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Timeline of Australian history

Aboriginal Australian hunters, photographed in 1901Aboriginal Australian hunters, photographed in 1901The earliest inhabitants of Australia, its indigenous people, probably reached the continent between about 60,000 and 50,000 years ago—possibly earlier. They crossed from Southeast Asia, going from island to island in what is now Indonesia. These people, the Aboriginal Australians, were hunter-gatherers. Those that lived along the the coast and rivers were also expert fishermen. They had no knowledge of metals so they used long wooden spears, tipped with stone or bone. The dingo, a kind of dog, became a companion animal for them around 4000 years ago. They used it to assist them with hunting. By the time Europeans arrived to settle in Australia, the Aboriginal population consisted of 250 individual nations, each with their own language. Each nation was made up of a number of clans (extended family groups).

Tasman's voyage along the Tasmanian coast in 1642Tasman's voyage along the Tasmanian coast in 1642


1606 Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon sails into the Gulf of Carpentaria while en route to a trading post, Batavia (now Jakarta), in Java. He explores the western coast of Cape York Peninsula.

1616 Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog lands on Australia’s west coast.

1642 Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, Anthony van Diemen, sends explorer Abel Tasman on an official mission to explore Australia. He discovers the large island to the south of Australia, which he names Van Diemen’s Land (since 1856 it has been known as Tasmania). Tasman makes a second voyage along the northern coast of Australia in 1644 and names the land “New Holland”.

According to the first Australian census (a count of all the people in a certain place) of 1788, the white population in the colony was 1030, of whom 753 were convicts and their children. The colony also had 7 horses, 29 sheep, 74 pigs, 6 rabbits and 7 cattle. The Aboriginal population was not reported.

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