Australia is the largest country in Oceania, surrounded by Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand. The total population is 25 million and the capital city is Canberra, however the most densely populated city is Sydney.

The country was inhabited for Aboriginal peoples for 60,000 prior to the arrival of the British through the penal transportation and settlement system. The British population slowly increased, aided by a Gold Rush in the 1850s. In 1901, the Federation of Colonies was created, making the Commonwealth of Australia a dominion of the British Empire.

Australia fought alongside the British during the First World War. The ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) defeat at Gallipoli was considered by many as the first major military action, and therefore the birth of the country. The Statutes of Westminster 1931 separated the link between the UK and Australia. During the Second World War, Australia looked to the United States for aid after the British defeat in 1942. Since 1951, these countries have been formal allies.

Australia’s armed forces are known as the ADF (Australia Defence Forces) and comprise 81,200 personnel. This force includes the RAN (Royal Australian Navy), Australian Army, and RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).

In 1975, the Order of Australia was created, ushering the Australian Honours System in place of the previous British system. Since then, Australia awards its own order, both civil and military medals for gallantry, bravery, and service, along with campaign medals. The majority of decorations are awarded on Australia Day (January 26) or on the Queen’s Birthday.


William, R.D. Medals to Australia from 1858-1999. Melbourne, Victoria: Downie’s, 2000.
“Defence Honours & Awards.” Australian Government. Accessed October 2016.

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