Australian History

Early History | 17th Century | 18th Century | 19th Century | 20th Century | 21st Century

50,000 BC

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'.


Castle Hill Rising by Irish convicts in New South Wales.


Barrier of the Blue Mountains Crossed.


Tasmania seceded from New South Wales.


Western Australia formed.


South Australia formed.

1840 - 1868

Convict transportation ended.

1851 - 1861

Gold rushes (Ballarat, Bendigo).


Victoria seceded from New South Wales.


Victoria achieved government.


New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania achieved government.


Queensland formed from New South Wales and achieved government.


Western Australia achieved government.


Depression gave rise to the Australian Labor Party.

1899 - 1900

South African War - forces offered by the individual colonies.


Creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. This was a federation of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.


Site for capital at Canberra acquired.

1914 - 1918

World War I - Anzac troops in Europe including Gallipoli. Australia experiences her first major losses in a war during in 1915 on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey.

1939 - 1945

World War II - Anzac troops in Greece, Crete, and N Africa (El Alamein) and the Pacific. The Japanese bomb Darwin in 1942.


Curtin's appeal to USA for help in the World War marked the end of the special relationship with Britain.


Liberal party founded by Menzies.

1948 - 1975

Two million new immigrants, the majority from continental Europe

1950 - 1953

Korean War - Australian troops part of the United Nations forces.

1964 - 1972

Vietnam War - Comonwealth troops in alliance with US forces.

1966 - 1974

Mineral boom typified by the Posiedon nickel mine.


The ASEAN was established


Britain entered the Common Market, and in the 1970's Japan became Australia's chief trading partner.


Whitlam abolishes 'white Australia' policy.


Constitutional crisis; Prime Minister Whitlam dismissed by the governor general.


United Nations trust territory of Papua New Guinea became independent.


The Liberal Party under Malcolm Fraser comes to power.


Northern Territory achieved self-government.


Opening of uranium mines in Northern Territory.


Hawke convened first national economic summit - The Fraser Government is defeated in the election and the Australian Labour Party under Bob Hawke forms a government.


Australia celebrates its Bicentennial - 200 years since the first European settlement.


Paul Keating replaced Bob Hawke as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister.

1994 The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was established

Labour Party ousted in general election by Liberal-National Coalition.


John Howard replaced Paul Keating as Prime Minister.

1901 - 1999

Australian Prime Ministers of the 20th Century


Australia hosts the 2000 Olympic Games.


Australia celebrates the Centenary of the Federation of Australia.


Liberal-National Coalition lost in the general election to the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

2007 - 2010

Kevin Rudd replaced John Howard as Prime Minister.


Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard takes charge.

Facebook Twitter