Western Australia is a state occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. The nation's largest state and the second largest subnational entity in the world, it has 2.1 million inhabitants (10% of the national total), 85% of whom live in the south-west corner of the state. The state's capital city is Perth. The people of Western Australia are often colloquially referred to as sandgropers, the common name of an insect found on sand dunes around Perth.
See main article: Geography of Western Australia. Western Australia is bounded by South Australia and the Northern Territory to the east, and the Indian Ocean to the west and north. In Australia, the body of water south of the continent is officially gazetted as the Southern Ocean, whereas the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) designates it as part of the Indian Ocean. The total distance of the state's eastern borders is 1,862 km, and there is 12,889km of coastline. The total land area occupied by the state is 2.5 million km.2 
The bulk of Western Australia consists of the extremely old Yilgarn craton and Pilbara craton which merged with the Deccan of India, Madagascar and the Karoo and Zimbabwe cratons of Southern Africa, in the Archean Eon to form Ur, one of the oldest Supercontinents on Earth (3,200-3,000 million years ago). Because the only mountain-building since then has been of the Stirling Range with the rifting from Antarctica, the land is extremely eroded and ancient, with no part of the state above 1,245 metres (4,085 ft) AHD (at Mount Meharry in the Hamersley Range of the Pilbara region). Most parts of the state form a low plateau with an average elevation of about 400 metres (1,200 ft), very low relief, and no surface runoff. This descends relatively sharply to the coastal plains, in some cases forming a sharp escarpment (as with the Darling Range/Darling Scarp near Perth).
The extreme age of the landscape has meant that the soils are remarkably infertile and frequently laterised. Even soils derived from granitic bedrock contain an order of magnitude less available phosphorus and only half as much nitrogen as soils in comparable climates in other continents. Soils derived from extensive sandplains or ironstone are even less fertile, being even more devoid of soluble phosphate and also deficient in zinc, copper, molybdenum and sometimes potassium and calcium.
The infertility of most of the soils has required heavy inputs of chemical fertilisers, particularly superphosphate, insecticides and herbicides, which - with the ensuing damage to invertebrate and bacterial populations, and compaction of soils through heavy machinery and hoofed mammals - has done great damage to the fragile soils. Large-scale land clearing for agriculture and forestry has damaged habitats for native flora and fauna. As a result, the South West region of the state has a higher concentration of rare, threatened or endangered flora and fauna than many areas of Australia, making it one of the world's biodiversity "hot spots". Large areas of the state's wheatbelt region have problems with dryland salinity and the loss of fresh water.
The southwest coastal area is relatively temperate and was originally heavily forested, including large stands of the karri, one of the tallest trees in the world. This agricultural region of Western Australia is in the top nine terrestrial habitats for terrestrial biodiversity, with a higher proportion of endemic species than most other equivalent regions. Thanks to the offshore Leeuwin Current the area numbers in the top six regions for marine biodiversity, containing the most southerly coral reefs in the world.
Average annual rainfall varies from 300 millimetres (12 in) at the edge of the Wheatbelt region to 1,400 millimetres (55 in) in the wettest areas near Northcliffe, but in the months of November to March evaporation exceeds rainfall, and it is generally very dry. Plants must be adapted to this as well as the extreme poverty of all soils. A major reduction in rainfall has been observed, with a greater number of rainfall events in the summer months.
The central four-fifths of the state is semi-arid or desert and is lightly inhabited with the only significant activity being mining. Annual rainfall averages about 200 to 250 millimetres (8 - 10 in), most of which occurs in sporadic torrential falls related to cyclone events in summer months.
An exception to this is the northern tropical regions. The Kimberley has an extremely hot monsoonal climate with average annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 1,500 millimetres (20 - 60 in), but there is a very long almost rainless season from April to November. Eighty-five percent of the state's runoff occurs in the Kimberley, but because it occurs in violent floods and because of the insurmountable poverty of the generally shallow soils, the only development has taken place along the Ord River.
Occurrence of snow in the state is rare, and typically only in the Stirling Range near Albany, as it is the only mountain range far enough south and with sufficient elevation. More rarely, snow can fall on the nearby Porongurup Range. Snow outside these areas is a major event; it usually occurs in hilly areas of southwestern Australia. The most widespread low-level snow occurred on 26 June 1956 when snow was reported in the Perth Hills, as far north as Wongan Hills and as far east as Salmon Gums. However, even in the Stirling Range, snowfalls rarely exceed 5 cm (2 in) and rarely settle for more than one day.
The highest observed maximum temperature of 50.5 °C (122.9 °F) was recorded at Mardie, Pilbara, 61.6 kilometres (38.3 mi) from Barrow Island on 19 February 1998. The lowest minimum temperature recorded was -7.2 °C (19.0 °F) at Eyre Bird Observatory, 49 km (30 mi) south of Cocklebiddy.
Western Australia is home to around 540 species of birds (depending on the taxonomy used). Of these around 15 are endemic to the state. The best areas for birds are the southwestern corner of the state and the area around Broome and the Kimberley.
The Flora of Western Australia comprises 9437 published native vascular plant species of 1543 genera within 226 families, there are also 1171 naturalised alien or invasive plant species more commonly known as weeds. In the southwest region are some of the largest numbers of plant species for its area in the world.
William Henry Harvey published a five-volume Phycologia Australia which was issued in parts between 1858 and 1863. He earned the title of father of Australian Phycology. His main collection is in the herbarium of Trinity College Dublin, there is also a large collection of his specimens in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
The first inhabitants of Australia arrived from the north approximately 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Over thousands of years they eventually spread across the whole landmass. These Indigenous Australians were well established throughout Western Australia by the time of European explorers began to arrive in the early seventeenth century.
The first European to visit Western Australia was a Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog who on 26 October 1616 landed at (what is now known as) Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Island. For the rest of the 17th century there were many other Dutch travellers who also, usually unintentionally, encountered the coast. By the late 18th century, British and French sailors had also begun to explore the Western Australian coast.
The origins of the present state began with the establishment of a British settlement at King George Sound in 1826 (later named Albany from 1832). The settlement was founded in response to British concerns about the possibility of a French colony being established on the coast of Western Australia.
In 1829, the Swan River Colony was established on the Swan River by Captain James Stirling. By 1832, the British settler population of the colony had reached around 1,500. The two separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the state's capital, Perth.
In 1887, a new constitution was drafted, providing for the right of self-governance and in 1890, the act granting self-government to the colony was passed by the British House of Commons. John Forrest became the first Premier of Western Australia.
In 1896, the Western Australian Parliament authorised the raising of a loan to construct a pipeline to transport five million gallons of water per day to the goldfields of Western Australia. The pipeline, known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, was completed in 1903. C.Y. O'Connor, Western Australia’s first engineer-in-chief, designed and oversaw the construction of the pipeline. It carries water 530 km (330 miles) from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and is attributed by historians as an important factor driving the state's population and economic growth.
Following a campaign led by Forrest, residents of the Swan River Colony voted in favour of federation, resulting in Western Australia officially becoming a state on 1 January 1901.
The first inhabitants of what is now Western Australia were Indigenous Australians, from a wide variety of language and kin groups - for example, the Nyungah in the southwest, the Wongai in the central desert, the Malkana in Shark Bay. These groups continue to form the majority of the local population in the remotest parts of the state such as the Kimberley. Europeans began to settle permanently in 1826 when Albany was claimed by Britain in order to forestall French claims to the western third of the continent. Perth was founded as the Swan River Colony in 1829 by British and Irish settlers, though the outpost languished, eventually requesting convict labour to augment its population. In the 1890s, interstate migration resulting from a mining boom in the Goldfields region resulted in a sharp population increase.
Western Australia did not receive significant flows of migrants from Britain, Ireland or elsewhere in the British Empire until the early twentieth century when local projects - such as the Group Settlement Scheme of the 1920s which encouraged farmers to settle the southwest - increased awareness of Australia's western third as a destination for colonists.
Led by migrants from the British Isles, Western Australia's population developed at a faster rate during the twentieth century it had previously. Along with the eastern states, Western Australia received large numbers of Italians, Yugoslavs and Greeks after World War II. Despite this, Britain has contributed the greatest number of migrants to this day, and Western Australia - particularly Perth - has the highest proportion of British-born of any state: 10.6% in 2006, compared to a national average of 5.3%. This group is heavily concentrated in certain parts of the metropolitan area such as Joondalup where they account for a quarter of the population.
In terms of ethnic groups, the 2001 census data reveals that Western Australias population is 77.5% of European descent: the largest single group was those reporting English ancestry or ethnicity, accounting for 733,783 responses (32.7%), followed by Australian with 624,259 (27.8%), Irish with 171,667 (7.6%), Italian with 96,721 (4.3%), Scottish with 62,781 (2.8%), German with 51,672 (2.3%) and Chinese with 48,894 responses (2.2%). There were 58,496 Indigenous Australians in Western Australia in 2001, forming 3.1% of the population.
In terms of birthplace, according to the 2006 census  27.1% of the population were born overseas - higher than the Australian average of 22.2%. 8.9% of West Australians were born in England, 2.4% in New Zealand, 1.2% in Scotland, 1.1% in South Africa, and 1.1% in Italy.
Perth's metropolitan area had an estimated population of 1.55 million in 2007 (75% of the state). Other significant population centres include Mandurah (approx. 73,000), Bunbury (32,000), Kalgoorlie(30,000), Albany (36,000), Geraldton (29,000), Port Hedland (13,000), and Broome (15,000).
See also: Economy of Western Australia.
Western Australia's economy is largely driven by extraction and processing of a diverse range of mineral and petroleum commodities. The structure of the economy is closely linked to the abundance of natural resources found in the State, providing a comparative advantage in resource extraction and processing. As a consequence:
Western Australia's overseas exports accounted for 36% of the nation's total. The state's major export commodies include iron-ore, alumina, crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), nickel, gold, ammonia, wheat, wool, and live sheep and cattle.
Western Australia is a major extractor of bauxite, which is also processed into alumina at three refineries providing more than 20% of total world production. It is the world's third-largest iron-ore producer (15% of the world's total) and extracts 75% of Australia's 240 tonnes of gold. Diamonds are extracted at Argyle diamond mine in far north of the Kimberley region. Coal mined at Collie is the main fuel for baseload electricity generation in the state's south-west.Agricultural production in WA is a major contributor to the state and national economy. Although tending to be highly seasonal, 2006-07 wheat production in WA was nearly 10 million tonnes, accounting for almost half the nation's total. and providing $1.7 billion in export income. Other significant farm output includes barley, peas , wool, lamb and beef. There is a high level of overseas demand for imports of live animals from WA, driven mainly by South East Asia's feedlots and Middle Eastern countries, where cultural and religious traditions and a lack of storage and refrigeration facilitites favour live animals over imports of processed meat. Approximately 50% of Australia's live cattle exports come from Western Australia. Resource sector growth in recent years has resulted in significant labour and skills shortages, leading to recent efforts by the state government to encourage interstate and overseas migration. . According to the 2006 census  , the median individual income was A$500 per week in Western Australia (compared to A$466 in Australia as a whole). The median family income was A$1246 per week (compared to A$1171 for Australia). Recent growth has also contributed to significant rises in average property values in 2006, although values plateaued in 2007. Perth property prices are still the second highest in Australia behind Sydney, and high rental prices continue to be a problem.South of Perth is the heavy industrial area of Kwinana. Located here are the nation's largest oil refinery which produces petrol and diesel for local consumption, , an iron plant, alumina and nickel processing, port facilities for grain exports, and support industries for mining and petroleum such as heavy and light engineering, and metal fabrication. Shipbuilding (eg Austal Ships) and associated support industries are found at nearby Henderson, just south of Fremantle. Significant secondary industries include cement and building product manufacturing, flour milling, food processing, animal feed production, automotive body building, and printing.
In recent years, tourism has grown in importance, with significant numbers of visitors to the state coming from the UK and Ireland (28%), other European countries (14%) Singapore (16%), Japan (10%) and Malaysia (8%). Revenue from tourism is a strong economic driver in many of the smaller population centres outside of Perth, especially in coastal locations.
Western Australia also has major wine producing regions in the South West located in the Margaret River region and Swan Valley. Several wineries produce wine for local consumption and international export. Western Australia has a significant fishing industry. Products for local consumption and export include Western Rock Lobsters, prawns, crabs, shark and tuna, Processing is conducted along the west coast. Whaling ceased at Albany in 1978.
See main article: Government of Western Australia.
Western Australia was granted self-government in 1889 with a bicameral Parliament located in Perth, consisting of the Legislative Assembly (or lower house), which has 59 members; and the Legislative Council (or upper house), which has 36 members. Suffrage is universal and compulsory for citizens over 18 years of age.
With the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, Western Australia became a state within Australia's federal structure; this involved ceding certain powers to the Commonwealth (or Federal) government in accordance with the Constitution; all powers not specifically granted to the Commonwealth remained solely with the State, however over time the Commonwealth has effectively expanded its powers through increasing control of taxation and financial distribution.
Whilst the sovereign of Western Australia is the Queen of Australia (Queen Elizabeth II), and executive power nominally vested in her State representative the Governor (currently Ken Michael), executive power rests with the premier and ministers drawn from the party or coalition of parties holding a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. The current Premier is Colin Barnett.
See main article: Secessionism in Western Australia. Secessionism has been a recurring feature of Western Australia's political landscape since shortly after European settlement in 1826. Western Australia was the most reluctant participant in the Commonwealth of Australia. Western Australia did not participate in the earliest federation conference. Longer-term residents of Western Australia were generally opposed to federation; however, the discovery of gold brought many immigrants from other parts of Australia. It was these residents, primarily in Kalgoorlie but also in Albany who voted to join the Commonwealth, and the proposal of these areas being admitted separately was considered.
In a referendum in April 1933, 68% of voters voted for the state to leave the Commonwealth of Australia with the aim of returning to the British Empire as an autonomous territory. The State Government sent a delegation to Westminster, but the British Government refused to intervene and therefore no action was taken to implement this decision.
For social and cultural reasons the concept of secession is unlikely to be seriously considered in the future, even though commentators occasionally raise the idea.
Education in Western Australia consists of one year of pre-school at age 5, followed by seven years of primary school education. At age 13, students begin five years of secondary education. The final two years of secondary education are currently changing to compulsory. All students who completed Year 10 in 2005 are now required to undertake further studies in Year 11. Students are required to complete the year in which they turn 16 (usually Year 11).
Commencing in 2008 all students will be required to complete 12 years of study before leaving school. Students will have the option to study at a TAFE college in their eleventh year or continue through high school with a vocational course or a specific University entrance course.
Western Australia has two daily newspapers: the independent tabloid The West Australian, Countryman and The Kalgoorlie Miner. Also published is one Sunday tabloid newspaper, News Corporation's The Sunday Times.There are also 17 weekly Community Newspapers with distribution from Yanchep in the North to Mandurah in the South.However, the interstate broadsheet publication The Australian is also available, although with sales per capita lagging far behind those in other states. With the advent of the Internet, other online publications from around the world are now easily accessible. Some, like the New South Wales based The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian which provide free access to their sites, are becoming increasingly popular.
Metropolitan Perth has had six broadcast television stations, five of the station continue to operate;
In addition, broadcasters operate digital multichannels:
Pay TV services are provided by Foxtel, which acquired many of the assets and all the remaining subscribers of the insolvent Galaxy Television satellite service in 1998. Some metropolitan suburbs are serviced by Pay TV via cable; however, most of the metropolitan and rural areas can only access Pay TV via satellite.
Perth has many radio stations on both AM and FM frequencies. ABC stations include ABC NewsRadio (6PB 585AM), 720 ABC Perth (6WF 720AM), ABC Radio National (6RN 810AM), ABC Classic FM (6ABC 97.7FM) and Triple J (6JJJ 99.3FM). The 6 commercial stations are: FM 92.9 (6PPM), Nova 93.7 (6PER), Mix 94.5 (6MIX), 96fm (6NOW), and AM 882 (6PR), and AM 1080 (6IX).
The leading community stations are 6RTR FM 92.1 and Sonshine FM 98.5 (6SON).
See main article: Sport in Western Australia. A number of national or international sporting teams and events are based in the state, including: