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Overview of Early History and Colonization
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AUSTRALIA: Early History and Colonization
The groups comprising the aborigines are thought to have migrated from Southeast Asia. The aborigines spread throughout Australia and remained isolated from outside influences until the arrival of the Europeans. Australia was probably first sighted by a Portuguese, Manuel Godhino de Eredia, in 1601 and may have been sighted by a Spaniard, Luis Vaez de Torres, around 1605-6. It was later visited by the Dutch, who named it New Holland. In 1688 the Englishman William Dampier landed at King Sound on the northwest coast. Little interest was aroused, however, until the fertile east coast was observed when Capt. James Cook reached Botany Bay in 1770 and sailed N to Cape York, claiming the coast for Great Britain.

In 1788 the first British settlement was made-a penal colony on the shores of Port Jackson, where Sydney now stands. By 1829 the whole continent was a British dependency. Exploration, begun before the first settlement was founded, was continued by such men as Matthew Flinders (1798), Count Paul Strzelecki (1839), Ludwig Leichhardt (1848), and John McDouall Stuart (first to cross the continent, 1862). Australia was long used as a dumping ground for criminals, bankrupts, and other undesirables from the British Isles. [note: The British started shipping their convicts to Australia only after they lost their American colonies in 1776. Before this convicts were shipped off to America. Stealing a loaf of bread was enough to be shipped off to Australia. Before 1868, abt. 160,000 were prisoners were shipped to Autralia.] Sheep raising was introduced early, and before the middle of the 19th cent. wheat was being exported in large quantities to England. A gold strike in Victoria in 1851 brought a rush to that region. Other strikes were made later in the century in Western Australia. With minerals, sheep, and grain forming the base of the economy, Australia developed rapidly. By the mid-19th cent. systematic, permanent colonization had completely replaced the old penal settlements.

Australia , the smallest continent, lies between the Indian and Pacific oceans. With the island state of Tasmania to the south, the continent makes up the Commonwealth of Australia. There are five continental states in the nation (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia) as well as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (an enclave within New South Wales, containing Canberra). Australia's external territories include Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Commonwealth of Australia:

Tasmania, an island state,
was explored in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, who named it Van Diemen's Land. Capt. James Cook visited the island in 1777 and, in 1803, Great Britain took possession and established a penal colony. Governed by New South Wales until 1825, Tasmania was then constituted as a separate colony. The transportation of convicts ended in 1853 as a result of local opposition. In the 1850s the British established constitutional self-government in the colony and the name was officially changed to Tasmania. In 1901, Tasmania was federated as a state in the Commonwealth of Australia.

Queensland, state in NE Australia. Brisbane is the capital The state comprises the entire northeastern part of the Australian continent, with the major part of its coastline sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef.

In 1770, Capt. James Cook explored the coast of Queensland (then called Moreton Bay). Originally under the authority of New South Wales, Queensland served as a penal colony from 1824 to 1843. The area was separated from New South Wales and made a British colony in 1859. Queensland was federated as a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

New South Wales

New South Wales is bounded on the E by the Pacific Ocean. Sydney is the capital. The coast of Queensland was explored in 1770 by Capt. James Cook, who proclaimed British sovereignty over the east coast of Australia. Sydney, the first Australian settlement, was founded in 1788 as a prison farm. During the 1820s and 30s the character of New South Wales changed as the wool industry grew and the importation of convicts ceased. In the early 19th cent. the colony included Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and New Zealand. These territories were separated and made colonies in their own right between 1825 and 1863. In 1901, New South Wales was federated as a state of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Australian Capital Territory (site of Canberra, the federal capital), an enclave in New South Wales, was ceded to the commonwealth in 1911. Jervis Bay, S of Sydney, became commonwealth territory in 1915 as a potential port for Canberra; it is no longer part of the capital territory.

Victoria , state in SE Australia, bounded on the S and E by the Indian Ocean, Bass Strait, and the Tasman Sea. Melbourne is the capital. Unsuccessful attempts at settlement were made in 1803 and 1826 on the site of the present Melbourne. Settlement began in the 1830s when sheep ranchers from Tasmania came looking for pasture. Known as the Port Phillip District, the area that is now Victoria became part of the colony of New South Wales in 1836. In 1851, Victoria was made a separate British colony, which was granted full constitutional self-government in 1855. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to a rapid population increase. Victoria was federated as a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
South Australia

South Australia, state in S central Australia, bounded on the S by the Indian Ocean. Kangaroo Island and many smaller islands off the south coast are included in the state. Adelaide is the capital. Much of South Australia is wasteland-deserts, mountains, salt lakes, and swampland. South Australia's coastal areas were visited by the Dutch in 1627. The British explorer Matthew Flinders noted likely settlement sites in 1802. Prompted by the writings of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a British colonial statesman, the English Parliament passed the South Australian Colonization Act in 1834, and in Dec., 1836, the first colonists arrived and proclaimed South Australia a colony. In South Australia, unlike most of Australia, convicts were not admitted as settlers. In 1901, South Australia was federated as a state of the commonwealth. Northern Territory, which had been included in the state in 1863, was transferred in 1911 to the commonwealth government.
Western Australia

Western Australia, state comprising the entire western part of the continent. It is bounded on the N, W, and S by the Indian Ocean. Perth is the capital. Dirck Hartog, a Dutchman who arrived in 1616, was the first white man known to have visited the coast. A penal colony was founded at Albany in 1826, and the first free settlement was established in the Perth-Fremantle area in 1829. During the 1850s, Britain sent some 10,000 convicts to aid the settlers, most of whom had migrated from E Australia. In the 1860s the first livestock farmers arrived in the northwest. Gold was discovered in the 1880s. Governed at first by New South Wales, Western Australia received its own governor in 1831 and a full constitution as a separate colony in 1890. In 1901 it became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Northern Territory

Northern Territory, territory in N central Australia. It is bounded on the N by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Darwin is the territorial capital. Northern Territory's first settlement was established at Port Essington in 1824 in an attempt to forestall French colonization. The settlement failed, and permanent settlement did not resume until 1869. Northern Territory was part of New South Wales from 1825 to 1863 and of South Australia from 1863 to 1911. Transferred to direct rule by the commonwealth in 1911, it was divided into two territories in 1926 but was reunited in 1931.
Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory ,SE Australia, an enclave within New South Wales, containing Canberra, capital of Australia. It was called the Federal Capital Territory until 1938. Most of the territory consists of an area formerly known as Yass-Canberra, which was ceded to the commonwealth by New South Wales in 1911. In 1915, New South Wales additionally ceded Jervis Bay, providing a potential port for Canberra. In 1988 the territory gained self-government with its own unicameral parliament, and Jervis Bay was separated from the territory.
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page created: 07 Apr 2003 / updated: 10 Mar 2010
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