A Brief History of Australia – What you need to know.

The Ice Age – Aborigines Arrive

It is thought that in 40,000 BC, the first Aborigines arrived in Australia by boat from South East Asia. Over one million Aboriginal people settled here. There were some 300 clans who spoke 250 languages and 700 dialects.

The First Explorers Step Ashore

In 1606 a Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon is believed to have been the first to land in Australia, followed by 29 other Dutch navigators over the course of the 17th Century who named it New Holland. In 1770 James Cook sailed around Australia’s East Coast and declared it ‘British’.

Here Come The Convicts

On January 26th 1788 11 British ships, carrying 1,500 people – half of whom were convicts – arrived in Sydney Harbour. Transporting prisoners to Australia ended in 1868, but not before 160,000 men and women had arrived this way. With the intermingling of different settlers a new language was developed. It became known as Australian English.

Aborigines Displaced As Claims Are Made

From the 1790’s onwards free settlers arrived from Britain and Ireland and began to claim aboriginal land as their own. Aborigines became displaced and many died due to the introduction of European illnesses and diseases. From 1825 onwards settlers claimed land close to Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide.

The Gold Rush Brings A Population Boom In The Colonies

The discovery of gold in Bathurst in 1851 attracts some 600,000 people to Australia’s shores. Despite the ‘rush’ only lasting a decade, industry begins to boom and new trades in restaurants and laundries as well as sugar plantations and the wool industry. Melbourne and Sydney become fashionable cities.

Australia is United

In 1901 the six colonies come together and signed the constitution. The Commonwealth of Australia comes into being on 1st January. In 1911 Canberra is founded and designated the capital.

The World Wars

Australia suffers devastating losses during the First World War, with 60,000 men killed and thousands injured. Like many other countries Australia suffered an economic depression in the late 1920’s. During the Second World War they fought alongside the Allies, contributing greatly to the victory in 1945.

Australia Embraces the Swinging Sixties

After the war the Australian economy boomed, welcoming new migrants and seeing an increase in new, thriving industries. In 1967 Australian law was consolidated to begin reform for Aboriginal Australians.

The Present Day

In 1986 The Australia Act makes Australian lawfully independent of the British parliament and legal system. In 1992 The Citizenship Act removes the swearing of an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Over time Labour, Liberal and National governments have consolidated Australia as a thriving and independent country. At the start of the 21st Century Australian English remains the dominant language and fewer than 150 Indigenous languages remain in daily use. All except 20 are highly endangered. However, many Aboriginal names for flora and fauna, places and local culture are used in every day culture.

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