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Victoria

Victoria (vĭktôˈrēə) [key], state (1991 pop. 3,770,684), 87,884 sq mi (227,620 sq km), SE Australia. It is bounded on the S and E by the Indian Ocean, Bass Strait, and the Tasman Sea. Melbourne is the capital. Other important cities are Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo. Australia's second smallest state, Victoria is the most densely populated. The Australian Alps and other mountains of the Eastern Highlands traverse it; the highest point is Mt. Bogong (6,508 ft/1,984 m). The climate is generally temperate and pleasant. The large, but frequently dry, rivers such as the Campaspe and the Mitta Mitta are important for irrigation; a large portion of the irrigated land in Australia is in Victoria. Hume Reservoir, on the New South Wales border, irrigates an extensive agricultural and pastoral area in the north. Despite its size, Victoria is one of Australia's leading agricultural states. Wheat, grown largely in the northeast, is the most important crop, followed by oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock and dairying are also important. Sheep are raised in the southwest and dairy cattle in the south. Victoria was the first state in Australia to develop industry. Major industries include automobile manufacturing, textiles, clothing, food processing, and service industries. Gold mining has declined sharply; however, the mining of brown coal, mainly in the Latrobe Valley E of Melbourne, has increased dramatically. Until the introduction of tariff reforms in the 1980s, much of the labor force worked in retail and wholesale trade. Unsuccessful attempts at settlement were made in 1803 and 1826 on the site of the present Melbourne. Settlement began in the 1830s when sheep ranchers from Tasmania came looking for pasture. Known as the Port Phillip District, the area that is now Victoria became part of the colony of New South Wales in 1836. In 1851, Victoria was made a separate British colony, which was granted full constitutional self-government in 1855. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to a rapid population increase. Victoria was federated as a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Executive power rests nominally in the governor, who is appointed by the crown on advice of the cabinet. The premier and the cabinet are responsible to the bicameral state parliament.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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