History of Australia

While many regard Australia as a relatively new country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities flourished long before European settlement. For more than 50 000 years these native people inhabited most of the country.

They relied on the land for their survival and worshiped it through their religions.

Although European explorers had arrived earlier, it took Captain James Cook’s arrival in 1770 to convince Britain the site would be a perfect for a new penal colony. In 1788 the first 1500 settlers, half of them criminals, arrived in Sydney Harbour on January 26. This day is recognized as Australia Day. In all, about 160 000 men and women were sent to serve time in Australia.

From the early 1790s, free settlers arrived to make a fresh start in the new British colony. Immigrant numbers swelled with the establishment of the wool industry and the gold rushes of the 1850s. With plenty of employment prospects and vast amounts of land, Australia was a land of opportunity for many.

In 1901, the six states came together to form the Commonwealth of Australia. At this time, 3.8 million non-indigenous people called Australia home. The founders of the Commonwealth hoped to create a peaceful and united nation, where human rights and democracy were key values.

The First World War devastated Australia, who lost as many as 60 000 young men. However, out of this experience was born one of the country’s most important legacies – that of the “Anzac”. Every year on April 25 Australians celebrate Anzac Day, remembering the courage of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) who fought valiantly at Gallipoli Cove, Turkey, in 1915.

After the First World War Australia struggled with the collapse of many financial institutions. Social and economic divisions widened in these “Depression” years.

Following a significant role in the Second World War, Australia’s financial future looked brighter than ever. The workforce was strengthened with the return of the soldiers and millions of new immigrants. Many women were also keen to stay employed in the roles they had taken during the war.

The manufacturing industry expanded, helping to establish the nation’s reputation today as a leading trade center.

Australia showcased its new prosperity to the world when Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956, a feat Sydney repeated in 2000.

Despite remaining a country of the British Commonwealth, Australia is moving away from the “mother country.” With the passing of the Australia Act 1986, the government removed British power to legislate over Australian states. The country is now closer than ever to the USA, demonstrated by its commitment to the war in Iraq since 2003.

Australia Geography >>>