Western Australia is Australia's largest state, covering the westernmost third of the mainland, bordering South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The state capital is the city of Perth on the south-western coastline; the centre of a metropolitan area which is home to almost three quarters of the state's residents. The Perth metropolitan area has grown to include the port of Fremantle and the towns of Rockingham and Mandurah. Other important or well-known centres include Bunbury, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Geraldton, Port Hedland and Broome, but these are all relatively small cities or towns. The southwest coastal area is relatively temperate and forested, while much of the rest of the state is hot and semi-arid or desert, and is lightly inhabited. An exception to this is the northern tropical regions, especially the Kimberley.
Although Western Australia has been occupied by the Aboriginal people for many thousands of years, the present state has its origins in the British settlement known as the Swan River Colony, founded at Perth in 1829 (although the first British settlement occurred in Albany in 1826). Since that time, many immigrants have continued to be of British origin, outnumbered only by arrivals from other Australian states. There has also been significant immigration from New Zealand. Small numbers of Southeast Asian (especially ethnic Chinese) immigrants began to arrive in Western Australia in the mid 19th century. Immigration restrictions (the "White Australia Policy") caused "non-white" immigration to cease in the 1890s. Following World War II, immigration from Europe increased, especially from Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece. In the 1970s, a new wave of Asian immigrants, mostly ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese began to arrive in Western Australia. Perth, in particular, paralleled the multicultural experience of other large Australian cities and has become home to people from most of the countries in the world. Presently, 11.9% of Western Australian residents were born in the United Kingdom or Ireland, while 5.3% were born in Asia. In recent years, Western Australia has had the highest overseas migration rates in the nation.
Western Australia's economy has been largely based on the extraction and export of mining and petroleum commodities, especially iron ore, alumina, natural gas, nickel and gold. Western Australia is a leading alumina extractor, producing more than 20% of the world's aluminium. It is also the world's third-largest iron ore producer, producing around 15% of the world's total iron ore output. Western Australia also extracts up to 75% of Australia's 240 tonnes of gold.
Agricultural exports are also important, especially wheat, barley and sheep products such as wool and meat. In recent years, tourism has grown in importance, with the majority of visitors coming from the United Kingdom and Ireland, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia.
Main article: Government of Western Australia
With the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, Western Australia became an 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 soley with the State, however over time the Commonwealth has effectively expanded its powers through increasing control of taxation and financial distribution.
The State legislature is bicameral, consisting of the Legislative Assembly (or lower house), and the Legislative Council (or upper house). Sufferage is universal for Australian citizens residing in Western Australia over 18 years of age.
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 John Sanderson), executive power is effectively administered by the premier and ministers. The premier (currently Geoff Gallop) and ministers are drawn from the party or coalition of parties holding a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.
Interestingly, 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 Westminster, however the British Government refused to intervene and therefore no action was taken to implement this decision.
Western Australia has only one daily newspaper, the independent tabloid The West Australian, and one Sunday tabloid newspaper, News Corporation's The Sunday Times.
Metropolitan Perth has six broadcast television stations, while regional Western Australia is served by four broadcast networks. The regional southwest of the state is also served by pay television giant Foxtel, which acquired the Galaxy Television satellite service in the 1990s.
Last updated: 10-18-2005 12:44:35