China may have a Great Wall, but everything in Australia is great! And not really because I say so, but because everything has “Great” in the name. Seriously. Look at a map of Australia sometime and see how many items you can spot with the name “Great” – like the Great Australian Bight, Great Barrier Reef, Great Dividing Range, Great Keppel Island, Great Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert… It’s not just natural features either. Want to take a walk on the Great South West Walk? How about a drive on the Great Ocean Road? If that one has too much traffic, check out the Great Alpine Road, Great Central Road, or Great Northern Highway. Great Otway National Park would be a great place to visit, as would Great Basalt Wall National Park and Great Sandy National Park. Even the Australian Jews get in on the action. Right here in Sydney is the Great Synagogue.
So, why is everything so great? It’s probably because Australia is just so big – so great in size. Australia is the world’s sixth biggest country by land area. That means there are some great distances between places on the map.
Let’s put the size into perspective: 2 of Australia’s 8 states and territories are larger than Alaska. Larger than Alaska! A further 3 states and territories are larger than Texas! Everything’s bigger in Texas, eh? I think not. Take that, you full-of-yourself Texans! The smallest mainland state – Victoria – would still be the 11th largest state if it were in the US. For the island states, Tasmania is 4 times larger than Hawaii, and the Australian Capital Territory is nearly 15 times the size of the District of Columbia.
On a greater scale, the state of Western Australia would be the world’s 10th largest country by land area if it were to become independent. Crazy! Queensland wouldn’t be far behind at number 18, and the Northern Territory would round out the top 20. South Australia and New South Wales would both be ranked in the 30’s.
On the other hand, despite having the world’s sixth largest land area, Australia is only ranked 52nd in population. That’s a lot of land for not a lot of people. California has more people than the whole of Australia. So does Texas. New York and Florida aren’t far behind. Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, would only be ranked 13th in the US and has approximately as many people as Washington state. And as for those smaller island states and capitals: Hawaii has nearly three times the population of Tasmania despite Tasmania quadrupling Hawaii’s area, and the District of Columbia has nearly twice the population of the ACT despite it being only one-fifteenth the size.
Looking at the world again, Western Australia would be ranked 143rd in the world in terms of population if it was its own country. 143rd! That’s a remarkably low population for a country that would be the world’s 10th largest. It would be the world’s least densely populated country with under 1 person per square kilometer. Currently, Mongolia is the world’s least densely populated country, and its figure is nearly equal to the population density of South Australia. The world’s second least densely populated country is Namibia, and its density is nearly equal to that of Queensland. Northern Territory, with a population density of 0.2 persons per square kilometer, is less than 25% as dense as Western Australia. No independent country has as few people in such a space. In fact, the only places on the planet less dense than the Northern Territory are Greenland and Antarctica.
So what’s the point of all of this? Well, it’s this: Australia has a lot of land which makes distances between places really great. But when you also factor in the sparse population and all of that vacant land in the middle, the country’s size just seems so much greater than it actually is.
So maybe that’s why everything here is “Great”.
Or maybe it was just an incredible marketing scheme that started shortly after the first convict settlers landed in Sydney. A 200+ year old tourism campaign is a pretty good success.