New South Wales, the oldest colony of Australasia, now a state of the Australian Commonwealth. The name formerly applied to the whole of the eastern part of Australia; but since the delimitation of the other 'colonies' New South Wales, lying between Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, has an area of 310,700 sq. m., five times the size of England. Of the Australian states it is fourth in area, and in 1901 first in population. A series of mountain-chains, 20 to 100 miles distant from the sea, extend southward from near Cape York. The southernmost are the Australian Alps, running into Victoria, which culminate in Mounts Townsend (7350 feet) and Kosciusko (7308 feet). Northward are the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, with peaks 4000 feet, and containing the Jenolan Caves (q.v.). Liverpool Range is more northerly; and the New England hills, north-east, rise 5000 feet. With the exception of some isolated mountains, the region to the west consists of vast plains, up to the Barrier Ranges near South Australia. The mountains give birth to short and rapid streams toward the sea, but long and sluggish ones westward. The Hawkesbury or Nepean, Hunter, Clarence, Shoalhaven, and Macleay are eastern. The Lachlan, 700 miles long, runs into the Murrumbidgee, which flows 1350 miles before falling into the Murray. The Murray, after 1100 miles on the New South Wales border, passes into South Australia. The Darling, rising in Queensland, has more than 1000 miles through the colony before reaching the Murray. The Macquarie and Namoi go northward to the Darling. The dry interior has few streams. There are some fine bays on the coast. The capital, Sydney (q.v.), is on Port Jackson, and is the headquarters of the Australian naval squadron. The sea-coast, with from 40 to 70 inches of rain a year, differs much from the western interior, where in some years as little as 5 inches may fall. But the climate is so uncertain that a region may suffer from fearful drought in one season and floods in another. Cold and ice with heavy snows may be experienced on the lofty plains; but Sydney, 33° 50' lat., had no snow in thirty years. Though in summer the thermometer may rise to beyond 100°, the nights are generally cool. The eucalyptus-tree prevails in the colony, but acacias also are common, and pines and cedars, as well as palms in the northeast. The fauna consists mainly of marsupials. Birds are of great variety, many of very beautiful plumage, and some of pleasant note. Insects are numerous, and not always welcome. Lizards and snakes may run to a good size, but there are no alligators. Fish, especially in the bays, are plentiful. The Silurian and Devonian formations, with granitic, igneous, and meta-morphic rocks, are rich in gold, silver, lead, copper, tin, and other metals. Gold, known in 1823, and first worked in 1851, near Bathurst, is found over an area of 70,000 sq. m. The output to 1903 was close on £53,000,000. Silver abounds in the Barrier Ranges near South Australia ; discovered in 1883, the silver area is 100 miles by 12 ; the Broken Hill Company had, to 1903, raised 115,500,000 oz. Copper extends over 8000 sq. m. Tin, lead (chiefly from silver-mines), antimony, manganese, bismuth, etc. are mined. Iron is abundant, but not profitable owing to the cost of labour. The diamond, emerald, zircon, sapphire, topaz, etc. occur. Asbestos, zinc, mercury, cobalt, alum, graphite, kaolin, and building-stone are also found. Coal, the most valuable mineral, extends over 24,000 sq. m. ; in 1903, 6,354,846 tons were raised, value £2,319,660. There is rich kerosene shale in the Blue Mountains.
New South Wales is a great pastoral country, and owns 50,000,000 sheep. The stock was originally imported from Bengal and the Cape ; but as their wool was rather hairy, the breed was improved by the introduction of Spanish merinoes. Wool exports exceed 200,000,000 lb. weight annually. While 140,000,000 acres are devoted to flocks and herds, there are little over 2 million acres devoted to culture, of which total 1,561,100 acres are under wheat, and 226,834 acres maize. The principal crops are wheat, maize, barley, oats, potatoes, lucerne, and tobacco, with sugar and wine. The sugar-plantations in the north-east are not so productive as in Queensland; nor are the apple-orchards and potato-furrows equal to those of Tasmania. But all the fruits that thrive in England and Italy grow here. The trade of New South Wales, long a free-trade colony, exceeds that of any of the neighbouring states. From 1893 to 1903 the exports varied from £20,577,673 to £28,445,466, and the imports from £15,801,941 to £27,561,071. The chief exports to Britain are wool, tin, silver ore, copper, tallow, and leather. The imports from Britain are iron goods, clothing, cottons and woollens. Over 3200 miles of railway are in use. The governor is appointed by the Imperial Government. The executive is of 8 ministers; the Upper House or Legislative Council has 61 members; the Lower, or Legislative Assembly, 90 members, receiving £300 a year. The franchise is adult, including females since 1902. The parliament is triennial. In 1901 New South Wales joined with the other Australian colonies in forming the Commonwealth of Australia, and to the Federal parliament it sends 6 senators and 26 members to the House of Representatives. The revenue in 1904 was £11,248,328. The public debt, contracted for useful works, was £80,033,581. The militia and volunteer forces comprise about 14,500 men. The pop. (1901), 1,359,133, of whom 646,677 were female, included 7434 aborigines, black and half-caste. The Church of England claims nearly one-half the population, the Roman Catholic about one-fourth. There are technological, industrial, and general museums, picture-galleries, public libraries, schools of arts, and mining schools ; and a noble state university, having affiliated colleges, crowns the educational edifice. The colony was established in 1788, under Governor Phillip, with a party of transported prisoners from England. For years the settlement suffered much from want of food. The introduction of free colonists, to whom grants of land were given, promoted pastoral and agricultural pursuits ; and the change from despotism to responsible government was gradually made. The cessation of transportation in 1840 was followed by social and political advance; and the gold discovery in 1851 gave a great impetus to industry and prosperity. A great wave of depression and financial difficulty passed over this and the other Australasian colonies in 1893.
See Australia and works there cited ; Dilke's Problems of Greater Britain (1890); and works on New South Wales by Flanagan (1862), Trollope (1874), Lang (1875), Griffin (1888), Coghlan (1890), and Barton (1890 et seq.).