History of Australia

Pre-History of Australia

  • The exact date of the first human settlement in the Australian continent is a matter of controversy. The most commonly accepted fact is that inhabitation first occurred in Australia 40,000 to 50,000 years ago when people from the north migrated and settled on the island.

  • The Indigenous Australians or the Aboriginals were the foremost occupants of the land. This community had adapted well to the harsh climatic conditions with their limited technological resources. The finger paintings on the caves and their indigenous musical instruments which are still relevant in Australian culture are some of the archeological evidences of Aboriginal settlement which dates back to 42,000 BC.

European Colonization

  • 17 th Century--- The first documented European contact with Australia was made by a Dutchman named Willem Janszoon in March 1606 when he sailed into the Australian waters and charted 300 km of the western coast of Cape York Peninsula.

  • Between the years 1606 and 1770, many European voyagers and traders including Abel Tasman continued to chart the Australian Coastline known as New Holland at that time.

18 th Century

  • In the year 1770 yet another Englishman, Lieutenant James Cook charted the east coast of Australia. On 22 August, 1770 he formally claimed the eastern coastline of Australia for the British Crown at Possession Island and named it 'New South Wales'.

  • The First Fleet of 11 ships captained by Arthur Phillip carrying approximately 1500 people (mostly convicts) arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January, 1788 to establish the first British settlement as a penal colony. This day is celebrated as Australia Day every year.
19 th Century--- Known as the age of exploration. Some significant dates under this century are:
  • 1803 - Mathew Flinders completed his first Australian expedition
  • 1813 - Barrier of the Blue Mountains was crossed
  • 1829 - Western Australia was formed.
  • 1836 - South Australia was formed
  • 1840-1968 - Transportation of Convicts ended.
  • 1851-1961 - Gold rush
  • 1851 - Victoria gained independence from New South Wales
  • 1855 - Victoria attains government
  • 1859 - Queensland became independent
  • 1890 - western Australia attains government
  • 1891 - Depression leads to the Australian Labor party

20 th Century -Post- European Colonization

  • Through the federation of six states- New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Southern Australia, the Commonwealth of Australia was created on 1 st January 1901.

  • In 1911 The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was formed to provide a site for the new capital of Canberra.

  • In the First World War (1914-1918), Australia experienced its first major loss. About 60,000 people died and tens of thousands were wounded. Social and economic instability marked the period between the two world wars. In the Second World War (1939-1945), significant contributions were made by the Australian forces.

  • Following the Second World War, Australia witnessed great prosperity both in the social and economic sphere. In the 1950s, major projects like the Snowy Mountains Scheme and a hydro electric power scheme gave a boost to the country's economy. Presently Australia is one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities with over 200 languages spoken besides the common English language.


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