History of Australia
People have lived in Australia for about 40,000-60,000 years. The first people who arrived in what is now Australia are called Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. Aboriginals came by boat from the islands of what is now Indonesia. They lived in all parts of Australia. Their lives were simple, they had very few needs. They lived by hunting, fishing and gathering food. They lived in bands, and they spoke many different languages.
Aborigals invented tools like the boomerang and spear, but did not farm. Tradition was very important in their lives. Their religion is called the Dreaming, which has lots of stories about the creation of the world by spirits. Aboriginal art started at least 30,000 years ago and there are lots of Dreaming stories painted on walls and cut in rocks all around Australia. Aboriginal music has songs about the Dreamtime, sometimes with special instruments like the didgeridoo.
First European explorers [change]
In 1606, the first European, Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon (1571–1638), visited the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. A Spanish explorer, Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the water between Australia and Papua New Guinea later that year. Other Europeans then began to map or visit the north and west coast - which they called New Holland. This was dry and apparently uninhabitable land, and they found no economic reasons to stay. In 1642, Abel Tasman, working for the Dutch East India Company reached Tasmania. In 1688, William Dampier became the first Englishman to reach Australia. But in 1770 a British sailor, Captain James Cook, found the fertile east coast of Australia. He called it New South Wales, and claimed it for Britain.
Colonial Australia [change]
The British decided to use the land visited by Captain Cook as a prison colony. Britain needed a place to send its convicts (people who had been sent to jail for theft and other crimes) because its gaols were full and it had just lost its American colonies in the American War of Independence. In 1788 the British First Fleet of 11 ships, carrying about 1500 people arrived at Sydney. Arthur Phillip led them as the first Governor of New South Wales. About 160 000 convicts were brought to Australia from 1788 until 1868. Free immigrants began arriving in the 1790s.
For the first few years they did not have much food, and life was very hard. But soon they began to farm, and more people came. Sydney grew, and new towns were started. Wool brought good money. By 1822, many towns had been set up and people from the towns often visited Sydney for additional economic resources.
Soon people from Sydney found other parts of Australia. George Bass and Matthew Flinders sailed south to Tasmania and a colony was started at Hobart in 1803. Hamilton Hume and William Hovell went south from Sydney by land. They found the Murray River, and good land in Victoria. Thomas Mitchell went inland, and found more rivers. In 1826, the first British military outpost was set up at King George Sound in Western Australia. The Swan River Colony was started in 1829, with townsites at Fremantle and Perth. In 1836, a free-settler colony was started in South Australia, where no convicts were ever sent. Queensland became a separate colony in 1859. As the towns and farms spread across Australia, the Aboriginal people were pushed off their land. Some were killed, and many died from illness and hunger. Soon, Australia's Aborigines were outnumbered by Europeans, and many were made to live on reserves.
The goldrushes of New South Wales and Victoria started in 1851 leading to large numbers of people arriving to search for gold. The population grew across south east Australia and made great wealth and industry. By 1853 the goldrushes had made some poor people very rich.
Convict transportation ended in the 1840s and 1850s and more changes came. The people in Australia wanted to run their own country, and not be told what to do from London. The first governments in the colonies were run by Governors chosen by London. Soon the settlers wanted local government and more democracy. The New South Wales Legislative Council, was created in 1825 to advise the Governor of New South Wales, but it was not chosen by voters. William Wentworth established the Australian Patriotic Association (Australia's first political party) in 1835 to demand democratic government for New South Wales. In 1840, the Adelaide City Council and the Sydney City Council were started and some people could vote for them (but only men with a certain amount of money). Then, Australia's first parliamentary elections were held for the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1843, again with some limits on who could vote. The Australian Colonies Government Act  allowed constitutions for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. In 1850 elections for legislative councils were also held in the colonies of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
In 1855, limited self government was granted by London to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. An new secret ballot was introduced in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia in 1856, allowing people to vote in private. This system was copied around the world. In 1855, the right to vote was given to all men over 21 in South Australia. The other colonies soon followed. Women were given the vote in the Parliament of South Australia in 1895 and they became the first women in the world allowed to stand in elections. In 1897, Catherine Helen Spence became the first female political candidate.
Australians had started parliamentary democracries all across the continent. But voices were getting louder for all of them to come together as one country with a national parliament.
The Commonwealth of Australia [change]
Until 1901, Australia was nation, it was six separate colonies governed by Britain. This worked well when everybody was British and there were only a few people. But now there were thousands of people and many of them had never been to Britain, an eight month journey away by sea. If people in one colony wanted to buy or sell things to people in another colony, they had to ask permission.
They decided to join together to form one new country, the Commonwealth of Australia. This was called Federation, and happened in 1901. But Australia was still part of the British Empire, and still felt very close to Britain and the British Kings and Queens. Australia soon had its own money, and its own Army and Navy.
Because Australia was a very big country, and was so close to Asia, the Australians feared that people from Asia might take the country over. So they passed a law that only people from Britain or other European countries could come to Australia. This was called the White Australia policy. It lasted for more than 60 years.
In Australia at this time, the trade unions were very strong, and they started a political party, the Australian Labor Party. Australia passed many laws to help the workers, but they only wanted British workers in Australia. Australia was also one of the first places in the world where women could vote.
In 1914, the First World War started in Europe. Australia joined in on the side of Britain, France and Russia, against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Australian soldiers were sent to Gallipoli, in Turkey. They fought bravely, but were beaten by the Turks. Today Australia remembers this battle every year on ANZAC Day. They also fought on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Australia and its Allies won the war but more than 60,000 Australians were killed.
Australia had a really hard time in the Great Depression of the 1930s then got worried about the coming Second World War. In 1939 the war started when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Again Australia joined in to help Britain. But in 1941 lots of Australian soldiers were captured in the Fall of Singapore when Japan attacked. Then Japan started attacking Australia, and Australians had to fight close to home for the first time. Many people feared that Japan would invade Australia. But with help from the United States, the Japanese were stopped. After the war, Australia became a close friend of the United States.
When the war ended, Australia felt that it needed many more people to fill the country up and to work. So the government said it would take in people in Europe who had lost their homes in the war. It did things like build the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Over the next 25 years, millions of people came to Australia. They came from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland and other countries in Europe. Later they also came from countries like Turkey and Lebanon. An important new party, the Liberal Party of Australia was made by Robert Menzies in 1944 and it won lots of elections from 1949 until in 1972, then Gough Whitlam won for the Labor Party. Whitlam made changes, but he made the Senate unhappy and the Governor General sacked him and forced an election in 1975. Then Malcolm Fraser won a few elections for the Liberal Party.
In the 1960s the White Australia Policy was ended. Many people came to Australia from China, Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries in Asia. Some Australians began to think of their country as being a part of Asia for the first time. But other Australians did not like this and said that Australia should keep its European character. Others thought Australian could be multicultural and accept all cultures.
In the 1960s and 1970s Australia became one of the richest countries in the world, because it could mine a lot of iron and other things from the ground and products like wool that other countries wanted to buy. Australian traded with Britain then more and more with the United States and Japan. Australia also supported the United States in wars against dictatorships in Korea and Vietnam and later Iraq. Some Australians protested against these wars. Australia's democracy meant that both sides could say what they thought and did not have to fight if they did not want to. Australian soldiers also helped the United Nations in countries like Cambodia, Rwanda and East Timor.
In 1973, the famous Sydney Opera House opened. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s lots of Australian movies, actors and singers became really famous around the world. In the year 2000, Sydney had the Summer Olympics. Australians like sports and have won lots of world cups in things like rugby union, rugby league, netball and cricket.
In the 1980s and 90s, the Labor Party under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, then the Liberal Party under John Howard made lots of changes to the economy. Australia had a bad recession in 1991, but but when other Western countries had trouble with their economies in 2008, Australia stayed pretty strong.
Today Australia is a rich, peaceful and democratic country. But it still has problems. Some people are still poor, mainly those who do not have jobs (around 4-5% of Australians could not get a job in 2010), or whose farms do not make enough money (but not many Australians work on farms). A lot of land in Australia (like Uluru) has been returned to Aboriginal people, but in some places Aboriginal people want to get back control of land where other Australians are living, which is hard to deal with. Australians do not always agree about what to do about this. But most Australian live in cities where this is not a problem.
Every year the government chooses a big number of new people from all around the world to come as immigrants to live in Australia. These people may come because they want to do business, or to live in a democracy, to join their family, or because they are refugees (people trying to get away from war and bad governments around the world). All the main leaders think this is a good idea and so Australia took 6.5 million immigrants in the 60 years after World War Two, including around 660,000 refugees. But - some people who say they are refugees want to come to Australia by boat without asking the government first. They travel in very dangerous boats organised by people smugglers and lots of people have drowned on the way. Many Australians disagree on what to do with these types of immigrants - some want to let them stay and live in Australia, others do not want to let them in and others are worried that more people will drown if the government just lets smugglers organise things.
Other Websites [change]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: History of Australia|
- History of the Australian nation - State Library of NSW
- The Australian History page at Project Gutenberg of Australia
- Bush Poetry a source of Australian History
- An Aborigine on his understanding of tradition
- Australia in Brief: Ancient heritage, modern society - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- The Right to Vote in Australia - Australian Electoral Commission
- Australia’s major electoral developments Timeline: 1788 - 1899 - Australian Electoral Commission
- "AEC.gov.au". AEC.gov.au. 25 Oct. 2007. http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/indigenous_vote/indigenous.htm. Retrieved 27 Jun. 2010.
- Documenting Democracy Archived 14 August 2011 at WebCite
- Women and the Right to Vote in Australia - Australian Electoral Commission
- Australia in Brief: Australia - an overview - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Gillard moves into The Lodge