An island continent between the Pacific and Indian oceans, southeast of Asia. British settlement began in the late 18th century, with six colonies developing — New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Each of these states initially issued its own stamps. These colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia on Jan. 1, 1901, although each continued to issue its own stamps for a number of years. Australia has rich natural resources and, since World War II, has developed into one of the major economic powers of the region. It has maintained close ties with the United States since 1945, although in recent years Japan has replaced the United States as Australia's main economic partner. Australia administers a number of island groups in the South Pacific and plays a leading role in the region.
NEW SOUTH WALES