|Capital cities from the states of Australia:|
Canberra, capital city of Australian Capital. Sydney, capital of New South Wales. Darwin, capital city of Northern Territory. Brisbane, capital of Queensland. Adelaide, capital city of South Australia. Hobart, capital of Tasmania. Melbourne, capital city of Victoria and Perth, capital city of Western Australia.
The Commonwealth of Australia is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania and a number of other islands in the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The 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 Australian mainland has been inhabited for more than 42,000 years by Indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the north and by European explorers and merchants starting in the 17th century, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation as part of the 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 established during the 19th century.
On 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth Realm. The capital city is Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory. The population is 21 million, and is concentrated in the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.
Since 1788, the primary basis of Australian culture until the mid-20th century has been Anglo-Celtic, although distinctive Australian features had been evolving from the environment and indigenous culture. Over the past 50 years, Australian culture has been strongly influenced by American popular culture (particularly television and cinema), large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking countries, and Australia's Asian neighbours. The vigour and originality of the arts in Australia - literature, cinema, opera, music, painting, theatre, dance, and crafts - have achieved international recognition.
Australia has a long history of visual arts, starting with the cave and bark paintings of its indigenous peoples. From the time of European settlement, a common theme in Australian art has been the Australian landscape, seen in the works of Arthur Streeton, Arthur Boyd and Albert Namatjira, among others. The traditions of indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally and are closely tied to ceremony and the telling of the stories of the Dreamtime. Australian Aboriginal music, dance and art have a palpable influence on contemporary Australian visual and performing arts. Australia has an active tradition of music, ballet and theatre; many of its performing arts companies receive public funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each capital city, and a national opera company, Opera Australia, first made prominent by the renowned diva Dame Joan Sutherland; Australian music includes classical, jazz, and many popular genres.
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