Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory
Territory flag (In detail) Coat of Arms (In detail)
Capital Canberra
— Land

— Marine
— Total

2 358 kmē (2432 including Jervis Bay)
0 kmē
2 358 kmē (2432 including Jervis Bay)
Population (2003)
308 700
Time zone UTC+10 (except during daylight saving time—UTC+11)
Highest point Bimberi Peak (1 912 m)
ISO 3166-2 code: AU-CT
Australian Capital Territory, chiefly the site of Canberra (population 308,700), Australia's capital city, is situated between the country's two largest and rival cities, Melbourne and Sydney.


The Australian Capital Territory is wholly surrounded by New South Wales. For administrative purposes, the Australian Capital Territory also incorporates uninhabited external territories. Attempts have also been made to incorporate Norfolk Island with the Australian Capital Territory in terms of representation in Federal Parliament.

Apart from Canberra, there is a some agricultural land (sheep, dairy cattle, some vinyards and a very small area of crops), and a large area of national park, much of it mountainous and forested. Two small townships , Tharwa and Hall, are located in the territory. The area and population is quite similar to the nation of Luxembourg but the pattern of settlement is very different.

In Australia's Federal Parliament, the Australian Capital Territory is represented by two senators in the Senate, and two Members in the House of Representatives. It is governed internally by a 17-member Legislative assembly, that had all state and local government functions. However, its decisions can be overruled by the Federal Government.


When the constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia was being negotiated between the colonies, Melbourne and Sydney each demanded that they become the capital. As a compromise, it was agreed that the capital would initially be Melbourne, until a new capital city could be built. The final constitution therefore required that the new capital city would be located in territory taken from New South Wales, and be at least 100 statute miles from Sydney.

The present site was chosen in 1908, with additional territory at Jervis Bay (now a naval base on the NSW coast) allocated so the national capital could have a sea port. In 1911 an international competition was held, and Canberra was begun. The federal government officially moved there from Melbourne in 1926. At first most public service administration continued to be done in Melbourne, but the various departments were gradually moved to Canberra over the years.