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Outline of Australia covered by the Australian Flag

In April 1770, Captain James Cook in HMS Endeavour with the botanist Sir Joseph Banks landed in Botany Bay (in what is now New South Wales) and claimed the east coast for the English Crown. Having just lost the American colonies, England needed new penal colonies, and the first shipload of Australian settlers were convicts, arriving with Governor Arthur Phillip in 1788. They moved to Port Jackson (now part of Sydney Harbour) on 26 January, now Australia Day.However, even before transportation to New South Wales was abolished in 1840, free settlers were arriving in increasing numbers. Further exploration, often dangerous, revealed that the land known as New Holland and the English colony were one and the same large island.In 1831, Western Australia became the second colony, followed by South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, Tasmania in 1856, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was, for some time, part of South Australia and later the responsibility of the federal government, achieving self-government in 1978.The settler population in early years lived mostly in coastal areas, deploying large tracts of land for sheep and cattle. The annexation of land was often accompanied by brutal treatment of the Aboriginal population, who were forced into the interior. Gold was first discovered in Victoria in the 1850s and prompted Australia’s gold rush with a consequent opening up of the interior and more displacement of the Aboriginals. Wheat farming developed, and the country rapidly became a leading exporter. With the invention of refrigeration, export trade in mutton and dairy products began.An extensive railway system was built. Between 1860 and 1890, immigrants, and capital, mostly from Britain, contributed to a long economic boom. In 1891, the country had a population of 3 million, and was exporting wool, mutton, dairy products and wheat.In February 1998, the Constitutional Convention voted by 89 votes to 52 for Australia to become a republic by 2001, and by 73 votes to 57 to replace the British monarch with a President. It was agreed that there would be a referendum on the issue.Despite evidence from opinion polls that most Australians were in favour of a republic, in the referendum of November 1999 – when asked if they supported ‘an act to alter the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic, with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament’ – almost 55 per cent registered a ‘No’ vote. The result was widely attributed to widespread dissatisfaction about the right of parliamentarians to choose a President.

Australia's History: About Us
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