In 1788 the British Crown claimed the sovereignty and ownership of this continent on the basis of terra nullius – that Australia was an empty land belonging to no one – despite the presence of some 350,000 Indigenous People1 who had occupied it as hunter-gatherers for at least 40,000 years. The European settlement, which began with a British penal colony in New South Wales, was followed by five more colonies during the first half of the 19th century. These colonies eventually became states, each with their own constitutional establishment Acts, parliaments, administration and a considerable degree of sovereignty. In 1901 the six colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia. The Constitution formally divided powers between the two levels of government. The constitutional powers given to the federal government were mainly concerned with external or national affairs such as defense, immigration, currency and marriage laws. For most purposes, the Australia Act 1986 ended the traditional constitutional ties between Australia and the United Kingdom although each state and the Commonwealth still retain the Queen as titular ‘head of state’ and accept her right to appoint the Governor General and state governors.
KeywordsIndigenous People Asylum Seeker Attorney General Nonprofit Organisation Legal Function
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