Papua New Guinea land mass is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and is 160 kilometres north of Australia. The western half of the island is Irian Jaya, a province of Indonesia. Papua New Guinea comprises both the mainland and some 600 offshore islands. It has a total land area of 462,800 square kilometres and is about the same size as Thailand. The country has 5125 kilometres of coastline.
It is located just south of the equator and experiences a moderate tropical climate with high levels of seasonal rainfall. In the highlands, temperatures range from a low of four degrees Celsius to a high of 32 degrees Celsius. The lowland, coastal and island areas have an average daily temperature of 27 degrees Celsius.
It has a population of over 8 million people and the majority lives in the highland valleys and in isolated villages. Apart from the National Capital District (NCD), population density is relatively low. Around 15 per cent of the population live in the major urban areas. The major city and capital of the country is Port Moresby with a population of over 345,000. Other large towns and cities include Lae, (population 113,118), Madang (32,171), Wewak (25,143) and Goroka (17,269). Most of the rural population supports itself by subsistence farming.
Most Papua New Guineans are Melanesians and vary widely in their physical, ethnic and cultural characteristics.
The country is relatively young and its geography is diverse which is characterized by high mountain ranges, deep valleys and swift rivers in the interior and open plains, tropical forests and swampy inlets in the coastal region.
It gained its political independence from Australia in 1975 and follows the West minister system of Government guided by a home-grown constitution with common law practices.