While British Royal Navy Lieutenant James Cook is considered the man who discovered Australia he actually arrived here more than 150 years after the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon made landfall on the West Coast in 1606. Another Dutchman named Dirk Hartog who made landfall at Shark Bay 10 years later followed Janszoon.
The Endeavour, under the command of British Royal Navy Lieutenant James Cook made landfall at Botany Bay on April 29, 1770. Cook claimed the East Coast of Australia for the British Crown naming it New South Wales.
Within 20 years, Australia would become a penal colony as Cook’s discovery was seen as an answer to the penal overcrowding in Britain. The First Fleet comprising of 11 ships set sail from Portsmouth, England, bound for Botany Bay on May 13, 1787.
Captain Arthur Phillip was responsible for the establishment of the British colony at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. This would later become Australia Day.
When the first settlers arrived they would have found the land already been inhabited by Indigenous Australians who arrived in Australia around 40,000 years ago. The indigenous population makes up about 2.5% of Australia’s total population today.
Other key dates in Australia’s colonial history.
- 1803 – The first settlers arrived at Van Diemen’s Land which we know today as Tasmania.
- 1825 – Tasmania became a separate colony
- 1829 – Western Australia was claimed as part of the British Empire.
- 1836 – The free colony of South Australia was proclaimed
- 1851 – The free colony of Victoria was proclaimed
- 1859 – Queensland was proclaimed a colony on June 6, a date that is today celebrated annually as Queensland Day
Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were all founded as free colonies.
The early 1850s saw the Gold Rush years and the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854. The Australian Gold Rush saw many immigrants arrive in Australia seeking their fortune in the Victorian goldfields at time when the six colonies became self governed despite remaining a part of the British Empire.
The Commonwealth of Australia came to be on 1 January 1901. In 1911 the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the seventh state or territory of Australia while the Northern Territory became Australia’s eighth state or territory.
Australia participated in both World Wars and following the Second World War it was decided that Australia should embark on an aggressive immigration policy that saw more than two million southern and central Europeans land on our shores.
The First World War remains an important part of Australian history. Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915. The ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) suffered heavy casualties but it only served to fuel the legend of the ANZACs. The 25 April each year is ANZAC Day, which begins with a dawn service before a march through one of the many Australian cities or country centres throughout the nation in remembrance of those who lost their lives for our nation. The first official ANZAC Day commemoration was held at the Australian War Memorial in 1942.