PSA: Australia Has A Third 'Secret' Territory

jervis bay act australia forgotten territoryImage: Getty Images

In schools, Australians learn there are six states in the country with two territories, which are basically states — the Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In the shadows, brushed aside by the nation's textbooks, however, is a little known third territory rounding out that internal territory count to three.

It's Jervis Bay Territory, and it has a complicated history.

Jervis Bay, Australia's third internal territory and popular holiday destination, is located on the mid-south eastern coast, 198 kilometres south of Sydney and is bordered by NSW on all sides apart from the sea. It's quite small covering 7,456 hectares — 6,569 of it being actual land area. Crossing into it from NSW though, it's easy to miss the road signs stating you're crossing a border.

Jervis Bay Territory was created in 1909 when NSW handed over the land to the Commonwealth under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909. The ACT was later handed the territory's jurisdiction under the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915.

This helped the landlocked ACT gain crucial access to the sea given it was the only capital in the country not to have its own port. The complex nature of the arrangement and the small number of people actually living in the territory means that, for all intents and purposes, it's administered by the ACT despite being its own territory in legislation.

In practice, for example, the Australia Post office's address is:

1 Armstrong Avenue, JERVIS BAY ACT 2540

It's definitely not a NSW address but the postcode has more common in the state than the territory.

The territory's population is quite small too at just 391 during the 2016 ABS Census. Of that number, 57.5 per cent worked in Defence, mostly due to the HMAS Creswell naval base located near Jervis Bay Village.

In terms of voting, people living in Jervis Bay Territory don't have specific representation either. During federal elections, residents count toward the ACT Division of Fenner but have no state or local representation apart from community organisations. Given the territory's limited resources, residents access services provided by nearby local councils in NSW, like Shoalhaven's library and waste services, NSW's RFS, as well as ACT's education, courts and welfare system.

So, there you go — Australia's full of strange anomalies.

Outside of Australia, there a number of other territories, including:

  • Ashmore and Cartier Islands
  • Australian Antarctic Territory
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Coral Sea Islands
  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands
  • Norfolk Island

These are considered external territories and utilise mainland services, like postal, where required. The territories are administered by the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities & Regional Development.

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