The Discovery of Australia

Aboriginal people discovered Australia, and have lived in Australia for more than 50 000 years.

The first Europeans to discover Australia arrived in the 1600s.They were Dutch explorers from the Netherlands.

The first Englishman to explore part of Australia was William Dampier in 1699.

Captain James Cook explored and mapped the east coast in 1770.

When and where did the first people come from?
Humans probably began settling in Australia at least 50 000 years ago. It may even, according to some archaeologists, have been as long ago as 70 thousand years ago. No one knows how many different groups came to Australia, but it thought that the way some of the first people came was by moving along a chain of islands from Sulawesi (Sulawesi is in Borneo and is now part of Indonesia) and New Guinea. Others may have reached North Western Australia via Timor.

Settling across Australia.
These first Australians
soon occupied much of Australia. Different groups had separate territory and they moved through their territory on foot, making pathways beside streams and rivers, or between water-holes. The different groups asked permission if they were wanting to pass through another group's territory.

Some groups of people settled on the islands in the Torres Strait and are known as Torres Strait Islanders. These Islanders and the Aboriginal people in Northern Australia made rafts and canoes and travelled across rivers and across the sea.
Those Aborigines who travelled south and crossed into the land we now call Tasmania,
(Tasmania was joined to the mainland of Australia until about 14 000 years ago) became separated from the mainland when the sea level rose.

How did they live?
Australian Aboriginal people were
hunters and ate the animals they caught, they were also gatherers of plants that could be eaten. They built shelters that were different in design, depending on the climate (the weather), and the season in their part of Australia. Clothing too varied, depending on the weather and the season.
Those groups that lived in the north traded with people who lived in New Guinea and with visiting sailors and fishermen from parts of what is now Indonesia.

The Aboriginal communities were run by older members of the group, known as elders. The Aboriginal people had their own laws, and languages, and through storytelling, rock art and bark paintings, they passed on their history to each new generation.


Australian Aboriginal Flag

You can read more about Australia's Aboriginal People from the links on this kidcyber page http://www.kidcyber.com.au/topics/austaborigines.htm

When did the first European explorers arrive?
In 1606 the first Europeans, (they were Dutch and from the Netherlands) to discover Australia were led by Willem Janszoon. These sailors explored the western side of Cape York, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. They made one landing, but when they were attacked by Aborigines they left!

In 1616, another Dutchman, Dirk Hartog landed on an island off the coast of Western Australia. The island is now called Dirk Hartog Island.

In 1642, a third Dutchman, Abel Tasman sailed to Tasmania, before discovering New Zealand, Fiji and visiting Papua New Guinea. He named Tasmania Van Diemen's Land.

William Dampier
The first Englishman to see Australia was William Dampier (he'd once been a pirate!) He explored the north-west coast of Australia in 1699. Dampier was the first European to tell about seeing Australia's 'large hopping animals'!

In 1770, Captain James Cook was the first European to explore the eastern
coastline of Australia. ...........the photo shows a replica (copy) of Captain Cook's ship, Endeavour .................

If you use any of this information in your own work acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Thomas, R. & Sydenham, S. The Discovery of Australia [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2010)

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