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Australia/Oceania History Timeline

  • (1800 BC) Oceania first settled by Polynesian peoples in Fiji
  • (900 AD) Ancestors of the Maoris from the Cook Islands reached South Island, New Zealand
  • (1000) Oceania's islands colonized
  • (1000) Maori people settled in New Zealand
  • (1300s) Samoans, Tongans and other Polynesian Islands' residents migrated to Tuvalu Islands
  • (1500s) Ferdinand Magellan of Spain discovered many of the islands in Oceania
  • (1592) Spain claimed Marshall Islands
  • (1616) Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog, sailed to western Australia
  • (1643) Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, first European to visit Fiji
  • (1688) English explorer, William Dampier, arrived on west coast of Australia
  • (1770) Captain James Cook landed on east coast of Australia, claimed it for Britain
  • (1788) Ships of the First Fleet from England reach Botany Bay, south of Sydney, to begin a penal colony
  • (1798) British navigator Captain John Jearn, sailed past Nauru, named it Pleasant Island
  • (1815) British missionaries arrived in New Zealand
  • (1820) Kiribati named Gilbert Islands after British naval captain Thomas Gilbert
  • (1840) British law established in New Zealand
  • (1840) Maori people in New Zealand rebelled against British rule
  • (1851) Gold rush began in Australia
  • (1865) European settlers began to arrive on Vanuatu Islands
  • (1874) Fiji became British crown colony
  • (1875 - 1876) One-third of Fiji population wiped out from measles epidemic
  • (1877) Ellice Islands and other groups came under jurisdiction of Britain's Western Pacific High Commission
  • (1884) Britain established protectorate over southeast New Guinea; Germany annexed northern part
  • (1885) Spain asserted claim to Palau
  • (1885) Germany annexed Marshall Islands, paid Spain $4.5 million in compensation
  • (1888) Germany annexed Nauru, made it part of Marshall Island Protectorate
  • (1892) Britain declared a protectorate over Ellice Islands and Gilbert Islands
  • (1893) New Zealand became first country in world to give women right to vote
  • (1893) Britain declared protectorate over southern Solomon Islands
  • (1898) Caroline Islands (Micronesia) came under German colonial control
  • (1899) Spain sold Palau to Germany
  • (1899) Germany annexed Western Samoa, US took over eastern Samoa
  • (1899) Germany ceded northern Solomon Islands to Britain
  • (1900) Tonga became British-protected state
  • (1901) Commonwealth of Australia established
  • (1906) Control of British New Guinea transferred to Australia, renamed Territory of Papua
  • (1906) Vanuatu established as a Condominium, under joint administration of Britain and France
  • (1914) Japan captured Marshall Islands, established military bases
  • (1914) Japanese occupied Micronesia
  • (1914) Japanese seized Palau
  • (1914) Australian troops seized Nauru
  • (1939 - 1945) Micronesia major battleground in World War II
  • (1942 - 1945) Nauru occupied by Japanese
  • (1944) US captured islands from Japanese
  • (1947) Micronesia came under US administration
  • (1947) Nauru became UN trust under administration of Australia
  • (1947) Palau became UN trust under administration of US
  • (1947) New Zealand gained full independence from Britain
  • (1949) Australia established joint administration over Territory of New Guinea and Papua
  • (1954) US detonated hydrogen bomb, Bravo, on Biking Atoll
  • (1962) Western Samoa became independent
  • (1968) Nauru gained independence
  • (1970) Fiji became independent
  • (1970) Tonga became fully independent within British Commonwealth
  • (1973) Papua New Guinea granted self-government
  • (1975) Ellice Islands became separate British dependency under name of Tuvalu
  • (1975) Papua New Guinea attains independence from Australia
  • (1976) Solomon Islands became self-governing
  • (1978) Tuvalu gained independence
  • (1979) Gilbert Islands became independent republic within Commonwealth, named Kiribati
  • (1979) Marshall Islands became independent
  • (1979) New constitution set up Federated States of Micronesia
  • (1980) Vanuatu became independent
  • (1981) Republic of Palau established
  • (1986) Australian law became fully independent of the British parliament and legal system by passage of Australia Act
  • (1986) Tuvalu voted to remain an independent constitutional British monarchy
  • (1994) Palau became independent; joined UN
  • (1998) Three tsunamis hit northwest coast of Papua New Guinea, over 3,000 killed
  • (2000) Olympics held in Sydney, Australia
  • (2001) Tonga lost $26 million in state money in investments made by king's official court jester
  • (2001) Russian space station Mir broke up, landed near Fiji
  • (2001) New Zealander Peter Blake, America's Cup winner, was killed by pirates at Macapa, Brazil
  • (2003) Cyclone Zoe caused destruction in Solomon Islands
  • (2004) Micronesia's Yap Island devastated by Typhoon Sudel
  • (2004) Nauru defaulted on loan payments, assets placed in receivership in Australia
  • (2004) Australian Prime Minister John Howard reelectd
  • (2005) Violent riots triggered by racial tensions resulted in damaged cars, shops, dozens of arrests in Sydney, Australia
  • (2005) Worst bushfires in more than 20 years killed nine in southern Australia
  • (2006) Riots in Tonga's capital city, Nuku'alofa, due to lack of democratic reforms, resulted in deaths of eight, most of business district was destroyed
  • (2006) Kiribati created world's third-largest marine reserve
  • (2006) Australian television personality, Steve Irwin "Crocodile Hunter" was killed by stingray while filming off Great Barrier Reef
  • (2006) Fiji's military commandeer, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, seized control of the country, dismissed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
  • (2006) Australia suffered worst drought in more than a century
  • (2007) Large tsunami crashed into Solomon Islands, at least 13 killed, homes destroyed
  • (2007) Earthquake on northeastern coast of New Zealand caused buildings to collapse, power lines knocked out, gas pipes ruptured
  • (2008) Australia ended combat operations in Iraq
  • (2009) Samoa switched to driving on left
  • (2009) Bushfires in Australia, hundreds dead
  • (2009) Tsunami hit Samoan Islands, killed hundreds, swallowed up coastal towns and villages
  • (2010) Tonga held first votes for popularly elected parliament
  • (2010) Vanuatu declared one of the fastest growing economies in Pacific by Asian Development Bank
  • (2011) Queensland, Australia hit by heavy floods
  • (2010) 29 miners killed in explosion in New Zealand coal mine
  • (2010) Four executives of British-Australian company, Rio Tinto, sentenced to prison in Shanghai for bribery and stealing
  • (2011) More than three million people affected by flooding in Australia, major economic disaster
  • (2011) Hundreds killed by quake in Christchurch, New Zealand
  • (2012) Soldiers in Papua New Guinea seize control, demanded reinstatement of ousted Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare
  • (2012) Nauru's cabinet sacked by President Dabwido due to legislative impasse
  • (2012) Cargo ship which ran aground off coast of New Zealand broke in half, threatened oil spill

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This page was last updated on September 19, 2016.