Western Australia Largest state in Australia, bordered by the Timor Sea (n), the Indian Ocean (w and s), South Australia state and the Northern Territory (e); the capital is Perth. Other major cities are Mandurah, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, and Fremantle – Perth's main port. The climate is mainly tropical or sub-tropical and more than 90% of the land is desert or semi-desert. Most settlements are in the sw, which has a temperate climate. The Swan River, the only significant water source, drains this sw region. In 1616 Dirck Hartog became the first European to visit Western Australia, but settlement did not begin until 1826, when a penal colony was founded. The first free settlement was in 1829. New South Wales governed Western Australia until 1831. In 1901 it became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia. The raising of sheep and cattle is the main agricultural activity, but the production of cereals, fishing and forestry are also important. Western Australia is the country's major gold-producing state; there is also mining for iron ore, coal, nickel, uranium, bauxite, phosphates, mineral sands, oil, and natural gas. Winemaking is also important. Area: 2,525,500sq km (975,095sq mi). Pop. (2000 est.) 1,897,400.
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