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About Australia

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Australia’s Story

Australia is a young country with an evolving history that makes it the unique place it is today.

early beginnings

  • 45,000 BC Australia is first inhabited by people. Experts are divided about the exact date but estimates range from 40,000 to 60,000 years ago.
  • 42,000 BC Aboriginal rock engravings found in South Australia have been dated back to this period.
  • 35,000 BC Aborigines reach Tasmania and Melanesian people arrive to inhabit parts of far-north Queensland and the Torres Strait land bridge.
  • 13,000 BC Rising sea levels cut mainland Australia off from Tasmania and the Torres Strait Islands.
  • 2,000 BC The dingo is the first domesticated animal to reach Australia (most likely brought by seafaring traders).

age of discovery

  • 1300 AD In Venice, Marco Polo discusses reports of a great undiscovered land mass south of Asia.
  • 1606 AD The first undisputed sighting of Australia by a European by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon who landed on Queensland’s northern coast.
  • 1770 AD Captain James Cook charters the east coast of Australia and claims it for the Crown. He names their landing place Botany Bay (due to the many plant species) and the region New South Wales.

european settlement

  • 1788 The first European settlement (and penal colony) is established at Port Jackson in New South Wales on 26 January. This date is now Australia’s national holiday, Australia Day.
  • 1803 Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) is settled. It became a separate colony in 1825.
  • 1851 Gold is discovered in New South Wales. The subsequent gold rush trebles the population in 10 years.
  • 1868 The transportation of convicts to Australia ends when London had to admit that the threat of exile to Australia was no longer a deterrent as people increasingly came of their own free will.
  • 1877 Australia and England play their first cricket test match in Melbourne and Australia win by 45 runs.

federation and the 20th century

  • 1901 On 1 January 1901 the six colonies become a federation and form the Commonwealth of Australia.
  • 1911 The first national census is conducted.
  • 1915 The ANZACs land at Gallipoli in Turkey. Many Australians regard this traumatic battle as the birth of the nation and the day is commemorated annually with a national public holiday on 25 April.
  • 1923 Vegemite is produced for the first time.
  • 1927 The first Federal Parliament is held in Canberra.
  • 1932 The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is completed and opens.
  • 1942–43 As part of World War II, the Northern Territory is attacked almost 100 times by Japanese air raids. The Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 is the largest attack on Australia ever by a foreign power.
  • 1943 Australia wins its first Oscar (Damien Parer for the Kokoda Front Line! documentary).
  • 1956 The Olympic Games are held in Melbourne and television is launched.
  • 1966 Australian currency is changed from pounds and pence (based on the UK currency) to the decimal system of dollars and cents.
  • 1973 The Sydney Opera House is finished, after construction commenced in 1959. It was designed by Jorn Utzon.
  • 1978 The first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is held.
  • 1984 “Advance Australia Fair” becomes Australia’s official national anthem.
  • 1988 Australia celebrates its Bicentennial and the Queen officially opens the new Parliament House.
  • 1999 Australians narrowly vote to reject a proposal to become a republic and replace the Queen with an Australian president.

australia in the 21st century

  • 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney.
  • 2001 Australia celebrates the centenary of the Federation of states.
  • 2003 The Rugby Word Cup is held in Australia.
  • 2006 Melbourne hosts the Commonwealth Games.