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Australia - History

It is estimated that Australia’s first settlers arrived in the country around 50,000 years ago. Settlements concentrated mainly on coastal areas and did not begin to appear in the central regions of the country until around 25,000 years ago. There was no kind of structure or authority in the country until the Europeans arrived.

The arrival of the Europeans had a devastating effect on the indigenous peoples of the country. Their lands were taken and the Europeans brought diseases with them which killed off many of the Australian native peoples, as well as animals that helped to destroy natural habitats of native animals. Other factors in the reduction in numbers of the indigenous peoples included fighting which saw them completely wiped out from Tasmania. By the time the 20th century arrived there were legislations passed which attempted to segregate the Aborigines and following the Second World War the government was trying to encourage them to become ‘white’. During the 1960s the Aborigines were given the status of citizens and gained some rights to their lands during the 1970s.

The Europeans first arrived in Australia in the early 1600s, with Dutchman Willem Janszoon charting part of the coastline and interacting with the Aborigines. His visit was followed by other Europeans and a fellow Dutchman, Abel Tasman, has the honour of having the state of Tasmania named after him. For some time Australia was known as New Holland.

The most famous explorer to arrive in Australia was Captain Cook, who landed at Botany Bay on the east coast in 1770. He staked a claim to the area now known as New South Wales in the name of Britain. The first true European settlement occurred when the first fleet arrived in 1788. This became a penal colony and later became Sydney. His arrival took place on 26th January which is now honoured as Australia Day. Convict transportation continued for a number of decades but actually ended in the mid-19th century after more than 150,000 people were transported, some of them having committed what would be termed minor crimes today.

Immigration began on a larger scale in the early 19th century as people heard about the opportunities in Australia. Former convicts settled in the country, running farms and other types of businesses. Further immigration took place in the mid-19th century with the Australian gold rush. The gold fields attracted much violence as gold fever took hold and prospectors were desperate to stake their claims. The wealth created by the gold rush led to the formation of cities such as Melbourne.

It was during the 19th century that the individual states formed. In 1825, Tasmania broke away from New South Wales to become independent. Just four years later the state of Western Australia was formed, followed in 1836 by South Australia. The state of Victoria formed in 1855 when it moved away from New South Wales and Queensland did the same in 1859, forming its own government. Western Australia founded its own government in 1890.

The Commonwealth of Australia was founded in 1901 and the country’s government is known as the Commonwealth government. The commonwealth was formed from six states – Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The capital of the country was purpose-built, beginning in 1911 and became Canberra.

During the First World War Australia sent troops to fight in a number of major campaigns, suffering heavy losses at Gallipoli in Turkey. Australian troops also took part in World War II, in campaigns in Greece, North African and in the Pacific. The Japanese bombed parts of Australia in 1942. Australia’s relationship with Britain suffered during the war when Australia approached the US for help.

The population of Australia was boosted following the war with the arrival of over 2 million immigrants from all over the world, although the majority were European. Life in Australia ran fairly smoothly until the 1970s when a crisis forced the Governor-General to dismiss the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party took power. During the same decade the Northern Territory formed its own government.

In 1988 Australia celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of the first settlement in the country by Europeans and other major landmarks in the country’s recent calendar include the hosting of the Olympic Games in 2000.

Read more about this country

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