Australia is a vast country and continent located in the southern hemisphere, comprising some of the world’s most exotic and fascinating fauna. Despite not properly appearing on a map until the 1800s, Australia is actually one of the oldest populated areas by humans outside of Africa.
There is a lot of rich history and culture to explore in addition to the incredible sceneries and wildlife that the country has to offer. Additionally, Australia’s economy is among the strongest in the world, ranking 13th in the world in GDP and 11th in GDP per capita. What’s more, Australia has produced many successful entrepreneurs, such as the individual profiled here.
We can’t cover everything about Australia in one article. So here we’re focusing on the evolution of Australia’s history, from prehistory to modern times.
Humans Arrive in Australia
You may be surprised to learn that humans arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago, which is before others made it to Europe, The Americas, and much of Asia. The current theory is that humans migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago along the coasts of modern-day Saudi Arabia, India, and much of Southern Asia to reach Indonesia, and modern-day Australia around 65,000 years ago.
This would take place tens of thousands of years prior to other migrations out of Africa, such as the spread of humans throughout Europe and the majority of Asia, which would take place 40,000 years ago.
The early humans in Australia are widely believed to be the ancestors of modern native Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
It is important to note that there is very little evidence for early human migrations. So theories are disproven constantly in this field, such as the once widely accepted Clovis Theory about the first humans in America.
Without recorded history, we can only piece together what the 65,000 years of human activity in Australia resulted in. But there is a decent amount of information and theories available today.
Around the time that humans are theorized to have arrived in Australia, many megafauna species would disappear and become extinct. Experts believe that the early humans hunted a lot of the large game to extinction, but others believe that other factors led to their extinction such as climate change and fires.
The Australian Aboriginal people were originally thought to be exclusively hunter-gatherers. However, recent studies and research have pointed toward them cultivating land and farming forms of taro. The recent research also indicates that there may have been permanent settlements around these farms.
Outside Contact with Australia
Australia has had contact with other cultures for thousands of years. Indonesian fishermen from the Spice Islands would frequently visit the coasts of Northern Australia and the Macassan traders would come to get goods to bring to China no later than the early 1700s.
Additionally, there is a theory that the Portuguese discovered Australia all the way back in the 1520s. The continent appears to have been drawn on maps during this period. The first European contact with Australia that was documented, however, happened in 1606, when the Dutch East India Company landed on the continent.
Various European countries would explore Australia, notably the British and French. However, it would not be colonized until 1788, when the British would start to settle in the area.
Due to some 60,000 years of isolation, the native populations did not fare well when they came into contact with European settlers. It’s hard to get an exact estimate, but records of Aboriginal populations in Victoria fell from 10,000 to 2,000 between 1835 and 1853. It’s estimated on this Wikipedia page that 60% of the deaths were from sickness, while 18% from natural causes and 15% from British violence.
Australia would officially form in 1901 as the Commonwealth of Australia, comprising the colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria.
In 1936, Australia would be granted legislative independence and in 1986 it would receive legal independence. Today, they are still part of the Commonwealth of Nations, and remain closely tied with the United Kingdom.