Australia - History
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Australia - History
Australia is in the southern hemisphere and it is the world’s smallest continent. Most of it consists of low plateaus, and almost one-third is desert. Backbone of Australia is the Australian Alps.
Australia’s Aboriginal people have arrived here by boat from South East Asia during the last Ice Age, at least 50,000 years ago. At the time of European discovery and settlement, up to one million Aboriginal people lived across the continent as hunters and gatherers. A number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, then known as New Holland, in 17th century. However it wasn’t until 1770 that Captain James Cook chartered the east coast and claimed it for Britain. The new colony was used to export convicts. Almost each modern Australian’s ancestor was convict. While free settlers began to flow, life for prisoners was harsh. Women were outnumbered five to one and lived under constant threat of sexual exploitation.
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Male re-offenders were brutally flogged and could be hung for crimes as petty as stealing. The Aboriginal people displaced by the new settlement suffered even more. The dispossessions of land and illness and death from introduced diseases disrupted traditional lifestyle and practices. Gold was discovered in New South Wales and central Victoria in 1851, luring thousands of young men and some adventurous young women from the colonies. They were joined by boat loads of prospectors from China and a chaotic carnival of entertainers, publicans, illicit liquor-sellers,, prostitutes and quacks from across the world. Despite the violence on goldfields, the wealth from gold and wool brought immense investment to Melbourne and Sydney and by the 1880s they were stylish modern cities. Australia’s six states became a nation under a single constitution on 1 January 1901. Today Australia is home to people from more than 200 countries.
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