Is Australia a Country, an Island or a Continent?

Australia is one of the most bio-geographically diverse regions of the world. It is the oldest continental landmass on Earth. Located in the Oceania region, Australia is famous for its breathtaking landscapes.

Interestingly, the word “Australia”  is used for the country as well as the continent. Is there a difference between Australia – the country and Australia the continent? You will find out as you scroll through the article.

We will also evaluate Australia from a third angle. If you look at the world’s map carefully, the Australian landmass also seems like an Island. We will try and find out whether Australia can be validly termed as an island. Let’s begin.

Commonwealth of Australia: The Country

Australia is an independent sovereign nation. It is a country with a well-defined geographical territory and government. Commonwealth of Australia is the official name of Australia – the country. The nation Australia, however, is larger than than the continent of Australia. As a nation, Australia comprises the Australian continent and 8,222 islands. In terms of area, it is the world’s sixth-largest country.

Some of the major Islands within Australian territory are:

  • Tasmania
  • Melville Island
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Groote Eylandt
  • Bathurst Island
  • Fraser Island
  • Flinders Island
  • King Island
  • Mornington Island

map of the seven continents of the world

Continent Australia

“Australia” is a term commonly used for referring to both the continent as well as the country.  The continent consists of the landmasses that are positioned within the Australian continental plate. If we compare the continent with country, we come to the conclusion that Australia as a continent has a geographical consideration while Australia as a country has a political consideration.

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In order to distinguish between the country and the continent, the Australian continent is mostly referred to as Meganesia or Sahul. Sometimes, it’s also called Australinea. It is the smallest of seven continents.

Meganesia consists of the following landmasses:

  • Mainland Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea & Western New Guinea)

Is Australia an Island?

The short and technical answer is “no”.  Australia is a continent and not an island.   While the term “continent” is not strictly defined, the term “island” can be properly defined.  An Island is a sub-continental landmass surrounded by water.  This means that the same piece of land cannot be technically termed as island and continent at the same time. Island is in fact smaller than a continent. This is precisely the reason why Australia is a continent and not an island. So next time pause before you refer to Australia as an island or an island continent.

Hope this helps you clear all your doubts about the status of Australia.

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