The history of Australia refers to the history of the area and people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding Indigenous and colonial societies. Aboriginal Australians are believed to have first arrived on the Australian mainland by boat from the Indonesian archipelago between 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. They established among the longest surviving artistic, musical and spiritual traditions known on Earth.
The first uncontested landing in Australia by Europeans was by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606. Other European explorers followed intermittently until, in 1770, James Cook charted the East Coast of Australia for Britain and returned with accounts favouring colonisation at Botany Bay (now in Sydney), New South Wales. A First Fleet of British ships arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 to establish a penal colony. Other colonies were established by Britain around the continent and European explorers went deep into the interior throughout the 19th century. Introduced disease and conflict with the British colonists greatly weakened Indigenous Australians throughout the period.
Gold rushes and agricultural industries brought prosperity. Autonomous Parliamentary democracies began to be established throughout the six British colonies from the mid-19th century. The colonies voted by referendum to unite in a federation in 1901, and modern Australia came into being. Australia fought on the side of Britain in the World Wars and became a long-standing ally of the United States when threatened by Imperial Japan during World War II. Trade with Asia increased and a post-war multicultural immigration program received more than 6.5 million migrants from every continent. The population tripled in six decades to around 21 million in 2010, with people originating from 200 countries sustaining the world's 14th largest economy.
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