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Australia History

The original inhabitants of Australia, the aborigines, date back as far as the Ice Age. The aborigines have the longest cultural history in the world.

However, around the 16th century, other countries began to ascend upon Australia. In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed the eastern coast, making his way upon the continent. He declared it for the British and named it New South Wales.

Soon thereafter, to stop the overcrowding of prisons in Britain, inmates were transported to New South Wales. The first fleet set sail with Captain Arthur Philip, the colony’s first governor. In the beginning, New South Wales did not offer the chance for British citizens to have a better life, rather just the opposite. The country left its inhabitants hungry without good land to grow food.

However, decades later, the discovery of gold led many settlers to inhabit New South Wales. With the growing number of immigrants and the pursuit of gold, the economy grew and changed the social structure. Aborigines were pushed farther west and the migrants took to farming and producing raw materials for the Industrial Revolution.
On January 1,1901 Australia became a nation with the separation of the two colonies.

During the Depression, Australia suffered. Wool and wheat prices plummeted, which were staples of the economy at that time. Almost a third of the citizens was unemployed and went to the countryside in search of work. The economy did not start to revive until 1933.
In WWII, Australian troops fought with the British in Europe, but had difficulties of their own on their own land. Darwin and Broome were bombed and the Japanese kept advancing south. The Australians were able to defeat the Japanese at Milne Bay, and pushed the Japanese farther north again. The US did interfere and helped protect Australia. The US defeated the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea; a significant event because the Australia began to feel ties toward the US and less with Britain.

After the war, migrants raced to Australia, which helped the economy significantly, as well as created a diverse culture within the country. Raw materials were also in demand, creating jobs and a flow of money.

Australia became more and more Americanized and followed America into the Korean War and Vietnam War.

In 1972, Gough Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party into power. This party withdrew Vietnam troops, abolished education fees, and established free health care and land rights for the Aborigines. This government was quite chaotic, leading the governor general to dismiss it and create a government led by Malcolm Fraser and the opposing Liberal Party. In the next election, a Liberal and National Country party won. The Labor party was not returned until 1983 under the leadership of Bob Hawke.

Under the Labor party, citizens experienced unemployment and recession. Therefore, in the 1996 election, the Labor party was defeated and conservatives took office.

Australia still looked to break its British ties, even debating replacing Britain’s queen with an Australian president. Many feel that Australia needs its own identity and the only way to move forward is to abandon the constitutional ties to Britain.

More Information


Australia Travel Guides
 Frommer's Australia
 Lonely Planet Australia
 Let's Go Australia
 Fodors Australia