Victoria, Australia, a state of the commonwealth. It is bordered by New South Wales and South Australia and fronts on the Tasman Sea, Bass Strait, and the Indian Ocean. Across the shallow Bass Strait lies Tasmania. Victoria's area is 87,877 square miles (227,600 km2); only Tasmania is smaller. Maximum dimensions are about 500 miles (800 km) east-west and nearly 300 miles (480 km) north-south.
Victoria is generally flat to rolling except in the Great Dividing Range, which juts westward in a fairly broad band through the eastern and central parts of the state. Peaks rise more than 6,500 feet (1,980 m) above sea level in the Australian Alps, in the east, and decrease in height westward, ending in little more than hills northwest of Melbourne, the capital. North of the Great Dividing Range are the plains of the Murray River Basin; south of the range are hilly uplands that fade into plains along most of the coast.
The Murray, flowing westward from the Australian Alps, is the chief river of Victoria. It forms most of the boundary with New South Wales and is used intensively for irrigation. The Murray also provides hydroelectric power. Virtually all other rivers carry relatively little water; those in the northwest dry up before reaching the Murray.
Victoria's lakes are small, and many are reservoirs created by damming. Port Phillip Bay, on which Melbourne is located, is one of the world's finest natural harbors.
Except in the mountains the climate of Victoria is mild, much like that in the southeastern United States, but drier. Temperatures during July, the coldest month, average slightly below 50° F. (10° C.); minimums are near freezing. During January, the warmest month, they range from about 65° F. (18° C.) along the coast to 75° F. (24° C.) far inland. Daytime highs occasionally reach 100° F. (38° C.) or more, particularly inland. Rainfall averages 20 to 30 inches (510 to 760 mm) a year near the coast and decreases to less than 10 inches (250 mm) in the extreme northwest. Up to 60 inches (1,520 mm) falls in the high mountains, partly as snow.
After New South Wales, Victoria is the most economically advanced state of Australia. It accounts for nearly a third of the nation's manufacturing workers and a third of all the factories. Production is heavily concentrated in the Melbourne urban area and consists chiefly of fabricated metal products; textiles, clothing, and footwear; cars and other transportation equipment; chemicals; and food, beverage, and tobacco products.
Farming is also important, Victoria being one of Australia's leading agricultural states. Grains, especially wheat, oats, and barley, account for most of the planted acreage. Irrigated lands along the Murray River and its tributaries yield a variety of crops, including many fruits and vegetables. Hay, used to feed the state's large beef and dairy herds, is also extensively grown. Far more numerous than cattle are sheep, which are grazed on drier lands throughout most of the state. Agricultural products are among Victoria's chief exports.
Lumbering is a significant industry in the mountainous and hilly areas. Natural gas and petroleum, produced offshore in Bass Strait, and brown coal are the most valuable mineral resources. Gold is also produced.
Railways are state owned and operated. Most of the extensive road system is paved. Melbourne's airport and seaport are among the busiest in Australia.
Victoria is the most densely populated state in Australia. In 2001 the population was 4,644,950, the density about 53 persons per square mile (20 per km2). Melbourne contains about 70 per cent of the state's people.
The largest religious denomination is the Church of England, followed by the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches.
School attendance is free and compulsory from the ages of 6 to 15. Secondary schools are also provided by the government, and there are private academic and technical schools. The University of Victoria is in Melbourne.
Victoria has the British cabinet system of government. The governor is appointed by the British Crown with the consent of the government of Victoria. Executive power, however, is held by the premier and the ministers, who are members of Parliament and are responsible to it. Parliament consists of the Legislative Council of 44 members elected for six years and the Legislative Assembly of 88 elected for four years. All members are chosen by popular vote. Voting is compulsory for all qualified citizens.