Contrary to popular belief in much of the world, the British
were not the first settlers in Australia, nor were they the first
Europeans to set foot on the continent. About 60,000 years ago,
the aboriginals arrived by sea from Asia. They adapted to the
land well and moved across the land as they were nomadic hunters.
In fifteenth century Europe there was a increase in exploration
and the hunt for the controversial great southern land was on.
The Dutch were aggressively searching for riches such as gold
in the southern hemisphere. William Jansz, a Dutch ship captain,
discovered the Cape of York in 1606 and found the land inhospitable
and moved on. Other Dutch explorers discovered the west coast
of Australia and found the dry, arrid land of no economic value
to their homeland.
The British had an overcrowded prison population in the mid 18th
century and they required a new penal colony. In 1768, Captain
James Cook set sail for Australia and found the more desirable
east coast. In 1770, King George III claimed the east coast and
named it New South Wales. In 1788, the first fleet arrived carrying
750 convicts. This was the first penal colony that is now the
Sydney area. The second penal colony developed was to the south
in Tasmania. This colony was called Port Arthur which is a tourist
attraction now. Over the following decades, these colonies grew.
Australia grew into a productive farming land and a major wool
producer. In the 1850's there was a gold rush in Victoria and
New South Wales. Australia remains a major producer of mining
products to this day. Opals are just one example.
On January 1st 1901, Australia became it's own nation. The six
colonies were federated to form one nation. Over the following
decades, Australia continued to expand and after World War 2,
there was a mass immigration from Europe. At one point in time,
Melbourne became the largest Greek populated city outside of Athens.
More recently, the immigration has come from Asian neighbours.