Victoria is Australia's smallest mainland state in terms of area and is situated in the south-eastern corner of the continent. As of December 8, 2004, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has the population of Victoria reaching 5 million for the first time, thus making it the most densely populated state in Australia.
Main article: History of Victoria
After the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788, the continent was divided into an eastern half - named New South Wales, and a western half, named New Holland, but under the administration of the colonial government in Sydney. Victoria's first settlement was at Portland, on the west coast of what is now Victoria, Melbourne was founded in 1835 by John Batman.
In 1851 gold was discovered at Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo. Later discoveries occurred at many sites across Victoria. This triggered one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. Victoria grew rapidly in both population and economic power. The colony was granted independence from New South Wales in the same year.
In 1901 Victoria ceased to be an independent colony and became a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Melbourne was the capital of Australia while Canberra was under construction.
Main article: Government of Victoria
The form of the government of Victoria is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1855, although it has been amended many times since then. Since 1901 Victoria has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Australian Constitution regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth.
Victoria is governed according to the principles of the Westminister system, a form of parliamentary government based on the model of the United Kingdom. Legislative power rests with the Parliament of Victoria, which consists of the Crown, represented by the Governor of Victoria, and the two Houses, the Victorian Legislative Council and the Victorian Legislative Assembly.
Historically and to some extent in contemporary times, Victoria has been home to gold mining and brown coal mining and offshore oil drilling.
Outside the manufacturing and service centre of Melbourne, agriculture dominates the Victorian economy, with its comparatively rich soils and temperature and wet climates compared to the rest of Australia. Major export agricultural activities include beef and dairy cattle, wool and lamb production and wheat (primarily in the drier western half of the state), with irrigated fruit and vegetable growers around Melbourne and along the Murray River. Wine grape production grew rapidly during the 1990s.
Geology and geography
Main article: Geology of Victoria
Western (left) and eastern (right) Victorian cities, towns, settlements and road network
Victoria's northern border is the southbank of the Murray River, the river itself being part of New South Wales. It also rests at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, which stretches along the east coast and terminates near Ballarat. It borders South Australia to the west. In this space are topographically, geologically and climatically diverse areas ranging from the wet, temperate climate of Gippsland in the southeast to the snow-covered Victorian alpine areas which rise to almost 2000 m (with Mount Bogong the highest peak at 1986 m) and extensive semi-arid plains to the west and north-west.
There are an extensive series of river systems in Victoria owing to it's relatively high (relative to the rest of Australia) rainfall. Most notable is the Murray River system. Other rivers include: Ovens River, King River, Campaspe River, Lodden River, Wimmera River, Elgin River, Barwon River, Thompson River, Snowy River, Latrobe River, Yarra River, Maribyrnong River, Mitta River and Kiewa River.
The state symbols include the pink heath (state flower), Leadbeater's possum (state animal) and the helmeted honeyeater (state bird).
The state's capital, Melbourne, contains approximately 70% of the state's population and dominates its economy, media, and culture. For other cities and towns, see List of localities (Victoria) and Local Government Areas of Victoria.
Some major tourist destinations in Victoria include: Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Buchan Caves, Echuca, Fairy penguins, Geelong, Gippsland Lakes, Gliding, Great Ocean Road, Maldon, Melbourne Casino, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Murray River golf clubs, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Puffing Billy, Skiing in Victoria, Sovereign Hill, The Twelve Apostles. Other popular activies include whale watching, hang-gliding and hot air ballooning.
Culture and sport
Victoria is generally regarded as the home of Australian Rules Football, with 10 of the 16 clubs of the major league (see Australian Football League) based in Victoria, and the traditional Grand Final held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
- Government website (http://www.vic.gov.au)
- Official tourism website (http://www.visitvictoria.com)
- Railway map (http://www.railpage.org.au/vr/map.html)
- Public Transport (http://www.victrip.com.au/)