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What Should I Know About Australia?

Gold was discovered in Australia mid-19th century, triggering a gold rush.
Australia's University of Sydney was built in 1850.
The Great Barrier Reef is found off the coast of Australia.
Australia is home to several marsupial mammal species, including the arboreal koala.
Article Details
  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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Australia is an enormous nation in the Southern Hemisphere, comprising its own continent. It covers 2,989,000 square miles (7,741,200 sq. km), making it nearly twice as large as the state of Alaska, and the sixth-largest nation on Earth. It is located near New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and a number of Polynesian island nations.

Australia was first settled by people at least 45,000 years ago, with some research suggesting the date to be closer to 70,000 years ago. Land bridges formed at this time as a result of lower sea levels allowed humans to cross over to Australia from neighboring islands, navigating smaller sections of sea when necessary. Over the next few tens of millennia the landscape of Australia would change drastically, both through human intervention via burning and hunting, and through climate change. Aboriginal Australians would form a complex society, with interconnected groups and a highly-developed spiritual system. Starting in about 3000 BCE the Aboriginal groups began to experience a growth in the development of new technologies, including some simple agriculture and more advanced tool use.

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Europeans first definitively sighted Australia at the beginning of the 17th century, although there is evidence to suggest that for a few hundred years prior to this Europeans were aware of the continent’s existence. As far back at the early 15th century the Chinese may have been aware of Australia, as evidenced by notations on some maps. In 1770 Captain Cook charted much of the Australian coastline, claiming the area for Britain during his expedition.

In 1788 the colony of New South Wales was formed, in large part to help alleviate overcrowding in Britain’s penal system. Over the next sixty years more colonies would be founded, covering most of Australia. In the mid-19th century gold was discovered in Australia, and immigrants began arriving from all over the world to take part in the gold rush.

At the dawn of the 20th century the continent was joined together as the Commonwealth of Australia, under the British crown. In 1931 Britain severed many links between the nations, and during World War II Australia accepted the separation. In the period immediately following World War II, and with the fear of invasion the Japanese had instilled in them, Australia began promoting immigration massively. The population exploded, with Aboriginal groups suffering substantially from the new settlers and the incredibly racist White Australia act, which was eventually abolished in the 1970s. The last vestiges of British power in Australia were removed in 1986, although Queen Elizabeth II remains the Monarch.

Australia is an enormous, very well-developed country, and as such has enough to do to keep any tourist happy for an entire lifetime. From the cultural hubs of Perth to Melbourne to Sydney, to the amazing diving and surfing on the Great Barrier Reef, to the wines of the Barossa Valley and beyond, to the lowland Daintree Rainforest, to the Snowy Mountains, to the exotic island of Tasmania, Australia will never let you down.

Flights arrive daily in all of Australia’s major cities from hubs throughout the world. Ships also connect Australia to the rest of the world, especially the nearby islands.

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Discuss this Article

GlassAxe
Post 3

@GirraffeEars- My mother went to Australia on vacation and she said she had an amazing time. She went on a tour of a few historic sites and saw some of the beautiful aboriginal rock art. When she went to Kakadu National Park, she saw aboriginal rock art that was 50,000 years old. She said the most amazing thing was that the ancestors of the traditional owners of the land had painted the art almost 50 millennium ago.

The aboriginal Australian Tribes are the oldest living civilization on the planet. I can only imagine some of the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. One day I would love to travel around Australia and learn about the ancient cultures that live there.

GiraffeEars
Post 2

@Fiorite- There are a number of topics you could write about on Aboriginal Australians, but first I want to clarify one thing. The word Aborigine is a blanket term used to describe Non-European Australians. There were some 200-500 different tribes and at least 250 different aboriginal languages present on the continent before Australia was colonized. Most of the Aboriginal people of Australia colonized on the eastern parts of the island from Alice Springs to Sydney, Australia. This was bound to create conflict.

With the first colonies came disease epidemics that wiped out large parts of the population. There was also a lot of tension between European Settlers and the indigenous tribes.

In the mid nineteenth century, the government enacted and supported laws that enabled them to take aboriginal children from their families. This is often a controversial subject and is referred to the lost or stolen generations. For over a hundred years the government took children with the intent it would destabilize the aboriginal population and cause them to die out. Keep searching and you will find that Australia has a rich and somewhat tumultuous history.

Fiorite
Post 1

What should I know about the aboriginal history of Australia? Queensland was in the Eastern part of the continent, so when the first Brits arrived, did they chase the Aborigines to Western Australia? I cannot imagine the conquering of their homeland was a very peaceful event from what I have seen portrayed in movies. Was British Colonialism/Imperialism as harsh to the Aborigines as it was to other native people around the world? I would appreciate any information...I am trying to write a paper on Australia's colonization.

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