Oceania is a vast region that encompasses Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Ocean subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There are a total of 14 countries and 9 dependencies in Oceania. More than 43 million people live in the region. Australia is by far the largest and most populous country in Oceania. The countries of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea also have significant land masses and populations in the millions. Oceania’s other countries and dependencies, however, consist of many small islands, and have populations ranging from around 900 thousand to less than 1,500.
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- Solomon Islands
- Federated States Of Micronesia
- Marshall Islands
- Other Territories Of Oceania
The Commonwealth of Australia, as it is known officially, is the largest and most populous country in Oceania. More than 25 million people call Australia home, which means that the country is home to more than half of Oceania’s entire population. Australia has the unique distinction of being both a country and a continent. It is the world’s smallest continent, but is also the largest country in Oceania, encompassing more than 7.6 million sq. km of land area. Australia is also home to Oceania’s biggest economy.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is Oceania’s second most populous country, with a population of approximately 9 million. It is also the biggest and most populous country in the subregion of Melanesia. Papua New Guinea encompasses a total land area of 452,860 sq. km. Most of its territory is on the island of New Guinea, which it shares with Indonesia. Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. There are more than 700 languages spoken in the country, though English is the country’s official language.
New Zealand is the third largest country in Oceania by land area. Approximately 4.8 million people live in New Zealand. Most are of European descent, but there is still a large population of the country’s indigenous people, the Maori. Indeed, both English and Maori are official languages in New Zealand. New Zealanders are often nicknamed kiwis, after the bird species that is native only to that country. The country has recently gained notoriety for its effective tackling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has managed to keep cases of the virus much lower than most other developed countries.
Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands, though just 100 of them are inhabited. The country’s two main islands are Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, the latter of which is where the country’s capital, Suva, is located. The country comprises a land area of 18,270 sq. km. About 900 thousand people live in Fiji. Most of them are of either Indian origin or members of the country’s indigenous community. Fijian politics is largely dominated by the conflict between these two groups.
The Solomon Islands is a country based in an archipelago of six major and about 900 smaller islands. The country is located to the east of Papua New Guinea. Like Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are part of the subregion of Melanesia. The country’s total land area is 27,990 sq. km. Approximately 700 thousand people live in the Solomon Islands. Most of them live in small villages. In fact, less than a quarter of the country’s population is urban. The capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal, which was the site of a famous World War II battle.
Federated States Of Micronesia
Officially known as the Federated States of Micronesia, and consisting of around 600 small islands, Micronesia is north of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Not to be confused with the subregion of Micronesia, in which there are four other countries, the country of Micronesia has a land area of 3,170 sq. km and a population of about 553 thousand people. As its official name implies, Micronesia is a federation of four distinct island states. These states are the Chuuk islands, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap, all of which have their own languages.
Vanuatu is a country consisting of about 80 islands in the South Pacific subregion of Melanesia, northeast of New Caledonia, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji. The total land area of the country is 12,190 sq. km. Because of where it is situated, Vanuatu is a hotspot for various natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The country is home to approximately 312 thousand people. The official languages of Vanuatu are English, French, and Bislama, which is an English-based creole.
Formerly known as Western Samoa, Samoa is located in the subregion of Polynesia, about halfway between New Zealand and the U.S. state of Hawaii. It has a land area of 2,830 sq. km, and consists of two main islands, Upolu and Savai’i, as well as seven smaller islets. About three quarters of Samoa’s population lives on the island of Upolu, on which the country’s capital city, Apia, is located. Nearly 200 thousand people call Samoa home.
Straddling the equator, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is the island country of Kiribati. Kiribati encompasses three island groups, the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. The country’s total land area is 810 sq. km, and its population is about 120 thousand people. The people of Kiribati call themselves I-Kiribati, and are mostly of Micronesian descent.
Tonga comprises about 170 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, located southeast of Fiji and south of Samoa. The country has a total land area of 720 sq. km, but the country’s islands are scattered over an area of 700,000 sq. km, which is about the size of the U.S. state of Texas. Tonga has a population of approximately 106 thousand people, most of whom live on the country’s main island of Tongatapu, where the national capital, Nuku’alofa, is located.
The Marshall Islands is comprised of 29 atolls and 5 individual islands. In total, there are 1,225 islands and 870 reef systems in the country. The land area of the Marshall Islands is just 180 sq. km, but the country’s many islands are spaced out over 750,000 square miles. The Marshall Islands are located east of the Federated States of Micronesia, north of Nauru, west of Kiribati, and south of Wake Island. The population of the country is approximately 59 thousand. English is the official language of the Marshall Islands, but there are also two Malayo-Polynesian dialects indigenous to the islands.
Palau is a small island country based in the western Caroline Islands, which are located in the North Pacific Ocean. The country is about 700 km east of the Philippines. Palau consists of 20 large islands and 566 smaller islands. The country’s land area is 460 sq. km, and its population is just over 18,000. The people of Palau are Micronesian, though the population also has Malayan and Melanesian elements. Palau has its own indigenous language, known as Palauan, but English is the country’s official language. Palau is in free association with the U.S., which guarantees the country’s external security. The currency of Palau is the U.S. dollar.
Tuvalu is an island country located about 1,000 km north of Fiji and 2,000 km east of the Solomon Islands. Originally known as the Ellice Islands under British rule, Tuvalu gained independence in 1978. It is the world’s fourth smallest country, with a population of under 12,000. Most Tuvaluans are of Polynesian descent, though there is also a small population of Micronesians. The official languages of Tuvalu are English and Tuvaluan. There are also some speakers of Samoan and Kiribati in the country. Tuvalu has its own currency, the Tuvaluan dollar, but Australian dollars are also accepted as a form of currency in the country.
Nauru is the least populated country in the Pacific Ocean and the third least populous country in the world, with less than 11,000 inhabitants. It is also, however, one of the most densely populated countries on Earth. The total land area of Nauru is just 20 sq. km, and the population density of the country is 635.2 people per square kilometer, making Nauru the 10th most densely populated country in the world. Nauru is also the world’s smallest republic. English and the indigenous language of Nauruan are the official languages of Nauru. More than half of the country’s population is of indigenous Nauruan descent, but there is also a large portion of the populace that come from other Pacific islands. Nauru has the dubious distinction of being the fattest country on Earth, with 71.1% of the country’s people classified as obese.
Other Territories Of Oceania
In addition to the 14 countries in Oceania, there are also 9 dependencies in the region. Three are dependencies of France, three are American dependencies, and three are dependencies of New Zealand. The largest and most populous dependency is the French dependency of New Caledonia, which has a land area of 18,280 sq. km, and a population of approximately 287 thousand. The smallest and least populous dependency in Oceania is the New Zealand-controlled island of Tokelau, which has a land area of just 10 sq. km, and a population of just over 1,300.