• The Indigenous peoples of Australia, known as Aborigines, have lived on the land for over 45,000 years and have a rich cultural history and oral traditions.


  • 1770: British navigator Captain James Cook claims the land for Britain.
  • 1788: The first British colony is established in Sydney. The colony of New South Wales is originally used as a penal colony for convicts transported from Britain. This also marks the beginning of the Frontier Wars, a conflict between Indigenous peoples and British colonisers that will continue into the 1930s.
  • 19th century: Over the next century, more British colonies are established, and the six colonies eventually join to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
  • 1850s: Gold is discovered in Australia, leading to a gold rush and an increase in population and economic growth.

The 20th Century

  • World War I and World War II: The country plays a significant role in both wars, and following the latter, Australia becomes a leading member of the British Commonwealth and a strong ally of the United States.
  • Post-1945: Australia experiences rapid economic growth and becomes one of the world's wealthiest nations. The war carries industrialisation to a new level, and the combination of full employment and high population increase leads to a high level of investment and rapid expansion of the economy.
  • 1949–1966: Sir Robert Menzies serves as Prime Minister of Australia, establishing a long period of stability and prosperity for the country.
  • 1962–1973: Australia is a key ally of the United States during the Vietnam War, with more 60,000 Australian soldiers fighting alongside American forces in the conflict.
  • 1905–1970s: Named the Stolen Generations, many Indigenous children are forcibly removed from their families and placed into institutions or with non-Indigenous families. During this time, the Australian government also implements a series of policies aimed at restricting non-white immigration to Australia.
  • 1967: The 1967 referendum is a turning point in Indigenous rights in Australia. More than 90 percent of Australians vote in favour of giving the Federal Government the power to legislate for Indigenous Australians and include them in the national census.
  • 1972–1975: Gough Whitlam serves as Prime Minister of Australia, and his government implements several significant reforms including the introduction of universal healthcare and free university education, legal aid programmes and the end of conscription.
  • 1975: The Whitlam government is dismissed by the Governor-General, leading to a constitutional crisis.
  • 1983–1996: Bob Hawke and Paul Keating serve as Prime Ministers of Australia, during which time they implement the 'Hawke-Keating reforms', a range of economic reforms that help to transform the Australian economy.
  • 1986: The Australian Act is passed, which effectively cuts the powers of the UK to legislate in Australia. 

The 21st Century

  • 2007: China becomes a major economic and political power, and Australia develops a close relationship with the country, with a focus on trade and investment. China is Australia's largest two-way trading partner in both goods and services and accounts for nearly one-third of its trade with the world.
  • 2008: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologises to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian government. This is a significant moment in Australia's reconciliation process and acknowledges the trauma and injustice suffered by Indigenous Australians.
  • 2010–present: Despite its long period of stability, Australia has seen a number of political upheavals in recent years, with frequent changes of government and political gridlock on key issues.
  • 2017: Same-sex marriage is legalised in Australia after a national postal survey in which an overwhelming majority of Australians voted for marriage equality. 
  • 2019–2020, The Black Summer bushfires ravage large parts of Australia, causing widespread destruction and loss of life, and are followed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The government and people have rallied to respond to these challenges and work towards a better future for the country.
  • 2022: Australia's transparent regulatory system and sound governance frameworks underpin its economic resilience. Australia's economic freedom score is 77.7, making its economy the 12th freest in the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom. The country's scores on judicial independence and property rights are among the highest in the world.

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