The first people who lived in Australia were known as the Aborigines. The Aborigines came to Australia by boat more than 40,000 years ago. They are the first people in the world who are known to have used boats for transportation.
Even though many parts of Australia were very inhospitable places, the Aborigines survived. They lived by hunting and gathering throughout the continent, even in the desert areas where survival is almost impossible. The Aborigines felt a deep spiritual attachment to the land, and they made many beautiful paintings upon the rocks of many parts of the country. Their most famous invention is a curved hunting stick known as the “boomerang.” The design of the boomerang is remarkable, because it can be thrown in such a way that it will turn around and return to the person who threw it.
Until about two hundred years ago, the Aborigines had only a very limited amount of contact with people in the outside world. The next people to migrate to Australia were from the British Isles. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, Australia was used as a prison colony, where common criminals and political prisoners were sent from Britain. By the middle of the nineteenth century, many British people moved to Australia voluntarily to begin farms or to search for gold. By the late nineteenth century, Britain stopped sending its prisoners to Australia, but migration continued.
After the arrival of the British colonists, the Aboriginal population declined sharply. This was partly due to disease, partly due to cruel treatment by settlers, and partly due to the loss of their traditional way of life. Today, the Aboriginal population is growing again, and the Australian government has taken some steps to correct the injustices of the past.
The various parts of Australia were governed at first as separate colonies, but in 1901 they joined to form a single country. Australia continued to grow during the twentieth century, and after World War Two it attracted many immigrants from countries in Europe. During the past few decades, many people have moved to Australia from various parts of Asia and from other parts of the world.
Today, Australia consists of one territory (the Northern Territory) and six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland). Tasmania is a small island off the southern coast, and Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland are found in the eastern part of the country.
The two largest cities in Australia are Sydney and Melbourne, both of which are in the southeastern part of the country. Sydney has a beautiful harbor that is one of the largest in the world, and Melbourne has many beautiful parks and gardens. The capital city of the country is Canberra, which is located between Sydney and Melbourne. Other large cities in Australia are Brisbane (in the northeast), Perth (in the southwest), and Adelaide (in the south).