History of Australia
50,000 years before the arrival of European settlers, groups of Southeast Asians immigrated to the continent. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived and thrived in Australia's unique and challenging natural environment. Their complex social systems and highly developed traditions reflect a deep connection with the land and environment. Today it is believed the Aboriginals are the world's oldest civilisation.
The first recorded European contact with Australia was in March 1606, when Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon (c.1570 - 1630) charted the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, (Queensland). Later that year, the Spanish explorer Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the strait separating Australia and Papua New Guinea. However It wasn't until Englishman Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770 that Australia was officially claimed for the British Crown.
In 1779 Britain decided to use its new outpost as a penal colony; the First Fleet of 11 ships carried about 1500 people—half of them convicts. The fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1788, and it is on this day every year that Australia Day is celebrated. In all, about 160 000 men and women were brought to Australia as convicts from 1788 to 1868. The convicts were joined by free immigrants from the early 1790s.
Australia became a federated nation on 1 January 1901. Bound by one parliament, one constitution and one flag, Australia celebrated its Centenary of Federation in 2001. Today Australia is home to people from more than 200 countries.
Australia's defence force has a long and proud tradition dating back to the original ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). Australian soldiers fought in both World Wars and numerous allied conflicts. All Australian troops are remembered each year on Anzac Day, 25 April, the anniversary of the first landing of Australian 'Diggers' at Gallipoli Turkey, in 1915, during the First World War.
The First World War had a devastating impact on Australia. In 1914 the male population of Australia was less than 3 million. As many as 60,000 died and tens of thousands more were wounded. The period between the two world wars was marked by instability. Social and economic divisions widened during the Depression years when many Australian financial institutions failed. During the Second World War Australian forces made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in Europe and in Asia and the Pacific.
After the war Australia entered a boom period. Millions of refugees and migrants arrived in Australia. The economy developed strongly in the 1950s. ">Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games of 1956, shining the international spotlight on Australia.
Today Australia is one of the most cosmopolitan and dynamic societies in the world. The nation has thriving ethnic media, an international business reputation, an innovative artistic community, diverse religious and cultural activities and variety in foods, restaurants, fashion and architecture.