When Did Australia Become A Country?

The Australian parliament in Canberra.

Legally known as the Commonwealth of Australia, Australia is a sovereign land located in the continent of Oceania. Australia is enclosed to the north by Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea. To the northeast, Australia is cordoned off by Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands while New Zealand serves as a boundary to the southeast. Although Sydney is the most prominent city, Canberra is the state’s capital. Officially, Australia achieved its statehood on January 1, 1901.


Pre-Colonial Period

Researchers have been able to ascertain that people began the habitation of Australia approximately 65,000 to 70,000 years past. During that time, movement from Southeast Asia was facilitated by short sea-crossing and land bridges. As is the case with most places at that time, the main economic activities included gathering, farming, fishing, and hunting with a bit of complexity in social organization and structure.

The Arrival of Europeans

The first recorded Europeans to arrive in Australia were the Dutch back in 1606 in a ship known as the Duyfken. The visitors then went ahead to chart the western and northern shorelines in the 17th century, although their intentions did not include settlement. They named the island “New Holland.”

In 1688, the first Englishman, an explorer by the name of William Dampier, set foot on the island and then again in 1699. James Cook first set foot on New Holland in 1770 and then proceeded to map the eastern shoreline. Cook named the region he had charted “New South Wales,” then declared it British territory.

Around the same time, in 1783, the British Government lost its American colonies. The Brits decided to send a fleet to New South Wales which established a penal colony. The first fleet sent to the island sent up a camp and raised a flag on January 26, 1788. Ever since then, January 26 has always been Australia Day, the national day of Australia. The official promulgation of Australia as a British colony took place approximately a month later on February 7, 1788.

After the promulgation, British settlers established the town of Sydney and then moved on to other towns. A similar settlement, albeit a different colony, was also established in Van Diemen’s Land (present-day Tasmania). Other isolated colonies were also instituted from segments of New South Wales such as South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland in 1836, 1851, and 1859 respectively. Meanwhile, the native population declined steadily after the British settlement because of things like conflict and communicable contagions. Policies that alienated innate children from their families also contributed to the decline.


After a protracted period of negotiation and planning, a federation of colonies was attained on January 1, 1901. The outcome was the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia as a protectorate of the British Empire. Years later, during the World War 1, the Australians allied with the British with considerable support from the Commonwealth Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster, officially put a halt to a majority of the constitutional ties between Australia and the UK although Australia adopted the statute in 1942.


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