History of Australia

History of Australia


  1. The Aborigines
  2. Settlement of the Australian colony
    1. The discovery of Australia – Captain James Cook
    2. A British colony – the convicts.
    3. The Gold Rush
  3. The « Birth » of the Australian nation
  4. The 20th century
    1. The « White Australia Policy »
    2. The ANZAC
  5. The 21st century and the Australian migration policy

1.  The Aboriginals

The native inhabitants of Australia are the Aborigines, who probably originate from South East Asia and would have walked to Australia more than 40,000 years ago, when the water level went down.
Their number have been greatly reduced over time since European settlement, because of the introduction of European diseases as well as through conflicts with settlers, resulting in many deaths. The settlers put the Aborigines in camps and redistributed their lands, which are at the heart of the aboriginal culture and traditions. Today the community counts approximately 350,000 Aborigines.

The fate of the “stolen generation”, Aboriginal or half-caste children who were taken from their families to be assimilated into the white society between roughly 1869 and 1969, has had major effects on both politics and society, and more importantly on the Aborgines themseleves, who have lost a part of who they were.

2. Settlement of the Australian colony

  • The discovery of Australia – Captain James Cook. Australia was visited by foreigners before the arrival of the British. During the early 17th century, the Dutch landed at the Gulf of Carpentaria but they were soon discouraged by the hostile climate. Asian ships are also believed to have seen Australia.However, Captain James Cook, a famous British explorer in his time, is the one who really explored New Zealand and the East Coast of Australia in 1770 before returning home in 1771. He called the territory he had visited “New South Wales”.
  • A British colony – the convicts. The independence of the United States of America pushed the British to turn toward Australia. The British settlement was originally used as a colony for convicts banished from England, and between 1788 and 1839, approximately 160,000 convicts were sent to Australia and became a workforce to establish this new country.
  • The Gold Rush. The Gold Rush lasted from 1851 to the end of the 1860s approximately, and led to a dramatic increase of population. Back then, Victoria was the first gold producer land in the world, and Melbourne was a real boom town. Many immigrants came from Europe and China to settle in goldfields, mainly in Victoria and New South Wales (Ballarat is the most famous example and was the scene of the Eureka Stockade in 1854, the only armed rebellion ever in Australia).

3. The birth of the Australian nation

The Gold Rush had a major effect on Australia and shaped the country. The new migrants and the previous populations became the first Australians. The impact on the 19th century Australian economy was phenomenal. Mining of other minerals and agriculture – particularly sheep farming – became the major economic ventures practiced during this time.

In 1901, Australia became a federation of states, with a constitution based on aspects of the British and American systems.

4. The XXth century

  • White Australia Policy. A major policy of the 1950’s which caused major outrage. It was introduced in order to reduce Asian and other non-European migrations, while encouraging European migration to Australia. Following the removal of discriminatory laws such as the WAP, immigration to Australia increased, particularly from Asia.
  • The ANZACs. Australia participated in both world wars, under the banner of the ANZACs (the Australia New Zealand Army Corps). Created during World War I, the ANZACs first major war campaign took place at Gallipoli in Turkey; the plan being to secure the city of Istanbul, and find a safe sea route for the Allied Forces. This attack began on the 25th of April 1915 and continued until the 9th of January 1916, resulting in thousands of casualties on both sides. Considered a day of national significance for both Australia and New Zealand, the 25th of April became ANZAC Day– a day to remember- and is celebrated yearly : ‘Lest We Forget’.

5. The 21st century and the Australian immigration policy

In recent years, the immigration policy has been toughened because of the arrival of many boat people: immigrants attempting to gain illegal entry into Australia via sea. The majority of these people have been quartered in detention camps while their situation is investigated. However, this stance has received much criticism. Australia regularly wipes the ire of human rights groups for its very tough policy towards asylum seekers. Its navy systematically pushes the clandestine boats. This results in acts of desperation on the part of migrants: Tuesday, May 3, 2016, a Somali refugee was in serious condition, after trying to set herself on fire Monday in Nauru, the Pacific island where Australia relegates seekers asylum.


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