Australia’s prehistory was long believed to have been short, perhaps a few thousand years. Systematic archaeological research first gained momentum in the 1960s, but quickly changed our perception of the continent’s prehistory. We now know that it begins at least 50,000 (maybe more than 80,000) years ago. The population’s collector and hunter economy over time developed variants well adapted to resources and conditions typical of such extremely diverse areas as rock and sand deserts inland and fertile but often wooded coastal areas. When formal anthropological studies began in the latter part of the 19th century, the fertile areas had already been colonized by the Europeans, and the native residents had been dispersed.
The first immigration probably took place during an ice age when the sea surface was much lower and new land was open. Australia and New Guinea were united into a larger Australia (Sahul), and distances to the islands of Wallacea and Southeast Asia were significantly shorter. However, the first immigrants, probably coastal residents who already had suitable vessels and some sea habits, must have crossed at least 60 km of open water, perhaps driven out of course by storms or currents. However, voluntary travel cannot be ruled out. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Australia.
It is believed that the immigrants all belonged to Homo sapiens, but their exact areas of origin and kinship are uncertain. Both gracila and very robust skeletons occur in the same areas and from the same wide period of time. Since the oldest finds to date (Lake Mungo) are of a gracile type and many robust skeletons are much younger (Kow Swamp), it does not appear to be a local development from Neanderthal to modern forms of man. Some archaeologists therefore consider two types of Homo sapiensarrived at an early stage and probably merged with the continent’s indigenous people. Others believe that this is a fairly homogeneous group within which physical differences gradually developed, which corresponded to differences in, for example. climate, diet and isolation. The prehistoric immigrants certainly came in quite small groups of some families. It is likely that the native population that existed when British colonists arrived in 1788 was mainly descended from these early immigrants.
The first settlements in the north were probably on coastal stretches now covered by sea. People reached the southeast (Lake Mungo) and southwest (Devil’s Lair) corners of the continent more than 30,000 years ago. Widespread discoveries show that 20,000 years ago they were everywhere except in the continent’s dry interior. The spread should have been incremental, perhaps jerky. It was about learning how to use the partially alien flora and fauna and the widely varied resources that existed in, for example. desert and rainforest. The fact that there were many beneficial plants, seafood and fish of the same type as in Wallacea and Southeast Asia on the coast of the north should have facilitated the first colonization.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Australia. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
Apart from the effects of 200 years of agriculture and industry, 50,000 years ago Australia had essentially the same topography, resources, climate zones and vegetation types as now: a mountain range from north to south follows the coast to the east and contributes to a central area remaining desert. Water resources and vegetation belts have grown, shrunk and moved in a complicated pattern, influenced by sea level changes and global climate.
In the past, many animal species were also represented by forms (megafauna) that were much larger than today’s (huge marsupials, lizards and birds). Some large marsupials were left 20,000 years ago. Their bones have been found in occasional settlements. They are likely to be hunted, but less likely to die due to intense hunting. A drier climate after the ice age and vegetation changes due to repeated burning may instead have contributed to this. Burning is still used today as a hunting method, partly to open areas and obtain new grazing as well as to prevent forest fires.
The sea level rose gradually, and about 7,000 years ago the sea level reached the current level. New Guinea, Tasmania and parts of the coast became islands. People groups became isolated, some died out (Kangaroo Island) while others developed both physical and cultural features (Rocky Cape). But artifacts from early finds (Kosipe, Oenpelli Shelters) still show great similarities throughout the area. Most large stone cores and scrapers were used, bones made of bones (Devil’s Lair) and securely used fibers and wood, for example. for fishing (Lake Mungo). Stone axes with ground edges were found early in the tropical parts and have been used throughout the area for the last 10,000 years. A drier climate led to the use of grass seeds, which were milled on millstones, already 15,000 years ago.
About 5,000 years ago, tools began to be commonly used for small, often carefully formed, shavings of stone, which were cut using resin and tendons or fibers. This is considered the beginning of a new technological stage and is associated with economic and social changes, although the dynamic contexts are unclear (Burrill Lake, Devon Downs, Kenniff Cave). Europeans found densely populated areas along the coasts and streams, sometimes with seminomadic population moving between several villages. Some groups had well-constructed huts, channel systems for eel fishing and fish traps made of bees or stones. They deliberately left root parts to propagate, and grass seeds were harvested in the plains, but neither agriculture was practiced in the real sense nor gardening. Extensive and complicated networks of social contacts were developed, rights and obligations. These had support in a religion that was based on a thorough knowledge of nature and resources and expressed in myths and ceremonies. Traces of such ceremonies can be seen in stone carvings and rock art (Ingaladdi).
Australia got its first population from Southeast Asia during the last ice age about 50,000 years ago. The first Europeans are believed to have come to Australia over 400 years ago, but even before that they had contacts with people in Southeast Asia. However, it was not until the 17th century that Australia’s real location, size and contours appeared on the world map. However, speculation about an unknown southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita, has existed for more than 2,000 years.
The first clearly documented contact with Australia was the Dutchman Willem Jansz, skipper of the Dutch East India Company. In 1606 he accompanied the ship Dugfken New Guinea’s coast to the east, but accidentally navigated south along the Cape York Peninsula in the belief that it was New Guinea. During the 17th century, Dutchman Abel Tasman led two expeditions to explore Australia. On the first voyage, 1642–43, he discovered and mapped Van Diemen’s Land, later called Tasmania, and New Zealand, and during a second voyage, 1644, the Carpentari Bay, Arnhem Land and northwestern Australia.
The British James Cook’s voyage to the South 1768-75 meant that the eastern coast of Australia was mapped. In April 1770, Cook came to Australia. At Botany Bay on the outskirts of present-day Sydney, he found a sheltered anchorage. He took possession of the land on behalf of Britain and named it New South Wales. He then followed the coast to the north and managed to make his way through Torres strait. In his descriptions of the travels, Cook painted the country as fruitful with a range of products suitable for large-scale cultivation and trade. According to various calculations, the indigenous people, the Australians (Aborigines), at that time consisted of between 250,000 and 750,000 people.
Britain, after the liberation of the North American colonies in 1776, needed a new area where penalties could be shipped. The British also needed support points for the fleet and to guard the way to India and China. In addition, there was a lack of strategic raw materials for the fleet, such as flax, hemp and mast timber.
Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, in May 1787, a fleet sailed on eleven ships with about 1,000 people aboard, of which 2/3 were prisoners. Via Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town reached Botany Bay at the end of January 1788. After a few days, a better landing spot was sought. It was named Sydney Cove after the then British Minister for Navigation.
The first few years became tough. The conditions for cultivation were worse than expected, and stocks of supplies quickly shrunk. Only in the summer of 1790 did additional ships arrive from the United Kingdom, and the supply situation improved.
The officers included in the New South Wales Corps received land that was cultivated with the help of the prisoners. Released prisoners and their relatives were also allocated land for cultivation. The first voluntary immigrants arrived in 1793. As the colonized area of Sydney grew, various groups were sent out to found new colonies along the coast. A smaller group was sent to the south coast of Tasmania in 1803, where Hobart was founded. An expedition led by WC Wentworth penetrated across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in 1813, leading the way for a colonization of the continent’s interior. Brisbane was founded in 1824, Perth in 1829, Melbourne in 1835 and Adelaide in 1836. Gradually other settlers were also attracted to Australia.
The relationships with the aborigines, the aborigines, were not good. The settlers out in the wilderness often came into conflict with the Aborigines, who saw how their land plundered. The colonists often acted with great cruelty. Especially in Tasmania, the contradictions were great, and by the end of the 19th century Tasmania’s urinals had become extinct.
Colonization policy was the subject of extensive discussion both in Australia and in the United Kingdom. The prisoners admittedly had access to cheap labor by the capital owners, but the procedure discouraged others from emigrating to Australia. As a result of the debate, deportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840 and to Tasmania in 1853. In Western Australia, the introduction of prisoners continued until 1868. The colony of South Australia never received prisoners. In total, around 160,000 prisoners were estimated to have been shipped to Australia.
Whaling and sheep breeding
Sydney and Hobart became bases for whaling in the southern Arctic Ocean in the early 1800s. In particular, caskets were sought, and in the islands of Bass Sound seals were clubbed in large quantities. The vessels that carried penal prisoners from the UK took as return shipping sealskin, whale oil and whale. Until 1833, whaling products were the main export goods.
Finding roads to the inner grasslands opened up great opportunities for sheep farming, which was introduced as early as the 1790s. They produced high quality wool that was well paid in the UK. But wool production required capital, as it took more than two years from the pasture of sheep to pasture until payment for the wool came in.
Copper ore was found in 1842, but the major change in Australia’s situation occurred in 1851, when gold was found, first in Bathurst in New South Wales and later in a number of places in Victoria, including Ballarat and Bendigo.
Australia had 438,000 residents at this time. Immigration was now accelerating. In 1852, 86,000 people left Britain with Australia as their target. In just over ten years, the population tripled. In addition to Europeans, a significant number of Chinese came to the gold fields. This led to contradictions, and Chinese immigration was halted. When gold fields gave the most, Victoria accounted for 1/3 of world gold production.
Ship traffic in Australia became increasingly important with the gold rush. By following the so-called big circle arch south of Africa, you got a southerly, shorter and faster journey to Australia. The fastest voyage by sailing vessels from the UK took 63 days, but under normal conditions 100 days were expected. The ships usually returned to Europe via Cape Horn.
With economic development, the demands for greater political independence grew. In 1855–56 New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania obtained autonomy, 1859 Queensland. This meant that the different parts developed in different directions in terms of communications, schooling and commerce. Western Australia first became independent in 1890.
Thanks to the Suez Canal, Australia’s contacts with the outside world facilitated. In 1872, the transcontinental telegraph cable network reached Australia. In the early 1900s, the postal steamers’ travel time from London to Adelaide had been pushed to just over five weeks. As a result of the shorter travel times, Australia was able to start exporting frozen mutton and beef as well as butter and fruit.
Internal communications remained long undeveloped. With the railways, conditions changed rapidly. From coastal cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, railways were built to the interior for transport of export goods and passengers. In 1881 the railways covered 6,000 km, but they did not form a continuous network. Since the majority was built by private companies, a number of different track widths were used. The disadvantages of this have persisted into modern times. It was not until 1962 that a continuous line was opened from Sydney to Melbourne with uniform track width.
Australian State Federation
More and more questions in the latter part of the 19th century demanded a united outward appearance by the colonies in Australia. The German colonization of New Guinea and the French annexation of the New Hebrides worried the people of Australia. At the same time, sugar cane growers in Queensland wanted to bring in labor from the islands of Oceania. In 1876, 11,000 New Caledonia Canucks worked on the sugar plantations. Through a series of laws, immigration was prevented by canoes, and most were allowed to return to their home islands. The view that one should reserve Australia for the white race was confirmed. Australian troops were sent to South Africa in 1899 to participate in the Boer War on the British side. Marines participated in the boxer rebellion in China in 1900.
Through their actions in customs and communications, the colonies had opposed each other and delayed economic development. The prerequisite for a federation was discussed at a number of conferences. In May 1900, the British lower house passed a law proclaiming the Australian Commonwealth of Australia as self-governing domination of the British Empire from 1 January 1901. The first Parliament was opened in Melbourne the same year. The following year, female suffrage was introduced, but Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote. In 1911, the area around Canberra was separated as an independent administrative unit, and in 1927 the relocation of the central administration began.
Social welfare legislation common to the entire nation was started after the formation of the federation. It applied only to the white population and excluded non-Europeans who were not born in Australia. Aborigines were also exempted from this legislation. Mandatory military service was introduced in 1909, but the military bandages were allowed to be used only within Australia. In 1929, compulsory military duty in peacetime was abolished.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Australia was immediately drawn into the war on the United Kingdom. The government promised to make an expedition of 20,000 men available to the British. It became known as the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and gradually expanded to 400,000 men, all but formally voluntarily enrolled. It was deployed on the Gallipoli peninsula at the Dardanelles April 25, 1915 and suffered heavy losses. During the war, 60,000 Australians died and 165,000 were wounded.
After World War I, Australia isolated itself and did not engage in international affairs. Even in 1939, the state federation had full diplomatic representation only in London. The depression during the 1930s hit Australia hard, despite the support the Commonwealth gave its members.
World War II radically changed the relationship with Britain. Australia joined the war from the beginning, but Japan’s entry at the end of 1941 created a new situation. Britain, with most of its resources tied up in Europe, could no longer offer Australia the protection it had previously taken for granted. Japan’s offensive south of Indonesia in 1942 directly threatened the Australian continent. The country appealed for help from the United States, and close cooperation was established. In April 1942, General Douglas MacArthur also became commander-in-chief of the Australian armed forces and established his headquarters in Melbourne. The Japanese land rise threat was averted by the victory in the Coral Sea in May 1942.
Until 1945, immigration was mainly promoted from the UK and Ireland, but after World War II Australia received 170,000 refugees from Eastern and Central Europe. Of the one million people who immigrated in the 1950s, only about a third came from the British Isles. At the end of the following decade, more and more immigrants also began to immigrate from different Asian countries, and in the 1970s the country received large groups of refugees from Southeast Asia.
After World War II, Australia has gradually changed its foreign policy. As leader of the ruling, basically conservative, Liberal Party (LP) sat Robert Menzies in 1949-66. Although he acknowledged the old bond with the British Commonwealth (after the 1946 Commonwealth), Australia during this time came to liberate itself politically and financially from the United Kingdom, especially since Britain joined the EC in 1973. Labor leader Bob Hawke, who came to power in 1983, continued this policy in office, and in 1991 he was succeeded by Paul Keating (born 1944) the opposition to Britain was even more emphasized. Keating made it clear that he wanted to develop Australia into a republic. In recent years, an increasing share of Australia’s trade has been with the countries of Asia and the Pacific. Great emphasis is now placed on trade exchanges with China. In 2005, Australia and the United States signed a new free trade agreement.
In 1951, Australia, New Zealand and the United States signed the ANZUS Pact, and when the Southeast Asia Defense Organization, SEATO, was established in 1954, Australia assisted it. Australia joined the US side in the Korean War 1950-53, and in 1965-71 sent combatants to Vietnam to join the US side. In the early 1970s, criticism of participation in the Vietnam War grew, and Australia withdrew its forces. The war resistance contributed to the bourgeois government losing the election to Labor in 1972.
The 1973 oil crisis hit the country’s economy hard. At the same time, attention was increasingly directed at the country’s urinals, the Aborigines, whose conditions are now trying to improve. Relations with Indonesia were strained in 1999 when Australia participated in the UN-led operation in East Timor. Contacts improved as Australia provided widespread aid to the neighboring country following the 2004 tsunami disaster. In 2002, 88 Australians were killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated by militant Islamists on the Indonesian island of Bali, and two years later an attack was launched against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.
Political battles within and between parties
In 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to the country’s urinals for the wrongs committed against them. Several countries, including Sweden, have returned skeletal parts that were once stolen from the graves of the urinals.
During the 2000s, domestic politics was characterized by power struggles within the parties as well. In 1996, Labor lost power to a bourgeois coalition led by John Howard (Liberal Party, LP), who remained in office until 2007. Labor leader and new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol with demands for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, introduced a more generous immigration policy and officially acknowledged the state’s debt to the indigenous people. However, confidence in Rudd dropped and he was replaced in 2010 by Julia Gillard, who in the same year led Labor to a new election victory. Rudd returned as party leader and head of government since Gillard in 2013 lost a vote of confidence among Labor MPs.
The ongoing climate change has greatly affected Australia. Winter 2017 was the warmest since temperature measurements began in 1910. The ongoing mass deaths among the corals in the Great Barrier Reef have also turned out to be worse than expected. Nearly a third of the Great Barrier Reef is fundamentally changed and risks never recovering completely. The cause of coral death, which worst affected the northernmost part of the reef, is rising surface water temperatures caused by climate change and an unusually strong variant of the El Niño weather phenomenon in 2016. Even the survival of sea turtles was threatened by climate change when almost only females are born under heat.
In 2017, the heavily criticized Australian refugee camp on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea was shut down after the 2016 Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled that it was illegal.
Australia has banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from building new telecommunications networks in the country. The decision was made with regard to national security, as there were suspicions that Huawei had close links with Chinese authorities and that the company’s products could therefore be used for espionage. China-Australia relations have become increasingly strained since Australia accused China of interfering in its policy.
Since 2013, Australia has been ruled by a bourgeois coalition.