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History of Australia

Updated on January 3, 2017

The smallest, most arid continent, Australia is located below the south eastern Asian archipelago, bisected by the Tropic of Capricorn and bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, west by the Indian Ocean, and includes the State of Tasmania. Most of the country is a low plateau with a flat and arid center.

Its 19,320 km coast contains the Great Barrier Reef, largest coral reef in .the world. The south east section is 1,295,000 square km of fertile plain.

The low ranges (Great Dividing Range and Australian Alps) mainly parallel the east coast with moderate chains in the Wand central sections. Most are rounded foothills with no glaciers and little snow. The highest is Mount Kosciuszko. 2,231 meters. Darling, its longest river, has been dry for as long as 18 months. Rainfall is sufficient on the east coast, the SE and SW; the interior receives less than 26cm annually. Water supply and conservation are continuous problems. An unpredictable climate results from its latitude and long coastline exposed to the tradewinds. Although agriculture accounts for most of its export income, there has been rapid industrial growth. About 19% of the work force is in manufacturing, 6% in agriculture. Wool and meat are major products. Australia produces 30% of the world's wool supply and is the largest exporter of beef, second of lamb. Over half of its large wheat crop is exported.

Mineral exports have been rising, especially since the 1965 discovery of iron ore. Oil and gas were found 1965-68 and uranium 1972-74. By the early 1980s minerals comprised one-third of export revenues.

History of Australia

Early discovery of Australia was delayed by the colossal size of the Pacific Ocean. In 1577, Sir Francis Drake, looking for spices and trade, turned N to Peru. It was not until 1605-06 that Dutch explorer William Jansz sailed close to Queensland; he was probably the first European to see the coast, which he described as desolate, with black savages.

In 1642, Abel Janszoon Tasman circumnavigated the continent, reaching Tasmania and New Zealand. Englishman James Cook, sailing around Cape Horn in 1768, was the first European to reach the east coast, and in 1770, finding it favorable for settlement, he took possession for Britain. Many early settlers were convicts; 19th-century policy emancipated them, and immigration was encouraged. Six colonies were created: New South Wales (1823), Tasmania (1825), Western Australia (1838), Southern Australia (1842), Victoria (1851), and Queensland (1859). These were united under the Commonwealth of Australia Act of 1900. The first parliament met in 1901. The Statute of Westminister Adoption Act of 1942 gave Australia complete autonomy.

Since then Australia has emerged as a leader in Asian and Pacific affairs.


Until 1788 there were 350,000 aborigines in the country. As European, predominantly British, settlements grew, indigenous peoples declined to 144,381 in 1976. Now each state is responsible for those aborigines in its region, and they now number 517,000, or 2.3% of Australia's population.

Many Chinese came before the 1901 restriction act, and since WWII, 2,300,000 immigrants, 50% British and many from central European countries, have entered. Two-thirds of the population is in the south east (New South Wales and Victoria), one-third in Sydney and Melbourne. English is the official language.

Literacy is 98.5%.


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    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 6 years ago from Finland

      I didn't know that much about Australia before I read your hub. Good information!