It is common to believe that the land we, as English speaking westerners now call Australia, has a relatively short history which began with James Cooks great discovery in the late 18th Century. That is how we were all taught in school – almost as if it suddenly had no life before the British Empire brought it to life. But it is most important to note that for 60,000 years beforehand, the indigenous groups – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – lived a rich and diverse native life which is very much a part of Australian culture today. Indeed over 100 years before Cook set on Australia, previous explorations by the Dutch even created the country’s name from which the word Australia was derived: “La Australia del Espiritu Santo” after the Spanish Kings Austrian Heritage.
Here is a short list of milestones in modern Australian history from the 18th century onwards:
1768 – James Cook set sail on the HM Bark Endeavour to search for the “Great South Land” and take possession of the land in the name of the British King.
1770 – James Cook ‘discovered’ and took possession of the land we now call Australia.
1780’s – On losing the American colonies the British Government concludes that Australia would be an ideal setting to send criminal convicts. The penal colonies begin.
1800’s – It is reported that there is much conflict between the indigenous peoples and the whites. Also most of the occupations on Australia are taken by convicts or ex-convicts.
1810’s – This is known as the decade of the Father of Australia. Lachlan Macquarie, the first Governor has best claim to “nation-builder status”.
1830’s – There is a great desire to settle in Australia but the new settlers encroach on land laid out for the indigenous peoples which causes further conflicts.
1840’s – The British government ceases transporting convicts to the mainland.
1850’s – Migration to Australia explodes when Gold is found.
1880’s – This is the time of the peak of a 30 year economic boom since the gold strikes. Australia is regarded as a working man’s paradise where working people are better dressed, better fed and more contented than anywhere else in the world.
1900’s – Australia begins the new century as a federated nation. The new parliament embarks on nation-building exercises as Australia finally evolves its own identity.
1910’s – There are enormous losses of life for Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915 in the First World War.
1930’s – The stock market crash on wall street in America leads to Britain calling in Australia’s loans and so the country faces new hardship. By 1932 a third of Australians are out of work.
1940’s – As Japanese forces sweep south in the Second World War. Australia, realising it cannot depend on Britain alone for protection looks to America for assistance. After the war unemployment becomes a thing of the past as Australia begins to re-build itself.
1950’s – The time of the longest serving Australian Prime minister Robert Menzies.
1970’s – Gough Whitlam leads the Labour Party to victory for the first time in 23 years. Reformations follow including the abolishment of conscription and a withdrawal from Vietnam. The boom however cracks and inflation is seen at 17%.
1980’s – Very much a decade for entrepreneurs, the Labour government dismantles a large part of the Protectionist legislation to free up the economy, remove the artificial barriers which have kept out imported goods.
1990’s – The Mabo Judgement finds Australia was never terra nullius (empty land) and inserts the legal doctrine of native title into Australian law. In effect this means ownership was passed back to the Aborigines which had a positive effect on the economy.
Australia rejects the idea of a republic.
2000’s – Sydney hosts the Olympics. Australia experiences a baby boom as well as a consumer boom but heralds the global recession in 2008.