Western Australia, state, comprising the entire western part of the continent. It is bounded on the N, W, and S by the Indian Ocean. Perth is the capital.
Population - 1,962,100 ( 2003)
Capital - Perth ( pop. 1,244,300)
Territory - 2,525,500 sq km
Western Australia is the largest state of the commonwealth, but only its southwest corner is fertile and substantially settled; the rest is arid and scarcely habitable. Half the population lives in the Perth metropolitan area. Western Australia's population of Australian aborigines numbers about 25,000. State-owned goldfields cover much of Western Australia, and there is a vast central desert. The King Leopold, Hamersley, and Stirling ranges are actually high plateaus. The large lakes in the interior are usually dry, and the northern rivers (the Fortescue, Fitzroy, and Ashburton) are intermittent; the only important river is the Swan in the southwest. The climate is tropical in the north and temperate in the southwest. Agriculture is confined primarily to the southwest and around Perth. About one half of the cultivated land is in wheat. Sheep graze in the north and southwest, and wool is a major product. Meat, dairy products, and timber are also important. The mining of iron, gold, and bauxite has played a major role in the state's economy for many years. Industry expanded significantly during the 1960s; industrial metals, machinery, and transportation equipment are the main manufactures.
Perth, capital of Western Australia, SW Australia, on the Swan River estuary. Fremantle is Perth's port. Perth is a communications and transportation center and the state's financial, commercial, and cultural hub. The suburbs of Fremantle, Kwinana, and Welshpool have heavy industries. Perth was founded in 1829 but did not gain importance until the Coolgardie gold rush (1890s), the development of the port at Fremantle, and the construction of rail lines (early 20th cent.). Perth evolved into a modern metropolis in the late 20th cent. and saw much new construction. The Univ. of Western Australia and Murdoch Univ. are there. Perth is very isolated; Adelaide, the closest major city, is nearly 2,000 mi (3,219 km) away.
*Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003.