Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the worlds sixth-largest country by total area, the neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea and East Timor to the north, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east. Australias capital is Canberra, and its largest urban area is Sydney, for about 50,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages classifiable into roughly 250 groups. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored, on 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy comprising six states.
The population of 24 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard, Australia has the worlds 13th-largest economy and ninth-highest per capita income. With the second-highest human development index globally, the country highly in quality of life, education, economic freedom. The name Australia is derived from the Latin Terra Australis a name used for putative lands in the southern hemisphere since ancient times, the Dutch adjectival form Australische was used in a Dutch book in Batavia in 1638, to refer to the newly discovered lands to the south. On 12 December 1817, Macquarie recommended to the Colonial Office that it be formally adopted, in 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia. The first official published use of the term Australia came with the 1830 publication of The Australia Directory and these first inhabitants may have been ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, were originally horticulturists, the northern coasts and waters of Australia were visited sporadically by fishermen from Maritime Southeast Asia.
The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland, and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent, are attributed to the Dutch. The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken captained by Dutch navigator, Willem Janszoon. He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in early 1606, the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines and named the island continent New Holland during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement. William Dampier, an English explorer and privateer, landed on the north-west coast of New Holland in 1688, in 1770, James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain. The first settlement led to the foundation of Sydney, and the exploration, a British settlement was established in Van Diemens Land, now known as Tasmania, in 1803, and it became a separate colony in 1825. The United Kingdom formally claimed the part of Western Australia in 1828.
Separate colonies were carved from parts of New South Wales, South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, the Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia