Australians

On 12 October 2002, suicide bombers exploded two bombs at Paddy’s Pub in Bali, Indonesia. One bomber detonated a device in his backpack, inside the pub. Then, seconds later, a second bomber detonated a car bomb just outside the pub.

Together, the bombs killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians and 27 British. A further 209 people were injured in the blasts.

For some, the Bali bombings marked Australia’s loss of innocence; a day when the horrors of the world came to Australia’s backyard.

Australia’s response has, for the most part, been a nuanced one. Although it has significantly beefed up its anti-terrorism operations and been prepared to take a muscular approach to foreign policy, it has balanced this with a recognition that Australia cannot be secure without good relations with its neighbours.

To that end, Australian foreign policy has emphasised building bilateral and multilateral relationships with other countries in South East Asia and working with others to make South East Asia and Oceania as stable as possible.

Australian Flag

The Australian flag was introduced in 1901 and has been the national flag of Australia ever since. It represents Australia’s British heritage and its position in the Southern hemisphere.

Although there are some within Australia lobbying for the introduction of a new Australian state flag to better represent its current, multicultural identity, demand for a change does not seem strong.

This article contains Australian flag facts and information, as well as links to download your own copies of the flag of Australia. It also contains information about the Aboriginal flag and about the flags of each of Australia’s states.

What does the Australian flag look like?

The Australian flag has a blue background, a union jack in the upper left quarter, the Commonwealth star in the lower left, and five white stars on the right which represent the Southern Cross constellation.

Australian Flag

The exact construction of the Australian flag is set out in Schedule 1 of the Flags Act of 1953. Under the act:

  • the Union Jack must occupy the upper quarter next the staff
  • a large white star (the Commonwealth Star) must be placed in the centre of the lower quarter next the staff. The star must point directly at the centre of St George’s Cross in the Union Jack and must contain seven points
  • 5 white stars (the Southern Cross) must be placed in the half of the flag further from the staff, as follows:
    • Alpha Crucis – On middle line, one-sixth from bottom edge
    • Beta Crucis – One-quarter from middle line, at right angles on left to a point on middle line one-sixteenth above centre of fly
    • Gamma Crucis – On middle line one-sixth from top edge
    • Delta Crucis – Two-ninths from middle line at right angles on right to a point one-fifteenth above a point on middle line one-sixteenth above centre of fly
    • Epsilon Crucis – One-tenth from middle line at right angles on right to a point on middle line one twenty-fourth below centre of fly

All of the Australian flag stars should have seven points, with the exception of the star representing Epsilon Crucis, which should have only five points.

Here is a template which explains how to position each of the elements on the Australian flag.


Australian flag colors

The background of the Australian flag is blue, the Union jack is blue, red and white, and the stars are all white. Here is a table which provides details of the colours that should be used in Pantone, RGB (red, green, blue) and Hex (hexadecimal) format.

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What does the Australian flag mean?

The flag of Australia was introduced in 1901 to mark its transition into the Commonwealth of Australia. So, what do each of the symbols on the Aussie flag mean?

Union Jack

The Union Jack in the upper left quadrant symbolised Australia’s close relationship with the United Kingdom. When the flag was introduced, the Commonwealth of Australia was an integral, but autonomous, part of the British Empire – because of this, it seemed natural to include the union jack prominantly on the national flag.

Although Australia today is a fully independent country – and has been since 1931 – it remains a member of the British Commonwealth, and the Queen is its head of state. The union jack today represents Australia’s heritage as a former colony and its close links with the United Kingdom.

Commonwealth Star / Federation Star

The Commonwealth Star, in the lower left quadrant, represents the different colonies that joined together to create the Commonwealth of Australia. When the flag was first introduced, it had six points to represent the six different colonies. Because the six colonies were joining together to form a federation, the Commonwealth Star is sometimes referred to as the Federation Star.

A seventh point was added to the Commonwealth Star in 1908 to represent Australia’s territories.

Southern Cross

The five stars in the lower right quadrant represent the Southern Cross. This is a bright constellation that can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere and, importantly, could not be seen in the United Kingdom. This provided Australian with a graphical representation of its difference from its colonial homeland.

The five stars of the Southern Cross are, from highest on the flag to lowest:

  • Gamma Crucis
  • Delta Crucis
  • Beta Crucis
  • Epsilon Crucis
  • Alpha Crucis

When was the Australian flag introduced?

Australian flag competitionThe flag was first introduced and flown in 1901. To celebrate it’s federation, the Australian Commonwealth government held a competition to choose the national flag.

With a prize of £200, worth more than £20,000 today ($38,000 AUS, $28,000 US) the competition attracted a stunning 32,823 designs.

According to wikipedia, the designs were judged on seven criteria: “loyalty to the Empire, Federation, history, heraldry, distinctiveness, utility and cost of manufacture.”

Five winners, who had submitted very similar designs shared the prize money, and the new design was unveiled and first flown on 3 September 1901 outside the Royal Exhibition building in Melbourne.

Since 1996, this date has been celebrated as Australia’s national flag day (although this is not a public holiday).

A New Australian Flag?

Australia has intermittently debated whether to change its flag to something that better represents its independence from the United Kingdom and its modern, multicultural identity. This debate has gained some additional impetus in recent years as Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand, debates adopting a new flag.

Australian flag debate

There are two main organisations promoting the development of a new flag – the Australian National Flag Association (australianflag.org.au)and Ausflag (ausflag.com.au). Their main arguments for dropping the current flag in favour of a new one seem to be primarily about the inclusion of the Union Jack. There are very few complaints about the stars on the Australian flag. The key arguments used are that the Union Jack:

  • makes the Australian flag too similar to the flags of other British colonies and existing British territories;
  • implies that Australia is not fully independent from the UK;
  • doesn’t reflect Australia’s moden, multicultural society;
  • doesn’t reflect Australia’s aboriginal peoples.

The main argument for maintaining the current flag seems to be that, despite it’s similarity to other flags, it has established itself as a broadly popular symbol of Australia, and that no widely supported alternative has been identified or designed.

Overall, there is not strong demand in Australia for a change, so the current flag seems secure – for the time being at least.

Australian Red Ensign

In its design, the Red Ensign is almost exactly the same as the Australian national flag. It contains the Union Jack in its upper left corner, the Confederation Star, and the six stars of the Southern Cross. The only difference is that the background of the red ensign is red, instead of blue.

Australian Red Ensign Flag

Historically, the blue Australian flag (the blue ensign) was reserved for official state and government usage, and the red ensign was reserved for the use of private citizens.

The 1953 Flags Act clarified that the blue ensign was the official national Australian flag, and the red ensign would become the official flag of the Australian merchant navy.

Australia flag map

Here is a picture of an Australian flag map. It contains a copy of the Austlalian flag on a map of Australia. To download the map, click on the picture – you will be taken to a separate page where you can then save the image.

Please note that not all of the stars of the Southern Cross are visible on this map because of the shape of the Australian continent!

Australia Flag Map

Alternatively, if you’d prefer, here is an upside-down flag map of Australia!

Upside-down Australia flag map

Australian state flags

Each Australian state has its own flag. In common with the national flag, each state flag is a blue ensign (that is to say, it has a blue background) and contains a union jack in the upper left quadrant. On the right hand side of each state’s flag there is an emblem to represent the individual state.

Some Australian state flags were adopted before Australia’s national flag.

New South Wales

Adopted 18 February 1876.

Australia New South Wales flag 1024

The New South Wales state flag contains a badge with the red cross of St George on a white background. A golden lion is positioned in the centre, surrounded by four eight pointed golden stars on each arm of the cross.

The NSW state badge was designed by James Burnett and Captain Francis Hixson.


First adopted 29 November 1876, current version adopted 1953.

Australia Queensland flag 1024

The Queensland state flag contians a badge with a light blue Maltese Cross on a white disc. A St Edwards crown is positioned at the centre of the cross. The design of the crown changes to reflect the crown chosen by the reigning monarch.

The Queensland state badge was designed by William Hemmant.

South Australia

Adopted 1904.

Australia South Australia flag 1024

The South Australian state flag contains a piping shrike (a bird similar to a magpie) on a yellow disc. The piping shrike is the state bird of Southern Australia.

The South Australian state badge was designed by Robert Craig.


Adopted 29 November 1875.

Australia Tasmania flag 1024

The Tasmanian state flag contains a red lion on a white disc. The lion is thought to symbolise the colony’s ties with Britain.


First adopted 30 November 1877, current version adopted in 1953.

Australia Victoria flag 1024

The Victoria state flag contains a St Edwards Crown atop a constellation of the five white stars of the Southern Cross. Unlike the Australian flag, the number of points on each of the stars varies – from five points to eight.

The design of the crown on the Victoria flag changes to reflect the crown chosen by the reigning monarch.

Australian Aboriginal flag

The Australian Aboriginal flag was designed by Harold Thomas in 1971 and is widely regarded as a symbol of Australia’s aboriginals.

Australian Aboriginal Flag 1024

The flag is divided into two horizontal bars, or black and red, with a yellow disc in the centre. According to Thomas, the different elements of his flag represent:

  • Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia
  • Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector
  • Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land

The aboriginal flag was first used on 12 July 1971, at an event in Adelaide to represent National Aborigines Day. Cathy Freeman carried the Aboriginal and Australian flags together at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 to celebrate her victory lap after winning both the 200 and 400 metre sprint events.

It was given official status in 1995, and then again in 2008, as “the flag of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and a flag of significance to the Australian nation generally.”

Harold Thomas continues to work as an artist. You can see and buy his work here: http://www.territorycolours.com/harold_thomas.htm

Australia Facts 2016

Australia is a developed liberal democracy. It is the largest and most populous country in Oceania, and one of the richest countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

For 40,000 years the continent of Australia was inhabited by indigenous people known as Aboriginals. It was colonised by the British Empire in the late 18th century but gained its independence in 1901.

Demographics of Australia

Australia is a rapidly growing country. Its growth is fuelled by immigration.


At the start of 2016, Australia’s population was estimated to be 23,984,200. Australia today is the 53rd most populous country in the world.

The population has grown by almost 2.5 million people in the five years since the last census, held in 2011, recorded an official population of 21,507,717.

Must of Australia’s population growth is the result of immigration. Around 3 in every 10 Australians was born outside of Australia. The United Kingdom is still the largest single country of origin for migrants to Australia, only just ahead of India and China.Population of Australia



English is the language most commonly spoken in Australia. There is no official language in Australia.


According to the 2011 census, 61% of people in Australia are christians. 2.5% are buddhists, 2.2% are muslims and 1.3% are hindus. 22.3% of people in Australia declared they had no religion. Australia has no official state religion.

Australian economy

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. Its free market economy has seen sustained and steady growth over many decades, driven by its service sector and export of minerals and natural resources.


Australia’s nominal GDP in 2014 was $1.44 trillion. This figure, provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes Australia the 14th largest economy in the world.

Nominal GDP per capita in 2014 was, according to the IMF, $51,642, ranking Australia 7th in the world.

Australian GDP growth over the past few years has been in the 2-4% range – outperforming most European economies, but lagging slightly behind US growth.


Mining is a major industry in Australia, both for domestic consumption and export. Key exports include coal, uranium and natural gas.


The Australian dollar is the currency of Australia. It is also legal tender in Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and, believe it or not, Zimbabwe.

Australian Government

Australia is a federal democracy and, like the United Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy.

Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth. Its head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. She is represented in Australia by a Governor General.

Australia’s parliament is comprised of a house of representatives (with 150 MPs) and a senate (with 76 senators).The Liberal party is the largest party in both Parliament and the Senate. It leads a coalition government. Malcolm Turnbull is leader of the Liberal party and the current Prime Minister of Australia.

Each of Australia’s states and territories also has its own parliament.

Australian cities and states

Capital City of Australia

Canberra is the capital city of Australia. It has a population of 381,488 and is the eighth largest city in Australia.

Canberra was chosen as capital city of Australia in 1908 because the two largest cities (Melbourne and Sydney) could not agree which should become the capital. It is located in the Australian Capital Territory – an area similar in function to Washington D.C. in America.

Largest Australian cities

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia.

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For more detail, and a longer list, please click here to read our more detailed article about the largest cities in Australia.

Australian states and territories

There are six states, three federal territories and seven external territories in Australia.

They are:

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All of the states and most of the territories are self-governing. The remaining territories are governed by federal government.

Australian flag

The zeal is blue with six white stars – five small and one large. It was adopted in 1901.

Australia flag

The stars represent the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross constellation. Because it is a member of the Commonwealth it also contains a union jack in the upper left corner.

Click here to read more about the Australian national flag.

Australian national anthem

Advance Australia Fair is the national anthem of Australia.

It was composed in 1878 by Peter McCormick and adopted as the national anthem in 1984. Before 1984 the national anthem was God Save the Queen.

Australian military

Australia’s military is called the Australian Defence Force. It has 57,982 active personnel and 45,000 reserve personnel.

It has three main branches of service – the Australian Army, The Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.

Australia’s deference budget in 2014 was US$22.5 billion (1.5% of GDP). This is the fourteenth largest military expenditure in the world.

History of Australia


Humans first arrived on the Australian continent nearly 50,000 years ago. In 1788, when the first colonists landed, their population was estimated at between 750,000 and 1 million. They had a predominantly hunter-gatherer lifestyle. No written records exist – their history and culture was passed down orally.

Willem Janszoon, a Dutch sailor, was the first European person to land in Australia, on 26 February 1606. Although the Dutch named this new territory New Holland, they did not settle here.

Instead, it was the English who colonised Australia. Captain James Cook mapped the East Cost of Australia in 1770 and claimed the territory for Great Britain. Captain Arthur Phillip led the first colony – a penal colony that landed near present day Sydney on 26 January 1788.

Britain gradually expanded its penal colonies over the next 50-75 years – driven partly by a need to exile its criminals somewhere far away and partly by a desire to secure a territory that could compensate for its loss of North America in 1783. Gradually, as the penal colonies became established, civilian colonists followed. Over the next fifty years they gradually took on responsibility for their own governance.

The Commonwealth of Australia, a dominion of the British Empire, was established on 1 January 1901. The Commonwealth brought together each of the separate colonies into a single, self-governing, federation.

Australia was rapidly industrialising and growing in economic strength. By the time of the first world war, it was able to send more than 400,000 men to join the fighting in Europe – more than 60,000 of whom were killed in the conflict. Gallipoli, in present day Turkey, is regarded as the Australian military’s first major battle. Australia’s army, navy and air force also played a major part in the Second World War, fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe and the Japanese Empire in Asia.

Growing in confidence, Australia gradually reduced its formal constitutional links with Britain – most were severed in the Statue of Westminster in 1931; the final ties were cut by the Australia Act of 1986.

World Leaders 2017

Updated: 24 January 2017

This page contains a list all world leaders, including a list of all Presidents, Prime Ministers and Monarchs for every country in the world that is a member of the UN or an observer at the UN. It includes the names of the head of state and head of government of each country.

It also includes a list of the heads of significant global and regional organisations – for example, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank or NATO.

The data is accurate as of April 2016.

List of world leaders

This table contains a list of heads of state and heads of government. Where the two roles are combined, only one person is listed.

Where we have written an article about a person included in this list, you can click on a link to visit that article.

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What is the difference between head of state and head of government?

The head of state is almost always an individual. They are often elected but not always – for example, some heads of state are monarchs. Their main role is to act as the representative of that state – for example meeting foreign dignitaries, opening parliaments, or calling elections.

The head of government is usually a prime minister, who leads the government and the legislature. They are responsible for implementing laws and ensuring that the country’s bureaucracy runs smoothly.

Most countries separate the two roles, and appoint a different person to fulfil each function. However some countries, usually in countries with a Presidential system of government, allow one person to fulfil both roles.


Elizabeth II is the only person to be head of state of more than one country. This is because many countries that used to be a part of the British Empire have kept her as their head of state. In total, she is Queen of sixteen countries. She is also head of the Commonwealth of Nations. In countries other than the United Kingdom, she is represented by a Governor-General.

Bhumibol Adulyadejs, also known as Rama IX, is the longest serving head of state. He is also the longest serving current monarch. He has reigned as King of Thailand since 9 June 1946. This is more than five years longer than Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 5 February 1952.

The longest serving head of state who is not a monarch is Paul Biya of Cameroon. He took office on 30 June 1975.

Three countries have more than one head of state. These countries are Switzerland, where members of the federal council take it in turns to take on the role of President, San Marino, which is led by two Captains-Regent, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, which has a three-member Presidency with one member drawn from each of its three nations.

List of organisation leaders

This table contains a list of the leaders of selected international organisations.

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