History of Australia
The history of Australia is the story of the land and peoples of the continent of Australia. Aboriginal Australians first arrived on the Australian mainland by sea from Maritime Southeast Asia between 50,000 and 65,000 years ago, and penetrated to all parts of the continent, from the rainforests in the north, the deserts of the centre, and the sub-Antarctic islands of Tasmania and Bass Strait. The artistic, musical and spiritual traditions they established are among the longest surviving such traditions in human history.
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The first Torres Strait Islanders - ethnically and culturally distinct from Aboriginal Australians - arrived from what is now Papua New Guinea around 2,500 years ago, and settled in the islands of the Torres Strait and the Cape York Peninsula forming the northern tip of the Australian landmass.
The first known landing in Australia by Europeans was in 1606 by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. Later that year, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through, and navigated, what is now called Torres Strait and associated islands. Twenty-nine other Dutch navigators explored the western and southern coasts in the 17th century and named the continent New Holland. Macassan trepangers visited Australia's northern coasts after 1720, possibly earlier. Other European explorers followed until, in 1770, Lieutenant James Cook charted the east coast of Australia for Great Britain. He returned to London with accounts favouring colonisation at Botany Bay (now in Sydney).
The First Fleet of British ships arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 to establish a penal colony, the first colony on the Australian mainland. In the century that followed, the British established other colonies on the continent, and European explorers ventured into its interior. Indigenous Australians were greatly weakened and their numbers diminished by introduced diseases and conflict with the colonists during this period.
Gold rushes and agricultural industries brought prosperity. Autonomous parliamentary democracies began to be established throughout the six British colonies from the mid-19th century. The colonies voted by referendum to unite in a federation in 1901, and modern Australia came into being. Australia fought on the side of Britain in the two world wars and became a long-standing ally of the United States when threatened by Imperial Japan during World War II. Trade with Asia increased and a post-war immigration program received more than 6.5 million migrants from every continent. Supported by immigration of people from almost every country in the world since the end of World War II, the population increased to more than 25.5 million by 2020, with 30 per cent of the population born overseas.