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Australia's location: a global perspective

If you were to split the Earth across the equator (the imaginary line around the middle of the Earth) you would have two equal halves called hemispheres. The word hemisphere comes from a Greek word meaning half of a sphere. The hemispheres you would see if you cut the Earth along the equator are the northern and southern hemispheres. Similarly, if you were to split the Earth across an imaginary line going through England north to south and through the Pacific Ocean, you would get two hemispheres called the eastern and western hemispheres. These imaginary divisions are used to describe where different places are. Australia is found in the southern and eastern hemispheres. See image 1

The Earth is further split up using imaginary lines called latitude and longitude. Latitudes are lines that wrap around the world parallel to the equator. They are measured in degrees above or below the equator. There are 180 degrees between the equator and the north and south poles. Longitudes are lines that wrap around the world perpendicular to the equator. They are parallel to the Prime Meridian, an imaginary line that travels through Greenwich in England. Longitude is measured in degrees east or west from the Prime Meridian. Another important line of longitude is the International Date Line, which is located on the opposite side of the Earth from the Prime Meridian. It is at 180 degrees of longitude.

Australia is located between the latitudes of 10 degrees south and 46 degrees south and between the longitudes of 110 degrees east and 160 degrees east. This places Australia directly south of the eastern part of Asia and east of Africa. See image 2

Australia's location: a regional perspective

The continent of Australia shares marine territorial boundaries with its nearest neighbouring countries. The nearest of these countries include Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, which are all island nations or territories in the South-East Asian and Asia-Pacific regions. Australia also shares a contested overland border in the Australian Antarctic Territory which adjoins territories claimed by several nations. See image 3

Indonesia is Australia's largest near-neighbouring country and belongs to both the Asia-Pacific and South-East Asian regions. Australia's second- and third-largest neighbours, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, are referred to as belonging to the Oceania region. This region is divided into the three island groups of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The north-east of these islands is part of Melanesia and the larger of these are called continental islands as distinct from the much smaller islands of Micronesia and Polynesia.

Australia's biggest neighbours

New Zealand

New Zealand is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean situated south-east of the Australian continent across the Tasman Sea. The country contains two major islands (named the South and the North), which are the 12th and 14th largest islands in the world, as well as the much smaller island of Kermadec to the north, Tokelau to the north-east and Stewart Island in the far south. New Zealand is located in the mid-latitudes and extends for 1600 kilometres between 34 degrees and 47 degrees south latitude. With an area of 270 000 square kilometres, it is one-thirtieth the size of Australia. New Zealand was initially governed as a dependency of New South Wales before it separated as a colony in the 19th century. The capital city is Wellington but its largest metropolis is Auckland, located at the base of the Northland peninsula on an isthmus that comprises its narrowest neck of land. It has become New Zealand's largest city with urban sprawl that is expanding, particularly toward the south. See image 4

Indonesia

Indonesia is situated to Australia's immediate north and shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, Brunei and Malaysia. Indonesia is the largest of Australia's near neighbours with 60% of its population of nearly 250 million crowded onto the island of Java. The national capital, Jakarta, is located on Java. Indonesia consists of an arc of 17 508 islands that stretch for roughly 5120 kilometres and of which 6000 are inhabited. It is 2012 kilometres from north to south and spans three time zones. Its islands include Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi, as well as Borneo and western New Guinea. Other islands include Timor and Bali. See image 5

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is one of Australia's largest and most populous Asia-Pacific neighbours. Sharing a border with Indonesia, it is located to Australia's immediate north. Papua New Guinea consists of the eastern half of the large island of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago (whose largest islands are New Britain, New Ireland, and Manus), the northernmost Solomon Islands of Bougainville and Buka, and several smaller island groups east of New Guinea. The capital of Papua New Guinea is Port Moresby, which is the largest urban metropolis south of Honolulu, north of Australia and east of Indonesia. It was granted independence in 1975 from its former status as a colony of Australia.


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