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History of Australia

From the early 1600s, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish explorers reported sightings of various parts of the coastline of what was then known as Terra Australis Incognita (the unknown south land).

In 1770 an Englishman, James Cook, in his ship HM Barque Endeavour, charted the east coast of Australia and claimed it for the British Crown. Britain subsequently decided to use the new outpost as a colony for convicted criminals.

European settlement started with the arrival in Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1788 of a fleet of 11 ships. This First Fleet, commanded by Arthur Phillip, a captain in the Royal Navy, brought an estimated 1500 people, including 750 convicts, to the new colony.

By 1820, 30 000 convicts and 4500 free settlers had arrived in the colony. The free settlers set up farms and businesses as the colony continued to prosper. Although the convicts endured many hardships in the early days, many eventually acquired respectability as a result of hard work and the skills many of them had in trades and professions. From 1788 until penal transportation ended in 1868, about 160 000 men and women were brought to Australia as convicts.

The colony of New South Wales originally occupied almost all of the eastern part of the continent. Gradually, other colonies formed as they separated from the original settlement. Tasmania became a separate colony in 1825 and new settlements were established in what are now Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Australia’s total population trebled from 430 000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871. Most of these new arrivals were British, but they also included people from the Americas, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Hungary. About 40 000 Chinese also came to Australia in search of gold – the single biggest group after the British.

In 1852, self government was given to the new colonies. However, as each colony had its own systems of defence, postage, trade and transport, people increasingly recognised the need for greater cooperation among the settlements.

Between 1898 and 1900, the people of Australia voted in favour of federation. The Commonwealth of Australia was formed on 1 January 1901 through the federation of the six states under a single constitution.

At the end of World War II, millions of people in Europe were displaced from their homelands. At the same time, there was an acute shortage of labour in Australia and a growing belief that significant population growth was essential for the country’s future.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Australia in the immediate post–war period, at a time when there was a shortage of capable workers in Australia’s manufacturing sectors.

The economy developed strongly in the 1950s and with relatively full employment, Australians generally prospered. The rate of home ownership rose dramatically from barely 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s.

Many of the 6.5 million people who have come to Australia since 1945 were motivated by a commitment to family, or a desire to escape poverty, war or persecution. They were determined to establish a new life for themselves and their families and were willing to work hard to make the most of their opportunities.

The arrival of migrants from over 200 different countries dramatically changed all aspects of the Australian society, making Australia the most cosmopolitan country in the world.

Today, Australia is a country that almost everyone would dream of visiting either to see the distant and wonderful land, which is still populated with aboriginals untouched by civilization. Or to see the amazing flora and fauna, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. To see the country where the seasons are the opposite of those of the northern hemisphere. Summer is from December to February, autumn is from March to May, winter is from June to August and spring is from September to November...And even the moon is on the left in the sky.