Sydney (Australia), first permanent European settlement in Australia and today the country’s largest metropolitan area, with about 4 million residents. Sydney is the seat of state government as the capital of New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous and economically important state. The city is a dynamic cultural center with a diversified economy focused on service industries, tourism, manufacturing, and international commerce. Its port is one of the leading centers of intercontinental trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Sydney is located on Australia’s southeastern coast at Port Jackson, a large, sheltered, deep-water inlet of the Tasman Sea (part of the South Pacific Ocean).
Sydney was founded as a British penal colony on January 26, 1788. The British government sent ships of convicts from overcrowded British jails to Sydney until the mid-1800s. Today, the stunning natural harbor forms the centerpiece of a modern, cosmopolitan city. Sydney’s diverse population, a result of immigration from many other countries, is reflected in the city’s vibrant cultural life. Sydney is the top Australian destination for tourists from abroad, and tourism is a leading industry in the city. Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, which boosted its image worldwide as the gateway to Australia.
Sydney has a temperate humid climate with four distinct seasons. Because Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. During the peak of summer in January, the city has an average daily high temperature of 26°C (79°F) and an average low of 19°C (66°F). In July, the coldest month of the year, the average daily high temperature is 16°C (61°F), and the average low is 8°C (46°F). High and low temperatures are slightly more extreme in the inland suburbs, which are farther from the moderating influence of Port Jackson. The average annual precipitation of 1,222 mm (48 in) is spread fairly evenly throughout the year, with a slightly drier period in spring. Rainfall is variable in both amount and timing, however, and severe thunderstorms with hail and torrential rain occur a few times each year. Snow is extremely rare, but frosts are common in the inland suburbs during colder months.
II SYDNEY AND ITS METROPOLITAN AREA
Sydney is bordered on the east by the Tasman Sea and encircled on its other sides by a nearly continuous band of bushland (areas of native vegetation). The Nepean-Hawkesbury river system flows around Sydney’s outer edges, emptying into the sea north of Sydney. The Blue Mountains rise to the west. Sydney is surrounded by rugged terrain known as sandstone country, where massive sedimentary rocks underlie thin soils and hardy forests of bushland. National parks and smaller reserves protect most of the area’s remaining bushland, some of which is subtropical rain forest. This preservation creates a scenic greenbelt around Sydney.
The Sydney metropolitan area has a population of 3.27 million (1996) residents, who call themselves Sydneysiders. About 22,000 of these people live in the central area of the city proper. The Sydney conurbation (including the Central Coast, Newcastle, and Wollongong), designated as the Sydney Statistical Division, has an estimated population of 4.04 million (1999). The conurbation contains nearly two-thirds of the state population.
The importance of immigration in Sydney’s growth is reflected in the city’s many ethnic groups. Immigration before World War II was mostly from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Immediately after the war, it was from the United Kingdom and northwestern Europe, followed by a wave of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. IV CULTURE
Cultural institutions in Sydney include several of the country’s most important museums. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, established in 1874, houses some of the finest works of art in Australia, including Asian, European, and Australian collections. It also includes the Yiribana Gallery, which houses the world’s largest exhibit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture. The Australian Museum, founded in 1827 and the country’s first museum, contains natural history and anthropology exhibits. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (1880) comprises the Powerhouse Museum, which includes science and technology exhibits, and the Sydney Observatory astronomical museum. The turbulent history of Sydney from 1788 to 1850, including the effects of European colonization on the local Aboriginal population, is the subject of multimedia exhibits at the Museum of Sydney (1995). The State Library of New South Wales has a collection of 4 million items, including the nation’s most important collection of Australian archival material in the Mitchell Library (1906).
The Sydney Opera House is the centerpiece of the city’s venues for live performances of ballet, opera, and classical music. The Australian Opera, Australian Ballet, and Sydney Dance companies regularly stage performances there. Moreover, the venue often hosts internationally touring performances. Sydney also has many venues for musical theater, drama, and popular music. The Sydney Theatre Company is one of many successful theater companies in the city. Sydney is also home to the internationally acclaimed Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Before European settlement, the area of present-day metropolitan Sydney was inhabited by an estimated 3,000 Aborigines of the Cadigal (also known as Eora), Dharawal, Dharug, Gandangara, and Guringai tribes. These Aboriginal tribes led a much more settled life than the inland tribes and relied heavily on food from marine sources. Little more is known of these people and their lifestyle and culture because they were essentially wiped out within a few years after the first British colonists arrived in 1788. The Aborigines were decimated by European diseases and, to a lesser extent, killed in attacks by British settlers. They also were dispossessed of their lands. The colonists introduced an epidemic of what was probably smallpox that killed about half of the area’s Aboriginal population in 1789. Encounters between Aborigines and colonists were mostly peaceful at first, but by 1790 the two sides were engaged in a series of armed conflicts known as the Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars. By the end of the century, the few remaining Aborigines in the area were reduced to being urban-fringe dwellers.