The first people to inhabit Australia were the aborigines. They arrived from south-east asia about 40.000 years ago. Dutch explorers landed in Australia in the seventeenth century. They did not realise that it was a separate continent. In 1770, captain James Cook landed in botany bay on the east coast. He claimed the area for Britain and called it New South Wales. The artists on Cook’s ship made drawings of the amazing animals they saw. Britain described Australia as terra nullius ( uninhabited land). But it was not empty. About 750.000 Aborigines were already living there. After the American Revolution , Britain started to send its convicts to Australia instead of America. In 1788, eleven prison ships, carrying over 700 convicts, arrived in Botany Bay. Many convicts remained in Australia at the end of their sentences. Immigrants who were not convicts also came to Australia. They were attracted by the cheap land, convict labour and gold. Some became rich. Others had hard lives, living in rough huts in the bush. The aborigines were badly treated. They were pushed off their land and huge numbers were killed. They had no rights. In 1880 there were six British colonies on the continent of Australia. They united in 1901 to form the Commonwealth of Australia. This became independent in 1931.
The making of Australia