What is New South Wales?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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New South Wales is one of Australia’s six states and two territories, along with Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. It is bordered on the west by South Australia, to the north by Queensland, on the south by Victoria, and on the east by the Pacific Ocean. It completely surrounds the Australian Capital Territory, which is the only land-locked division of the country.

Although it is fifth largest in size, with 309,130 square miles (800,642 sq km), or 10% of the land area in Australia, it is the largest in population, with a 2006 population of 6,817,200. New South Wales has 8,293 miles of coastline (2,228 km), and it is located completely in the temperate zone.

The highest point in both New South Wales and in Australia is Mount Kosciusko at 7,310 feet (1,986 m). In addition, this state is home to a large section of the Great Dividing Range, which is the main watershed of eastern Australia and is also called the Great Divide, Eastern Highlands, or Eastern Cordillera. The section near the border with Victoria, called the Australian Alps, is the locale of Mount Kosciusko.


New South Wales is nicknamed the First State, since it was, in fact, the site of the first British settlement in Australia. Its name originally designated the entire eastern territory including all the land that is currently in the state, as well as what is now Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. The state emblems are as follows:

  • State floral emblem: Waratah
  • State bird: Kookaburra
  • State animal: Platypus
  • State fish: Eastern Blue Groper
  • State badge: a lion on a cross of St. George, surrounded by four 8-pointed stars.

The state's coat of arms features a lion and a kangaroo, the state badge in the center a fleece, a flame, and a rising sun with the motto Orta recens quam pura nites, which means “Recently arisen, how brightly you shine.”

Originally populated by convicts and jailers from Britain, New South Wales now hosts an internationally originated population, although the aboriginal people who inhabited the area prior to the British colonization were severely reduced in numbers. Sydney, the capital, is the largest city in Australia.

New South Wales plays a critical role in the Australian economy, producing a large percentage of the country’s cattle, sheep, pigs, and grain, and the bulk of its silver, lead, and zinc. Coal and copper mining play a role as well, and nearly half of Australia’s timber comes from the state. Vineyards producing high quality wine are found here, and while its manufacturing has dwindled, it has gained strength as a financial center.


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