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History and Facts
The Indigenous Australians, also known as Aboriginals, have lived in Australia for more than 40,000 years. It wasn’t until 1606 that Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon first discovered the continent when he landed on the dry western coast of the island. In 1770 Captain James Cook landed on the green eastern coast and claimed the continent for Great Britain.
Australia was a penal colony. The first Europeans to settle there were convicts sentenced to jail in Australia for small crimes like stealing a loaf of bread. After serving their time, most people couldn’t afford to go back to Great Britain and so they stayed.
In the 18th and 19th centuries six separate colonies were established: New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia (which included what is now the Northern Territory), Victoria and Queensland. In 1901 the colonies were federated and The Commonwealth of Australia was established. In 1911 the Australian Capital Territory was created to house the nation’s capital, Canberra.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, belonging to the British monarchy. The Monarch, current King or Queen, has a ceremonial role and limited power. The country is run by a democratically elected government. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and is allied with Great Britain and the USA.
Modern Australia is a very diverse, multicultural country: after World War II Australia encouraged immigration from Europe and many people came from southern Europe, especially Greece and Italy. In the 1970s and 80s Australia also encouraged immigration from Asia and other parts of the world.