Spell official place names correctly. Follow style rules so people recognise names for other public places. Use standard shortened forms in addresses.
Check official place names and style them correctly
Using official Australian place names helps us all communicate more clearly. You can check the spelling of a place name using the Australian Place Names dataset.
If still unsure, contact the relevant state or territory naming authority. You can click on the government logos in the search results from the dataset. They will take you to the jurisdictional webpage.
Official place names are generally given under Acts of parliament and associated rules. Each state and territory has its own legal and administrative processes.
National principles for naming are intended to provide consistency across the country. This helps ensure that wherever we go in Australia, we find names are chosen and spelt in a common way.
Place names reflect culture at various points throughout history. Because of this reality, there may appear to be exceptions to the general rules given in this guide.
There are many First Nations naming systems across Australia. These were in place before the official national system and continue today.
Many names from First Nations languages have become official names, used by all Australians. There are also many that have not. Consult directly with relevant communities about conventions for naming and spelling in specific First Nations languages.
Spelling and capitalisation
Australian place names are proper nouns, written using standard Australian English. Place names:
- use a standard 26 character alphabet
- don’t use diacritical marks
- are not possessive
- don’t generally have punctuation.
Some Australian place names stem from other languages. Spelling and capitalisation can change when they’re adopted as an official Australian place name. For example, the official spelling:
- loses any accent marks or diacritics
- adds capitalisation.
Hyphens and apostrophes can be part of an official name. They appear if they were part of the name of the person commemorated by the place name.
Baden Powell waterhole or Baden-Powell’s Waterhole
Australian places have official names derived from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Some places have official dual names from those languages and English.
When writing official dual names, use a spaced forward slash to separate the 2 parts of the name. The order should be as written in the official name, which you can check in the Australian Place Names dataset.
- Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga
- Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles
Some official Tasmanian place names do not follow the convention of using initial capitals for proper nouns.
- kunanyi / Mount Wellington
Use capitals for names of places, roads and streets
Words that don’t usually need an initial capital have one when they are part of a place name.
- the Adelaide Hills
- the North Shore
- the Western District
The names of roads, streets and other thoroughfares also take an initial capital.
- George Street
- Wickham Terrace
- Monaro Highway
This is a similar rule to style for proper names of mountains, valleys, bays, islands and other topographic features.
Use shortened forms for addresses
Addresses usually have abbreviations and contractions. Do not add punctuation marks to these.
- 10 Bendemeer Blvd
- PO Box 1
Common abbreviations include:
- Av (Avenue)
- Cct (Circuit)
- Cr (Crescent)
- Ct (Court)
- Dr (Drive)
- Esp (Esplanade)
- Gr (Grove)
- Hts (Heights)
- Hwy (Highway)
- Pde (Parade)
- Pl (Place)
- Rd (Road)
- St (Street)
- Tce (Terrace).
Shortened state and territory names for addresses
When addressing a letter, write the last line in capitals without punctuation or underlining, with the postcode last. The last line should contain the place name or post office of delivery, state or territory abbreviation and postcode.
11 Banks Av
WAGGA WAGGA NSW 2650
If you are sending mail overseas, spell out all names in the address in full to avoid confusion.
‘SA‘ could refer to South Australia or to South Africa.
Write the names of buildings, structures and public places with an initial capital
Names of buildings, structures and public places have initial capitals. Write generic and plural terms in lower case.
- St Paul’s Cathedral is close to Melbourne’s Federation Square. The cathedral ...
- The Iron Cove and Gladesville bridges are both in Sydney.
Use initial capitals for the names of private properties.
- Thargomindah Station
- Myocum Downs
- Tocal Homestead
Shorten names for states and territories in 4 situations
Spell out the names of Australian states and territories in formal content.
You can use shortened forms when:
- the name is used as an adjective
- space is limited
- the full name would result in repetition
- you are writing an address.
The WA Government has reopened the Eyre Highway. [‘WA’ is used as an adjective.]
Don’t use a full stop after the shortened forms. This rule applies to the initialisms (NSW, WA, ACT and NT), abbreviations (Vic and Tas) and the contraction (Qld).
States and territories are generally listed in an order when more than one is mentioned. For example:
- in alphabetical order (ACT to WA)
- by population size (NSW to NT).
Other orders might be more suitable for some content. For example, content might include a list of states and territories ordered by total annual rainfall or number of enrolled voters. Use the order that fits with context and helps people understand your content.
The digital edition includes new information about dual place names. It links to the Australian place names dataset as the authoritative source for correct spelling and capitalisation for official place names.
The digital edition updates punctuation style for shortened forms.
- Consistent with the sixth edition, it does not use full stops with acronyms or initialisms, or contractions.
- It removes the requirement to use full stops with abbreviations of state names (as with other non-Latin abbreviations).
This is a change from the sixth edition, which recommended using a full stop with ‘Vic’ and ‘Tas’. It is consistent with the digital edition’s guidance for shortened forms. Australian corpus data informed this change.
The Content Guide provided general advice but no specific details on Australian place names.
About this page
ACT Government (n.d.) Place names, Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate – Planning website, accessed 10 November 2022.
Australia Post (n.d.) Suburb index, Australia Post website, accessed 29 May 2020.
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (n.d.) ‘Heritage places and lists’, Heritage, DCCEEW website, accessed 22 December 2022.
Northern Territory Government (2017) Place Names Committee, Place Names Committee website, accessed 10 November 2022.
NSW Government (2016) Geographical Names Board, Geographical Names Board website, accessed 10 November 2022.
Permanent Committee on Place Names (2016) Principles for the consistent use of place names: includes principles for the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place names and dual naming depiction principles, Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping, accessed 29 May 2020.
Permanent Committee on Place Names and Geoscience Australia (2012) Gazetteer of Australia, Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping, accessed 29 May 2020.
Queensland Government (2022) Place names, Queensland Government website, accessed 10 November 2022.
South Australian Government (2022) Naming places, SA.GOV.AU, accessed 10 November 2022.
Standards Australia, Rural and urban addressing, AS/NZS 4819:2011.
Tasmanian Government (n.d.) Place naming (nomenclature) in Tasmania, Department of Natural Resources and Environment website, accessed 10 November 2022.
Victorian Government (n.d.) Place naming, Land Use Victoria website, accessed 10 November 2022.
Western Australian Government (n.d.) WA geographic names, Landgate website, accessed 10 November 2022.
This page was updated Thursday 22 December 2022.