Western Australia (abbreviated as WA) is a state occupying the entire western third of Australia. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, and the Southern Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east, and South Australia to the south-east. Western Australia is Australia's largest state, with a total land area of 2,529,875 square kilometres (976,790 sq mi), and the second-largest country subdivision in the world, surpassed only by Russia's Sakha Republic. The state has about 2.6 million inhabitants – around 11 percent of the national total – of whom the vast majority (92 per cent) live in the south-west corner, 79 per cent of the population living in the Perth area, leaving the remainder of the state sparsely populated.
The first European visitor to Western Australia was the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog, who visited the Western Australian coast in 1616. The first European settlement of Western Australia occurred following the landing by Major Edmund Lockyer on 26 December 1826 of an expedition on behalf of the New South Wales colonial government. He established a convict-supported military garrison at King George III Sound, at present-day Albany, and on 21 January 1827 formally took possession of the western third of the continent for the British Crown. This was followed by the establishment of the Swan River Colony in 1829, including the site of the present-day capital, Perth.
York was the first inland settlement in Western Australia. Situated 97 km east of Perth, it was settled on 16 September 1831.
Western Australia achieved responsible government in 1890 and federated with the other British colonies in Australia in 1901. Today, its economy mainly relies on mining, oil and gas, services and construction. The state produces 46 per cent of Australia's exports. Western Australia is the second-largest iron ore producer in the world.
The first inhabitants of Australia arrived from the north about 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Over thousands of years they eventually spread across the whole landmass. These Indigenous Australians were long established throughout Western Australia by the time European explorers began to arrive in the early 17th century.
The first European to visit Western Australia was a Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog, who on 25 October 1616 landed at what is now known as Cape Inscription, Dirk Hartog Island. For the rest of the 17th century, other Dutch and British navigators encountered the coast, usually unintentionally, as demonstrated by the many shipwrecks along the coast of ships that deviated from the Brouwer Route (because of poor navigation and storms). Two hundred years passed before Europeans believed that the great southern continent actually existed. By the late 18th century, British and French sailors had begun to explore the Western Australian coast.
The origins of the present state began with the establishment by Lockyer of a convict-supported settlement from New South Wales at King George III Sound. The settlement was formally annexed on 21 January 1827 by Lockyer when he commanded the Union Jack be raised and a feu de joie fired by the troops. The settlement was founded in response to British concerns about the possibility of a French colony being established on the coast of Western Australia. On 7 March 1831 it was transferred to the control of the Swan River Colony, and named Albany in 1832.
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, and the official name of the colony was changed to Western Australia. The two separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the state's capital, Perth. York was the first inland settlement in Western Australia, situated 97 km east of Perth and settled on 16 September 1831. York was the staging point for early explorers who discovered the rich gold reserves of Kalgoorlie.
Population growth was very slow until significant discoveries of gold were made in the 1890s around Kalgoorlie.
In 1887, a new constitution was drafted, providing for the right of self-governance of European Australians and in 1890, the act granting self-government to the colony was passed by the British Parliament. John Forrest became the first Premier of Western Australia.