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O'Connor , Western Australia's first engineer-in-chief, designed and oversaw the construction of the pipeline. Following a campaign led by Forrest, residents of the colony of Western Australia still informally called the Swan River Colony voted in favour of federation , resulting in Western Australia officially becoming a state on 1 January The bulk of Western Australia consists of the extremely old Yilgarn craton and Pilbara craton which merged with the Deccan Plateau 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 — 3.
In May , evidence of the earliest known life on land may have been found in 3. 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, nearly devoid of soluble phosphate and deficient in zinc , copper, molybdenum and sometimes potassium and calcium.
The infertility of most of the soils has required heavy application by farmers of fertilisers. These have resulted in damage to invertebrate and bacterial populations.
Large-scale land clearing for agriculture 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 has a Mediterranean climate. It was originally heavily forested, including large stands of karri , one of the tallest trees in the world. Thanks to the offshore Leeuwin Current , the area is one of the top six regions for marine biodiversity and contains the most southerly coral reefs in the world.
Plants are adapted to this as well as the extreme poverty of all soils. The central two-thirds of the state is arid and sparsely inhabited. The only significant economic activity is mining. An exception to this is the northern tropical regions. 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.
Snow is rare in the state and typically occurs only in the Stirling Range near Albany , as it is the only mountain range far enough south and sufficiently elevated. 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 when snow was reported in the Perth Hills , as far north as Wongan Hills and as far east as Salmon Gums.
The highest observed maximum temperature of Western Australia is home to around 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.
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The Flora of Western Australia comprises 10, published native vascular plant species, along with a further 1, species currently recognised but unpublished. They occur within 1, genera from families ; there are also 1, naturalised alien or invasive plant species, more commonly known as weeds. Western Australia's ecoregions include the sandstone gorges of The Kimberley on the northern coast, and below that the drier Victoria Plains tropical savanna inland, and the semi-desert Pilbara shrublands , Carnarvon xeric shrublands , and Western Australian mulga shrublands to the southwest.
Southwards along the coast are the Southwest Australia savanna and the Swan Coastal Plain around Perth, with the Jarrah-Karri forest and shrublands on the southwest corner of the coast around the Margaret River wine-growing area. Going east along the Southern Ocean coast is the Goldfields-Esperance region, including the Esperance mallee and the Coolgardie woodlands inland around town of Coolgardie.
In Scottish botanist Robert Brown produced a scientific paper, General view of the botany of the vicinity of Swan River. It discusses the vegetation of the Swan River Colony. Europeans began to settle permanently in when Albany was claimed by Britain to forestall French claims to the western third of the continent. Perth was founded as the Swan River Colony in by British and Irish settlers, though the outpost languished. Its officials eventually requested convict labour to augment its population.
In the s, interstate immigration, resulting from a mining boom in the Goldfields region , resulted in a sharp population increase. Western Australia did not receive significant flows of immigrants from Britain, Ireland or elsewhere in the British Empire until the early 20th century. At that time, its local projects—such as the Group Settlement Scheme of the s, which encouraged farmers to settle the southwest—increased awareness of Australia's western third as a destination for colonists.
Led by immigrants from the British Isles, Western Australia's population developed at a faster rate during the twentieth century than it had previously. Despite this, Britain has contributed the greatest number of immigrants to this day. Western Australia—particularly Perth—has the highest proportion of British-born of any state: This group is heavily concentrated in certain parts, where they account for a quarter of the population.
Other significant population centres include Bunbury 73, ,  Geraldton 37, ,  Kalgoorlie-Boulder 30, ,  Albany 33, ,  Karratha 16, ,  Broome 14,  and Port Hedland 14, At the census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were: [N 2]  . At the census, At the census , The most commonly nominated responses were Catholicism Western Australia's economy is largely driven by extraction and processing of a diverse range of mineral and petroleum commodities.
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The structure of the economy is closely linked to these natural resources, providing a comparative advantage in resource extraction and processing. As a consequence:. Diamonds are extracted at the world's largest diamond mine in the far north 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. Other significant farm output includes wool, beef, lamb, barley, canola, lupins, oats and pulses.
About half 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 immigration. Recent growth has also contributed to significant rises in average property values in , although values plateaued in Perth property prices are still the second highest in Australia behind Sydney, and high rental prices continue to be a problem.
Located south of Perth, the heavy industrial area of Kwinana has the nation's largest oil refinery with a capacity of , barrels of oil per day, producing most of the state's petrol and diesel.
Shipbuilding e. Austal Ships and associated support industries are found at nearby Henderson , just north of Kwinana. Significant secondary industries include cement and building product manufacturing, flour milling, food processing, animal feed production, automotive body building and printing.
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Western Australia has a significant fishing industry. Products for local consumption and export include western rock lobsters , prawns, crabs, shark and tuna, as well as pearl fishing in the Kimberley region of the state. Processing is conducted along the west coast. Whaling was a key marine industry but ceased at Albany in Western Australia has the world's biggest plantations of both Indian sandalwood northern WA  and Australian sandalwood semi-arid regions , which are used to produce sandalwood oil and incense.
Tourism forms a major part of the Western Australian economy with , international visitors making up Both directly and indirectly, the industry makes up 3. Tourism WA is the government agency responsible for promoting Western Australia as a holiday destination. Western Australia was granted self-government in  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 , 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 Elizabeth II , and executive power nominally vested in her State representative the Governor currently Kim Beazley , 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. Secessionism has been a recurring feature of Western Australia's political landscape since shortly after European settlement in Western Australia was the most reluctant participant in the Commonwealth of Australia.
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 under the name Auralia was considered. 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. Their mandate and operations are governed by the Local Government Act Education in Western Australia consists of one year of pre-school at age 4 or 5, followed by six years of primary education for all students as of Students are required to attend school up until they are 16 years old.
There are five universities in Western Australia. The University of Notre Dame is also one of only two private universities in Australia, along with Bond University , a not-for-profit private education provider based in Gold Coast, Queensland. There are also 17 weekly Community Newspapers with distribution from Yanchep in the north to Mandurah in the south. There are two major weekly rural papers in the state, Countryman and the Rural Press -owned Farm Weekly. The interstate broadsheet publication The Australian is also available, although with sales per capita lagging far behind those in other states.
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