States of Australia

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Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC) treats the island territories as separate countries. It assigns them the codes XA and XAC for Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and XC and XCS for Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Due to some confusion at the ISO, there were at least three different versions of ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-6 posted online. They differ in regard to Australia and Tunisia. The correct version has been posted since about 2006-05-09. I mention it in case anyone finds a copy of one of the older versions.

Erratum: Under "Territorial extent", under Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay should be located on the east coast of New South Wales. New South Wales doesn't have a west coast.

Legally, Jervis Bay Territory and Australian Capital Territory are two separate entities. The Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act of 1915 says, "the laws ... in force from time to time in the Australian Capital Territory are, so far as they are applicable to the Territory and are not inconsistent with an Ordinance, in force in the [Jervis Bay] Territory as if the Territory formed part of the Australian Capital Territory." The words "as if ... formed" imply that Jervis Bay Territory does not in fact form part of the Australian Capital Territory. Jervis Bay is so tightly linked to the ACT that people tend to think of it as part of the ACT. Many reference books lump them together, including the CIA World Factbook.

Country overview: 

ISO codeAU
GEC codeAS
LanguageEnglish (en)
Time zone(see table)


In 1900, there were six British colonies on the Australian continent. On January 1, 1901, they united to form a single independent country, professing allegiance to the crown of England.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Australien
  2. Dutch: Australië, Gemenebest Australië (formal)
  3. English: Commonwealth of Australia (formal), Oz (informal)
  4. Finnish: Australia
  5. French: Australie, Commonwealth d'Australie f (formal)
  6. German: Australien n
  7. Icelandic: Ástralía
  8. Italian: Australia f
  9. Norwegian: Australia
  10. Portuguese: Austrália, Comunidade f da Austrália f (formal)
  11. Russian: Австралийский Союз (formal), Австралия
  12. Spanish: Australia, Commonwealth de Australia f (formal)
  13. Swedish: Australien
  14. Turkish: Avustralya

Origin of name: 

Early cartographers used Latin Terra Australis: Southern Land

Primary subdivisions: 

Australia is divided into six states and five territories (see "Territorial extent" for more details).

Australian Capital TerritorytyAU.ACACTAS01ACacaACT+10~357,2222,365913Canberra
Jervis Bay TerritorytyAU.JB AS01ACacaJBT+10~3786726Canberra
New South WalesstAU.NSNSWAS02NSxnaNSW+10~6,917,658801,425309,432Sydney
Northern TerritorytyAU.NTNTAS03NTxoaNT+9:30211,9451,356,170523,620Darwin
South AustraliastAU.SASAAS05SAxraSA+9:30~1,596,572984,377380,070Adelaide
Western AustraliastAU.WAWAAS08WAweaWA+82,239,1702,527,621975,920Perth
Ashmore and Cartier IslandstyAU.AS AT  052Darwin
Coral Sea Islands TerritorytyAU.CR CR xga031Kingston
11 divisions21,507,7177,704,3662,974,672
  • Typ: These divisions are states (st) and territories (ty), as shown.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2, same as AS 4212-1994.
  • GEC: Codes from GEC. The island territories are treated as countries by GEC.
  • IATA: Codes used in the IATA Airline Coding Directory.
  • MARC: Machine Readable Cataloging codes
  • Conv: Conventional abbreviations. In postal addresses, use all capitals and no period.
  • Zone: Time zone indication (see note below).
  • Population: 2011-08-09 census


Time zone note: Lord Howe Island is offset +10:30 from UTC, and advances only 30 minutes in the summer, the only place in the world that does so. A few resort islands in Queensland, and all of Western Australia, have observed daylight saving time in some recent summers. Broken Hill, New South Wales has sometimes followed South Australian time.

Other codes:

Australian postal codes are four digits. With a few exceptions, the state can be deduced from the first one or two digits. The exceptions are cases where a city is served from a distribution center in a neighboring state.

The Australian telephone numbering system has recently been reformed. Effective in 1997, there are four area codes, each serving a whole state or states. All local telephone numbers are eight digits. This replaces the old system, in which both the city access codes and the local numbers were variable in length. Before the area code, dial 0 from another Australian telephone, or your international access code followed by 61 from other countries. Territories with a blank in this column have a +672 international prefix.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has defined ASGC codes (source [2]). They include codes for several levels of subdivision. The top-level divisions are assigned "S/T" codes (state or territory).

This table shows these codes for each of the states and territories:

DivisionPostal codesHigh-volA/cASGCTyp
Australian Antarctic Territory7151    
Australian Capital Territory26xx, 29xx02xx28t
Christmas Island6798 89c
Cocos (Keeling) Islands6799 89c
Jervis Bay2540 29t
New South Wales20xx-25xx, 27xx-28xx1xxx21s
Norfolk Island2899   c
Northern Territory08xx09xx87t
South Australia50xx-57xx58xx-59xx84s
Western Australia60xx-67xx68xx-69xx85s
  • High-vol: Special postal codes for high-volume mailers.
  • A/c: Telephone area code.
  • ASGC: S/T code from Australian Standard Geographical
  • Typ: c = country, s = state, t = territory.


Note: in the Typ column, I have used c to denote territories that have their own country code in ISO 3166-1.

Further subdivisions:

See the Shires of Australia page.

There are about 900 units of local government. In different parts of the country, they are called boroughs, cities, district councils, municipalities, shires, or towns. There are also some unincorporated areas.

Territorial extent: 

  1. Australian Capital Territory is completely surrounded by New South Wales.
  2. Jervis Bay Territory is situated on the east coast of New South Wales, occupying a peninsula and Bowen Island. Most reference works include it in A.C.T.
  3. New South Wales includes Lord Howe Island and nearby Ball's Pyramid.
  4. Northern Territory includes Ashmore and Cartier Islands. These islands are referred to as a territory, but they are uninhabited and are administered as part of Northern Territory. I have given them a separate line in the table to be able to show their GEC code.
  5. Queensland includes islands in the Torres Strait as far north as the south coast of New Guinea, including Saibai Island, Boigu Island, Talbot Islands, and Bramble Cay, but excluding Bristow Island and Parama Island. Queensland's eastern border includes the Great Barrier Reef.
  6. Tasmania includes Macquarie Island. The dividing line between the islands in the Bass Strait that belong to Victoria and those that belong to Tasmania is the parallel of 39° 12' South. Almost all of the islands, as far north as the Hogan Group, thus belong to Tasmania. Boundary Islet is cut by the dividing parallel, and contains the entire 85-meter land boundary between Tasmania and Victoria.
  7. Western Australia includes reefs within about 400 km. of the Australian mainland, but not Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
  8. Coral Sea Islands Territory includes the islands east of the Great Barrier Reef, west of the meridian of 157° East, and between the parallels of 12° and 24° South. The only settlement in this territory is a weather station on Willis Island. It is administered from Kingston, Norfolk Island. There is no indication in ISO 3166-2 of where this territory is assigned.
  9. The following remote territories of Australia are treated as separate countries by ISO 3166-1, so they are not included here: Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Christmas Island [in the Indian Ocean]; Norfolk Island; and Heard and McDonald Islands. In addition, Australian Antarctic Territory is claimed by Australia but is listed under Antarctica in this book.

The UN LOCODE page  for Australia lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. New South Wales: Named by Captain James Cook for its resemblance to the south coast of Wales.
  2. Queensland: Named in honor of Queen Victoria of England.
  3. Tasmania: Named for its discoverer, Abel Janszoon Tasman.
  4. Victoria: Also named for Queen Victoria of England.

Change history: 

  1. 1901-01-01: Commonwealth of Australia formed by the union of six British colonies: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia.
  2. 1905-11: British New Guinea became an external territory of Australia.
  3. 1906-09-01: Name of British New Guinea changed to Papua.
  4. 1911-01-01: Northern Territory split from South Australia as a territory. Name of capital of Northern Territory changed from Palmerston to Darwin. Federal Capital Territory (Canberra section) split from New South Wales as a territory.
  5. 1914-07-01: Norfolk Island (now listed as a separate country) became a federal territory.
  6. 1915: Jervis Bay section (67 sq. km.) transferred from New South Wales to Federal Capital Territory. In fact, it was legally a separate territory from this time forth, but it was so closely linked to Canberra that most people treated them as one.
  7. 1921-05-09: New Guinea Territory, consisting of the part of New Guinea Island north of Papua and east of Indonesia (Irian Jaya) and nearby islands, mandated to Australia by the League of Nations.
  8. 1927-02-01: Northern Territory split into two territories, North Australia and Central Australia (capital Alice Springs), along the parallel of 20° South.
  9. 1927-05-09: National capital moved from Melbourne to Canberra.
  10. 1931-06-12: North Australia and Central Australia reunited into the territory of Northern Territory.
  11. 1931-07-23: Ashmore and Cartier Islands became part of Australia as external territory.
  12. 1938: Ashmore and Cartier Islands placed under Northern Territory administration. Name of Federal Capital Territory changed to Australian Capital Territory.
  13. 1946-12-13: Australian mandate for New Guinea Territory renewed by the United Nations as a trusteeship.
  14. 1969-09-30: Coral Sea Islands Territory became an external territory of Australia.
  15. 1975-09-16: Papua and New Guinea Territories became independent.
  16. 2004-03-08: ISO changed the Australian state codes in the 3166-2 standard. The new codes come from the Australian standard AS 4212-1994, "Geographic information systems - Data dictionary for transfer of street addressing information". The former ISO codes, where different from the present ones, were: CT for Australian Capital Territory, NS for New South Wales, QL for Queensland, TS for Tasmania, and VI for Victoria.
  17. 2009-11-28: I decided to list Jervis Bay Territory as a separate entity from Australian Capital Territory (former HASC code AU.CT).

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Australian Capital Territory: Territoire de la Capitale Australienne (French); Território da Capital Australiana (Portuguese); Territorio della Capitale Federale (Italian)
  2. Coral Sea Islands Territory: Territoire des Îles de la Mer de Corail (French); Território das Ilhas do Mar de Coral (Portuguese); Territorio delle Isole del Mar dei Coralli (Italian)
  3. New South Wales: Neusüdwales (German); Nieuw Zuid-Wales (Dutch); Nouvelle-Galles du Sud (French); Nova Gales do Sul (Portuguese); Nueva Gales del Sur (Spanish); Nuovo Galles del Sud (Italian)
  4. Northern Territory: Noordelijk Territorium (Dutch); Nordterritorium, Nord-Australien (German); Territoire du Nord (French); Territorio del Nord (Italian); Territorio del Norte (Spanish); Território do Norte (Portuguese)
  5. South Australia: Australia del Sur (Spanish); Austrália do Sul (Portuguese); Austrália Meridional (Portuguese-variant); Australia Meridionale (Italian); Australie méridionale (French); Südaustralien (German); Zuid-Australië (Dutch)
  6. Tasmania: Tasmânia (Portuguese); Tasmanie (French); Tasmanië (Dutch); Tasmanien (German)
  7. Victoria: Vitória (Portuguese)
  8. Western Australia: Australia Occidental (Spanish); Austrália Ocidental (Portuguese); Australia Occidentale (Italian); Australie occidentale (French); West-Australië (Dutch); Westaustralien (German)

Population history:

Australian Capital Territory1,7142,5728,94716,90530,31558,82896,032
New South Wales1,354,8461,646,7342,100,3712,600,8472,984,8383,423,5293,917,0134,237,901
Northern Territory3,3103,8674,85010,86816,46927,09537,433
South Australia363,157408,558495,160580,949646,073797,094969,3401,094,984
Western Australia184,124282,114332,732438,852502,480639,771736,629848,100


Australian Capital Territory144,063197,622221,609264,400280,096302,566314,687324,034360,222
New South Wales4,601,1804,914,3005,126,2175,401,8815,732,0326,038,6966,371,7456,549,1776,917,658
Northern Territory86,39097,090115,900154,000175,891195,101210,664192,898211,945
South Australia1,173,7071,244,7561,285,0331,345,9451,400,6221,427,9361,467,2611,514,3371,596,572
Western Australia1,053,8341,178,3421,300,0561,459,0191,586,8251,726,0951,851,2521,959,0882,239,170


In 1901, A.C.T. was part of New South Wales, and population of Northern Territory is included with South Australia. For all other years, population of Jervis Bay and other territories is included with A.C.T. Censuses up to and including 1961 did not count the aboriginal population.


  1. [1] The Australian Bureau of Statistics  site has the historical population data shown in the tables above. Most of the figures are slightly in disagreement with figures given in "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries" (compiled from other sources). Moreover, I wasn't able to find an explanation on the ABS site of how the figures fit together. For 1991, 1996, and 2001, the total of the populations of the eight states and territories didn't add up to the population given for all of Australia. I made the assumption that the missing people were in "other territories". Probably all or almost all of these people would be in Jervis Bay territory, so I added them in with Australian Capital Territory.
  2. [2] Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) 1999 , published by The Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  3. [3] The Australian Office of Parliamentary Counsel has published Drafting Direction No. 3.10 . Parts 2 and 3 of this document explain how to refer to the various states and territories when drafting legislation.
  4. [4] Jervis Bay Governance and Administration  clarifies the relationship between JBT and ACT.
  5. [5] 2011 Census QuickStats  (Australian Bureau of Statistics) is the source for 2011 census data shown here (retrieved 2014-04-26). There is also a map at Data & analysis  that gives mouseover populations; the figures there differ slightly from the other page.
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