The written history of Australia
when Dutch explorers first sighted the country in the 17th century. The
interpretation of the history of Australia
is currently a matter of
some contention, particularly regarding the British settlement and
treatment of Indigenous Australians.
Records show that the
Australian continent by European expeditions date back to the early
century. The first known sighting was in 1606 by the Dutch navigator
Janszoon, who in his ship Duyfken navigated the Gulf of Carpentaria,
and making landfall on the western coast of Cape York Peninsula. In
another Dutchman Dirk Hartog left a pewter plate commemorating his
landfall at Shark
Some writers have argued that Portuguese navigators discovered Australia
the 16th century, but there is no firm evidence to support this theory.
17th century European voyagers (predominantly Dutch, but also French
English) were to follow suit, and by the start of the 18th century all
eastern coastlines of what had become known as "New Holland" had been
charted. No attempts to establish settlements were made, however.
The expedition of the
command of British Royal Navy Lieutenant James Cook navigated and
east coast of Australia,
making first landfall at Botany Bay
April 1770. Cook continued northwards and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island
in the Torres Strait off Cape York
August 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had
for the Crown, naming it New South Wales.
Given that Cook was a British explorer and his
discoveries would lead to the British settlement of Australia,
he is often popularly
considered its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by
by Janszoon in particular—more than 160 years prior.
The favourable reports
of these lands
relayed by Cook's expedition upon their return to England
generated interest in its offered solution to the problem of penal
which had been exacerbated by the loss of its American colonies.
on 13 May 1787, the 11 ships of the First Fleet set sail from
England, bound for Botany Bay.
settlement and colonization
Map showing the creation
colonies/states and mainland territories.The British Crown Colony of
Wales ended with the establishment of a settlement at Sydney Cove by
Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date later became Australia's
national day, Australia Day. These land masses included the current
islands of New Zealand,
which was administered as part of New South Wales.
Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803 and became a
colony in 1825.
Britain formally claimed the western part of Australia
in 1829. Separate
colonies were created from parts of New
South Wales: South
Australia in 1836, New
Zealand in 1840, Victoria
in 1851, and Queensland
in 1859. The Northern Territory
was founded in
1863 as part of the Province of South Australia.
In 1879, the Swan River
Colony was declared
by Charles Swan for Britain,
which later became Western Australia,
with Albany coming
under the authority of the governor at Perth. Western Australia
was founded as a free
colony but later accepted transported convicts because of an acute
shortage. The transportation of convicts to Australia
was phased out between
1840 and 1868.
self-government and the discovery
The discovery of gold in
remote areas was
followed by tradesmen.A gold rush began in Australia in the early
the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854 was an early expression of
sentiment; the flag that was used to represent it has been seriously
by some as an alternative to the Australian flag. The gold rushes
immigrants from Great
America and China.
Between 1855 and 1890,
the six colonies
individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own
while remaining part of the British
The Colonial Office in London
retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence and
The gold led to a period
prosperity, but eventually the economic expansion came to an end, and
were a period of economic depression.
and the World Wars
The opening of the
Parliament of Australia
in 1901. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved
decade of planning, consultation and voting, and the Commonwealth of
was born, as a Dominion of the British
The Federal Capital
Territory (FCT) was
formed from New South Wales
in 1911 to provide
a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra
(Melbourne was the capital from 1901
to 1927). The FCT was renamed to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
1938. The Northern
was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to
Commonwealth in 1911.
From 1 February 1927
until 12 June 1931,
the Northern Territory
was divided up as North
Australia and Central Australia
20° S. New South Wales
has had one further
territory surrendered, namely Jervis Bay Territory
comprising 6,677 hectares, in 1915. The external territories were
Norfolk Island (1914); Ashmore Island, Cartier Islands, and the
Antarctic Territory transferred from Britain (1933); Heard Island,
Islands, and Macquarie Island transferred to Australia from Britain
The Statute of Westminster 1931 formally
ended most of the constitutional links between Australia
not adopt the statute until 1942.
The shock of Britain's
defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to
States as a new ally and
Following World War II
government instigated a massive program of European immigration. After
preventing a Japanese invasion and suffering attacks on Australian soil
first time, it was seen that the country must "populate or perish".
Immigration brought traditional migrants from the United Kingdom
along with, for the
first time, large numbers of southern and central Europeans. A booming
Australian economy stood in sharp contrast to war-ravaged Europe,
and newly-arrived migrants found employment in government assisted
such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Two million immigrants arrived
and 1975. Robert Menzies' newly-founded Liberal Party of Australia
much of the immediate post war era, defeating the Australian Labor
government of Ben Chifley in 1949. Menzies oversaw the post-war
became the country's longest-serving leader. Manufacturing industry,
playing a minor part in an economy dominated by primary production,
expanded. Since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia
Asia and other parts of the world, Australia's demography, culture and
itself has been radically transformed. However, despite the abolition
policy, instances of racism continue.
The ANZUS defence treaty
was signed in 1951
with the United States
and New Zealand,
committed troops to the
Korean War and the Malayan Emergency. Melbourne
hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics and joint British-Australia nuclear
rocket launches began near Woomera, South Australia.
The population reached 10 million in 1959.
Since 1951, Australia
has been a formal military ally of the U.S.
under the auspices of the
ANZUS treaty. The final constitutional ties between Australia
ended in 1986 with the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any
role in the Australian States, and ending judicial appeals to the UK
remains a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II the Queen of
Australia; the 1999 referendum to establish a republic was marginally
formal links to
its British past are increasingly tenuous, although people-to-people
cultural connections between Australia
remain significant. Since the election of the Whitlam Government in
has been an increasing focus on the nation's future as a part of the
in this period
were: Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
was established as a Territory of the Commonwealth under the Coral Sea
Act 1969. In 1989 when the Australian
achieved self government, Jervis Bay became
territory administered by the Ministry of Territories.
are the first human
inhabitants of the Australian continent and its nearby islands.
A wave of massacres and
the frontier of European settlement. In 1838, twenty-eight Indigenous
were killed at the Myall Creek massacre. The convict settlers
the massacres were hanged. The Kalkadoon of Queensland resisted the
and there was a massacre of over 200 people on their land at Battle
in 1884. There was a massacre at Coniston in the Northern
Territory in 1928. Poisoning of
food and water had been recorded as early as the 1830s.
The removal of children,
which the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission argue constituted attempted
had a major impact on the Indigenous population. Such interpretations
Aboriginal history are disputed by Keith Windschuttle as being
fabricated for political or ideological reasons. This debate is part of
known within Australia as the History Wars.
were given the right
to vote in Commonwealth elections in Australia
in November 1962, and in state elections shortly after, with the last
do this being Queensland
in 1965. The 1967 federal referendum allowed the Commonwealth to make
respect to Aboriginal people, and for Aboriginal people to be included
country does a count to determine electoral representation. The
passed with a 90.2% majority, the largest affirmative vote in the
history of Australia's
21 November 2006. Sir
Tomas Jackson an
Aboriginal man from Victoria
sues Coon cheese company for racial slur.
On 13 February 2008,
Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd formally apologised to the Aborigines of the stolen generation.