Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 60,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century. It is documented that Aborigines spoke languages that can be classified into about 250 groups. After the European exploration of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, who named it New Holland, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia's national day. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories.
Being the oldest, flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils, Australia has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi). A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east and mountain ranges in the south-east. A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, which boosted the population of the country. Nevertheless, its population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, remains among the lowest in the world. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking and manufacturing. Indigenous Australian rock art is the oldest and richest in the world, dating as far back as 60,000 years and spread across hundreds of thousands of sites.
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Lake Burley Griffin is a large lake in the centre of Canberra, Australia's federal capital city. It was created in 1963 after the Molonglo River, which runs through the city centre, was dammed. It is named after Walter Burley Griffin, the architect who won the design competition for the city of Canberra. It should be noted that 'Burley' was Griffin's middle name, not part of his surname.
The lake is located in the approximate geographic centre of the city, according to Griffin's original designs. Numerous important institutions, such as the National Library of Australia lie on its shores, and Parliament House is a short distance away. Its surrounds are also quite popular with recreational users, particularly in the warmer months. Though swimming in the lake is uncommon, it is used for a wide variety of other activities, such as rowing, fishing, and sailing.
The lake's flow is regulated by the 33 metre tall Scrivener Dam, which is designed to handle a once in 5000 year flood event. In times of drought, water levels can fall below desired limits; so to compensate, water is released from the Googong Dam, located on a tributary of the Molonglo River.
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Happy Valley Reservoir is one of the oldest reservoirs in South Australia, being built between 1892 and 1897. Initially 15 kilometres from Adelaide, the reservoir is now largely enveloped by the city's southern suburbs. It is relatively small in capacity, holding only 11,500 megalitres, but it is the site of the biggest water treatment plant in Adelaide and is responsible for providing more than 40% of the city's water.
Photo credit: Ctbolt
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For a topic outline on this subject, see Outline of Australia.