State of southeast Australia; bounded on the north and northeast by New South Wales, from which it is separated by the River Murray; on the west by South Australia; and on the south and southeast by the Southern Ocean, Bass Strait, and the Pacific Ocean; area 227,600 sq km/87,876 sq mi; population (2001 est) 4,822,700. The capital is Melbourne. Produce includes wool, beef, dairy products, tobacco, wheat, wine, dried fruit, orchard fruits, and vegetables. Gold, brown coal, gypsum, kaolin, and bauxite are mined, and there are oil, natural gas, electronics, food processing, chemical, pharmaceutical, machinery, car, textile, wine, aquaculture, wool, and building material industries.
Victoria is crossed from east to west by the southern tip of the Great Dividing Range, which is low in the west and rises in the east to reach a maximum height of 1,986 m/6,516 ft at Mount Bogong. The eastern part of the range, dividing the Gippsland district in the southeast of the state from the River Murray, is known as the Victorian Alps; snow covers the higher peaks for several months of the year. East of Kilmore for about 320 km/200 mi the mountains are steep, but westwards they fall away to form lower hills. The western end of the range is known as the Grampians, where there are Aboriginal rock paintings; the highest peak is Mount William (1,167 m/3,829 ft). North of the Grampians is the mallee district, a flat region of scrub, sand dunes, and dry lakes, named after the mallee eucalyptus that grows here. The region is also known for plants such as acacias, saltbush, spinifex, and numerous wild-flower species. The rest of the state, north and south of the range, is undulating, interrupted only by outlying spurs of the main mountain chain. Most of the rivers north of the range are tributaries of the River Murray; those to the south flow into the sea. Victoria has a number of inland lakes, most of them saline. The Gippsland Lakes region, southeast of Melbourne, is Australia's largest inland waterways system. In the southwest of the state, stretching from Hamilton into South Australia, lies an extensive volcanic plain with more than 80 extinct volcanic peaks; some of the plains are marked by lava flows. Victoria has almost 9 million ha/22 million acres of public land, of which 3.5 million ha/8.6 million acres are classified as state forest. Towns and cities include Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo.
Victoria has an equable climate with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Rain is reliable in winter and spring, but erratic in summer: the average annual rainfall in Melbourne is 660.8 mm/26 in; in Geelong it is 536.5 mm/21 in; and in Ballarat it is 710.3 mm/28 in. The mean temperature in summer in Melbourne is 19.5°C/67°F, and the mean temperature in winter is 10.8°C/51°F. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found, in 1999, that the annual rainfall in Victoria had increased by 15% over the past 85 years.
Victoria is one of the most economically developed of the Australian states, accounting for a third of the country's manufacturing production and a quarter of the agricultural production. Agriculture is a major economic activity. Victoria produces about 30% of Australia's food products, and food products and agricultural goods produce about 35% of Victoria's export earnings. The state produces 15% of Australia's grains, cereals (wheat, barley, and oats), pulses, and oilseeds. Wheat is the largest crop and is grown in the vast irrigated wheatfields of the Wimmera region around Horsham in the west of the state. The dairying industry is centred in the Gippsland district, east of Melbourne and south of the Victorian Alps. Victoria produces 60% of Australia's milk, and 75% of its manufactured dairy products; the state also produces high quality wool. Aquaculture is also important, and includes salmon, eels, warm water fish, muscles, and ornamental fish such as gold fish and tropical fish.
Fruit, especially citrus, and nut growing are also important. Large areas are planted with orchards, and oilseed rape (or canola) is grown, accounting for 57% of national oilseed production. Grapes are grown extensively: the state produces over half of the national production of grapes, and these are used for domestic consumption, drying, and wine production. There are over 200 wineries in Victoria, producing a wide range of wines, and accounting for 15% of Australia's total wine production.
Victoria is rich in mineral resources. After the discovery of gold in 1851, a large proportion of Australia's gold was mined in Victoria, and gold is still mined in the state. Copper, zinc, bauxite, kaolin, and gypsum are also mined. There are extensive deposits of brown coal (lignite) in the La Trobe Valley southeast of Melbourne. There are major offshore oil and natural gas deposits in Bass Strait; oil production also centres around offshore Gippsland; gas is also produced in the Cooper Basin. Most of Victoria's power needs are met by the coal-fuelled power stations in the La Trobe Valley, where there are extensive lignite (brown coal) deposits; hydroelectric power is generated at Lake Hume and Lake Eldon. With the advantages of these mineral and power supplies, industry, however, is now the leading area of the economy, with manufactures which include iron and steel, machinery, motor vehicles, textiles and plastics.
Most of the state's overseas trade passes through Melbourne, but the ports at Geelong and Portland are also significant.
The tourist industry is based on a considerable variety of attractions in the state and continues to grow in importance. National parks include Little Desert and Wyperfield in the drier and desert areas of the west; the Grampians in the centre, noted for their mountainous scenery; and Snowy River in the east, which offers climbing and skiing. A major tourist attraction is the colony of Little penguins on Phillip Island, near Melbourne. Healesville Sanctuary provides a natural habitat for a large collection (200 species) of Australian native animals. The city of Melbourne is a major cultural and retailing centre, with theatres, large markets, and historic buildings. Other attractions include the fine surfing beaches of the Victoria coast and Echuca Port, once Australia's largest inland port, which now offers paddle-steamer tours.
The Australian Rules Football final is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground each September; Melbourne Cricket Ground is also the site for international cricket matches and Australia's Sheffield Shield competition; the 2-mile horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is run at Flemington each November; a Formula 1 Grand Prix is held at Albert Park; and the state hosts the Australian Motor Cycle Grand Prix.
A governor appointed by the British monarch is the nominal head of government. Power resides with a premier and cabinet. Parliament consists of two houses: a Legislative Council (upper house) of 44 members, elected for six years, and a Legislative Assembly (lower house) of 88 members, elected for three years. The constitution was drafted in Melbourne in 1853-4 and it was proclaimed on 23 November 1855. Women were enfranchized in 1908.
18th and 19th centuries
The indigenous people are the semi-nomadic Koories, who have lived in this area for at least 40,000 years. Victoria was claimed for Britain by Captain James Cook, who visited the southeast coast in 1770. An unsuccessful attempt to found a settlement in the Port Phillip Bay area was made in 1803. In 1824-25 the explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell travelled overland south from Sydney to the west shore of Port Phillip, and the outcome of their report was that a settlement was founded on West Port Bay. This settlement was soon abandoned, and the first permanent settlement in Victoria was established at Portland Bay by Edward Henty, from Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), who landed on 19 November 1834. Other settlers followed, but no marked development ensued in this region, owing to the lack of good land and safe harbours. The capital was founded by two Tasmanian parties, one led by John Batman, who landed on 29 May 1835, the other by John Pascoe Fawkner, who reached the site of Melbourne on 28 August of the same year. Others followed, bringing stock with them, and penetrated further into the interior. Among these was Major Thomas Mitchell, who was so impressed with the economic potential of the country, the greater part of which was still unknown, that he named it Australia Felix (Fertile Southern Land). His reports, coupled with the success of the earliest settlers, stimulated the interest of existing Australian settlers and of Great Britain, and one immediate result was that large herds of sheep and cattle were driven overland from New South Wales to occupy the best pasture land in Victoria, and shiploads of immigrants began to arrive from Britain. The indigenous Koorie people opposed this occupation of their land, and in 1836 the Black War began, between the Koories and the settlers. By 1850 the Koories were defeated. From 1836-51 the Port Phillip district, as it was known, was administered by New South Wales. Regular government was first established under Captain Lonsdale, who was sent from Sydney to take control in 1839. In 1840 Richard Bourke, the governor of New South Wales, visited it and named the capital Melbourne. Charles La Trobe was appointed superintendent.
In 1851 the district achieved separation from New South Wales and became an independent colony with the name Victoria. Gold was discovered in the same year. The rich goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo led to a further influx of population, but the ensuing and oppressive mining regulations resulted in rioting on the Ballarat goldfield. On 3 December 1854 the method of licensing miners brought about a battle, known as the Eureka Stockade, in which miners fought with police and troops. This has become the Australian symbol of the struggle for democratic rights. The discovery of gold transformed Victoria from a pastoral district to the economic capital of Australia. A new constitution giving responsible government to the colony was proclaimed on 23 November 1855.
Melbourne was the political capital of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1901 until 1927 when the seat of the Australian was moved to Canberra. Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956. Bush fires swept through the state in 1983, killing 71 people.
Victoria is the most densely populated of the Australian states. 24% of the population of Australia lives in the state, in only 3% of the land, and over 68% of the population of Victoria is in the Melbourne area. Since World War II many immigrants have settled in Victoria, mostly in Melbourne, from Lebanon, Turkey, Vietnam, and Europe, especially Greece.
Flora and fauna
The common pink heath is Victoria's floral emblem, and occurs mainly in the wetter foothills of the southern part of the state. In the woodlands along the coast, varieties of eucalyptus grow, such as mallee eucalyptus which is no more than 8 m/26 ft tall. Varieties of eucalyptus which are found in the desert areas are the ghost gum and the coolabah. Victoria's fauna includes wombats, kangaroos, koalas, possums, echidnas, and platypuses. The tiger snake, which has the most powerful venom of any land snake, is found in Victoria, and the world's largest earthworm, which grows to 3.56 m/12 ft, is found in the Gippsland region. Among the state's birdlife, is the very rare helmeted honeyeater, found in southern Victoria east of Port Phillip. Little penguins, the smallest breed of penguin, are found only in south Australian waters. The largest colony breeds at Summerland beach on Phillip Island, near Melbourne.
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