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The Commonwealth of Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the world's smallest continent and a number of islands in the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia's neighbouring countries are Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.

The continent of Australia has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. After sporadic visits by European explorers and merchants from the 17th century onwards, the eastern half of the continent was claimed by the British in 1770, and officially settled as the penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five largely self-governing Crown colonies were successively established over the course of the 19th century.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The current population of around 24 million is concentrated mainly in the coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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Façade of the Parliament of South Australia.

The Liberal Movement, usually referred to as the LM, was a minor South Australian political party that flourished in the 1970s. Stemming from discontent within the ranks of the Liberal and Country League, it was first formed by former Premier Steele Hall as an internal group in 1972 in response to a lack of reform within its parent. A year later, when tensions heightened between the LCL's conservative wing and the LM, it was established on its own as a progressive liberal party. When still part of the league, it had eleven representatives; on its own, it initially had three. In the federal election of 1974, it succeeded in electing Hall to the Australian Senate, and in the 1975 state election, it gained an additional member, narrowly failing to dislodge the incumbent Don Dunstan-led Labor Government in coalition with other non-Labor parties. The limited success of the LM and internal decline led to it being absorbed back into the LCL in 1976, newly renamed as the Liberal Party of Australia. A wing of the LM did not rejoin the Liberals and instead formed a new party, the New LM. The New LM, along with the Australia Party and Don Chipp, went on form the nucleus of the Australian Democrats, which subsequently went on to hold the balance of power in both federal and state upper houses. The LM and its successor parties were an early voice for what is termed small-l liberalism in Australia.

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Western Australian Museum, corner of James St and Beaufort St, Perth.

The Western Australian Museum is the main museum for the state of Western Australia. Established in 1891, the museum is situated in the heart of Perth's cultural precinct in Northbridge.

Photo credit: Greg O'Beirne


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For a topic outline on this subject, see Outline of Australia.

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