"South West Pacific" redirects here. For the 1943 documentary, see South West Pacific (film).
This article is about the region. For the continent, see Australia (continent). For other uses, see Oceania (disambiguation).

Geopolitical Oceania
Area 8,525,989 km2 (3,291,903 sq mi)
Population 36,659,000 (2010, 6th)
Pop. density 4.19/km2 (10.9/sq mi)
Demonym Oceanian
Time zones UTC+14 (Kiribati) to UTC-11 (American Samoa and Niue) (West to East)
Largest cities

Oceania (UK /ˌʃˈɑːniə, ˌs-/[1] or US /ˌʃˈæniə/),[2] also known as Oceanica,[3] is a region centred on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean.[4] Opinions of what constitutes Oceania range from its three subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia[5] to, more broadly, the entire insular region between Southeast Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago.[6]

The term is often used more specifically to denote a continent comprising Australia and proximate islands[7][8][9][10] or biogeographically as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia, excluding both New Zealand[11] and mainland New Guinea).[12]

Etymology and semantics

The term was coined as Océanie circa 1812 by geographer Conrad Malte-Brun.[6] The word Océanie is a French word derived from the Latin word oceanus, and this from the Greek word ὠκεανός (ōkeanós), ocean. Natives and inhabitants of this region are called Oceanians or Oceanicans.[13][14]



Wider Geographic Oceania.
Little of the South Pacific is apparent at this scale, though Hawaii is just visible near the eastern horizon.

Area 10,975,600 km2 (4,237,700 sq mi)
Population 37.8 million (2010)
Time zones UTC+7 (Western Indonesian Time) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
Largest Cities

Narrower Geographic Oceania.
Island Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia (apart from New Zealand)

Area 183,000 km2 (71,000 sq mi)
Population 5.2 million (2008)
Time zones UTC+9 (Palau) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
Largest Cities
Puncak Jaya / Carstensz Pyramid, highest summit in Oceania

As an ecozone, Oceania includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, along with New Guinea and nearby islands, part of the Philippine islands, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, constitute the separate Australasian ecozone. In geopolitical terms, however, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are almost always considered part of Oceania. Australia and Papua New Guinea are usually considered part of Oceania along with the Maluku Islands and Papua in Indonesia. Puncak Jaya in Papua is often considered the highest peak in Oceania.


Oceania was originally conceived as the lands of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the coast of the Americas. It comprised four regions: Polynesia, Micronesia, Malaysia (now called the Malay Archipelago), and Melanesia.[15] Today, parts of three geological continents are included in the term "Oceania": Eurasia, Australia, and Zealandia, as well the non-continental volcanic islands of the Philippines, Wallacea, and the open Pacific. The area extends to Sumatra in the west, the Bonin Islands in the northwest, the Hawaiian Islands in the northeast, Rapa Nui and Sala y Gómez Island in the east, and Macquarie Island in the south. Not included are the Pacific islands of Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese archipelago, all on the margins of Asia, and the Aleutian Islands of North America.[16][17]

The islands at the geographic extremes of Oceania are Bonin, a politically integral part of Japan, Hawaii, a state of the United States, and Easter Island, belonging to Chile. There is also a smaller geographic definition that excludes land on the Sunda Plate but includes Indonesian New Guinea on the Australian continent.


Biogeographically, Oceania is used as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia apart either from New Zealand[11] or from mainland New Guinea[12]).


Oceania is one of eight terrestrial ecozones, which constitute the major ecological regions of the planet. The Oceania ecozone includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, New Guinea, Melanesia apart from Fiji, and Australia constitute the separate Australasian ecozone. The Malay Archipelago is part of the Indomalaya ecozone. Related to these concepts are Near Oceania, that part of western Island Melanesia which has been inhabited for tens of millennia, and Remote Oceania which is more recently settled.[18]


In the geopolitical conception used by the United Nations, International Olympic Committee, and many atlases, Oceania includes Australia and the nations of the Pacific from Papua New Guinea east, but not the Malay Archipelago or Indonesian New Guinea.[19][20][21]

Other definitions

Various maps of Oceania
Satellite image of Oceania 
A map of Oceania from the CIA World Factbook 
Ethno-cultural definition of Oceania 
Köppen classification in Oceania climate. 


The history of Oceania in the medieval period was synonymous with the history of the indigenous peoples of Australasia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia. The arrival of European settlers in subsequent centuries resulted in a significant alteration in the social and political landscape of Oceania. In more contemporary times there has been increasing discussion on national flags and a desire by some Oceanians to display their distinguishable and individualistic identity.[23]


The linked map below shows the Exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the islands of Oceania and neighbouring areas, as a guide to the following table. (There are no political boundaries that can be drawn on a map of the Pacific at this scale.)

The demographic table below shows the subregions and countries of geopolitical Oceania.[19] The countries and territories in this table are categorised according to the scheme for geographic subregions used by the United Nations. The information shown follows sources in cross-referenced articles; where sources differ, provisos have been clearly indicated. These territories and regions are subject to various additional categorisations, of course, depending on the source and purpose of each description.

Arms Flag Name of region, followed by countries[24] Area
Population Population density
(per km²)
Capital ISO 3166-1
Ashmore and Cartier Islands Ashmore and Cartier Islands (Australia) 199
Australia Australia 7,686,850 23,034,879 2.7 Canberra AU
Christmas Island Christmas Island[26] (Australia) 135 1,493 3.5 Flying Fish Cove CX
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Cocos (Keeling) Islands[26] (Australia) 14 628 45.1 West Island CC
Coral Sea Islands Coral Sea Islands (Australia) 10 4
New Zealand New Zealand[27] 268,680 4,465,900 16.5 Wellington NZ
Norfolk Island Norfolk Island (Australia) 35 2,302 61.9 Kingston NF
Fiji Fiji 18,270 856,346 46.9 Suva FJ
New Caledonia New Caledonia (France) 19,060 240,390 12.6 Nouméa NC
Indonesia Maluku Islands (Indonesia) 74,505 1,895,000 ML
Indonesia Papua (Indonesia)[note 1][29] 319,036 3,486,432 11 Jayapura PA
Indonesia West Papua (Indonesia)[note 2][30] 140,375 760,855 5.4 Manokwari PB
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea[31] 462,840 5,172,033 11.2 Port Moresby PG
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands 28,450 494,786 17.4 Honiara SB
Vanuatu Vanuatu 12,200 240,000 19.7 Port Vila VU
Federated States of Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia 702 135,869 193.5 Palikir FM
Guam Guam (United States) 549 160,796 292.9 Hagåtña GU
Kiribati Kiribati 811 96,335 118.8 South Tarawa KI
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands 181 73,630 406.8 Majuro MH
Nauru Nauru 21 12,329 587.1 Yaren (de facto) NR
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands (United States) 477 77,311 162.1 Saipan MP
Palau Palau 458 19,409 42.4 Ngerulmud[32] PW
Wake Island Wake Island (United States) 2 150 Wake Island UM
American Samoa American Samoa (United States) 199 68,688 345.2 Pago Pago, Fagatogo[33] AS
Cook Islands Cook Islands (New Zealand) 240 20,811 86.7 Avarua CK
Easter Island Easter Island (Chile) 164 5,761 31 Hanga Roa CL
French Polynesia French Polynesia (France) 4,167 257,847 61.9 Papeete PF
Hawaii Hawaii (United States) 16,636 1,360,301 81.8 Honolulu US
Niue Niue (New Zealand) 260 2,134 8.2 Alofi NU
Pitcairn Islands Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom) 5 47 10 Adamstown PN
Samoa Samoa 2,944 179,000 63.2 Apia WS
Tokelau Tokelau (New Zealand) 10 1,431 143.1 Nukunonu TK
Tonga Tonga 748 106,137 141.9 Nukuʻalofa TO
Tuvalu Tuvalu 26 11,146 428.7 Funafuti TV
Wallis and Futuna Wallis and Futuna (France) 274 15,585 56.9 Mata-Utu WF
Total 8,919,530 41,050,699 4.4
Total minus mainland Australia 1,232,680 19,022,699 14.8
  1. According to Act of Papua Autonomy (Undang-Undang Otonomi Khusus bagi Provinsi Papua) section 2 verse 2, the province itself has their own flag & arms, similar with other provinces. However, the flag & arms is not a representation of sovereignty over Republic of Indonesia
  2. West Papua was split from Papua province in 2003 but still retain the autonomy status as Papua Province
Geographic map of islands of Oceania


Archaeology, linguistics, and existing genetic studies indicate that Oceania was settled by two major waves of migration. The first migration took place approximately 40 thousand years ago, and these migrants, Papuans, colonised much of Near Oceania. Approximately 3.5 thousand years ago, a second expansion of Austronesian speakers arrived in Near Oceania, and the descendants of these people spread to the far corners of the Pacific, colonising Remote Oceania.[34]

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies quantify the magnitude of the Austronesian expansion and demonstrate the homogenising effect of this expansion. With regards to Papuan influence, autochthonous haplogroups support the hypothesis of a long history in Near Oceania, with some lineages suggesting a time depth of 60 thousand years. Santa Cruz, a population located in Remote Oceania, is an anomaly with extreme frequencies of autochthonous haplogroups of Near Oceanian origin.[34]


The predominant religion in Oceania is Christianity (73.3%).[35][36] A 2011 survey found that 65.6% of Australia and New Zealand population,[35] 92.1% in Melanesia,[35] 93.1% in Micronesia[35] and 96.1% in Polynesia described themselves as Christians.[35]

Traditional religions are often animist, and prevalent among traditional tribes is the belief in spirits (masalai in Tok Pisin) representing natural forces.[37] In recent Australian and New Zealand censuses, large proportions of the population say they belong to "no religion" (which includes atheism, agnosticism, deism, secular humanism, and rationalism). In Tonga, everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith. The Ahmadiyya mosque in Marshall Islands is the only mosque in Micronesia.[38] Another one in Tuvalu belongs to the same sect. The Bahá'í House of Worship in Tiapapata, Samoa, is one of seven designations administered in the Bahá'í Faith.


Multi-sport games

Australia has hosted two Summer Olympics: Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000. Also, Australia has hosted four editions of the Commonwealth Games (Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982, Melbourne 2006), and is scheduled for a fifth (Gold Coast 2018). Meanwhile, New Zealand has hosted the Commonwealth Games three times: Auckland 1950, Christchurch 1974 and Auckland 1990.

The Pacific Games (formerly known as the South Pacific Games) is a multi-sport event, much like the Olympics on a much smaller scale, with participation exclusively from countries around the Pacific. It is held every four years and began in 1963. Australia and New Zealand will be competing in the games for the first time in 2015.[39]

Association football (soccer)

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is one of six association football confederations[40] under the auspices of FIFA, the international governing body of the sport. The OFC is the only confederation without an automatic qualification to the World Cup. Currently the winner of the OFC qualification tournament must play off against a North, Central American and Caribbean confederation side to qualify for the World Cup.[41][42]

Currently, Vanuatu is the only country in Oceania to call football its national sport. However, it is the most popular sport in Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, and has a significant (and growing) popularity in Australia.

Oceania has been represented at four World Cup finals tournaments Australia in 1974 and 2006 and New Zealand in 1982 and 2010. In 2006, Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation and qualified for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as an Asian entrant. New Zealand qualified through the Oceania Confederation, winning its playoff against Bahrain. This made 2010 the first time that two countries from (geographic) Oceania had qualified at the same time, albeit through different confederations.

Australian rules football

Australian rules football is the national sport in Nauru[43] and is the most popular football code in Australia in terms of attendance.[44] It has a large following in Papua New Guinea, where it is the second most popular sport after Rugby League.[45]


Main article: Cricket in Oceania
Fans welcome to the Australian team in Sydney after winning 2007 Cricket World Cup

Cricket is a popular summer sport in Australia and New Zealand. Australia had ruled International cricket as the number one team for more than a decade, and have won five Cricket World Cups and have been runner-up for two times, making them the most successful cricket team. New Zealand is also considered a strong competitor in the sport, with the New Zealand cricket team, also called the Black Caps, enjoying success in many competitions. Both Australia and New Zealand are Full members of the ICC.

Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are some of the Associate/Affiliate members of the ICC in Oceania that are governed by ICC East Asia-Pacific. Backyard cricket and Beach cricket, which are simplified variants of cricket played at home or on a sand beach, are also popular recreational sports in Australia. Trobriand cricket and Kilikiti are regional forms of cricket adapted to local cultures in the Trobriand Islands and Samoa respectively.

Cricket is culturally a significant sport for summer in Oceania. The Boxing Day Test is very popular in Australia, conducted every year on 26 December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne.

Rugby league football

Rugby league is the national sport of Papua New Guinea[46] (the second-most populous country in Oceania after Australia) and is very popular in Australia.[47] It attracts significant attention across New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.[48]

Australia and New Zealand are two of the most successful sides in the world.[49] Australia has won the Rugby League World Cup a record ten times (most recently defeating New Zealand 34-2 in 2013) while New Zealand won their first World Cup in 2008. Australia hosted the second tournament in 1957. Australia and New Zealand jointly hosted it in 1968 and 1977. New Zealand hosted the final for the first time in 1985–1988 tournament and Australia hosted the tournament again in 2008.

Rugby union football

Fiji playing Wales at seven-a-side rugby

Rugby union is one of the region's most prominent sports,[50] and is the national sport of New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. Fiji's sevens team is one of the most successful in the world, as is New Zealand's.

New Zealand has won the Rugby World Cup a record three times, and were the first nation to win back to back World Cups. New Zealand won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 which was hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Australia hosted it in 2003 and New Zealand was the host and won it in 2011. New Zealand also won in 2015, defeating Australia in the final.

The Super Rugby features five teams from each of Australia and New Zealand.

See also

Main article: Outline of Oceania


  1. Pronunciation: The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) ISBN 0-19-861263-X — p.1282 "Oceania /ˌəʊsɪˈɑːnɪə, -ʃɪ-/".
  2. "Oceania". Dictionary.com. Random House, Inc. 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  3. ""Oceanica" definition". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  4. For a history of the term, see Douglas & Ballard (2008) Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race 1750–1940
  5. "Oceania". 2005. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press.
  6. 1 2 "Oceania". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. 1 2 Son, George Philip (2003). Philip's E.A.E.P Atlas. p. 79. ISBN 9789966251251. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  8. 1 2 Scholastic Atlas of the World. 2003. "Oceania is the smallest of all the continents"
  9. 1 2 Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, United Nations Statistics Division. Revised August 28, 2007. Accessed on line October 11, 2007.
  10. 1 2 Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-520-20742-4. Interestingly enough, the answer [from a scholar who sought to calculate the number of continents] conformed almost precisely to the conventional list: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania (Australia plus New Zealand), Africa, and Antarctica.
  11. 1 2 Udvardy. 1975. A classification of the biogeographical provinces of the world
  12. 1 2 Steadman. 2006. Extinction & biogeography of tropical Pacific birds
  13. Adler, Jacob (1986). The fantastic life of Walter Murray Gibson: Hawaii's minister of everything. p. 66.
  14. Lyons, Paul (2006). American Pacificism: Oceania in the U.S. Imagination. p. 30.
  15. Dumont D'Urville, Jules-Sébastien-César (2003). Translated by Ollivier, Isabel; Biran, Antoine de; Clark, Geoffrey. "On the Islands of the Great Ocean". Journal of Pacific History. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 38 (2): 163. doi:10.1080/0022334032000120512. JSTOR 25169637.
  16. MacKay (1864, 1885) Elements of Modern Geography, p 283
  17. Douglas & Ballard (2008) Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race 1750–1940
  18. Ben Finney, The Other One-Third of the Globe, Journal of World History, Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall, 1994.
  19. 1 2 3 "United Nations Statistics Division – Countries of Oceania". Millenniumindicators.un.org. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  20. Atlas of Canada Web Master (2004-08-17). "The Atlas of Canada – The World – Continents". Atlas.nrcan.gc.ca. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  21. Current IOC members.
  22. "Oceania". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  23. Dimensions of Australian Society, Ian McAllister - 1994, p 333
  24. Regions and constituents as per UN categorisations/map except notes 2–3, 6. Depending on definitions, various territories cited below (notes 3, 5–7, 9) may be in one or both of Oceania and Asia or North America.
  25. The use and scope of this term varies. The UN designation for this subregion is "Australia and New Zealand."
  26. 1 2 Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australian external territories in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia.
  27. New Zealand is often considered part of Polynesia rather than Australasia.
  28. Excludes parts of Indonesia, island territories in Southeast Asia (UN region) frequently reckoned in this region.
  29. Indonesian Act of Papua Autonomy, Act 21 year 2001 (Indonesian: UU 21 tahun 2001). Available at: http://www.kinerja.or.id/pdf/8bbcd469-bc2c-4d89-bf63-c2d81804ae27.pdf
  30. "Papuan province changes name from West Irian Jaya to West Papua". Radio New Zealand International. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  31. Papua New Guinea is often considered part of Australasia and Melanesia. It is sometimes included in the Malay Archipelago of Southeast Asia.
  32. On 7 October 2006, government officials moved their offices in the former capital of Koror to Ngerulmud in the state of Melekeok, located 20 km (12 mi) northeast of Koror on Babelthuap Island.
  33. Fagatogo is the seat of government of American Samoa.
  34. 1 2 Duggan, A. T.; Evans, B.; Friedlaender, F. O. R.; Friedlaender, J. S.; Koki, G.; Merriwether, D. A.; Kayser, M.; Stoneking, M. (2014). "Maternal History of Oceania from Complete mtDNA Genomes: Contrasting Ancient Diversity with Recent Homogenization Due to the Austronesian Expansion". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 94 (5): 721. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2014.03.014.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020 Society, Religion, and Mission, Center for the Study of Global Christianity
  36. US Dept of State (2012-05-01). "Background Notes Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Malaysia, Micronesia, New Zealand, Samoa". State.gov. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  37. Cowan, James G. (1993). Messengers of the Gods. New York, NY: Bell Tower. ISBN 0-517-88078-4.
  38. "Mosque soon to open in Uliga". November 28, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  39. "Australia and New Zealand to compete in Pacific Games". ABC News. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  40. "FIFA confederations". Fifa.com. Archived from the original on 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  41. "''FIFA world cup 2010 – Oceania preliminary competition''" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  42. "FIFA world cup 2010 – qualifying rounds and places available by confederation". Fifa.com. 2009-04-03. Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  43. "Nauru AFL team to play in International Cup". solomonstarnews.com. 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  44. "Australian rules football (sport) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  45. http://www.miningfm.com.au/mining-towns/overseas/papua-new-guinea.html
  46. "MSN Groups Closure Notice". Groups.msn.com. 2008-10-23. Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  47. "Football in Australia – Australia's Culture Portal". Cultureandrecreation.gov.au. 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  48. "Rugby League Football – 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand". Teara.govt.nz. 1908-06-13. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  49. Wilson, Andy (2009-11-05). "southern hemisphere sides are a class apart". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  50. "Oceania Rugby Vacations". Real Travel. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved 2009-04-17.

Further reading

External links

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