New South Wales

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New South Wales, state (1991 pop. 5,164,549), 309,443 sq mi (801,457 sq km), SE Australia. It is bounded on the E by the Pacific Ocean. Sydney is the capital. The other principal urban centers are Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Wollongong, and Broken Hill. More than half the population live in the Sydney metropolitan area. New South Wales has a large aboriginal population; over 50% of the Australian aborigines live in New South Wales and Queensland.

Located in the temperate zone, the state has a generally favorable climate. There are four main geographic regions: the coastal lowlands; the eastern highlands, culminating in Mt. Kosciusko (7,316 ft/2,230 m), the highest peak of the Australian Alps and of Australia; the western slopes; and the western plains, which cover about two thirds of the state. The Murray River, which forms the greater part of the southern border, and its principal tributaries are important for the state's extensive irrigation systems.

New South Wales is economically the most important state in Australia. The Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong area is Australia's greatest industrial region, with steel the principal product. Financial services and tourism are important, as is agriculture: wheat, wool, and meat are produced, and there is considerable dairy farming. Tropical fruits and sugarcane are grown in the northeast. The state's rich mineral resources include coal, gold, iron, copper, silver, lead, and zinc.

The coast of Queensland was explored in 1770 by Capt. James Cook, who proclaimed British sovereignty over the east coast of Australia. Sydney, the first Australian settlement, was founded in 1788 as a prison farm. During the 1820s and 30s the character of New South Wales changed as the wool industry grew and the importation of convicts ceased. In the early 19th cent. the colony included Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and New Zealand. These territories were separated and made colonies in their own right between 1825 and 1863.

In 1901, New South Wales was federated as a state of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Capital Territory (site of Canberra, the federal capital), an enclave in New South Wales, was ceded to the commonwealth in 1911. Jervis Bay, S of Sydney, became commonwealth territory in 1915 as a potential port for Canberra; it is no longer part of the capital territory. The nominal head of the state government is the governor; actual executive functions are exercised by the premier and cabinet, who are responsible to a bicameral state parliament.

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New South Wales, a member state of the federal Commonwealth of Australia, was founded 26 January 1788 as a penal colony when Britain annexed over two-thirds of the Australian continent. NSW was later separated into Tasmania (1825, settled 1803), South Australia (1834, settled 1836), Victoria (1851, settled 1834), Northern Territory (1863, incorporated as a federal territory in 1910, yet to achieve full statehood), Queensland (1859, settled 1824), and the Australian Capital Territory (1911). With an area of 310,372 square miles and 6,115,100 inhabitants (1995), of whom 3,736,000 reside in its state capital, Sydney, NSW is the most populous state. For a long time dominated by its convict past, NSW eventually became a thriving self-governing colony, utilizing its savannah grasslands to establish one of the world's largest wool-producing industries, and its coal, mineral, and forest resources to found manufacturing industries; and, with the advent of inland railways (1870–1900), extensive wheat-farming.

With its convict heritage, large unionized industrial population, and somewhat left-of-centre political attitudes, as well as its leading role in the export of wheat and wool, and Sydney's position as Australia's major stock exchange and growing importance as a company headquarters city, NSW is politically and economically Australia's most powerful state. Sydney's pre-eminence has been achieved against strong competition from Melbourne (1995 population 3,197,800), which long regarded itself as the more important financial and company centre. Sydney, with its famous bridge, ocean beaches (Bondi and Manly), and even more famous opera-house, provides Australia with its most readily identified international images.

Martyn Webb

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New South Wales State in se Australia, on the Tasman Sea; the capital is Sydney. Captain James Cook first visited the area in 1770, landing at Botany Bay. He claimed the e coast of Australia for Britain, naming it New South Wales. The colony developed in the 19th century with the growth of the wool industry. It originally included all the known area of the continent. New South Wales achieved responsible government in 1855, becoming a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The Great Dividing Range separates the narrow coastal lowlands from the w plains that occupy two-thirds of the state. The Murray River and its tributaries are used extensively for irrigation. Wheat, wool, dairy produce and beef are the principal agricultural products. The state has valuable mineral deposits. New South Wales is the most populous and most industrialized state in Australia. Steel is the chief product. Area: 801,430sq km (309,180sq mi). Pop. (2002) 6,599,500.;