From New World Encyclopedia
New South Wales
Sydney skyline at dusk - Dec 2008.jpg
The Sydney Opera House and Sydney CBD at dusk from Jeffrey Street, Kirribilli
4,627,345 (1st)
Established: 26 January 1788
Area: 12144.6 km²
Time zone:

 • Summer (DST)



Location: •881 km NE of Melbourne
• 938 km S of Brisbane
• 286 km NE of Canberra
• 3970 km E of Perth
• 1406 km E of Adelaide
LGA: various (38)
County: Cumberland
State District: various (49)
Federal Division: various (24)
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Rainfall
21.7 °C
71 °F
13.8 °C
57 °F
1212.8 mm
47.7 in

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia, with a metropolitan area population of approximately 4.28 million. Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales. The site of the first European colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet from Britain.

Sydney is located on Australia's southeast coast. The city is built around Port Jackson, which includes Sydney Harbor, leading to the city's nickname, "the Harbor City." It is Australia's largest financial center and is home to the Australian Stock Exchange. Sydney's leading economic sectors include property and business services, retail, manufacturing, tourism, and health and community services.

Sydney is a major international tourist destination notable for its beaches and twin landmarks: the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. The metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and contains many bays, rivers and inlets. It has been recognized as a global city by the Loughborough University group's 1999 inventory. The city has played host to numerous international sporting events, including the 1938 British Empire Games, 2000 Summer Olympics, and the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world which reflects its role as a major destination for immigrants to Australia. According to the Mercer cost of living survey, Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city, and the twenty-first most expensive in the world. A resident of the city is referred to as a Sydneysider.


Image of Sydney taken by NASA RS satellite.

Sydney is in a coastal basin bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north, and the Woronora Plateau to the south. Sydney lies on a submergent coastline, where the ocean level has risen to flood deep-river valleys (rias) carved in the hawkesbury sandstone. One of these drowned valleys, Port Jackson, better known as Sydney Harbor, is the largest natural harbor in the world. There are more than 70 harbor and ocean beaches, including the famous Bondi Beach, in the urban area. Sydney's urban area covers 651 mi²) as of 2001. This area includes the Central Coast and Blue Mountains as well as broad swathes of national park and other un-urbanized land.

Geographically, Sydney sprawls over two major regions: the Cumberland Plain, a relatively flat region lying to the south and west of the harbor, and the Hornsby Plateau, a sandstone plateau lying mainly to the north of the harbor, dissected by steep valleys. The oldest parts of the city are located in the flat areas south of the harbor; the North Shore was slower to develop because of its hilly topography, and was mostly a quiet backwater until the Sydney Harbor Bridge was opened in 1932, linking it to the rest of the city.


Sydney has an oceanic climate with warm summers and mild winters, with rainfall spread throughout the year. The weather is moderated by proximity to the ocean, and more extreme temperatures are recorded in the inland western suburbs. The warmest month is January, with an average air temperature range at Observatory Hill of 18.6 °C–25.8 °C and an average of 14.6 days a year over 30 °C. The maximum recorded temperature was 45.3 °C on January 14, 1939 at the end of a four-day nationwide heat wave. The winter is mildly cool, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5 °C in coastal areas. The coldest month is July, with an average range of 8.0 °C–16.2 °C. The lowest recorded minimum was 2.1 °C. Rainfall is fairly evenly divided between summer and winter, but is slightly higher during the first half of the year, when easterly winds dominate. The average annual rainfall, with moderate to low variability, is 1217.0 millimetres (47.9 in), falling on an average 138.0 days a year.

Urban structure

North Sydney's high-rise commercial district.
Sydney from the air, looking east.

The extensive area covered by urban Sydney is formally divided into more than 300 suburbs (for addressing and postal purposes), and administered as 38 local government areas. There is no city-wide government, but the Government of New South Wales and its agencies have extensive responsibilities in providing metropolitan services. The City of Sydney itself covers a fairly small area comprising the central business district and its neighboring inner-city suburbs. In addition, regional descriptions are used informally to conveniently describe larger sections of the urban area. These include Eastern Suburbs, Hills District, Inner West, Lower North Shore, Northern Beaches, North Shore, St. George, Southern Sydney, South-eastern Sydney, South-western Sydney, Sutherland Shire, and Western Sydney. However, many suburbs are not conveniently covered by any of these categories.

Sydney's central business district (CBD) extends southwards for about 1.25 miles from Sydney Cove, the point of the first European settlement. Densely concentrated skyscrapers and other buildings, including historic sandstone buildings such as the Sydney Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building, are interspersed by several parks such as Wynyard and Hyde Park. The Sydney CBD is bordered on the east side by a chain of parkland that extends from Hyde Park through the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens to Farm Cove on the harbor. The west side is bordered by Darling Harbour, a popular tourist and nightlife precinct while Central station marks the southern end of the CBD. George Street serves as the Sydney CBD's main north-south thoroughfare.

Although the CBD dominated the city's business and cultural life in the city's earlier days, other business/cultural districts have developed in a radial pattern since World War II. As a result, the proportion of white-collar jobs located in the CBD declined from more than 60 percent at the end of World War II to less than 30 percent in 2004. Together with the commercial district of North Sydney, joined to the CBD by the Harbor Bridge, the most significant, outer business districts are Parramatta in the central-west, Blacktown in the west, Bondi Junction in the east, Liverpool in the southwest, Chatswood to the north, and Hurstville to the south.


A map of Sydney in 1789

It has been speculated that the Sydney region has been populated by indigenous Australians for at least 40,000 years. At the time of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, 4,000 to 8,000 Aboriginal people lived in the region.

There were three language groups in the Sydney region; these were further refined into dialects spoken by smaller clans. The principal languages were Darug, Dharawal, and Guringai. Each clan had a territory; the location of that territory determined the resources available. Although urbanization has destroyed most evidence of these settlements (such as shell middens), Sydney and its environs are well known for numerous rock drawings and carvings due to the nature of the rock, Hawkesbury Sandstone.

Sydney circa 1828, looking north over Hyde Park towards the harbor

European interest in colonizing Australia arose with the landing of British sea captain, Lieutenant James Cook in Botany Bay in 1770. Under instruction from the British government, a convict settlement was founded by Arthur Phillip in 1788. Phillip founded the colony at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson. He named it after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, in recognition of Sydney's role in issuing the charter authorizing Phillip to establish a colony.

In April 1789, a disease, thought to be smallpox, decimated the indigenous population of Sydney; a conservative estimate says that 500 to 1,000 Aboriginal people died in the area between Broken and Botany Bays. There was violent resistance to British settlement, notably by the warrior Pemulwuy in the area around Botany Bay, and conflicts were common in the area surrounding the Hawkesbury River. By 1820, there were only a few hundred Aborigines and Governor Macquarie had begun initiatives to "civilize, Christianize and educate" the Aborigines by removing them from their clans.

Sydney in 1796

Macquarie's tenure as Governor of New South Wales was a period when Sydney was improved from its basic beginnings. Roads, bridges, wharves, and public buildings were constructed by British and Irish convicts, and by 1822 the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and an organised constabulary. The 1830s and 1840s were periods of urban development, including the development of the first suburbs, as the town grew rapidly when ships began arriving from Britain and Ireland with immigrants looking to start a new life in a new country. On July 20, 1842, the municipal council of Sydney was incorporated and the town was declared the first city in Australia, Charles H. Chambers was the first mayor.

The first of several gold rushes started in 1851, and the port of Sydney has since seen many waves of people arriving from around the world. Rapid suburban development began in the last quarter of the nineteenth century with the advent of steam powered tramways and railways. With industrialization Sydney expanded rapidly, and by the early twentieth century it had a population well in excess of one million. The Great Depression hit Sydney badly. One of the highlights of the Depression era, however, was the completion of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in 1932.

Throughout the twentieth century, Sydney continued to expand with various new waves of European and (later) Asian immigration, resulting in its highly cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Timeline of events

Map of modern day center of Sydney
  • 1788: First European settlement established
  • 1852: Sydney incorporated as a city
  • 1855: New South Wales's first railway line linking Sydney with Parramatta
  • 1870: Intercolonial Exhibition (1870)
  • 1879: Sydney International Exhibition (1879)
  • 1883: Parramatta - Intercolonial Juvenile Industrial Exhibition (1883)
  • 1901: Commonwealth of Australia proclaimed in Sydney on January 1
  • 1903: Overtook Melbourne as Australia's largest city
  • 1926: Undeground Railway completed to Saint James, first electrification takes place on Illawarra Line.
  • 1932: Sydney Harbor Bridge completed
  • 1942: Sydney attacked by Japanese submarines
  • 1964: First double decker train
  • 1973: Sydney Opera House completed
  • 1993: Last single deck train runs on suburban network
  • 2000: 2000 Summer Olympics

Government and politics

Apart from the limited role of the Cumberland County Council from 1945–1964, there has never been an overall governing body for the Sydney metropolitan area. Instead, the metropolitan area is divided into local government areas (LGAs). These areas have elected councils which are responsible for functions delegated to them by the New South Wales State Government, such as planning and garbage collection.

The City of Sydney includes the central business area and some adjoining inner suburbs, and has in recent years been expanded through amalgamation with adjoining local government areas, such as South Sydney. It is led by the elected Lord Mayor of Sydney and a council. The Lord Mayor, however, is sometimes treated as a representative of the whole city, for example during the Olympics.

Sydney's political sub-divisions with map key
The Central Business District in Sydney is home to most of Sydney's financial centers

Most citywide government activities are controlled by the state government. These include public transport, main roads, traffic control, policing, education above preschool level, and planning of major infrastructure projects. Because a large proportion of New South Wales' population lives in Sydney, state governments have traditionally been reluctant to allow the development of citywide governmental bodies, which would tend to rival the state government. For this reason, Sydney has always been a focus for the politics of both State and Federal Parliaments. For example, the boundaries of the City of Sydney LGA have been significantly altered by state governments on at least four occasions since 1945, with expected advantageous effect to the governing party in the New South Wales Parliament at the time.


The largest economic sectors in Sydney, measured by numbers of people employed, include property and business services, retail, manufacturing, and health and community services. Since the 1980s, jobs have moved from manufacturing to the services and information sectors. Sydney provides approximately 25 percent of the country's total GDP.

Sydney is the largest corporate and financial center in Australia and is also an important financial center in the Asia Pacific region. The Australian Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of Australia are located in Sydney, as are the headquarters of 90 banks and more than half of Australia's top companies, and the regional headquarters for around 500 multinational corporations. Fox Studios Australia has large movie studios in the city.

The Sydney Futures Exchange (SFE) is one of the Asia Pacific's largest financial futures and options exchanges, with 64.3 million contracts traded during 2005. In global terms, it is the twelfth largest futures market in the world and the nineteenth largest, including options. With the increasing commercial role of Sydney's many medical laboratories and research centers, science and research is another strong growth sector.

Tourism plays an important role in Sydney's economy, with 7.8 million domestic visitors and 2.5 million international visitors in 2004.

As of September 2003, the unemployment rate in Sydney was 5.3 percent. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide cost of living survey, Sydney is the sixteenth most expensive city in the world, while a UBS survey ranks Sydney as eighteenth in the world in terms of net earnings.

As of December 2005, Sydney has the highest median house price of any Australian capital city at $485,000 (Australian dollar). A report published by the OECD in November 2005, shows that Australia has the Western World's highest housing prices when measured against rental yields.

Sydney has been classified as a "Beta" global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.


As of 2006, there were an estimated 4,119,190 people living in the Sydney Statistical Division. Inner Sydney is the most densely populated place in Australia with 4,023 persons per square kilometer. The statistical division is larger in area than the urban area, as it allows for predicted growth. A resident of Sydney is commonly referred to as a Sydneysider.

In the 2006 census, the most common self-described ancestries identified for Sydney residents were Australian, English, Irish, and Chinese. The census also recorded that one percent of Sydney's population identified as being of indigenous origin and 31.7 percent were born overseas. The three major sources of immigrants are England, China, and New Zealand

Over 40,000 people were born overseas, including immigrants who came from Vietnam, Lebanon, Italy, India, and the Philippines. Most Sydneysiders are native speakers of English; many have a second language, the most common being [[Arabic language|Arabic], including the Lebanese dialect; Chinese languages, (Mandarin, Cantonese), and Greek.

The median age of a Sydney resident is 34, with 12 percent of the population over 65 years. According to the 2006 census, 29.1 percent of Sydney residents identified as Catholics, 17.9 percent as Anglicans, 17.0 percent as members of other Christian denominations, 3.7 percent as Buddhists, 3.9 percent as Muslims, 1.7 percent as Hindus, 0.9 percent as Jews, and 14.1 percent as having no religion.

Society and culture


The University of Sydney has been operating since 1850 and is the oldest university in Australia

Sydney is home to some of Australia's most prominent universities, and is the site of Australia's first university, the University of Sydney, established in 1850. There are five other public universities operating primarily in Sydney: the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, and the Australian Catholic University (two out of six campuses). Other universities which operate secondary campuses in Sydney include the University of Notre Dame Australia, and the University of Wollongong.

Arts and entertainment

Sydney has a wide variety of cultural sites and institutions. Sydney's iconic Opera House has five theaters capable of hosting a range of performance styles; it is the home of Opera Australia—the third busiest opera company in the world, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Other venues include the Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall, the State Theatre, and the Wharf Theatre.

The Sydney Opera House on Sydney Harbor

The Sydney Dance Company, under the leadership of Graeme Murphy during the late-twentieth century, has also gained acclaim. The Sydney Theater Company has a regular roster of local plays, such as noted playwright David Williamson, classics, and international playwrights. In 2007, New Theater (Newtown) celebrates 75 years of continuous production in Sydney. Other important theater companies in Sydney include Company B and Griffin Theater Company.

The National Institute of Dramatic Art, based in Kensington, boasts internationally famous alumni such as Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrmann, and Cate Blanchett. Sydney's role in the film industry has increased since the opening of Fox Studios Australia in 1998. Prominent films which have been filmed in the city include Moulin Rouge!, Mission Impossible II, Star Wars episodes II, III, Superman Returns, Dark City, Dil Chahta Hai, and The Matrix. Films using Sydney as a setting include Finding Nemo, Strictly Ballroom, Mission Impossible II, Muriel's Wedding, and Dirty Deeds. As of 2006, over 229 films have been set, or featured Sydney.


Sydney hosts many different festivals and some of Australia's largest social and cultural events. These include the Sydney Festival, Australia's largest festival which is a celebration involving both indoor and free outdoor performances throughout January; the Big Day Out, a travelling rock music festival which originated in Sydney; the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras along Oxford Street; the Sydney Film Festival and many other smaller festivals such as Tropfest and Archibald Prize, a competition organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Sydney Royal Easter Show which is the largest event in Australia is held every year at Sydney Olympic Park, the final of Australian Idol takes place on the steps of the Opera House, and Australian Fashion Week takes place in April/May. Also Sydney's New Years Eve and Australia Day celebrations are the largest in Australia.

Night Life

Sydney's most popular nightspots include Kings Cross, Oxford Street, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, and The Rocks, which all contain various bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Star City Casino, is Sydney's only casino and is situated around Darling Harbour. There are also many traditional pubs, cafes, and restaurants in inner city areas such as Newtown, Balmain, and Leichhardt. Sydney's main live-music hubs include areas such as Newtown and Annandale. It once had thriving live music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, nurturing great acts such as AC/DC, Midnight Oil, and INXS.

Museums, Architecture, Parks

Sydney has several museums. The biggest are the Australian Museum (natural history and anthropology), the Powerhouse Museum (science, technology and design), the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship

Being Australia's oldest city, there is also much architecture and historic buildings to be seen throughout the city. Some of the most well-known architectural sites in Sydney include Sydney Opera House, Queen Victoria Building, Martin Place, and Sydney Town Hall. Some of the most well known historic buildings are the Sydney Mint, one of Australia's oldest buildings, Fort Denison, a penal site which was built in the colonial days on a small island situated on the harbor, as well as the heritage-listed buildings built on The Rocks, which were the first buildings built in Australia on settlement.

Sydney is well endowed with open spaces, and has many natural areas even within the city center. Within the Sydney central business district are the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Hyde Park, The Domain, and the Royal Botanical Gardens. The metropolitan area contains several national parks, including the Royal National Park, the second-oldest national park in the world, and several parks in Sydney's far west which are part of the World Heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains Area.


Sport is an important part of the culture of the Australian state of New South Wales. Popular sports include rugby league, which has its Australian origins in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, cricket, in which New South Wales has been the dominant state for much of its Australian history, and association football (soccer).



Sydney has two main daily newspapers. The Sydney Morning Herald (which is the oldest Australian newspaper) is a broadsheet, and is Sydney's newspaper of record with extensive coverage of domestic and international news, culture, and business. It is also the oldest extant newspaper in Australia, having been published regularly since 1831. The Herald's competitor, The Daily Telegraph, is a News Corporation-owned tabloid. Both papers have tabloid counterparts published on Sunday, The Sun-Herald and the Sunday Telegraph, respectively.


The three commercial television networks (Seven, Nine, and Ten), as well as the government national-broadcast services (ABC and SBS), each having a presence in Sydney. Historically, the networks have been based on the north shore, but the last decade has seen several move to the inner city. Nine have kept their headquarters north of the harbor, in Willoughby. Ten have their studios in a redeveloped section of the inner-city suburb of Pyrmont, and Seven also has headquarters in Pyrmont as well as a new purpose built news studio in the CBD. The ABC has a large headquarters and production facility in the neighboring suburb of Ultimo and SBS have their studios at Artarmon. Foxtel and Optus both supply pay-TV over their cable services to most parts of the urban area. The five free-to-air networks have provided Digital Free-to-air TV transmissions in Sydney since January 2001. Additional services recently introduced include ABC's Second Channel ABC2 (Channel 21), SBS's world news service SBS2, an on-air program guide (Channel 4), ABC news, sport, and weather items (Channel 41),


Sydney is Australia’s center for film and media. Many of the landmarks in Sydney have been referenced, shown, and the setting for countless films and television programs. Sydney also has a wide amount of references to films that have been set in the city, the most famous being Finding Nemo, which was set in the famous Sydney Harbor.


Most Sydney residents travel by car through the system of roads, freeways, and tollways (known as motorways). The most important trunk routes in the urban area form the nine Metroad systems, which includes the 110-kilometer Sydney Orbital Network. Sydney is also served by extensive train, taxi, bus, and ferry networks.

An EDI M-set (Millennium) train at Sydney's Central Station.

Sydney trains are run by CityRail, a corporation of the New South Wales State Government. Trains run as suburban commuter rail services in the outer suburbs, then converge in an underground city loop service in the central business district. In the years following the 2000 Olympics, CityRail's performance declined significantly. A large infrastructure project, the Clearways project, is scheduled to be completed by 2010.

Sydney has one privately operated light-rail line, the Metro Light Rail, running from Central Station to Lilyfield along a former goods train line. There is also a small monorail which runs in a loop around the main shopping district and Darling Harbour. Sydney was once served by an extensive tram network, which was progressively closed in the 1950s and 1960s. Most parts of the metropolitan area are served by buses, many of which follow the pre-1961 tram routes. In the city and inner suburbs the state-owned Sydney Buses has a monopoly. In the outer suburbs, service is contracted to many private bus companies. Construction of a network of rapid bus transitways in areas not previously well served by public transport began in 1999, and the first of these, the Liverpool-Parramatta Rapid Bus Transitway opened in February 2003. Sydney Ferries, another State government-owned organization, runs numerous commuter and tourist ferry services on Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River.

Kingsford Smith International Airport, located in the suburb of Mascot, is Sydney's main airport, and the oldest continuously operating commercial airport in the world. The smaller Bankstown Airport mainly serves private and general aviation. There are light-aviation airfields at Hoxton Park and Camden. RAAF Base Richmond lies to the northwest of the city. The question of whether Sydney needs a second international airport has raised much controversy. A 2003 study found that Kingsford Smith can manage as Sydney's sole international airport for 20 years with a significant increase in airport traffic predicted. The resulting expansion of the airport will have a substantial impact on the community, including additional aircraft noise affecting residents. Land has been acquired at Badgerys Creek for a second airport and alternative sites have been considered.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • McGillick, Paul, and Bingham-Hall, Patrick. Sydney: The Making of a Global City. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle, 2005. ISBN 9780794603342
  • Morris, Jan. Sydney. New York: Random House, 1992. ISBN 9780394550985
  • Porter, Peter, and Brian Brake. Sydney. Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1980. ISBN 9780705405027
  • Watson, Anne. Building a Masterpiece: The Sydney Opera House. Sydney: PowerHosue Publishing, 2006. ISBN 9780853319412

External links

All links retrieved February 26, 2023.


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