From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
The AUSTRALIAN Portal
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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The Riverina is an agricultural region of south-western New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The Riverina is distinguished from other Australian regions due to the combination of flat plains, warm to hot climate and an ample supply of water for irrigation. This combination has allowed the Riverina to develop into one of the most productive and agriculturally diverse areas of Australia. Bordered on the south by the state of Victoria and on the east by the Great Dividing Range, the Riverina covers those areas of New South Wales in the Murray and Murrumbidgee drainage zones to their confluence in the west.
Home to Aboriginal groups for over 40,000 years, the Riverina was originally settled by Europeans in the mid 19th century as a pastoral region providing beef and wool to markets in Australia and beyond. In the 20th century, the development of major irrigation areas in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys has led to the introduction of crops such as rice and wine grapes. The Riverina has strong cultural ties to Victoria and the region was the source of much of the impetus behind the federation of Australian colonies.
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For a topic outline on this subject, see Outline of Australia.