The Statesman’s Yearbook Online

edited by Dr Barry Turner


Image courtesy of wikipedia



Situated on the low hills surrounding Port Jackson on the southeast Australian coast, Sydney is widely regarded as Australia's first city. It was established in 1788 as a penal colony and was named after Lord Thomas Townshend Sydney, a British home secretary of the period. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and home to more than half the state's population.


The territory surrounding Sydney shows signs of habitation dating back 50,000 years. At the time of European colonization, most of the land belonged to the Aboriginal Cadigal people. Captain Arthur Phillip was the first Westerner to establish a settlement in the area, with the First Fleet of British ships docking at Port Jackson on 26 Jan. 1788 (celebrated today as Australia Day). His intended destination had been nearby Botany Bay, discovered by Captain James Cook ten years earlier.

For several decades the settlement continued as a penal colony for British and Irish convicts. However, free settlers gradually moved into the area and it soon became an important trading centre. Throughout this period there was considerable tension between the free settlers, the convicts and the colonial governors, and also between the Britons and the Aboriginals. The native population was severely reduced by the aggression of the settlers and the diseases they introduced (an outbreak of smallpox in 1789, for instance, killed half of Sydney's residents).

In the early 19th century the settlement lost its reputation as a lawless outpost and began to prosper through international trade with the Pacific Islands, India, China, South Africa and the Americas. Under the guidance of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and aided by the convict-architect Francis Greenway, the city grew and major public buildings and spaces were laid out. This expansion accelerated in the latter half of the century with the arrival of the railways. The city's population grew from 60,000 in 1850 to 400,000 by 1890.

Sydney was declared the capital of New South Wales on 1 Jan. 1901. It overtook Melbourne as Australia's most populous city in the early 20th century and continued to expand as waves of European and, later, Asian immigrants took up residence in the metropolitan area. A construction drive in the 1970s and 1980s included the redevelopment of Darling Harbour. The city hosted the 2000 Olympics to international acclaim.


Sydney is located on Australia's southeast coast, on the Tasman Sea. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north and the Woronora Plateau to the south.

The Sydney Metropolitan Area (classified as the Sydney Statistical Division by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) encompasses the central coast, the Blue Mountains and several national parks. According to the 2006 census it covered 12,145 sq. km (4,689 sq miles) and had a population of 4,119,190 people, of whom 49.3% were male and 50.7% female. The population increased by 14.7% between 1996 and 2006. The median age of the population within the Sydney Metropolitan Area is 35, two years lower than the national average. 60.4% of the city's total population were born in Australia. The most common languages other than English are Arabic (3.9%), Cantonese (3.0%), Mandarin (2.3%), Greek (1.9%) and Vietnamese (1.8%).


As the capital of New South Wales, Sydney is the seat of its government and parliament. The metropolitan area is divided into 38 local government areas (LGAs) that handle community needs including waste collection, public recreation facilities and town planning. Public transport, policing, education and planning are controlled by the state government. The city council, overseen by the mayor, has jurisdiction over a 13 sq. km core area that includes the Central Business District (CBD) and some inner suburbs.

Mayor: Clover Moore

Clover Moore (nee Collins) was born in 1945 in Sydney. After graduating from Sydney University, Moore taught English in London and Sydney. She was elected to the South Sydney Council in 1980. In 1988 she ran for the Legislative Assembly of the New South Wales Parliament as an independent and won the seat of Bligh. Re-elected five times, she has introduced more private members legislation than any state MP in the last century. Moore was elected mayor in 2004, defeating the Labor candidate and former federal minister, Michael Lee. She was re-elected in 2008 and again in 2012.


Sydney is one of Australia's economic powerhouses, providing a quarter of the country's GDP. Primarily a service economy, it is fuelled by retail, entertainment, finance and tourism. Overtaking Melbourne as the country's main financial centre in the 1970s, Sydney is home to half of Australia's financial sector businesses. Although the national economy has been resilient in the face of the global economic crisis, the city's unemployment level reached 4.7% in 2011.


A suburban rail network is operated by the state-run CityRail, covering 882 km of track and 176 stations. The Metro Monorail, opened in 1988 to mark Australia's bicentenary, handles 4m. passengers annually. Sydney Ferries run commuter and tourist ferry services on Sydney Harbour. Sydney Kingsford Smith International, located 6 km south of the city centre, is Australia's busiest international air terminal.



The Sydney Festival, Australia's largest arts festival, is held in Jan. The city's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in March is one of the biggest festivals of its kind, while the Film Festival, founded in 1954 at Sydney University, screens over 200 films over two weeks in June. Sculpture by the Sea, Australia's largest outdoor sculpture exhibit, takes place in Nov. Sydney's New Year's Eve and Australia Day celebrations are the largest in the country.

Places of Interest

Sydney's most famous landmark, the Opera House, opened in 1973. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, it is home to Opera Australia and the Sydney Symphony. Other landmark buildings include the General Post Office and the Town Hall, both built in the late 19th century. The Harbour Bridge, completed in 1932, stretches across Port Jackson from the Central Business District to the North Shore and is the world's tallest steel arch bridge.

Sites of historical interest include the Quarantine Station, built in 1832 and active until 1984, and the Observatory, now an astronomical museum and planetarium. The Rocks, Sydney's historic quarter, is located in the harbour on the site of the original colonial settlement. The Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1816, are the oldest in Australia. Sydney Tower, the city's tallest freestanding structure, offers a 360-degree panorama from its observation deck. Other leading tourist attractions include Taronga Zoo, the city Aquarium and Luna Park.

Named after the Aboriginal word for 'water breaking over rocks', Bondi Beach is one of the world's most famous beaches, while those at Manly, Coogee and Bronte are also popular.


The National Maritime Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Powerhouse Museum are all located in the city. The New South Wales Art Gallery houses works by leading international and Australian artists, and the Australian Museum, founded in 1827, is the oldest in Australia. The Hyde Park Barracks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and details Sydney's early convict history.


Sydney's two main daily newspapers are the Sydney Morning Herald—the oldest published newspaper in Australia—and the Daily Telegraph. The headquarters of three commercial television networks (Seven, Nine and Ten) as well as the government national broadcast services (ABC and SBS) are based in the city.


Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Sydney skyline

Port Jackson

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