Australia Facts and Figures

Printer-friendly versionSend somebody a link to this page


Australia is a member of "The Commonwealth". It was originally a British colony and became an independent nation - "The Commonwealth of Australia" - in 1901.

Head of State

The reigning British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is Australia's Head of State. Because the monarch is not resident in Australia, she appoints the "Governor-General" as her representative.

Constitutionally, the monarch has overriding powers, but in everyday life, it's the elected Australian government which runs the country.

Federal Government

The Australian Government, more properly known as the "Federal Government", is based in Canberra and has power in many areas, including Defence, Taxation, Immigration and so on.

It is elected by the people and holds office for a maximum of three years. Voting is compulsory for all Australian citizens over the age of 18. Currently, the Labour Party is in government and the head of government (The Prime Minister) is Julia Gillard.

State Governments

Each state also has its own government, which is elected by the residents of the state every four years. The state government, led by "The Premier", has power in areas such as Education, Law enforcement, Health, Transport and Agriculture.

Local Governments

Each state is further broken down into local government areas, governed by Town/City Councils. Councillors are also elected by the residents and they and council departments administer over such matters as building approvals, municipal facilities (libraries, parks, leisure centres, etc), waste disposal and so on.