Australia is a large island continent in the southern hemisphere and includes the island of Tasmania and other smaller islands off its coast. It has 6 states and 2 territories and is governed by a Federal parliamentary democracy with a Prime Minister. Its official title is the Commonwealth of Australia and it is part of the British Empire. It is ruled by the Queen which makes it a constitutional monarchy. It has a population of approximately 22,612,617 people and it is the thirteenth largest economy in the world.
The Discovery of Australia
For many years before the discovery of Australia the people of the world believed there was a great southern land to balance the continents in the north. Due to this many empires and nations sent explorers looking for this land. The first people to visit Australia were fishermen from Malaysia and Indonesia who traded extensively with the Aboriginal people of Australia. The first European sighting of Australia was in 1606. A Dutch navigator by the name of Willem Janszoon sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula and on the 26 February made landing at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York, near the modern town of Weipa. The Dutch explored and charted much of the western coast of Australia, then called “New Holland” during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement due to the harsh and inhospitable conditions they found. In the subsequent years, many other explorers such as Luis Váez de Torres, Dirk Hartog, Frederick de Houtman, Abel Tasman and Willem de Vlamingh sighted or landed on the shores of what we now know as Australia. The first English explorer to land on mainland Australia was William Dampier. He landed on the western coast of the continent in 1688 and 1699.
In 1770 Captain James Cook onboard the HMAS Endeavour charted the east coast of Australia naming it New South Wales and claiming it for Great Britain. Detailed maps and observation were recorded and taken back to Great Britain for evaluation. Although he didn’t discover Australia, it was Captain Cook’s exploration that paved the way for settlement of the continent of Australia. On the 26th January 1788 the first fleet landed at Botany Bay in New South Wales. The west of Australia was formally claimed by the British in 1828.