The first settlers are thought to have arrived around 50,000 years ago. This would have most likely been at a time when the sea levels were low, the land was more humid and animals larger.
Although much of Australia became populated, the central dry areas didn't attract settlers until around 25,000 years ago. The population grew proportionately quicker around 10,000 years ago as the climate improved.
At the time of British settlement at Sydney Cove it is estimated that 300,000 aboriginal people, speaking around 250 languages inhabited Australia.
On arrival, finding no obvious political structure, the Europeans took the land as their own. The Indigenous people were driven out of their homes and many killed. Various new European diseases spread rapidly amongst the indigenous people, killing many. The introduction of feral and domestic animals contributed to the destruction of natural habitats.
During the early part of the 20th century legislation's were passed to segregate and protect Aboriginals. This involved restrictions on where they could live and work and families being broken up.
After World War II, assimilation became the governments aim. All rights were taken away from the Aboriginals and attempts made to 'Europeanise' them.
During the 1960's the legislation was reviewed and the Federal Government passed legislation for all Aboriginals to be given citizen status. However, it wasn't until 1972 that the indigenous people were given back limited rights to their own land. The situation has been steadily improving for Australia's Indigenous people, although many feel more needs to be done.
The first European sightings of Australia were made by a Dutchman called Willem Janszoon on the Duyfken (Little Dove). Janszoon sailed into the Australian waters charting 300 km of the coast on the journey. Janszoon also met with the Aboriginal people on the journey. Janszoon was the first recorded European to achieve such feats. Later that year Louis Vaez de Torres sailed through the Torres Strait, named after himself. Both Captains have been recorded as having sighted the Cape York Peninsula.
Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman's, first journey to Australia. It was in 1644 that Abel Tasman established that Australia was made up of four coasts North, West, East and South. The Australian state of Tasmania was named after this famous explorer.
Captain Cook (actually a lieutenant at this time), lands in Botany Bay on the Eastern side of Australia in the ship named HM Bark Endeavour. and claims New South Wales for Britain.
The First Fleet arrives at Sydney Cove under Captain Arthur Phillip to establish the first settlement in Australia. This was to be a penal colony - Sydney was founded. The date of his arrival, 26 January, went on to mark Australia Day.
1801 - 1899
The great age of exploration: coastal surveys (Bass, Flinders), interior (Sturt, Eyre, Leichhardt, Burke and Willis, McDouall Stuart, Forrest). Also the era of the bushrangers, overlanders, and squatters, and individuals such as William Buckley and Ned Kelly.
Mathew Flinders completes the first voyage around Australia in the 'Investigator'.